Home » POSSIBILITY WORLD: A Tour Through the Lost E-Tickets Magic Kingdom Almost Had

POSSIBILITY WORLD: A Tour Through the Lost E-Tickets Magic Kingdom Almost Had

“To all who come to this place of possibility: welcome. Possibility World is your world…” Or, it could’ve been!

Here at Theme Park Tourist, our world-class LEGEND LIBRARY is always growing, telling the in-depth stories of the best (and worst) theme park attractions to have ever existed… and even of those that never did exist. That’s where our Possibilityland series comes in, and over the years, we’ve chronicled the complete tales of “could-be classics” that simply never made it off the drawing board, like Beastly Kingdom, Discovery Bay, Tomorrowland 2055, and more.

Today, that series begins a grand expansion… Welcome to Possibility World – a whole new chapter in our walkthroughs of what could be. In Possibility World, we can find attractions, areas, and even full lands that simply never came to pass. Think of it like this: if one person had said “Yes!” instead of saying “No!” (or vice versa), this is what the most magical place on Earth could look like…


Even before Magic Kingdom opened here in “Possibility World,” designers had faced a foundational question: how much of this “Disneyland East” should really look and feel like the original Disneyland?

Image: Disney

On one hand, the opening of the Florida property was meant to take the “DNA” of Walt’s tiny Anaheim park and re-build, re-arrange, and re-market it as “The Vacation Kingdom of the World” – intentionally master-planned as an international destination with all of the infrastructure such a vast resort required. To that way of thinking, Magic Kingdom should be a copy of Disneyland with all of its most well-loved classics in-tact, albeit upsized with wider paths, open plazas, and high-capacity theater attractions befitting the crowds Disney now knew to expect.

On the other hand, this new “Disney World” would benefit from a blank slate; an ability to truly start from scratch on a fresh canvas. Had Walt lived to become involved in the details of Disney World’s planning, would he have been content on simply cloning his classics from a decade before? Or would he have challenged his designers to make changes to account for a changing culture, new location, and a new time?

Image: Disney

Of course, the trouble is that Walt wasn’t around to make such decisions, having passed away in 1966 – five years before Magic Kingdom opened. As such, it came down to his brother Roy to help guide the creation of Magic Kingdom and the rest of Walt Disney World. Ultimately, Roy chose to balance the two points of view, splicing the best of Disneyland with a few fresh, updated concepts…

So here in our alternate reality Possibility World, Magic Kingdom benefits from some brave ideas that make this park quite a bit different from the one you and I know today. And while it may not have as many would-be projects as the much older Disneyland’s alternate-reality walkthrough, this could-be Kingdom still features some exclusive E-Tickets that might have redefined this park forever. So put on your walking shoes and let’s start our trip into Possibility World’s Magic Kingdom.


Image: Disney

Believe it or not, one of the first elements of Magic Kingdom to undergo a pretty serious redesign from its Disneyland origins was Main Street, U.S.A. Though most guests would assume that the Main Streets on each coast are approximately identical, designers responsible for Florida’s park decided to stretch their creative muscles with Magic Kingdom’s entry.

While Disneyland’s Main Street was a quaint, charming, cozy, idealized recreation of turn-of-the-century Midwestern small towns, Magic Kingdom’s entry was (like the rest of the park) up-sized given the blessings of size, pre-planning, and a much more hefty budget than Walt’s original cash-strapped construction of Disneyland.

Image: Disney

In Florida, Main Street is much grander and more elaborate, representing stylistic and architectural influences more reminiscent of New England and the East Coast than of the quaint Midwest. Buildings along this elaborate Main Street include decorative mansard roofs, simple classical columns, and tall, thin windows. (Compare, for example, Main Street’s opulent Town Square Theater and Disneyland’s equivalent, small-town Opera House.)

That difference has been planned since the beginning, so there’s not much here in “Possibility World’s” Main Street that the real park doesn’t already have… except a second, parallel street. In fact, this second street officially opened here in Possibility World in 2019. Magic Kingdom has been using an auxiliary pathway behind the east side of Main Street for years, but it’s mostly been a rudimentary, fence-lined pathway meant as a valve to release pressure during parades and fireworks shows that tend to bring Main Street to a halt.

Willis Wood Theatre

Opened: 2019

Image: Disney

In 2017, Disney announced a brand-new, Broadway-style theater to be built along that secondary avenue. Designed to resemble the iconic 1920s Willis Wood Theatre in Kansas City (a major city in Walt’s story), this new entertainment venue began to “skin” this secondary Main Street corridor to draw it into the immersion Disney is known for, allowing this secondary street to remain open all day and night, greatly relieving the strain of Main Street.

Though entirely new sub-lands may have been imagined for Disneyland’s Main Street, here in Possibility World this grand theater is really the only significant Main Street project that differs from today’s real park. But as we head deeper into Possibility World, we’ll find some surprising new E-Tickets that never made it off the drawing board… Ready to see Magic Kingdom in a new light? Read on…


Fire Mountain

Opened: 2000

Here in Possibility World, a brand new E-Ticket adventure has risen over the jungles of Adventureland. Its history is somewhat surprising. In 1994, Disney executives unceremoniously shuttered one of the park’s original, beloved E-Tickets – a story we told in-depth in our standalone feature, Lost Legends: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Fans mourned the loss of the brilliant ride that had so expertly fused Disneyland’s Tomorrowland-set Submarine Voyage with the fantastical tales of Jules Verne. What they didn’t know is that – despite a growing reputation for slashing budgets in the ’90s – CEO Michael Eisner was working hard to make up for the closure of the expensive-to-operate and low-capacity sub ride.

As a matter of fact, he tasked Imagineers with developing a new E-Ticket experience for Magic Kingdom, and in 2000, Fire Mountain made its debut. Better yet, this steampunk peak continues the tradition of 20,000 Leagues by bringing Jules Verne back into the park, with the ride inside the mountain themed to his Journey to the Center of the Earth novel and a sub-land around the peak called Vulcania dedicated to Captain Nemo’s secret lair from the novel Mysterious Island. And though you can see the steaming, bellowing volcano looming over the jungles and ruins of the Jungle Cruise, the question remains… how do you get to it?

In the 1990s, Imagineers decided it was time for Disneyland’s Adventureland to expand with a new E-Ticket. When the Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure opened in 1995, designers had cleverly created a totally immersive queue leading through the temple’s ruins… and cleverly carrying guests along a narrow pathway between the Jungle Cruise and the showbuilding housing Pirates of the Caribbean. And when construction started on Fire Mountain back in the mid-90s, a surprisingly similar strategy came into play.

Image: Disney

With a steam-powered Volcania base camp located along the Walt Disney World Railroad, the looming volcano belches steam and flames, hinting at what may be inside… And of course, here in Possibility World, Magic Kingdom’s undisputed E-Ticket is Fire Mountain (yes, a new companion for Space, Splash, and Big Thunder). One of the most thrilling rides at Walt Disney World, Fire Mountain is a flying roller coaster, strapping guests into seats that eventually pivot to lay face-down, zooming through the molten innards of this perilous peak. 

Image: Disney

If you think about it, Fire Mountain is something that this park desperately needed, giving it a high-thrill equivalent to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom’s Modern Marvel: Expedition Everest. Michael Eisner’s quest throughout the 1990s was to revitalize Disney’s theme parks and transform them into high-energy, thrilling, cinematic places that everyone – even teenagers! – would want to visit. Fire Mountain remains evidence of that shift today (as do some other E-Tickets we’ll encounter here in Possibility World), and it’s sincerely hard to imagine there was ever time that Magic Kingdom was without this breathtaking thrill ride.


Thunder Mesa

Click and expand for a larger and more detailed view. Image: Disney

Opened: 1975

Leaving the pulse-pounding thrills of Fire Mountain behind, our tour through Possibility World continues in Frontierland. And it looks a lot different than the land you may know. Remember how, throughout the 1960s, Disney’s designers had been working hard to determine what Magic Kingdom should copy from Disneyland and – just as importantly – what it shouldn’t? Back then, Imagineers made a pretty surprising omission. When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, it was without Pirates of the Caribbean – Walt’s “magnum opus” attraction that had debuted to international acclaim at Disneyland just four years earlier – and designers had no plans to add it!

Think about it… Though New Orleans Square (home to Pirates and Haunted Mansion) had quickly become an icon of Disneyland, designers had done their due diligence and believed that Jazz Age New Orleans wouldn’t be a very captivating land at Magic Kingdom, given that the real New Orleans was just a day trip away.

Image: Disney

It was replaced with a very different but complementary piece of the American story to share the Rivers of America… Liberty Square (especially a good fit approaching the country’s bicentennial). Though Pirates of the Caribbean probably could have fit in Adventureland, Imagineers believed that the real Caribbean was too close to Florida and too much a part of its history, architecture, and DNA to be fascinating or compelling to Floridian audiences. 

So even though guests lined up at City Hall in the early 1970s to ask “Where’s the pirate ride?” and demand its inclusion in Possibility World, cooler heads prevailed and designers stuck to their original idea: to replace Pirates with an equally-ambitious project to transform Frontierland instead.

Image: Disney

So today, Possibility World has its own magnificent desert mountain range to rival Cars Land. Thunder Mesa is an all-encompassing Western vista. And – predating the “pavilion” model of EPCOT Center – actually includes multiple rides and attractions sharing one astounding landscape.

Not only does the Walt Disney World Railroad exit Volcania and head straight through Thunder Mesa, but this land-within-a-land also includes a log flume passing through “nature’s wonderland” as it rides atop the mesa, and a runaway mine train (an emerging exercise in Disney’s use of the new steel roller coaster) that would dip and drop through the mountain’s exterior.

Click and expand for a larger and more detailed view. Image, Disney.

Even still, the real highlight of Thunder Mesa is the E-Ticket dark ride concealed within the mountain range…

The Western River Expedition

Image: Disney

Opened: 1975

Once the Western River Expedition opened in the mid-1970s, all those demands for Pirates of the Caribbean were instantly quieted. Cleverly, Disney handed the project to one of the key designers of Disneyland’ss Pirates, noted animator and Disney Legend Marc Davis (best known for his character-heavy second-halves of Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, as well as such character-driven attractions as Modern Marvels: Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, and The Enchanted Tiki Room). 

Image: Disney

What he created matches (and in places, exceeds) Pirates in terms of ambient storytelling, placemaking, and fun. The Western River Expedition is every bit as grand as the old Western films that helped inspire it; a massive, all-encompassing dark ride through the red-hued West at perpetual sunset.

And naturally, this dark ride (re-using Pirates’ ride system) is filled with “cowboys and Indians,” Western towns at war from black-hat mauraders, great Western forests set ablaze, and magnificent showdowns with the bad guys.

Image: Disney

The truth is that if you want to get a sense of just how magnificent this dark ride would’ve been, you’ll need to ride it yourself… or at least check out our Possibilityland: Western River Expedition ride-through that chronicles exactly what this would-be wonder was like… and why guests won’t find it today.

But at least here in Possibility World, we can enjoy our epic, 15-minute cruise through the West among the offerings of Thunder Mesa before continuing on to the next of this possible-park’s lands. Ready?


Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella dark rides

Opened: 1971

Another question that Disney’s designers encountered in their construction of Magic Kingdom was how to reinvent the classic, blacklight dark rides of Disneyland for this new park’s Fantasyland. Keep in mind that – in the 1970s – Disneyland hadn’t yet recieved its 1983 “New Fantasyland” makeover, so by and large the dark rides it included (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Alice in Wonderland, and Snow White’s Adventures) were surprisingly simple, still using flat cut-outs rather than dimensional figures and each looking quite a bit different than it does today.

Image: Disney

Would those simple dark rides simply be duplicated at Disney World? Of course not! Though plenty of new animated features had come out in the more-than-a-decade since Disneyland’s opening, Imagineers still decided to harken back to classics when it came time to design Fantasyland’s dark rides. Specifically, Possibility World’s Magic Kingdom hosts dark rides themed to 1950’s Cinderella (fitting, given that the park’s central icon is her castle) and 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, adapting each to the dark ride format. It’s just one more way that Magic Kingdom is a must-visit, offering exclusive attractions all its own that also give it a distinct personality from Disneyland.

Bald Mountain

Opened: 2000

Back when Imagineers drafted the idea for Fire Mountain as an Adventureland replacement for 20,000 Leagues, another group of designers came up with Bald Mountain – a perfect fit for the sub ride’s vacated spot in Fantasyland. Based on the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence from Fantasia (featuring the demonic Chernabog), the idea for this peak was so beloved by Michael Eisner, he green-lit both peaks for the park. (So, with Fire, Big Thunder, Splash, Space, and Bald, Magic Kingdom would be the most-mountainous park in the Disney Parks family). 

Image: Disney

As for what’s inside the craggily peak rising over Fantasyland? This dark, twisted, frightening mountain is the domain of Disney’s popular Villains franchise. Mysterious and looming, the mountain contains a flume ride (Splash Mountain style) through the innards of the mountain where Hades is calling Disney’s Villains together to see who is the baddest. Each Villain, in turn, gets his or her own scene conjuring up their personal brand of evil. It’s a musical, maniacal journey through Ursula’s Lair, the Chernabog’s cavern, the Evil Witch’s castle, Jafar’s hideout, and to the Mistress of Evil herself – Maleficent.

Featuring light, sound, fire, fountains, projections, and more, Bald Mountain is a spectacular and mysterious adventure ride looming over the otherwise storybook-styled Fantasyland. Speaking of which…

New Fantasyland

Image: Disney

Opened: 2012

It’s probably no surprise to any Disney Parks fan that 2010 was an industry-changing year, and for what was happening outside of Disney World’s gates. That’s because the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure re-set the standards for theme parks going forward, shifting projects from standalone attractions to immersive, cinematic lands based on popular intellectual properties. Most importantly, these new lands needed to be scaled recreations of actual worlds that people had seen on screen; worlds they wanted to inhabit, stocked with the “real” food, “real” drink,” and “real” shops that the “real” characters from those worlds would expect. Even in the decade since, you can see that formula at work in Hogsmeade, Radiator Springs, Pandora, Arendelle, Diagon Alley, Springfield, and more.

In 2009 – just as the finishing touches went into the Wizarding World and a proverbial fire seemed to light under Disney after a decade or so of stagnation in Orlando – the announcement was made.

Image: Disney

New Fantasyland would soon arrive, at last ridding Magic Kingdom’s storybook center of the rather cheap “Medieval faire,” “tournament tent” facades that Walt had always disliked, and that had been removed from Disneyland back in 1983. The eastern half of Fantasyland would now be resculpted in “Wizarding World” style, albeit by creating mini-lands dedicated to classic Disney features.

Image: Disney

Though the expansion would add a dark ride themed to The Little Mermaid (cloned from Disney California Adventure), double the park’s Dumbo spinner, and build a restaurant inside the epic ballroom from Beauty and the Beast, the real selling point of this New Fantasyland was what Disney called “play and greet” experiences with characters from the popular and high-revenue Disney Princess line.

So step into this New Fantasyland and you’ll find – towering just behind her castle – Cinderella’s Chateau. Much more than a meet-and-greet, guests here get to pass through the story of Cinderella and – upon meeting her, actually watch as her Fairy Godmother magically conjures her dress.

Image: Disney

Just nextdoor in the enchanted forest is Aurora’s Cottage, where guests first create birthday cards for Aurora and watch as the three Fairy Godmothers cause havoc in the cottage’s living room…

Image: Disney

Naturally, they’d then present those cards to the princess in a “play and greet” merging storytelling, theater, and character meet-and-greets into a mini-attraction in its own right.

Of course, you know the land’s other play-and-greet, Enchanted Tales with Belle, similarly re-casting a simple character encounter as a storytelling, small-audience, live-theater interaction that simply ends with a few quick photo opportunities. You can meet Ariel from The Little Mermaid in Ariel’s Grotto nestled alongside Journey of the Little Mermaid – the Omnimover dark ride retelling her tale (and the only new ride in the reborn land). 

The last bit of the land to change? The old Lost Legend: Mickey’s Toontown Fair has packed up and left town. Though the Barnstormer roller coaster remains (now paired with a relocated and expanded Dumbo the Flying Elephant), the rest of Toontown has become Pixie Hollow, an entire sub-area dedicated not to Peter Pan proper, but to Disney’s Pixies brand, centered around – you guessed it – a “play and greet” with Tinker Bell in the novel setting of having been “miniaturized.” 

If you followed online Disney fan pages back when New Fantasyland was announced, you’d see that fans had quite a bit of vocal pushback on the plans for New Fantasyland, claiming it was too focused on Princesses and that it wasn’t going to win anyone back from the new Wizarding World. But here in Possibility World, this gentle, Princess-focsed Fantasyland is actually a perfect balance to the hyper-intense, thrilling, and downright scary attractions that were added to this park in the ’90s like Fire Mountain and our last E-Ticket…



Image: 20th Century Fox

Opened: 1994

A steaming, hissing, flashing industrial spacecraft has crash-landed in Tomorrowland… and you’re headed in.

Michael Eisner’s request to inject more thrills, more stars, and more teens into Disney Parks in the ’90s was a fruitful endeavor. First, it’s what paired Disney up with famed filmmaker George Lucas and fueling the opening of both the Lost Legends: STAR TOURS and Captain EO, plus the Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure. One by one, each redefined what Disneyland should be (and who it should be for).

Image: 20th Century Fox

But things really changed when – in the 1990s – Eisner decried that Tomorrowlands across the globe should get a facelift. The optimistic, populuxe, Googie retrofutures envisioned in the ’60s at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom were both looking downright naive in the era that sci-fi turned dystopian and desolate. Put simply, Eisner believed that by using that change in pop culture as an excuse to strip Tomorrowlands of their science and rebuild them as science-fiction, they would become timeless and never need another expensive facelift ever again.

And given that movies like Blade Runner, Alien, and even Star Wars had shifted the public’s view of the future from a world of gleaming, white space stations to a gritty, rusted, junkyard-influenced future of claxons and hissing steam, it made sense to bring them to Tomorrowland. That’s why a group of young Imagineers were tasked with developing NOSTROMO, a dark ride through the steaming interior of the crashed ship of the same name from 20th Century Fox’s R-rated Alien franchise.

Image: Disney / 20th Century Fox

On board, guests slowly ride through the ship’s crashed hull passing cinematic scenes on par with Indiana Jones Adventure… physical sets of breathtaking realism and depth. The only thing interrupting the otherwise awe-inspiring journey? Continuous attacks by the film’s iconic Xenomorph (here in unimaginable Audio Animatronics form, hissing, spraying, jumping toward guests) and – perhaps even worse – the grotesque, eyeless “Facehuggers” leaping from the shadows, intent on burying alien embryos inside of you by adhering to your face.

Though the story goes that a group of older, more traditional Imagineers was horrified by the very idea of this E-Ticket, they lost. And apparently, those older Imagineers were practically putting in their two-weeks notices when they learned that guests should be armed with guns to fight off the alien threat! But of course, Disney wouldn’t send us into this hostile, gray world defenseless, so there are guns for everyone. 

Image: Disney

At Magic Kingdom, we might imagine that NOSTROMO wouldn’t last long, earning the scorn of horrified parents. But it’s equally likely that NOSTROMO wouldn’t be a standalone, “PG-13” ride here in Possibility World, since it would be paired with Fire Mountain and Bald Mountain, adding a better balance to the park (which Disneyland achieves with Indiana Jones and Star Wars).


Okay, so our tour through Possibility World’s Magic Kingdom looks just a little different from the park you and I can visit today… The real story of these “could-be classics” is a little different, considering none of them ever got built… At least, not in the way they were expected to be. So on the last page, we’ll take one last look at the real stories behind what happened to these possibilities…


Now that our trip through Magic Kingdom at Possibility World has come to an end, let’s revisit each of the phenomenal things we’ve seen to explore what really happened that kept these could-be classics from being built…

Main Street, U.S.A.

Details are scarce on why Walt Disney World cancelled the massive, Broadway-style theater earmarked for Main Street after officially filing construction paperwork and even beginning preliminary construction, but from its announcement in 2017 to its cancellation in February 2018, momentum on the project simply stalled.

Image: Disney

It’s likely that the theater simply became overwhelmed by the rest of the resort’s active projects (including Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille rides, and Magic Kingdom’s own version of the Modern Marvel: TRON – Lightcycle Power Run). Equally noteworthy – recent budget cuts across Walt Disney World have leveled “streetmosphere” entertainment that the parks are known for, perhaps signaling that entertainment ranks low on the priorities of Parks chairman Bob Chapek (a notorious fan of intellectual properties and merchandising).

Main Street still uses the auxiliary secondary corridor during high-pressure times, but it’s nothing more than a lightly-decorated “walk in the park” with fencing and trees rather than the detailed secondary streetscape the theater would’ve turned it into.


Fire Mountain fizzled out, and the Vulcania sub-land of zephyrs, lighthouses, and steampunk around it never came to be. For as long as Disney Parks have been around, designers have been trying (sometimes successfully!) to incorporate the works of renowned European fantasy author Jules Verne.

And really, it makes sense! In California, Disneyland’s Adventureland was re-wrapped into one overarching continuity in 1995, uniting each of the land’s rides and attractions into the timeline of the Modern Marvel: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, on the other hand, has always (and increasingly) been a genre bending “mix tape” of adventure motifs – African colony houses, Asian ruins, Polynesian plazas, Arabian bazaars, and Caribbean fortresses, all set together in a somehow-harmonious way. Adding the science-fantasy literary adventures of Verne simply feels like yet another mini-land within the park’s adventure sampler.

Image: Disney

At the dawn of the New Millennium, plans for Fire Mountain resurfaced, this time built around 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire (a Verne-esque animated adventure film), recasting Nemo’s Vulcania as Whitmore Enterprises Base Camp. Atlantis didn’t fare as well as Disney had hoped at the box office, which quickly stripped the animated overlay from plans. But then, the tourism downturn in the wake of September 11, 2001 dried up any hopes for Fire Mountain…

At least, until recently when fans began to insist that a re-do with Moana were in the works… Until we hear more, Fire Mountain remains a Possibility World exclusive, and stands among our must-read Possibilityland: Never-Built Disney “Mountains” lineup.

Image: Disney

Meanwhile, Imagineers have successfully based two iconic “mountain” attractions around Jules Verne stories – DisneySea’s spectacular Modern Marvel: Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Disneyland Paris’ industry-altering Lost Legend: Space Mountain – De la Terre à la Lune. Both – to some extent – feature the accompanying “Vulcania” as well.


The Western River Expedition is just one of the fantastic and unbelievable attractions designed by Disney Legend Marc Davis that ultimately ended up on the chopping block. (A similarly scaled adventure through the legend of the Snow Queen, The Enchanted Snow Palace, ended up in our alternate history Disneyland, Possibilityland itself.) Still, the gargantuan dark ride is perhaps one of the most lamented never-built projects in Disney history.

Image: Disney

So why wasn’t it built? As the popular story goes, early visitors to Walt Disney World were aghast to find that the park did not contain the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride they’d heard so much about (less than five years old at Disneyland, and still the talk of the town). Guests practically stormed City Hall wanting to know when the Pirate ride would open. Demand was so high that executives tasked Marc Davis with abandoning his Western River Expedition and fast tracking a low-budget version of Pirates of the Caribbean instead.

It might be for the best. By the early ‘70s, the era of Westerns was coming to an end. Back when Disneyland opened in 1955, Americans’ fascination with the “Old West” was at an all-time high. It was the era of spaghetti Westerns, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Davy Crockett, and Howdy Doody that had children of the era playing “Cowboys and Indians” from sun-up to sundown. But even by the early ‘70s, pop culture was shifting. The age of the Western was over (and arguably, hasn’t had a resurgence since, despite some earnest efforts).

Image: Disney

Besides, a certain level of discomfort began to develop in the era about pop culture’s prior treatments of American Indians, and a dark ride full of comical invading “Redskins” doing “rain dances” didn’t mesh well with a more reverent and thoughtful way of representing the country’s original inhabitants.

Thunder Mesa’s other attractions – like the log flume, runaway mine train, the restaurant, and the hiking trails – actually felt like a better solution for Frontierland’s problems… and Disney’s. Without Walt at the helm, the ‘70s are largely marked by “cheap and cheerful” attractions (read: steel roller coasters) that would be attractive and thrilling to the young audiences showing up at Disney World without breaking the bank like those ambitious dark rides of Walt’s era.

Image: Disney

Ultimately, the designer working on the runaway mine train portion of Thunder Mesa – a young man named Tony Baxter – made a compelling argument that his roller coaster could be separated out from Thunder Mesa and become an E-Ticket in and of itself, costing Disney a whole lot less than the dark ride. Big Thunder Mountain was born, reviving Frontierland and quickly spreading to most every Disney park on Earth.


Obviously we know that, despite their initial idea, dark rides for Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella didn’t ever make it to Magic Kingdom. Instead, the park opened with the same three Fantasyland dark rides that Disneyland had offered sixteen years earlier: Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and the Lost Legend: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

In 2009 – almost four decades after those dark rides debuted at Magic Kingdom – plans for New Fantasyland were announced, overtaking the space vacated by 20,000 Leagues’ closure in 1994.

Image: Disney

When Disney Parks fans got a hold of the plans for New Fantasyland in 2009, they weren’t exactly thrilled with the picture. Fans quickly noted an apparent skew toward Disney’s Princess brand.

And that might’ve been fine, except that fans took the expansion to be a direct answer to the industry-changing Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening at Universal’s Islands of Adventure just a few miles away… and, to fans’ thinking, if an entire land of princess meet-and-greets and a single recycled dark ride from Disney California Adventure was meant to be Disney’s answer to Harry Potter, they had better go back to the drawing board.

Image: Disney

To Imagineering’s credit, they did. When Disney returned to the semi-annual D23 Expo in 2011, it was to re-announce Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland… with some edits. Areas dedicated to The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (including the only “play and greet” in the land, Enchanted Tales with Belle) remained, but most everything else had changed.

Image: Disney

Now, the myriad of princess “play and greet” cottages that filled the land’s forested “island” center would be replaced by the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train – a family roller coaster / dark ride set between the Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain in terms of thrills.

Of course, Disney’s popular princesses would still need a place to greet their fans… but the many meeting points were condensed into one Princess Fairytale Hall that, unfortunately, would need to take over the Lost Legend: Snow White’s Scary Adventures. The Princess Fairytale Hall is also a typical meet-and-greet experience rather than the more immersive, interactive “play and greets” planned for the land.

Image: Disney

Otherwise, the New New Fantasyland would also cancel the Pixie Hollow sub-area meant to overtake Mickey’s Toontown Fair. But the Lost Legend: Mickey’s Toontown Fair wouldn’t survive, either. Instead, its “fair” infrastructure, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and Goofy’s Barnstormer would be salvaged and redressed as a new part of Fantasyland called Storybook Circus, overlaid with a bit more detail, placemaking, and reverence than Toontown Fair.

Bald Mountain (or Villain Mountain) also never made it off the drawing board. It’s anyone’s guess why, but a popular theory is that Disney began seriously toying with the idea of centering a (never-built) fifth Walt Disney World park around the Villain franchise (nearly as popular as the Princess one) or creating a grander Villains themed land (rumored to be called Shadowland) somewhere at Walt Disney World. Naturally, it would be foolish to “waste” an E-Ticket that could fit in a fifth park or without plans for Shadowland ready to move forward.


Image: 20th Century Fox

NOSTROMO was a no-go. Despite Michael Eisner’s insistence that Disney Parks should become hip, cool, thrilling places filled with the stories and characters that mattered to modern audiences, veteran Imagineers recruited George Lucas to help convince the fresh CEO that Alien was simply too intense for Magic Kingdom. Besides, can you imagine an attraction where guests – children! – were armed with guns and set loose to fire on targets?

Still, Eisner liked the concept and requested that his design team go back to the drawing board to create an original alien that would be slightly less frightening than the R-rated Fox film’s antagonist… oh, and that they should save as much money as possible in the cost-cutting era after Disneyland Paris’ opening, maybe by doing something with the outdated “Mission to Mars” theaters that plagued Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.

Image: Disney

Though NOSTROMO was cut, it developed into the equally controversial Lost Legend: The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter – a cult classic sensory dark ride that terrorized a generation of Disney Parks guests from its opening in 1994 to its retirement in 2003. One might imagine that the “laser gun” attraction NOSTROMO was original envisioned as eventually evolved into Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and its Toy Story spin-offs at each Disney “castle” park across the globe.

Image: Disney / 20th Century Fox

Still, we might’ve gotten some idea of what an Alien dark ride would’ve been like… 20th Century Fox’s famed Xenomorph did make it to Walt Disney World in Audio Animatronics form aboard the Lost Legend: The Great Movie Ride at the Disney-MGM Studios, in a scene whisking guests through the steaming, industrial innards of the Nostromo.


Image: Disney

How different is this “Possibility World” park from the one we know? Would Magic Kingdom be a different place if these projects had come to be? A better place? That may be a question no one can adequately answer. But at least it gives us a chance to imagine what could be… Meanwhile, Magic Kingdom may be the most familiar park here in “Possibility World…” because a visit to Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom here at this alternate-reality resort will leave you amazed…

And if you haven’t, be sure to read our original Possibilityland entry, taking the same walk around Disneyland to see its never-built projects, including Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition, Discovery Bay, Tomorrowland 2055, Edison Square, Circusland, and so many more would-be exclusives planned for Walt’s original park.

Would you like us to continue this new series with walkthroughs of the other parks of Possibility World? Let us know by leaving a comment and sharing on social media… Before you know it, we may be stepping through the gates of an Epcot you barely recognize…