Disney Park and Resort Ideas That Got Axed

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Did you know that Disney had several other planned Resort destinations on the drawing board that eventually got the axe?

As a company renowned for its surplus of innovation, imagination, and creativity, it should be no surprise to discover that not every envisioned idea from Disney moves beyond the conceptual planning phase. We all know about the growth of Resorts at Disney World and other successful Disney destinations worldwide, but what about all those now-forgotten plans elsewhere that never got to see the light of day for financial, regional, or legal reasons? Here at Inside the Magic, we’re recounting some of those Disney Resort and theme park concepts that the Company once had high hopes for before scrapping.

Related: Three Disney’s Abandoned Projects You May Not Know About

Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square

The story about the Disney Orlando project, which eventually manifested into Walt Disney World Resort, is one every fan probably knows well. Walt Disney, after assessing what went right and wrong with Disneyland, saw a possibility to go bigger and better in a place like Orlando, Florida. So, he got to work establishing a second destination. But what many folks aren’t aware of is the fact that Disney World wasn’t the very first planned Disneyland spinoff.

Between 1963 and 1965, Walt Disney had plans to establish a theme park in St. Louis, Missouri, which was to be called Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square. He even had Imagineers (WED) draw up some intricate plans for the Park, including attractions and themed lands. It would have comprised two city blocks north of Busch Memorial Stadium, which was in construction at the time.

However, plans never moved forward for several reasons, including public defamation by August Busch, Jr. and financial/ownership disputes. So, by 1965, Disney officially halted all Riverfront Square plans and decided to focus his attention on the new Florida development.

Map for Disney Riverfront Square
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Mineral King Ski Resort

Did you know that there were once plans in place for a Disney-owned Ski Resort? The official announcement was made in 1966 for what was projected to be Disney’s Mineral King Ski Resort in Mineral King Valley, California. Disney had plenty of working conceptualizations for what would be included in this family-friendly ski destination, along with onsite attractions and other activities. There would even be a couple of animatronic bear entertainers—the very ones we now know as the Country Bears Jamboree.

Unfortunately, not everyone was in favor of the onsite construction and developments required to establish this Resort. So, after many back-and-forth battles with preservationists, including the Sierra Club, the project was eventually scrapped.

Concept drawing for Mineral King Ski Resort
Credit: Walt Disney Family Museum

Related: Disney’s Lost Plans to Build a Ski Resort

Singapore Disney

In the early 1990s, Disney was strongly considering Singapore as the location to open a second Asian-based Resort and Park. At the time, Disney Entertainment was extremely popular in Singapore, and Singaporeans were among the world’s leading consumers of Disney products.

Several discussions took place between Disney and the Singaporean government, in which Disney suggested they provide 300 hectares of land to work with for a three-phase building process. But given the concurring financial struggles that were ongoing with EuroDisney during these negotiations, along with other land acquisition issues, Disney decided to put a pin in the Singapore concept. Some of the earlier concept pitches were revisited when Disney established Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005.

Related: Parks President Drops Clues About Disney’s Next Theme Park Resort Location

Port Disney

In 1990 Disney had elaborate plans to move forward with a second California-based theme Park and Resort concept. The idea, conceived as Port Disney, would be to open a marine-themed Resort spanning 443 acres surrounding Queensway Bay, next door to the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. It would have included five Resort Hotels, a marina, a cruise ship port, an entertainment/retail area, and an impressive theme park named DisneySea. The Resort property would also host the RMS Queen Mary and the Hughes H-4 Hercules aircraft.

Despite being such a highly anticipated project that many were eager for, the Long Beach mayor at the time opposed the plans, claiming that it did not make economic sense for Disney or the City. Disney agreed that the cost of regulatory reviews was financially burdensome. Therefore, plans for Port Disney were halted by 1991. But in an interesting development that came later on during the expansion of Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, some of the former concepts originally pitched for DisneySea were revisited and incorporated into the Tokyo DisneySea Park, which opened in 2001.

Concept drawing for Port Disney
Credit: Disney


After forgoing Port Disney plans, the next ambitious idea was to revisit Disneyland Park and consider adding a second Park. In looking at Disney World and its second Park EPCOT, for inspiration, the initial idea was to establish a West Coast equivalent called “WestCOT”. Plans were in the works from 1991 and 1995 and even included a “SpaceStation Earth” counterpart to EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth, which was intended to be even bigger.

Again, financial reasons are cited as the ultimate red light in the development of WestCOT. While hopes for a WestCOT were retired in 1995, never to be revisited, the planned site still went on to serve as the location of Disneyland’s second park when Disney California Adventure Park opened in 2001.

Concept drawing for WestCOT
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s Canceled Theme Park: WestCOT

Disney-MGM Studios Europe

When Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World was still known as Disney-MGM Studios, Disneyland Paris had an idea to create its own version of the Park. Floated under the names “Disney-MGM Studios Europe” and “Disney-MGM Studios Paris,” the plan was conceived in 1992 with the goal of opening in 1995. But as we all know, finances and the needed budgeting were not so great for EuroDisney during the early half of the 1990s. Things started looking up by the end of the decade, though, and the original concept was revisited in 1999, but on a much smaller scale. So, while Disney-MGM Studios never came to fruition, Walt Disney Studios Park did by 2002.

Disney’s America

In 1993, Disney announced plans for a new Virginia theme park in Haymarket, five miles from Manassas National Battlefield Park and 35 miles west of Washington, D.C. Dubbed “Disney’s America,” this Disney Resort setup would be a patriotic celebration of United States history, with the opening slated for 1998. Estimating 125 to 185 total acres to work with, the site would comprise nine themed areas in the actual Park, onsite hotels, a golf course, and retail locations.

Despite support from several politicians and local officials, the concept faced opposition from many other groups, including historians. They were angered over Disney’s intent to feature onsite reenactments of historical events and were also concerned about the impact this Park would have on surrounding historical sites. With so many currents against them, including finances and the death of Frank Wells (President of the Walt Disney Company), plans for Disney’s America were called off in 1994. Interestingly enough, some of the original proposals and ideas for this project found new life at Disney California Adventure Park.

Concept drawing for Disney's America
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s America Was an Abandoned Historical Theme Park Meant for Virginia

Disney’s Knott’s Berry Farm Retheme

Before closing the book entirely on Disney’s America, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, went up for sale in 1997. Disney saw this as the perfect opportunity to retheme the existing Park by applying the original American motif from years earlier. But the Knott family, knowing Disney’s intent, refused to sell to them. This was primarily because they did not want to see Disney deconstruct what Walter Knott had originally built. So, the Knotts ended up selling to Cedar Fair, and Disney got the red light a second time on this ambitious idea.

National Harbor Disney Resort

There had been talks about Disney expanding to the greater D.C. area as far as 2005. But in 2009, the official announcement came that Disney had purchased 11 acres onsite of the National Harbor in Maryland. The goal was to build a 500-room Disney Resort Hotel, likely a Disney Vacation Club Resort, overlooking the scenic Potomac with views of Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The Resort would also include a convention center and visitor area.

Yet, despite spending $11 million on the initial purchase, Disney never did move forward with the intended idea, which sat in limbo for more than two years. At last, in November 2011, Disney announced their decision not to go forward with the idea, choosing to focus more on expansions that were underway at Walt Disney World Resort instead.

National Harbor waterfront
Credit: Visit Maryland

Do you know about any other tentative Disney Park or Resort ideas that never came to fruition? Let us know in the comments.

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