The Year of the Dragon began on January 23, and to celebrate, the official Disney fan club, D23, published a list of “Disney’s villainous, friendly, and little-known winged characters.” The list includes dragon characters from early animated shorts all the way up through Nessie from The Ballad of Nessie, the short that was shown in theaters before Winnie the Pooh. Many of these characters exist only in film, but some have made their way into the parks, so that’s what I’ll cover today.
Here are seven things to do in Walt Disney World if you love dragons.
1. Journey Into Imagination With Figment
I have to start with my favorite dragon, Figment. Although the current attraction in Epcot is not as good as the original, I still love seeing Figment and his upside-down house.
He’s one of the few Disney characters that originated in a theme park rather than the movies, and for that reason I hope he never leaves Epcot.
2. Elliott in the Main Street Electrical Parade
I am a huge SpectroMagic fan, but I like the Main Street Electrical Parade as well. My favorite part is when Elliott, better known as Pete’s dragon, demonstrates his ability to disappear.
3. Mushu in The Magic of Disney Animation
Mushu, the little dragon from Mulan, is not found, as you might expect, in the China pavilion in Epcot but in The Magic of Disney Animation in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. He’s the representative animated character who, along with a Disney artist, explains how animation works.
4. Maleficent in Dragon-Form in Fantasmic!
In contrast to Figment, Elliott, and Mushu, Maleficent as a dragon isn’t quite so friendly. She makes a scary appearance in Audio-Animatronic form in Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
5. Dragons in Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The original plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom was that it would be a place for all animals, real and mythical. That’s why if you look at the center of the park logo, you’ll see a dragon. Unfortunately the mythical creatures (other than the Yeti) never made it into the park in any official capacity, but you still see traces here and there. In addition to the dragon in the logo, a dragon head adorns one of the ticket booths at the entrance. There’s also supposed to be a dragon-shaped fountain near Camp Minnie-Mickey, although I cannot find a photo in my archives or online. (If you find one online, please let me know in the comments.) Also, if you want to see a “real” dragon, there’s a Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
6. Dragon Slayer Statue in Germany Pavilion
Now, if you love dragons, you might not like this one, but I feel like I should include it for the sake of completeness. In the courtyard of the Germany pavilion is this statue of St. George slaying a dragon. It’s OK; he wasn’t a very nice dragon, I’m sure.
7. Nine Dragons Restaurant
Finally we find ourselves in the China pavilion in Epcot. Nine Dragons Restaurant is full of dragon depictions, including a glass mural of two dragons chasing a pearl and a dragon on the ceiling in the waiting area. I’ve never eaten there, so I can’t comment on the food, but if you love dragons, there’s no better place to eat.
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I have to throw in one honorable mention here. It’s not in Disney World but in Disneyland Paris, and it’s just so cool I have to share:
This is the dragon under Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty’s Castle), so naturally it’s Maleficent. I saw it last summer, and I have to say it’s one of the coolest things at Disneyland Paris.
Now, for your dragon-themed day in Walt Disney World, you’re going to have one challenge: the Main Street Electrical Parade and Fantasmic! are both evening events, so it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do both, depending on the exact show times. If Fantasmic! is having an early show, say 6:30 or 7, you could go to that first and then get back to Magic Kingdom for a 9 or 11 p.m. performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade. If that’s the plan, you’ll probably want to start in Animal Kingdom. You can take photos of all the dragon references you find. Head to Epcot next. You can have lunch at Nine Dragons, ride Journey Into Imagination With Figment, and take photos of the statue in the Germany pavilion. Then head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for The Magic of Disney Animation and Fantasmic! Finally, hop over to Magic Kingdom for the Main Street Electrical Parade to say hello (and goodbye and hello again) to Elliott.
Who’s your favorite Disney dragon?