Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Promises, Promises

I once heard a Disney expert say that all plans at Disney are made in Jell-O, meaning of course that they aren’t stable and could shift at any moment.  I thought it might be fun to take a look at some Walt Disney World plans that never materialized, including promised attractions that never surfaced.  Here’s a list of my top “I would have loved this” ideas that never quite made it to life:

10.  Several resorts were planned for the Magic Kingdom area that were never built, including:

 A) Disney's Asian Resort -- inspired by the culture of Thailand, the hotel would have featured Thai furnishings and cuisine. Architectural plans featured a large center building more than 160 feet tall with a restaurant on top comparable to the design of Disney's Contemporary Resort. Guest rooms would have been arranged in a square around the perimeter on three sides leaving the side opposite the Seven Seas Lagoon open. This would have been located where Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is today.

 B) Disney's Venetian Resort – located between the Contemporary Resort and the Transportation and Ticket Center, this resort was to be themed after Venice, Italy and located on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon.

C) Disney's Persian Resort -- The resort would have been laid out in a circle with a central building. It would have had a 24 foot dome on the main building which would have housed the entrance area and meeting facilities. The main colors would have been white and blue. The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi offered to fund the project's construction and operation but after The Iranian Revolution the project was permanently shelved.  The resort was to be located on the shores of Bay Lake, not the Seven Seas Lagoon like the rest of the resorts. The early drawings would have had a monorail spur going to it and through Tomorrowland.

 D) Disney's Mediterranean Resort -- was going to be themed after a small Greek island and be located on Seven Seas Lagoon, exactly where the Venetian Resort had originally been proposed. Land was cleared for the building, but due to very swampy and poor ground samples, the resort was never able to be built.

9. The Japan pavilion at Epcot has had several rides, almost.  Mt Fuji Roller Coaster, a roller coaster modeled after the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, was rejected after protests by Eastman Kodak, sponsor of Journey Into Imagination, over a ride sharing the name of their biggest competitor, FujifilmSimulated Bullet Train Ride was intended to be a unique variation on Disney's CircleVision 360 show. Guests would have found themselves standing aboard a vibrating recreation of the passenger compartment of a Japanese bullet train. Looking out through the oversized faux windows in this passenger car, they would have been treated to a high-speed travelogue as some of Japan's most beautiful scenery whizzed by the windows. The Godzilla Bullet Train Ride, on the other hand, would have had the bullet train run afoul of Godzilla in Tokyo Bay, followed by a race to safety.

8. Germany was slated to have a ride, as well. The Rhine River Cruise was designed as a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers – the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks would also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral. The ride entrance and the building that would have housed the ride are still visible at the Germany pavilion.

7.  Of course, the big let-down at Epcot was all of the countries that have been proposed, and even advertised, that never came to life.  Equatorial Africa would have mixed tribal dances and shows with African artwork in a recreation of an African village. A film hosted by Alex Haley was to be featured. Souvenir maps and a TV special on EPCOT Center's opening announced that the pavilion would open in 1983. It was never built due to budget and lack of sponsorship from suitable African nations; offers from South Africa were refused because of the country's apartheid system.
An Israel Pavilion was also advertised on billboards when EPCOT opened, this would have recreated ancient Jerusalem with a courtyard stage and open-air restaurant. It remained unbuilt because of budget problems and security issues regarding the state of Israel.
Soviet Union Pavilion -- planned in the early 1990s, this would have been placed between China and Germany and dominated by a recreation of Red Square. The center building would have housed a sled-like ride showing the Russian landscape based on Russian folk tales. There also would have been a unique show blending film, Audio-Animatronics and a live actor that would showcase Russian history. It reached the final stages of approval but was later cancelled due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the info released by the Russian government revealing the horrors committed by the Communist regime.
Spain Pavilion -- also advertised on billboards circa 1986, this pavilion would have featured a boat ride similar to Mexico, with a design blending elements of Barcelona and Madrid. Also planned were a film on Spain's history and a restaurant.
Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Iran, and Costa Rica all had planned pavilions at one time or another, as well.

6.  Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s a long list of “if only” attractions.  The Mel Brooks “Castle Young Frankenstein I discussed in, for starters.

5.  Or how about a Chinese Theater's Villain Ride?  In this 3D adventure visitors would have been menaced by three-dimensional recreations of Disney's most famous fiends before the forces of good finally came to their rescue. The ride would have replaced The Great Movie Ride.

4.  I’m a huge “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” fan, so it’s no surprise that I regret that we never got the proposed Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy -- a Fantasyland-style dark ride based on Baby Herman, Toontown Trolley -- a madcap adventure that would have flight simulators surrounded by animated screens to take guests on a "hare-raising" trolley ride through a zany cartoon world with Roger Rabbit at the helm, or Bennie the Cab Ride, where guests would go on an adventure with Bennie the Cab.

3.  I nearly cried when I heard that not only was The Great Muppet Movie Ride (a "misguided" tour through movie history – Muppet-style) originally planned for the studios, but also a restaurant, Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor.  On the site of what is now Mama Melrose’s, this Muppet-themed restaurant was to be the Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat's version of a pizza parlor, complete with Muppet interaction and typical Muppet zaniness.  I would be making my Advance Dining Reservations the full 180 days in advance for that one, for sure!

2.  Journey to the Center of the Earth, Tokyo DisneySea’s signature attraction, was at one point slated to be recreated at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  On this ride, guests travel through mysterious caverns to the Earth's core as scientists aboard vehicles designed by Captain Nemo. The ride begins through a cavern of colorful glowing crystals before entering the giant Mushroom Forest, which is inhabited by strange insect and amphibian-like life-forms. Before the car can proceed further, an earthquake causes a cave-in of the tunnel ahead, forcing the car off its planned route and down a side branch filled with giant egg-like sacks. The car emerges on the shore of the Subterranean Sea, and is nearly struck by lightning from the electrified gas clouds. The finale comes when the riders are forced into the fiery heart of an active volcano, where the riders come face-to-face with the giant lava monster that calls the Center of the Earth its home, before escaping back to the surface on the wave of an eruption.  Dude.

1. Beastly Kingdom -- We all know we were supposed to get it.  Mythical beasts like dragons and unicorns are alluded to in the parking lot of the Animal Kingdom and on the park entrance, but not really in the park itself.  I’ve even seen the area referenced on Rand-McNally maps of the Disney area.  Oops.  What are we missing out on? How about Dragon Tower, a dragon-themed roller coaster? Laid-off Imagineers took the idea to Universal, where it became Dueling DragonsOr maybe Quest for the Unicorn, a hedge maze, or Fantasia Gardens, a boat ride featuring the mythical animals in “Fantasia”?

I guess it’s not fair to say I feel cheated that these ideas never became reality, but in truth I do, a little bit.  Of course, these aren’t the only Disney plans that never saw the light of day.  What do you wish Disney had followed through on?  Let me know over at!  

1 comment:

  1. I love you Teri! I am such a Disney goon (one step beyond Disney geek). I will keep you posted on any news that I hear about anything.