4. The Excavator
Proposed location: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
There’s perhaps no park so marked by ambitious, never-built attractions in such a relatively short life as Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park – infamously short on rides – would’ve looked very different than it does today had things worked out as planned. We’ve spoken at length about the never-built Possibilityland: Beastly Kingdom that would’ve given the park a realm dedicated to “imagined” animals with headlining experiences based on dragons, unicorns, and more.
But it’s not the only land you wouldn’t recognize in the park today. Initially, Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland was set to feature two attractions: a family dark ride through the prehistoric world, and the thrilling Excavator roller coaster through an active dig site…
Like Disney California Adventure's California Screamin' (er, uh, Incredicoaster), the Excavator would've looked like a traditional, classic wooden roller coaster on haphazard wooden supports, diving in and around the excavation site's mountainous peak.
WHAT HAPPENED? As the park’s monumental budget ballooned, Michael Eisner was forced to choose which of his pet project lands – Beastly Kingdom or Dinoland – should be chosen for the park’s opening day. The team working on Dinoland made an unbeatable argument: that they could fuse the thrilling coaster with the primeval dark ride, inexpensively cloning Disneyland’s new Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure and redressing it as a terrifying dark ride through the last minutes of the Cretaceous. That was an unbeatable money-saver in the years after Paris, so Dinoland was green-lit… but without the towering Excavator roller coaster.
The Excavator was briefly considered for Hong Kong Disneyland’s Adventureland during early concepting for the park, where it would’ve been a wild ride past real dinosaur animatronics, but ultimately, Hong Kong’s Adventureland became a low-budget version of every other park’s.
5. Big Rock Candy Mountain
Proposed location: Disneyland
In the early 1950s, Walt and his team toyed with the idea of a “Big Rock Candy Mountain” to act as a towering centerpiece for Disneyland’s Fantasyland. Initially, they’d hoped that the Casey Jr. Circus Train would weave its way through the mountain’s upper levels, with the Storybook Land Canal Boats sailing through channels and caverns beneath. The Candy Mountain would’ve contained a show scene acting as the finale for both: scenes from L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz, for which Disney had just purchased the rights.
Early on, Walt planned for the mountain to look like it was made of rock candy, but upon deciding that it would be too difficult and impractical to keep it clean, he instead had designers assemble a “mountain” out of licorice, gumdrops, candy canes, and fudge, envisioning gooey waterfalls cascading from the peak.
WHAT HAPPENED? Ultimately, Walt and his designers (including Disney Legends Claude Coats and John Hench) mutually agreed that there was simply something unappetizing about the mountain, sickly sweet and seemingly melting in the California sun. Candy Mountain was canned, and Matterhorn Bobsleds stands as a sort of conceptual “replacement.” When Disneyland Paris's version of the Storybookland Canal Boats – Le Pays des Contes de Fées – opened in 2004, it didn't feature a Candy Mountain, either, though it does have Wizard of Oz as its finale!
Interestingly, when Disney California Adventure had its grand re-opening in June 2012, part of its brand new, 1923-Los-Angeles-themed Buena Vista Street was the Trolley Treats confectionary… featuring a working model of Candy Mountain its window – a "sweet" nod to the never-built ride!
6 and 7. EPCOT Center Mountains
When EPCOT Center opened in 1982, its World Showcase was a brave new concept – a permanent, cultural World's Fair of pavilions dedicated to cuisine, culture, and couture from countries around the world. Part of the brilliance of that World's Fiar model, Disney had solicited countries to sponsor, staff, and supply their respective pavilions, but zero governments bought into the concept. Instead, the eight pavilions representing Mexico, China, Germany, the USA, Japan, France, the UK, and Canada were sponsored by private companies from each country.
Even with eight pavilions, World Showcase wasn't even half full, with ten empty plots set aside for future countries. In the park's first year, it advertised pavilions dedicated to Spain, Equatorial Africa, and Israel as "coming soon" in official print media, but all three were cancelled. Morocco joined World Showcase in 1984, then Norway in 1988. But since then, no other pavilions have made their way to World Showcase. But Disney did try...
In 1989, an official project prospectus, Disney offered their final version of a Switzerland pavilion (to be located between Italy and Germany) to management, international dignitaries, and potential sponsors. A charming Swiss village would, of course, contain woodcarving, candy, and cuckoo clock shops, but the main draw would've been unprecedented: a supersized, 192-foot-tall version of Disneyland's Matterhorn featuring enhanced showscenes and run-ins with the dreaded Abominable Snowman.
(Interestingly, since Walt Disney World's Space Mountain was a recreation of Disneyland's original Matterhorn, Disney World's Matterhorn would now feature the track layout developed for Disneyland's Space Mountain, effectively flipping the rides' layouts!)
The concept must've gotten Disney Imagineers thinking, because it was around the same time that another mountain project was considered: the addition of a Mount Fuji roller coaster in the park's Japan pavilion. It's said that this high-speed coaster ride through the mountain would've included face-to-flames encounters with Japanese dragons roosting inside the peak.
WHAT HAPPENED? Ultimately, neither project moved forward, and you can likely assume the reason: as with most of EPCOT Center's closed or never-built attractions, it all comes down to funding. (Though it may only be an urban legend, insiders also suggest that longtime Disney Parks sponsor Kodak wasn't happy about the idea of Mount Fuji, fearing it may be seen as an endorsement of their competitors, Fujifilm... At least some stories say that it was the looming threat of a Mount Fuji that compelled Kodak to finance the redesign of Epcot's Disaster File: Journey into YOUR Imagination. Whoops.) The good news is that both mountains probably spurred the design of another Modern Marvel: Expedition Everest.