In part one of “Disney Dreams,” we explored how the idea of Disneyland came about and some of the many ideas and concepts originally planned, never made it to realization. Let’s gravitate a bit in the future to 1974. By this time, Disneyland is a phenomenal success, but as Walt once said… “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
This huge expansion project was fostered by Tony Baxter, senior Vice-President of Walt Disney Imagineering. It was to be called “Discovery Bay.” This “land” would be built on the banks of the Rivers of America, between Fantasyland and Frontierland, and would be stylized after San Francisco of the mid nineteenth century (A dramatized version) when the industrialized era was in full swing and adventure was on everyone’s mind.
This new land would feature new eateries and ride attractions, some which as you will see, could not be constructed due to the fact that even with today’s technologies, would be a challenge. The entrance would be a lighthouse and gift shop. You would be able to climb the lighthouse for a view of the entire Bay. There would be a Chinatown and two new restaurants, The Chowder House and Appleseed’s Cider Mill. The Chowder House was to represent the original San Francisco’s “Cliff House” that was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake.
One ride attraction similar to the defunct Skyway was called the “Western Balloon Ascent.” And like the Skyway, it was a means of transportation and a ride. Another planned land was to be called “Dumbo’s Circus,” and this would have been a connection between Fantasyland and Discovery Bay. The Balloon Ascent would allow guests to transverse Discovery Bay and stop by Dumbo’s Circusland. As the name implies, this land was to be themed after Dumbo and the circus. Other attempts at a circus at Disneyland, failed. I would have even included a ride called “Mickey’s Mad House” based on the old Mickey Mouse black and white short cartoons.
Another major ride attraction, which would have been the “Weenie” for Discovery Bay would be based on the recently released Disney movie, “Island at the Top of the World” written by author Ian Cameron. This Jules Vern styled film had a French Dirigible called the “Hyperion” which took its occupants to the Arctic Circle in search of new lands. A full scale mode of the Hyperion would be projecting out the front of the ride building. This attraction according to Tony Baxter would be like a suspended monorail that resembles a dirigible. Guests would board the ride and be transported over the arctic, see strange creatures (Audio-Animatronic), observe the Northern lights, then continue into a beautiful garden, again inhabited by amazing animals. After storms, volcanos and the like, the ride would return to Discovery Bay.
Another attraction fashioned after another Disney movie “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” was a Captain Nemo Adventure simulator ride. A planned 200 foot scale model of the Nautilus sub was to be moored in Discovery Bay. When guests entered the sub, they had several attraction choices. Tour the sub, see the control room, Nemo’s organ, etc. But the biggie was the simulator ride. The pre-show would have an audio-animatronic figure of actor James Mason explaining the sub and its workings. After entering the “Simulator” and viewing the ocean through portholes, an alarm would sound, indicating an enemy ship. Nemo would then ram the ship, the simulator would rock and shake, and guests would see the wreckage disappearing under the water. But the Nautilus was damaged; however Nemo manages to bring it up, not before a gigantic squid would attack. But a huge discharge of electricity though the hull, complete with huge blue sparks and some tentacles tearing though the overhead hatch, the sub finally surfaces and the squid is dispatched. But, this complex simulator would be changeling today, but in the 1970’s, impossible. Another dream is dashed.
Still another ride planned for the Bay was called “The Tower” (another name was “The Spiral”) – this was going to be a mammoth tower- like structure with an observatory on top. But inside was to be a roller coaster. The coaster was supposed to have been operated by a huge electromagnet, pulling up the coaster to the top, and then the field would reverse, causing the whole thing down a corkscrew loop, with flashes and arcs of electricity all around.
Jules Verne, who wrote 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, is credited for the model of the many above attractions, but another author, H.G. Wells was also considered. The man who gave us the “Time Machine” would have had a thrill ride known by various names…Voyage through the Fourth Dimension, Voyage through Time, Travels through Time, and Mythia-Land of the Legends. It was to be a magical portal through time, where scenes from lost civilizations could be witnessed, along with many different creatures; both real and mythical would be showcased. The ride itself had different versions planned; one was a log flume ride, one with a guide. There was also a dinosaur area planned, and if this came about, there would have been audio-animatronic caveman and dinosaurs, and the mythical creatures would have been totally removed. The time travel attraction is really the spark that created the “Countdown to Extinction”, now renamed “Dinosaur” in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
So why with all the amazing rides and attractions did not Discovery Bay make it past the drawing boards? The area was based on the film, Island at the top of the World, but the film bombed at the box office. Another reason was that two mega-hits of the era, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, entered the American psyche. Folks were “Space Crazy” and lost interest in dinosaurs and searching for lost worlds on Earth.
Let’s go to 1959. It was in this year that Walt began a study for locations for another “Disneyland” There were many cities considered, St. Louis, Queens, New York, Washington D.C. Baltimore and even Niagara Falls. After much consideration, and with an area with year round good weather, Florida was chosen. Many sites, including Miami were considered, but Walt decided on the center of the state. First, Interstate 4, which runs right next to the property, would provide easy access, second, the center of the state is away from the competitive beach and shore traffic and third, the location provides the best protection from Florida’s hurricanes.
But sadly, Walt passed away before seeing his park built. There was even talk about abandoning the project, but thankfully Roy came out of retirement, took the reins and ensured that Walt’s dream was finished. He even went as far as to rename the park Walt Disney World so no one would forget that it was his brother’s dream.
One aspect of Walt Disney World is the resort hotels around the property. Not only is it convenient to be on property, the idea was a complete vacation mecca, were everything is close by. But the Magic Kingdom resorts we know today would be very different had the original Dream plans been carried out. The earliest plan was six resorts: The Polynesian, Fort Wilderness Campground and the Contemporary. An Asian resort was planned where the Grand Floridian is now located. This would be a Thailand-themed area. This would include guest rooms overlooking the water, restaurants and shops. In fact there is part of the foundation in the lagoon that was never used. Its name was to be either “Asia” or “Asian.”
The next resort would have been the most opulent Disney has planned yet. “The Venetian Resort” was to be between the Contemporary and the Ticket and Transportation Center. The resort would have had gondolas for guest transportation and different sections of the rooms would have reflected different building styles from around Italy. Though the idea was dropped, a replica of the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square in Venice was still built and it is now in the Italian Pavilion in EPCOT.
Another dream resort that never made it was a Mediterranean resort themed after Greece. This was planned for the 1990s. There were even models made of the resort. We all know that the new “Bay Lake Tower Resort” located between the Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary, but at one time a “Kingdom Suites Hotel” was planned. This would have been a luxury edifice on par with the Contemporary. But Disney decided that Vacation Club rooms would be more successful. Another planned mid ‘90s resort would have been “Buffalo Junction.” This resort would have guests staying on the set of a Western movie, or a western “Town.” The guests as they traveled between Fort Wilderness Campground, which included early American log cabins, reminiscent of the old pioneering days and Buffalo Junction, or Fort Wilderness Junction, representing the Old West would be like walking through a time portal. As you can see, the concepts were many, and no one can tell just how successful they would have been.
Returning to the Magic Kingdom, Roy Disney ensured that the Magic Kingdom aped Disneyland’s but originally there were plans for rides based upon Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty and Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman. These would have roused Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Peter Pan. The Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station, then called the Plaza Pavilion was planned for an eatery called the “The Astronomer’s Club” and the area would have been re-named “Discoveryland.” This restaurant would have speakers like H.G. Wells or Galileo, talking to guests while they ate.
Another attraction that was considered as a replacement for the 20,000 Leagues under the Sea Submarine ride, which shuttered in 1994 was called “Fire Mountain”. This would have been a rollercoaster set inside a volcano. As the cars dropped, the volcano would erupt, the cars would go inverted, with a planned three loops and underwater area. But because the attraction was based upon yet another unsuccessful movie that did not do well at the box office, “Atlantis”, the project was dropped.
A quick return to Disneyland. Walt was always looking to “Plus” his park with better attractions. In the mid 60’s a “Wax Museum” was planned where guests would walk through a dank dungeon, filled with wax figures with some of the world’s biggest collection of villains and rogues. This was changed to famous pirates, and the attraction was called “The Pirates Wax Museum”. Originally a walk-through attraction, the biggest problem was that guests might linger too long at each scene, and the attraction would back up. The problem was solved when it was turned into a boat ride passing by Pirate dioramas, especially now that audio-animatronics were able to perform flawlessly. This of course is now the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.
For the last attraction, let’s examine the Haunted Mansion. Walt liked the idea of a “Haunted Mansion”, but the idea of a run-down ramshackle house did not fit into the beauty of Disneyland. Many drawings and ideas were presented, but Walt rejected all of them. Disney artist Ken Anderson wrote the first script for a haunted attraction in 1957. A guide would take guests through a walking tour of a haunted house and tell the story of a sea captain named Captain Gore. As guest walked, objects would move, arms would try to grab guests etc. There was even talk of the spirit of Walt Disney himself as the guide. But like the Pirates Museum idea, guests would walk and linger at different paces, thus the idea was dropped.
Walt brought in Imagineers, Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump, (Gracy is the name finally used for the Mansion’s owner) and they had several ideas and storylines, but Walt still could not decide what he wanted. It was decided on a beautiful Mansion in New Orleans Square when construction started in 1961. Walt said that the “Ghosts would take care of the inside” because he wanted nothing to ruin the look of his Disneyland. But with the New York World’s Fair preparations taking so much manpower, the announcement that the mansion would open in 1963 never came to pass. In fact the whole interior was still not decided on. Even though Rolly Crump continued to work on the mansion’s interior with many haunted effects, the attraction did not open until eleven years after first conception on August 9, 1969. The Haunted Mansion and Pirates proved to be the biggest draw at Disneyland.
There are volumes more “Dreams” that I have not mentioned. Many ideas and plans for not only Disneyland, but for Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland are yet to be discussed. Maybe fodder for a part three article! But Walt did say it best when he said…”If you can dream it, you can do it” and although all the “Dreams” did not make it past the drawing board, without them, there would be no “Disneyland”