Disney’s Discovery Island shut more than 20 years ago, but it doesn’t get spoken about much. It lies in the heart of Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, normally surrounded by thriving crowds and a park in full swing. But it’s an island surrounded by strangeness.
Discovery Island was once part of the Disney World. It served as a ‘jungle hub’ filled with animals and birds, but it’s been abandoned since the late 1990s. Guards frequently patrol the island and its surrounding lake, and guests are strictly forbidden from travelling to it.
The reason for its closure was never made public, making the island one of the most intriguing places on Disney property.
One widely believed reason for the closure in 1999 was the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the mainland of the park, resulting in reduced interest in Discovery Island. But logical reasoning aside, this hasn’t stopped Disney fans from speculating wildly about the island’s ‘true nature’.
It also hasn’t stopped YouTubers like Matt Sonswa sneaking onto Discovery Island to capture footage of ruined buildings, overgrown trees and decaying racks filled with medical equipment.
When the island was shut, all animals were relocated and distributed across other zoological parks. But a lot of the theming and equipment of Discovery Island was left where it was.
So the island is now filled with the rotting remnants of the old exhibit. And plenty of YouTubers who have managed to infiltrate the island have managed to film some pretty spooky discoveries.
But Discovery Island was almost saved by Myst
It’s been more than two decades since Discovery Island was shut, but it almost escaped its fate in the late 1990s, thanks to award-winning video game Myst.
Myst was riding a phenomenal wave of popularity in this period, gathering dozens of accolades and becoming one of the highest-selling games of all time.
Given its influence at the time, there was once plans to turn Discovery Island into a Myst-inspired theme park.
For years, these plans were highly secretive, but they were eventually revealed in 2016 when Myst creator Rand Miller confirmed to A.V. Club that Disney had begun work on a Discovery Island revival project inspired by the game:
“At some point, there were some really cool plans to do some stuff with Disney. We were looking at it as the ultimate incarnation of our world. Basically, there was a place down in Florida—it’s one of the island areas that they had that wasn’t used very much. But it had some walkways among trees, and an island area, and we went down and looked at it and walked around it, and it was incredibly Myst-like.”
The experience planned would have included puzzles and an aesthetic designed to evoke Myst. As reported by Jim Hill in 2004, it would have been highly interactive and taken the form of a “day-long” adventure for interested guests.
Sadly, plans for the attraction allegedly fell through as Disney decided it didn’t fit in with its larger plans for Disney World in Florida.
Still, the idea is an intriguing one.
In 2021, Discovery Island remains abandoned — but Myst is currently experiencing a comeback in the form of a remake for VR (which just got announced for PC and Mac) and a potential TV show. It’s unlikely plans for a ‘Myst Island’ will also return, but it’s an idea that could work.
Given nothing else is going on at Discovery Island, it might be the perfect time to give the island a facelift and allow Myst the modern-day recognition it deserves.