Let's be honest: the last five years haven't exactly been a defining era for Disney Parks. Thanks to a major drawdown in spending in the wake of the pandemic – and Disney's ensuing corporate focus on streaming, #content, and brand licensing – Disney's theme parks have spent a half-decade in a period of retreat. As we've explored here on Theme Park Tourist, perks have been slashed and replaced by upcharges; projects have been scaled back or outright cancelled; new attractions have been plagued by major issues... 

To make matters worse, we appear to find ourselves in an odd time for Imagineering – what we call the "Disney+ Parks" era – where corporate mandates require Disney + Pixar + Marvel + Star Wars to be attached to any project if it's got a chance at the greenlight. Paired with frustrating non-announcements of un-confirmed "Blue Sky" ideas that never seem to gain traction, it's no surprise that some fans feel disillusioned and distrusting of Disney's plans for their theme parks.

So even amidst Bob Iger's promise that tens of billions of dollars are due to flood into Disney Parks projects over the next decade or so, you can understand why fans are skeptical. But trust us, this isn't exactly a new M.O. for Disney. In fact, today we'll explore several high profile projects – from rides to lands to entire theme parks – that were officially announced... before quietly disappearing from the docket.

1. Discovery Bay

Image: Disney

You'd be hard-pressed to find any Disney Parks fan who doesn't mourn the loss of Discovery Bay. Originally announced in 1976 (when models of it were even on display in the park's Opera House), this land was set to occupy the northern shores of Disneyland's Rivers of America... today, the space home to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

As the story goes, Discovery Bay was meant to answer the question, "What came next for all the miners who struck it rich in Big Thunder Mountain?" The answer was simple: they continued west, bringing their gold to the young port city of San Francisco, developing it into a turn-of-the-century steampunk Victorian wharf of inventors, artists, adventurers, immigrants, and explorers. "S.E.A." before "S.E.A.," Discovery Bay would've been a natural continuation of the "Rivers of America" story, infusing frontier and fantasy into a literary world of submarines, zephyrs, hot air balloons, fortune tellers, time machines, and more.

Image: Disney

WHAT HAPPENED: The anchor attraction for Discovery Bay was meant to key off of Disney's 1976 live action movie, The Island at the Top of the World – an old school, Jules Verne-inspired fantasy adventure. Unfortunately, the film was a bust, representing one of the final "fantasy adventure" films to be released before 1977's Star Wars shifted pop culture to outer space, instead. Discovery Bay didn't happen, but Imagineers haven't given up, re-proposing the land several times over the last few decades! Plus, several high profile attempts to include Verne-style science-fantasy into Disney Parks have succeeded – including the Modern Marvel: Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Lost Legend: Space Mountain – De la Terre à la Lune, the latter serving as the centerpiece of a spiritual sibling to the never-built land in Paris.

And if you're into armchair Imagineering, you might be interested to see how I included this steampunk San Francisco in my own Blue Sky build-out of Disney California Adventure, here! Otherwise, be sure to read our complete retelling of this never-built land's tale in our Possibilityland: Discovery Bay feature!

2. Westcot

Image: Disney

Perhaps the most famous high-profile, never-built theme park in history, Westcot was the original concept meant to be constructed on Disneyland's parking lot. As its name implies, this park would've been a West Coast version of EPCOT Center, reimagined for the '90s. 

Centered on a golden sphere nearly twice as tall as Spaceship Earth, Westcot was expected to reorganize EPCOT's pavilions in a new way. Rather than World Showcase, it would've included the "Four Corners of the Globe" – Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – in a broader, interconnected core of the park. Beyond would be three fully enclosed zones dedicated to science and technology as it related to Life, Earth, and Space.

Westcot was officially announced in 1991. Unfortunately, that coincided with the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992, which caused a cascade of project cuts and cancellations across Disney Parks, including Westcot. A scaled-back second park – Disney California Adventure – opened in the space in 2001. If you want to learn more about Westcot, make the jump to our in-depth walkthrough of the Disney Park that never was in our Possibilityland: WestCOT feature!

3. Hyperion Wharf

Image: Disney

Today, it's not uncommon for Disney Parks fans to wax poetic on memories of (or their wishes to have experienced) Pleasure Island – the "adult-oriented" isle of nightclubs, dance floors, and improv bars once found at Downtown Disney. An experiment that only could've taken place in the Eisner era, Pleasure Island was meant to reimagine what "Disney" could be. To be fair, it took Disney a while to figure out how to price, package, and operate the experience... but for Imagineering fans, the interconnected "lore" of the island's various venues – anchored by the beloved Lost Legend: The Adventurers Club – was a jaw-dropping landmark.

However, by the 2000s, the demographics, priorities, and finances had changed. Several of Pleasure Island's warehouse-stylized clubs gained a new feature: tenants. Instead of having to pay to staff, stock, and operate ornate comedy clubs, dinner theaters, and bars, Disney could find deep-pocketed businesses to rent the real estate for premium prices. The last of Pleasure Island's clubs closed forever in 2008... unfortunately, that coincided with the Great Recession. Guests stopped buying, and businesses had little interest in renting, leaving the island right in the center of Downtown Disney a mostly-vacant pathway of empty warehouses. 

Image: Disney

In November 2010, Disney officially announced (in a still-live blog post!) a fix: Pleasure Island would become Hyperion Wharf, a glowing new district of retail and dining opportunities. Of course, it didn't...

WHAT HAPPENED: Despite the flashy new wrap, businesses allegedly didn't come flocking to Disney's new waterfront district. Supposedly, the kind of upscale businesses Disney hoped to pay their premium rent weren't interested in moving into the outdated '90s district or occupying the intentionally-industrial warehouses developed to further Pleasure Island's in-universe story. It became clear that even if Pleasure Island was the symptom, all of Downtown Disney needed a refresh in order to compete with Central Florida's countless high end shopping opportunities.

That's exactly what happened when Hyperion Wharf was dwarfed by a larger reimagining. In the mid 2010s, Downtown Disney officially emerged from a broader transformation. The former Pleasure Island was redesigned as "The Landing," and a new neighborhood, "Town Center" joined the existing "West Side" and "Marketplace" to create Disney Springs: a retail and dining district that's arguably less fun than Downtown Disney, but a whole lot more attractive to high-end businesses and shoppers.


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