Four Incredible Theme Parks Disney Never Built
The Walt Disney Company owns and operates six different theme parks around the world.
However, the company had planned for several others. Alas, fate intervened,
Let’s take a look at the four theme parks Disney never built.
Disney’s Mineral King Ski Resort
Disney has engrained patriotism deep in the roots of its American parks.
Starting with Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Disney’s timeless attractions have championed Americana.
As Magic Kingdom debuted in 1971, the Hall of Presidents became an iconic part of a themed land called Liberty Square.
When Epcot opened in 1982, The American Adventure presentation entertained guests with its recreation of conversations between the Founding Fathers.
Somehow, these attractions weren’t enough for Disney.
During the early 1990s, CEO Michael Eisner prioritized several new theme parks as core pieces of the Disney Decade.
He wanted his company to open several of them around the world during a 10-year period.
Three out of the four failed projects occurred over these years. So, Eisner never lacked for ambition, but follow-through wasn’t his strength.
The first park was entirely Walt Disney’s idea, though. During the final years of his life, he fell in love with Colorado ski resorts.
Uncle Walt invested in Sugar Bowl, the place that had provided the setting for The Art of Skiing, a Goofy cartoon.
Not satisfied, Disney planned a more ambitious ski resort of his own. He bought land in Mineral King, a valley that’s now in Sequoia National Park.
You can already guess one problem here, but I’ll discuss the other one first.
Walt Disney announced this project in September of 1966. Sadly, he died only three months later.
Even if he hadn’t, this project likely wouldn’t have forward. The Sierra Club understandably raised concerns about conservation issues.
At the time, Disney officials faced other challenges in building Walt Disney World and maintaining Disneyland.
Rather than divide their time with a new ski resort, the new executive team chose to drop the project.
A few years later, Sequoia National Park officially added this land, preventing additional development.
The appeal of a ski resort is understandable, even one that never got built. However, Disney tried another project that’s harder to understand, even in theory.
Eisner planned one of his never-were parks close to Washington, D.C.
Disney purchased land in Haymarket, Virginia, which resides roughly five miles from Manassas National Battlefield Park and 37 miles from the capitol.
This theme park would have been called Disney’s America, and it would have celebrated patriotism via some unique attractions.
Park officials announced the project in 1993, by which time they’d already acquired 3,000 acres, only 185 of which would have gone to the theme park.
The plan called for thousands of hotel rooms across an undetermined number of resorts.
Also, the campus would include golfing and a high volume of real estate development, much of it commercial.
In other words, Disney wanted to stamp its brand on the greater D.C. area with a patriotic theme park.
Anyone familiar with this part of the country is familiar with the disproportionate amount of financial opportunities here.
Mouse House executives understandably wanted a piece of that action.
From a theme park perspective, Disney’s America would have looked similar to EPCOT’s The American Adventure and Hall of Presidents.
Frankly, the place would stick out in 2021 in the same way that Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain do.
Themed lands would have highlighted Native America from 1600 to 1810 and a Civil War Fort from the 1850s.
Other elements like a tribute to Ellis Island would have held strong appeal, but that turned into a moot point.
The residents, historians, and others protested mightily, causing Disney officials to question the plan’s financial viability.
Disney later sold much of the land, which has since become housing developments.
An undeniable fact about Disney is that the company’s theme parks have dramatically elevated Orlando and Anaheim’s stature.
Like, these places were barely on the map before Walt Disney World and Disneyland opened.
Despite these successes, other regions have shown remarkable reluctance to allow Disney to develop in their areas. It makes no financial sense.
A blueprint example of this happened in Long Beach, California.
Disney acquired more than 440 acres that will encompass a portion of Queensway Bay. Yes, it would have been an actual port.
As you might imagine, Port Disney would have highlighted a nautical theme, one befitting its location on the California coastline.
Eisner planned this theme park at the start of the Disney Decade in 1990, making it the first of his three failed parks.
However, Eisner DID build Disney’s Animal Kingdom and moved forward with Disney California Adventure. So, he deserves credit for those.
Still, a 40 percent success rate isn’t the greatest when it comes to theme park development.
Disney plotted a demonstration of the ocean’s majesty. The illustrations for Port Disney are genuinely stunning.
The same statement applies to The Living Seas, which means that Disney twice had to drop more ambitious plans for water-based themed lands.
The EPCOT comparison applies in another way. Port Disney was to feature a massive landmark called Oceania that would surpass Spaceship Earth in scope.
One section, Mysterious Island, would have mirrored Atlantis. Yes, that sounds amazing.
Overall, Port Disney would have had a theme park, five resorts, and a batch of waterfront restaurants and shops. Oh, it would have had a monorail, too!
Alas, residents fretted over traffic concerns on the Long Beach Freeway and fears over hiring practices.
The plan collapsed within two years, and Disney ceded the land.
The most exciting plan to me was WestCOT, which arrived in the wake of Port Disney.
Many Imagineers loved the idea of building a West Coast version of EPCOT, only a more modern one at Disneyland Resort.
By 1992, EPCOT’s Future World had grown a bit stale. Imagineers wanted to create something that would overtake it.
Presumably, this move would have created a balancing struggle between the two parks.
Disney would have eventually improved EPCOT to bring it to WestCOT’s level.
This landmark would have dwarfed the original. The current Spaceship Earth reaches 180 feet in the air. SpaceStation Earth would have soared to 300 feet!
WestCOT would have mirrored EPCOT. The front of the park would have included Future World, while the back would have been the World Showcase.
Disney would have improved existing ride concepts like Adventure Thru Inner Space, Horizons, and World of Motion.
In fact, the plans called for most pavilions from EPCOT to exist at WestCOT.
The World Showcase would have featured regions rather than countries. And a boat ride called World Cruise would have circled the World Showcase.
Alas, WestCOT never came to fruition for a ridiculous reason. Disney went broke working on a different theme park.
Well, broke is an exaggeration, but Disneyland Paris turned into something of a money pit.
Europe suffered through a multi-country recession the same year that park opened, deflating attendance. Also, it faced numerous negative media headlines.
So, Disney lacked the requisite funding to build a new theme park. To this day, some Imagineers from this project lament that it never came to fruition.
Out of the four parks listed here, WestCOT’s the one that we would have loved.