Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lost DAK files: Quest for the Unicorn

Its been awhile since we looked at a lost concept for Disney's Animal Kingdom. And we have never tackled a Beastlie Kingdomme concept so lets fix that by looking at the Quest for the Unicorn. This would have been a very different type of attraction then the typical guest is used to. You see it wasn't a ride or a movie but a walk through, and a huge maze nonetheless. This would have created a problem with guest flow, as people could take as long as they want with the paths of the maze. Of course, that same issue is encountered at places the Jungle Trek or even One Man's Dream, but this was much greater in scope and more of a E-ticket concept.

This hedge maze was to have been built on the "good" side of the Beastlie Kingdomme concept and it would have been huge. The concept was that you were looking for the unicorn, although the name of the attraction probably gave that away. The maze itself was to have many fantastic creatures playing out stories for the guest. Like everything else at the Animal Kingdom, the beauty of the back story was important in the concept itself. These creatures, mostly stone gargoyles, would also give you clues to find your way to the title creature. These gargoyles would also try to trick you with false leads to dead ends, and even occasionally play a prank, like spritz you with water. And they would have different looks, not just the typical gargoyles. Concept art shows some that looked like rhinos, others looked like frogs and another looked like a silly little dragon.

The maze was to be divided into 4 sections, each with a main character. The first was the lair of the sphinx, a half-lion, half-woman which you would encounter before entering the second section. Here the plants and gargoyles would all fit the theme of the sphinx - serious.  When you met the sphinx, you, of course, heard a riddle. The second section would have been filled with orange and yellow colors, the colors of fire for this was the lair of the phoenix. In her clearing, the phoenix would spring to life and help guide you to the unicorn. She ruled from a flowered throne.

The third section belonged to the griffin. Before entering, however, you would have encountered a wall of interactive gargoyles. Different tiles on the ground keyed different gargoyles to do different things like shoot of burst of air or tell a joke. Beyond that, the maze turned white and red. The griffin, much like the sphinx, is serious. It would twitch its nasty looking talon at you and declare that your journey is nearly complete. There is excellent concept art from Maggie Parr, a lead designer on the project, of the griffin. It was a large golden AA on a stone base surrounded by regal colored flowers, purples and blues, the colors of royalty. It certainly would have been an impressive character.

The last section was actually inside a castle. A neat trick here would have been that guests entered through a balcony that overlooked the maze. You could watch others making their way through the attraction. And if you looked closely you would have noticed that a portion of the maze, made completely of flowers, made the shape of a unicorn's head. This leads us to another issue with this attraction. It was for the most part alive. The walls themselves were made of living plants that grow. In fact, imagineers figured it would take at least several years to permit the attraction to grow to suitable size before guests could even be allowed to see it. And each section was to have different species to fit the theme of that area. To say this was going to be a complicated attraction for maintenance is an understatement.

The lair of the unicorn would be at the bottom of steps in a cave full of stalactites and, of course, flowers. Waterfalls from the walls would fill a green glowing pool, and at the center of that would be the star of the attraction, the fabled unicorn. He would talk to guests "telepathically" about the nature of life. Imagineers didn't want this AA to move its mouth, because, as Joe Rohde said, they didn't want "a talking Mr. Ed with a horn."

Of course, in the end, this attraction got cut just like the rest of the Beastlie Kingdomme. It would be have been a very different kind of attraction for certain, and one that needed a high degree of tender loving care. Its likely I think one that would suffer badly if not cared for and in today's age of tight budgets, that could have presented a problem. Also, as a walk through, I am not sure how the general Disney guest would receive this. But it would have presented some of the more iconic mythological creatures, like the unicorn and the phoenix, in a fun way.

by Safari Mike (@JamboEveryone)

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