Disney is better known for its dark rides and castles than for its roller coasters. Over the years, though, it has designed some impressive-sounding coasters that never saw the light of day.
For every idea that leaves Imagineering and makes it into one of Disney's parks, there are many others that are canned for practical or budgetary reasons. Disney has, of course, built some wonderful roller coasters, such as the various Big Thunder Mountain Railroads and the hugely-popular Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. But there were many more that "got away".
Let's take a look at some of the more impressive-sounding and unusual Disney coasters that we'll only ever get to experience in our imagination.
8. The Excavator (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
The original plan for the Dinoland U.S.A. area of Disney's Animal Kingdom included a major thrill ride themed around a former sand and gravel pit. The site would feature an enormous piece of leftover machinery: The Excavator. This ore car circuit was to form the basis for a huge, heavily-themed, mine cart-style roller coaster that would be one of Disney's Animal Kingdom's headline thrill rides. The storyline would be that paleontology students had once again restarted the Excavator, using it to transport dinosaur fossils.
The Excavator was dropped from Animal Kingdom's opening day line-up due to the spiralling costs of building the park's zoo attractions. It was felt that Dinosaur (then known as Countdown to Extinction) would be sufficient as a thrill ride to anchor the Dinoland U.S.A. area, and the plans were parked. The space allocated for the Excavator was eventually occupied by TriceraTop Spin and Primeval Whirl.
7. Rock Candy Mountain (Disneyland)
Almost as soon as Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt Disney and his Imagineers began to consider ideas for additions to the fledgling park. One of these was Rocky Candy Mountain, an enormous faux mountain that would appear to be constructed entirely out of sugary treats. It was to be incorporated into the Storybook Land area, with the Storybook Land Canal Boats sailing through the caverns beneath it and the Casey Jr. Cirus Train travelling around it.
Imagineers concocted designs for the attraction, which would feature chocolate, gum drops, marshmallows and more. A small-scale model was built using real candy (including licorice, gumdrops, candy canes and fudge), but there was one one problem: it melted in the non-air conditioned building and attracted scavenging birds.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rock Candy Mountain ended up on the Imagineering scrapheap with many other ill-conceived concepts. It was felt that it would look unappealing and perhaps make riders queasy, so the Matterhorn Bobsleds was built instead.
6. Matterhorn Bobsleds (Epcot)
Over the years, many new pavilions have been proposed for Epcot's World Showcase area. Among these was a Switzerland Pavilion, which would have hosted an East Coast version of Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds roller coaster. Negotiations with the Swiss government fell apart in 1987, and Disney was unable to secure a commercial partner to help fund the pavilion.
5. Dragon Tower (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
The original plans for Disney's Animal Kingdom included a huge land dedicated to mythical creatures, dubbed Beastly Kingdom. Cost overruns meant that this was pushed back to a "Phase II" expansion, and Camp Minnie-Mickey was built instead.
Beastly Kingdom was to be headlined by an enormous, indoor roller coaster: Dragon Tower. This was to incorporate dark ride elements, and would have been Disney's first ever inverted roller coaster (with the trains hanging beneath the track, instead of sitting atop it). It would have raced through the dragon's keep, past its gold stores and along the bat-filled rocky corridors of the surrounding caves.
Dragon Tower, and the rest of Beastly Kingdom, was put on hold indefinitely when it became clear that Animal Kingdom was cannibalising attendance at Walt Disney World's other parks (and when Universal's new Islands of Adventure park failed to draw guests away from Disney). In one sense, though, it lives on - there are persistent rumored that laid-off Imagineers took the idea to Universal, where it became Dragon Challenge at Islands of Adventure.