Walt Disney once said that Disneyland would never be complete, and as we have watched the Disney parks grow, change, and expand their reach across the globe, it seems the company is following through with Walt’s intent. However, even with innovation and expansion comes ideas that never quite made it to fruition.
They may have been too grand and expensive, or simply not meant to be. But, even when an idea dies, it can open the door to other concepts and opportunities. Here are three Disney theme parks that never came to be, and what we have instead.
1. Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square
Following the success of Disneyland, Walt Disney had ideas for a second park, although publicly he denied these plans. One of these ideas came in the form of a theme park that would be situated in St. Louis, MO. In the early 1960s, St. Louis was being redeveloped for its bicentennial and Walt Disney met with the mayor to discuss plans to include a new Disney theme park in this redevelopment.
The park would be called Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square and would have been a mild clone of Disneyland. It would include attractions that were already in place at Disneyland such as its own version of Main Street USA and dark rides based on Peter Pan and Snow White. The original concept for Pirates of the Caribbean was forged while in this Riverside Square planning stage. There would also have been new attractions such as a Davy Crockett ride, and Lewis and Clark adventure ride.
Unfortunately, in 1965 it was announced that the park was no longer in development. The official announcement claimed that there was a dispute over financing and ownership of the theme park. During this time Walt instead set his attention to his “Florida Project.” As we well know, the “Florida Project’ would go on to become Walt Disney World, a culmination of many of Walt’s dreams that he sadly never saw come to fruition due to his passing in 1966.
Are you disappointed that Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square was scrapped?
2. Port Disney
When Michael Eisner became CEO of The Walt Disney Company (along with Frank Wells), he set his sights on obtaining ownership of the Disneyland Hotel. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland he wanted to build a hotel but didn’t have enough money to construct one. He looked to his friend Jack Wrather to invest, and in turn, Wrather was granted ownership of the Disneyland Hotel.
Throughout the years, Walt and the Disney company tried to buy the hotel back, but Wrather always declined. Sadly, shortly after Michael Eisner became CEO, Jack Wrather passed away, followed shortly after by his wife. At this time, Eisener and The Walt Disney Company acquired Wrather’s company giving them ownership of the Disneyland Hotel, a large plot of land adjacent to Disneyland, the ship Queen Mary, and rights to develop a large plot of land in Long Beach, CA where the Queen Mary was docked. That brings us to Port Disney.
After this acquisition, in the early 1990s, The Walt Disney Company set its sights on developing the land in Long Beach. The plans for this area included five resort hotels, restaurants, a boardwalk, a marina, a theme park, a cruise ship port, and even a monorail. It was a grand (and expensive) concept. The theme park would be called DisneySea. It would include several marine-based attractions such as the park centerpiece Oceana, Mysterious Island with its thrill ride based on Captain Nemo, and a Grecian village. It would have even included the Venture reefs with a Caribbean lagoon and shark tank complete with shark tank diving experiences.
Unfortunately, there were many obstacles. First, much of the land that was available for this project was actually underwater. This land would have had to be redeveloped to be able to build on it, and this would have been quite costly. In addition, many locals opposed the idea of the new park. Locals didn’t want to fill in the over 250 acres of ocean needed for the project and didn’t want the increased traffic from both road travelers and cruise ships. Finally, legislative issues with how The Walt Disney Company would make up the negative marine impacts from the land development stalled the project. In 1992, it was announced that the project was canceled and that the financial costs for the project were too great. The Walt Disney Company decided it would focus on its WestCOT project.
We did eventually get DisneySea, but not in the way it was planned at Port Disney. Tokyo DisneySea opened in 2001 and was inspired by the ideas for California’s DisneySea. Interestingly, when originally developed, the second Tokyo park was meant to be Disney’s Hollywood Studios and was even originally called Disney Hollywood Studio Theme Park at Tokyo Disneyland (it was a mouthful).
However, once the Port Disney and California’s DisneySea concept was scrapped, the idea was given to The Oriental Land Company (the owners and operators of Tokyo DisneySea). This park has some similarities to the original park concept such as themed lands or “Port-of-calls” Mysterious Island and Mediterranean Harbor. There is also an attraction based on Captain Nemo and the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Other lands such as Mermaid Lagoon, American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, and the Arabian Coast were added to Tokyo DisneySea.
Have you been to Tokyo DisneySea? Do you wish the plans for a Port Disney could have been successful?