The theming of the Disney Parks is incredible. And when it comes to parks with such a rich history, the smallest details often mean more than what meets the eye. These are 3 Hidden Disney World Secrets.
#3 – Dragon Imagery in the Animal Kingdom
When the Animal Kingdom was created, some of the Imagineer’s ideas were too big for the budget. One of these was Beastly Kingdom, which would have brought mythical creatures into the park. Plans for this Phase 2 project included a land subdivided into a section with a dark medieval tone, featuring a hardcore rollercoaster journeying into a Dragon’s keep to the left, and a lighter, grecian-based take on mythology to the right. As the company’s cost cutting era continued following the opening of the park, plans for Beastly Kingdom were cancelled. Rumors say some of the Imagineers on the project went where their talents were welcomed, and as then-CEO Michael Eisner toured Universal’s Islands of Adventure, he came across an attraction suspiciously similar to one in the plans he had just axed, a dragon coaster through an abandoned castle, which would later be incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 18 years later, mythical beasts are finally making their debut in the Animal Kingdom in the exact spot the Beastly Kingdom was to be housed, with Pandora: The World of Avatar. What’s the hidden secret? The original Beastly Kingdom concept is acknowledged in the Animal Kingdom logo. And as you enter the park, you can find a Dragon head carved into the decor, paying tribute to this piece of Animal Kingdom history!
#2 – Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida
If you’ve ever found the layout of Hollywood Studios strange, that’s probably because a huge portion of the park was originally intended for a 2 hour tour through soundstages and working production sets. This tour was later split up into many individual attractions, with the final, much shorter incarnation of the Backlot Tour closing in 2014. Much of the land occupied by this original tour will soon be home to Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. That huge grand archway you go under when walking towards the Animation pavilion was meant to signify leaving the streets of Hollywood and entering a movie studio. To the left, was the queue for the original Backlot tour and to the right was the Animation pavilion. Inside, you could watch real Disney animators working on upcoming films. The pavilion was home to a real functioning production area, where animated classics such as The Little Mermaid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Lilo and Stitch were partially or fully animated. In 1998, the production area was dramatically expanded with a new 70 million dollar facility, providing more space for the estimated 400 animators at the time. Sadly the new production area opened just in time for the cost-cutting and reorganization era for the company and Walt Disney Animation, with most of the animators soon moving to California. The production studio open to the public was made into meet and greet space, currently home to Meet Chewbacca and Encounter Darth Vader. The hidden secret here is, that 70 million dollar animation studio still sits directly behind Star Wars Launch bay, which you can see on the way to the restrooms on that side of the building. The facility is currently said to be home to Walt Disney World management offices.
#1 – The Horizons Hovercraft in the Backlot Express
One of the most expensive and arguably best Disney attractions ever created may be no more, but props from the attraction can be found in Disney Parks worldwide. The Horizons Hovercraft from the Mesa Verde scene currently sits in Disneyland Paris as part of the studio backlot tour. But inside the Backlot Express restaurant, the mold used by Imagineers to make this iconic Horizons vehicle sits propped up against the wall over guests enjoying hamburgers and chicken nuggets!