Potter at Hollywood Studios?

"What if...?" Maybe the two most common words to begin any Imagineering project, the question of "what if...?" is enough to leave theme park fans daydreaming, Blue-Sky-ing, and doodling ideas for days.

But once in a while, momentous happenings offer the chance to change things forever. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these moments are called "Nexus Events" – pivot points in time whose happenings are so massive, they fracture the timeline in two... From a "Nexus Event," alternate universes diverge... one where things went one way, and another where they didn't. Obviously, the history of theme parks is filled with Nexus Events (just think: what if Walt Disney died before he dreamed of a "Florida Project"? What if he didn't die in the '60s at all?)...

But today, we selected six timeline-fracturing "Nexus Events" that could've changed theme parks forever. If you could glimpse into the multiverse to see one of these pivot points play out, which do you think would've had the biggest impact on the parks today?

1. What if Disneyland Paris succeeded?

Image: Disney

Disneyland Paris was supposed to be the legacy-leaving landmark of Disney's most ambitious CEO, Michael Eisner. Built with incredible detail, luxury, and craftsmanship, no expense was spared in Disney's first European theme park. Unfortunately, none of that mattered to the French public, who – after a years-long media assault against the park's construction – didn't turn out to fill the six luxury hotels constructed for it. Disneyland Paris's financial collapse is perhaps the first "Nexus Event" in Disney Parks' modern history, branching our timeline off from another... 

Imagine if Disneyland Paris had succeeded. The begin with, our list of the cancellations, closures, and cop-outs created by the park's failure would be much shorter... or maybe non-existent. That means we might have gotten Tomorrowland 2055 at Disneyland; Beastly Kingdom may have made the cut for Animal Kingdom; there could be a DisneySea in Long Beach, California... and many more. It's hard to imagine just how different our Disney Parks would be today in an alternate timeline where Disneyland Paris succeeded... But one of the biggest changes might've been...

2. What if WESTCOT didn't die?

Image: Disney

Once planned as the "second gate" to be built next to the original Disneyland, WestCOT was exactly what it sounds like – a West Coast edition of EPCOT, reimagined for a new decade. WestCOT was meant to transform Disneyland in an international resort destination, bringing new hotels, shopping, dining, and more to the landlocked Anaheim resort. This ultra-ambitious park (whose price tag reportedly reached $4 billion) was officially announced in 1991... but the downfall of Disneyland Paris sent executives back to the drawing board, where they developed the much more cost-effective Declassified Disaster: Disney's California Adventure.

But if WESTCOT had happened, it's impossible not to daydream about what could be. Would a $4 billion second gate reigned over by a golden Spacestation Earth have been a landmark that forever changed Disneyland? Or would it – like its Floridian sister – have undergone sweeping eras of change, ultimately becoming home to FrozenRatatouilleThe Avengers, and Finding Nemo anyway? Is the California Adventure of 2023 a better park than WestCOT 2023 would've been? It's impossible to know... but fun to think about...!

3. What if FastPass never debuted?

Image: Disney

FastPass was invented in 1999, when the pioneering "virtual queue" system was installed at Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris. Before long, the idea of pre-booking capacity for rides and leaving a "Stand-by" queue for those not in a virtual line spread to several E-Tickets at each park, then nearly every ride at each park. "Line-skipping" systems spawned across the industry – nearly all for guests who paid more. But only Disney maintained an equal-access, no-cost system. Obviously that's changed. The eras of FastPass, FastPass+, and now Genie+ with Lightning Lane have seen major edits to waiting at Disney Parks.

But you have to wonder: what if FastPass had never existed at all? Think about it... Would other operators have even discovered line-skipping as a revenue generating program that guests would accept without complaint? How long would it have taken Disney to give in to the idea of people paying to gain priority access? Or do you think somewhere in the multiverse, everyone in Disney Parks just waits in one, single, fast-moving line with no "line-skippers" at all? It's wild to think about...


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