Looking Back: “Camp Minnie-Mickey” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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.

Bridge to Camp Minnie-Mickey in 2012

Future entrance to Pandora in 2017

Looking Back at Camp Minnie-Mickey

Heading to Camp Minnie-Mickey. At the time, the back half of Pizzafari was seen on your right. Now you will see Tiffins and Nomad Lounge, new dining additions to the park

Bridge that takes you to Camp Minnie-Mickey, here the colorful animal style of Pizzafari ends and the campground style begins

A modest entry sign post

The bridge and pathways feature a simple campground style, with lanterns lighting the way

Over the bridge on the riverbank below you can see the last remnants of a planned Beastly Kingdom, this giant lizard made of rocks was visible on a boat ride that closed just two years after the park opened

This photo, taken in 2017, shows the same lizard, but unlike back in 2012, it has since stopped spewing water into the river

Heading back to the path, exiting the bridge and entering the land

A small creek is on our right

The running water in the stream sounds relaxing

Daisy and Huey, Dewey, and Louie are hiking along the creek

Donald is fishing nearby, although with his bad luck, looks like he’s only caught a shoe

Across the way, Mickey and Pluto are having a great time while Goofy seems to be taking a nap after lunch

Before Wilderness Explorer stations, Animal Kingdom had Kids’ Discovery Club. At this stop kids learned about what you might find in the forest, like antlers, turtle shells and what could be living in an empty log

Moving further in, we see an outside gift shop and a quick service window serving Ice Cream, Hot Dogs, and Funnel Cake

A map of the land. Besides the Lion King show, there’s not much else. Four meet and greet paths seen on bottom-left

Originally this post had a third sign, pointing to the Pocahontas show

Pocahontas and her Forest Friends was a show featuring real animals, but closed in 2008 due to cost-cutting during the recession, and never re-opened

For the remaining years this area was used as stroller parking

This was the entrance to Festival of The Lion King. It was not very extravagant looking

The Lion King building was essentially a big barn, with no decoration

The edge of the land was marked with a dull looking fence blocking backstage

The four “trails” were queues for the character meet and greets

There’s not much more than plants and some posts separating the trails, but I did like the look of the rustic benches throughout the land

The backdrops for the meet and greets were not very elaborate. Just a small structure made of limbs. Here seen (barely) decorated for Halloween

Lots of empty unused space in the land, waiting to be replaced with a more permanent solution

One of the more permanent looking pieces of theming was this water fountain that looks like a wishing well

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.

If you’d like to see more extinct attractions check out our other Looking Back posts! And subscribe to the news feed or bookmark the site! Thanks for reading!

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  • Steve A


    Disney was just being cheap with Camp Minnie Mickey. Disneyland Paris seemed to get some of the better more expensive ideas that were originally drawn up for Beastly Kingdom. Like the hedge maze and Unicorn Grotto, which is similar to Dragons Lair.

    It’s probably not true, but I read a rumor Disney is making their 5th park right next to Animal Kingdom. It will be called Disney’s Beastly Kingdom (possibly Dominion). The lands would consist of a central Dragon section (Discovery Island), an Egypt section (Africa), Australia (Asia), a Stars Wars snow planet (Dinoland) and Fantasia (Pandora).

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