Did You Know About These Never-Built Disney World Resort Hotels?

in Inside the Magic, Walt Disney World

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With the massive, ever-growing collective of Resorts in Disney World, it should come as no surprise to learn that there were many other hotel concepts that never even moved beyond the initial planning phases.

Today there are well over 20 Florida Disney Resorts, with the majority located directly onsite of Walt Disney World in Orlando and one other Disney Vacation Club Resort—Disney’s Vero Beach—just two hours away in Vero Beach, Florida. There are also several Good Neighbor Hotels nearby and no shortage of Resorts in Orlando for vacationers to consider. Yet, the preferred method for so many is to stay at a Disney World Hotel Resort directly. And that’s completely understandable, given Disney’s impeccable standards, remarkable theming, and all those perks and amenities that come included at all hotels in Disney World.

The ranking of what constitutes the best Disney World Resort varies from person to person, but we can all agree that Disney Resorts are among the best in the world. Even so, only a few initial Resort plans ever become a reality. Some only ever get talked about before being scrapped. Others make it to the drawing board and even have land cleared to make way before falling through. Here at Inside the Magic, we’re revealing some of those past Disney World Resort Hotel Resort concepts that never made the final cut.

Related: Disney Park and Resort Ideas That Got Axed

The Cosmopolitan

While still conceptualizing the grand plans for his Walt Disney World Resort, some of Walt Disney’s earlier ideas even showed a couple of in-Park lodging considerations. There were already plans to construct EPCOT following the completion of Magic Kingdom Park, but some ideas still needed to be ironed out. One vision that would go on to inspire many elements later added to EPCOT was Disney’s Cosmopolitan Hotel.

In his film about his plans for EPCOT, Walt Disney references his Cosmopolitan as a 30-story hotel and convention center in a climate-controlled city center that would serve as the Park’s downtown and commercial areas. It would also include an international shopping district, the precursor to the Walt Disney Company’s ideas for the World Showcase. While the Hotel never came to fruition, it did spark many ideas that were later incorporated into other Disney World endeavors and constructs.

Concept art for the Cosmopolitan
Credit: Disney

Related: Show Buildings Still Exist For EPCOT Rides That Were Never Built

Disney’s Asian Resort

While Disney’s Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts were the first onsite hotels to premier in tandem with the grand opening of Magic Kingdom Park, the original idea for the Magic Kingdom Resort Area comprised at least three other options. The plan was for those to open by 1974.

One such Disney Hotel in the talks was the Asian Resort. Designed to exude predominantly Thai influences, the Asian Resort was envisioned as a 160-foot building featuring 600 hundred rooms (50 suites) and a rooftop restaurant and lounge. A nighttime dancing and entertainment scene were also to be incorporated into the plans, and the Resort would even be part of the Monorail Line.

The land was cleared along Seven Seas Lagoon in preparation for this lofty Resort construction. However, the 1973 Oil Crisis significantly affected the financial situation, and this Resort (and plans for the other two) were canceled. Later on, in 1988, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa opened on the site originally intended for the Asian Resort.

Concept art for the Asian Resort
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Persian Resort

Also touted as Disney’s Persian Palace Resort, this was to be another planned establishment slated to open within the Magic Kingdom Resort Area in 1974. Its intended location would have been northeast of the Contemporary Resort, bordering Bay Lake, with earlier concept art showing a connecting Monorail track connecting it to the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. Sketches also show the Resort’s design was planned with a circular patterned layout, with a 24-foot blue dome central building and smaller ones surrounding it.

While the 1973 Oil Crisis ended this Resort’s construction, in 1978, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, expressed an interest in reviving these plans and even offered to fund it. But then came the Iranian Revolution—the final nail in the coffin for this project.

Model for the Persian Resort
Credit: Disney

Related: The Lost Resorts – 4 planned paradises never built at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Venetian Resort

This Resort was initially intended to open alongside the Contemporary and the Polynesian before being pushed back to one of the slated 1974 Resort openings. As the name implies, the goal was to model the Resort after Venice, Italy. It would have been constructed overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon, between the Contemporary and the Ticket and Transportation Center.

Many original drawings significantly resemble the architectural structures and buildings later incorporated into the Italy Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase. It was a design inspired by St. Mark’s Square but would also include unique onsite attractions, including a miniature enclosed boat harbor with interconnecting waterways.

While plans for this Resort were laid to rest with the 1973 Oil Crisis, there were later designs for the intended area. And the original “Venice” theme was to get a revamped pitch before finally being lost entirely.

Concept art for the Venetian Resort
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Mediterranean Resort

By the 1990s, the same site once considered for Disney’s Venetian Resort was later envisioned as a Greek-themed Mediterranean Resort. Disney actually had some pretty big plans for this new Resort, intending to establish a rivaling five-star hotel to compete with the Grand Floridian. It, too, would have been located on the Monorail route and would have featured numerous callouts, including archways, beaches, and even a 45,000-square-foot meeting area. However, due to swampy conditions and poor ground samples, before anything could proceed, Disney felt that building on this intended stretch of land would not have been feasible.

Concept for Disney's Mediterranean Resort
Credit: Disney

Grande Venezia Resort

The original Venetian Resort concept got a short-lived second-wind revival in 1999 when Walt Disney Imagineering partnered with architectural firm Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo to design a new Venice-style Vacation Club Resort to rival the Grand Floridian. Artwork renderings show a series of intricately designed buildings onsite, featuring terra cotta roofs, gondolas, waterways, fountains, an onsite conference center, and even a scenic wedding chapel. We have no official word as to why these plans did not move forward, but given that they were considering building at the exact same location, and conditions were already confirmed to be not-so-great, we can assume that (and/or budget) was the ultimate deciding factor.

Cypress Point Lodge

As early as 1971, the area near Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds was cleared to make way for something more. Many thought it was intended to serve as additional campgrounds, but then word came in 1973 about a new “lodge” to be built in this area. A replica model of the intended setup even appeared in the post-show of the former Walt Disney Story film attraction at Magic Kingdom Park.

The name of the “lodge” was officially revealed to be “Cypress Point Lodge” in the 1980s, with more details emerging in 1982. It was revealed that this new setup would be located on the south shore of Bay Lake and would feature 550 rooms and 50 log cabins on the beach. It would also sport two restaurants, a pool, a beach, and a lake dock.

However, mounting costs that were concurrently taking place with EPCOT’s construction put a halt to any more talk about Cypress Point. It all but slipped into oblivion by 1983.

New Orleans Hotel

In the 1980s, there was even an attempt to establish a Disney-owned Resort right in the heart of the Shopping Village at Lake Buena Vista (now known as Disney Springs). The idea was to design a moderately priced hotel with a New Orleans theme, in which the nearby Empress Lilly Restaurant would be incorporated into the vision as a docked steamboat. The buildings used for Guest accommodations would resemble a cotton mill or boatwrights shop, housing Guests in 600 rooms on the upper levels and the lower levels serving as shops and restaurants. The name of the Resort was never officially stated, and this project, which was revised in 1982, never made it beyond preliminary illustrations and floated ideas.

Related: New International Experience Coming to Walt Disney World

Pop Century—The Legendary Years

Did you know that Disney’s Pop Century Resort was supposed to be built in two phases? The first section, which today we recognize as the main Pop Century Resort, was to be the Classic Years part, highlighting the decades in the latter half of the 20th century. This would be followed up with the Legendary Years section, which would be themed around the earlier half of the century. However, following 9/11, tourism plummeted. So, the real focus was to finish work on the Classic Years and hold off indefinitely on the Legendary Years.

Later, in 2012, the abandoned site for the Legendary Years side found new life. That was when Disney’s Art of Animation opened on location.

Pop Century Legendary Years
Credit: Yesterland/Werner Weiss

Reflections—A Disney Lakeside Resort

As recently as 2018, we all got word of a new Disney Vacation Club Resort in the works, which would be built on the former site of Disney’s closed River Country Water Park. Named Reflections—A Lakeside Resort, it would include 900 rooms and club villas overlooking Bay Lake and follow a theme focused on Disney movies in-tune with nature, like Bambi, Brother Bear, Pocahontas, and The Fox and the Hound. It would also house a restaurant themed after The Princess and the Frog. The target date for its opening would have been 2022, but we all know what happened in 2020 and how life as we knew it was put on hold indefinitely. Many in-progress projects at Disney World have since folded, been delayed, put on pause, or remain in limbo. While we’re somewhat uncertain about the fate of Reflections, all mentioning of this Resort has ceased. So, we take that to mean it’s probably not happening.

Disney's Reflections concept art
Credit: Disney

Related: Aerial View Shows Site of Disney’s Newest Resort Project

Which never-built Disney World Resort would you have loved to see come to fruition? Let us know in the comments.

in Inside the Magic, Walt Disney World

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