Before there were floating mountains in the sky above Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there was a place where you could meet Mickey Mouse and his friends in a nice, quiet campground setting. Camp Minnie-Mickey was born from necessity. After underestimating the cost of opening what was essentially a theme park, zoo, and animal preserve in one, Disney had to cut costs somewhere. One of the more ambitious lands planned for Animal Kingdom was to be cut and a replacement needed to be found at the last minute. Camp Minnie-Mickey was this replacement.
As many theme park fans are well aware, the original land slated for this section of the park was to be called Beastly Kingdom, (sometimes referred to as Beastlie Kingdomme.) This land was to feature creatures that never existed on Earth. The other lands featured animals from around the world, extinct animals, and this was to feature mythical animals like dragons and unicorns. The main attraction for this land was to be Disney’s first suspended coaster featuring the largest animatronic they ever created, a fire-breathing dragon. Other attractions would include a hedge maze that ended with an animatronic unicorn and a family-style dark ride themed around the classic film “Fantasia.” Remnants of Beastly Kingdom can still be seen at the park today. Dragons are visible on most Animal Kingdom logos and there’s a section of the parking lot named “Unicorn.”
Camp Minnie-Mickey featured two shows and several character meet and greets when it opened. As this land was a last-minute replacement and the park was already well over budget, everything here had to as cost-efficient as possible. Festival of the Lion King would utilize floats from the recently ended “Lion King Celebration” parade in Disneyland. And an animal show starring Pocahontas would utilize puppets and set pieces from “The Spirit of Pocahontas,” a show that also recently ended at Disneyland. While the former show featured nearly 20 human characters, the new show at Camp Minnie-Mickey would focus mainly on Pocahontas. Her co-stars would be several forest-dwelling creatures, including a real raccoon to play Meeko. Four trails were built, leading to simplistic backdrops for character meet-and-greets. Usually Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Chip ‘n Dale were available for autographs and photos. The only other decor for the area were some static Disney character statues along a small creek and a water fountain that looked like a wishing well.
This temporary, low-budget, last-minute land opened with Animal Kingdom in 1998, and remained open for nearly 16 years until it was announced that Pandora – The World of Avatar would be taking its place. Camp Minnie-Mickey closed permanently on January 6, 2014. Festival of The Lion King moved to the Africa section of the park (which makes sense) and the character meet and greets were dispersed throughout the various lands. For years, fans of the original Beastly Kingdom concept had hoped it would someday be built, but alas, it was never meant to be. Many believe the opening of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, with the dragon and unicorn based attractions of “Lost Continent,” was to blame. Regardless of what could’ve been, Animal Kingdom is finally getting its fictional animals section, but instead of being based on the animals of mythology, they’ll be based on a blockbuster film from 2009.
Check out the photo collection below to see what Camp Minnie-Mickey was like before it was closed forever. These photos were taken in October of 2012, (hence some Halloween decorations visible.) Be sure to follow the site for more articles looking back at the theme park attractions of the past, coming soon.
Looking Back at Camp Minnie-Mickey
While Beastly Kingdom might’ve been an incredible land, at least we’re getting Pandora in place of this old placeholder land. And, I’m happy Festival of The Lion King was moved to Africa, (where it should’ve been in the first place.) So really, nothing of value was lost, other than a few static Disney character displays posed like they were fishing in a creek.
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