The Quick 10: 10 Abandoned Disney Projects

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We leave for our annual Halloween Disney World trip in a little more than two weeks and I am getting ridiculously excited. I can't wait to ride the Haunted Mansion 13 times (a lofty goal that we never reach), get creeped out at the Tower of Terror and glimpse a sighting of the elusive Yeti on Expedition Everest. But what I won't be doing is visiting the Spain section of EPCOT, eating at David Copperfield's Magic Underground, or staying at the Persian-themed resort. Why? Because they're not there, obviously. But they could have been! Check out these 10 projects that were planned but never realized for one reason or another.

western1. Western River Expedition. This was going to be a huge attraction at the Magic Kingdom, the biggest built at the time. It was going to center around a big structure called Thunder Mesa, and it would have worked like this: an animatronic owl by the name of Hoot Gibson would narrate you through various old west scenes like bank robberies, a rain dance, a scene with prairie dogs and buffalo, and, of course, cowboys. It would have been similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, except subtract the water and the swashbucklers. So why wasn't it built? Well, because of the pirates, actually. Even though there was a ride at Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean wasn't planned for the Florida park because execs didn't figure Floridians would find pirates very unusual. When guests got to the park and discovered that their scraggly swindlers were missing, however, they raised quite the ruckus. It didn't take Disney long to figure out that they could build the pirate attraction about 60 million dollars cheaper than the Western River Expedition, so it was really a no-brainer. Never mind that the WRE had already been advertised to the public and even outlined as a future attraction in current maps. The concept artwork pictured is from The Neverland Files, where you can find much more detailed information on this never-realized attraction.

SPAIN2. Israel, Africa, Spain and the Soviet Union at EPCOT. Lots of country additions have been rumored over the years, but these were so far into development that signs were put up in the World Showcase telling guests where they could expect to find these countries in the future. Except"¦ not so much. Many of these countries can be found with temporary spots at the Food and Wine Festival, but none of them actually came to have a permanent home there, presumably due to budget constraints "“ except for the Soviet Union, that is. It was already decided that the Soviet section of the World Showcase would center on a replica of St. Basil's Cathedral; the rest would include a movie about the country and a ride complete with animatronics. There was even a press release announcing the addition. But then the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia's economy plummeted, along with the plans to include them at EPCOT. The Spain advertisement is from WaltDatedWorld.com.

3. German River Ride. Speaking of EPCOT, the Germany pavilion was supposed to be more than shops selling cuckoo clocks and restaurants with sausage and sauerkraut "“ it was also going to have a boat ride that took guests on a trip down the Rhine, Isar, Tauber and Ruhr Rivers, with fabulous views of German landmarks like the Cologne Cathedral. They even went so far as to construct the building that would hold the ride before axing the boats "“ next time you go there, check out the Biergarten area and you'll see how it could have once been a ride queue. The part of the building that would have held the actual ride now houses floats and is also a rehearsal area.

4. The Muppet Movie Ride. This would have been great. After Disney-MGM Studios opened and Muppet*Vision 3-D proved to be an enormous success, Disney started working with Jim Henson to incorporate more Muppet stuff into the park, including a restaurant and a ride similar to The Great Movie Ride (which isn't so Great these days) but, of course, starring the Muppets. Unfortunately, Jim Henson died shortly thereafter, and all ideas of any Muppet expansions were shelved.

5. David Copperfield's Magic Underground. In the late "˜90s, David Copperfield was going to open his own chain of magic restaurants kind of like Planet Hollywood or the Hard Rock Café. His Magic Underground was slated to have locations in Hollywood, Times Square, and Disney-MGM Studios. Signs around the park and at Pleasure Island advertised the magician's venue and told guests it was coming soon, but then Copperfield made the whole project disappear. OK, to be fair, it wasn't exactly him "“ it sounds like it was a perfect storm of financial reasons and creative disputes. All of the restaurants went poof, even the one that was nearly complete in Times Square.

ak logo6. Beastly Kingdom. When the Animal Kingdom park opened in 1998, it wasn't entirely done yet, so Disneyphiles assumed that the section called "Beastly Kingdom," which would focus on mythological animals, was still under construction but still on the books. Plans had been released, and Beastly Kingdom was to include a "Quest of the Unicorn" hedge maze, a large castle structure "ruined" by vicious fire-breathing dragons that would house a rollercoaster, and possibly a boat ride based on Fantasia. The Beasts have yet to materialize because of "“ what else "“ budget problems, but you can still spot references to the unrealized kingdom around the park "“ there's a section in the parking lot named "Unicorn," a dragon can be seen in the Animal Kingdom logo (pictured), there's a dragon-shaped fountain near the section of the park called Camp Minnie-Mickey (totally out of place, but it's where Beastly Kingdom would have started), and a statue of a dragon head that sits atop one of the ticket booths at the entrance. I don't think it's ever been said that the idea is totally dead and the rumors about its re-emergence are resurrected every year. I guess we'll see about that one.

persia7. The Persian Resort was a monorail-accessible hotel that was going to be built to the east of the Magic Kingdom, north of where the Contemporary Resort is now. Apparently there is some evidence that the Shah of Iran was ready and willing to fund the whole affair, but that was before the oil crisis. Once that happened, the project was canned and hasn't been considered again (as far as we know). But you can see what it might have looked like in this concept drawing to the left! During the same time frame, plans and concept sketches were drawn up for a Venetian Resort and an Asian Resort. These also fell victim to the oil crisis. In 1988, the Grand Floridian was built on the spot being considered for the Asian Resort.

8. Fire Mountain was a rollercoaster being considered for the Adventureland area of the Magic Kingdom in the late "˜90s. It would have taken guests on a thrilling trip through an active volcano. Michael Eisner loved the idea and was making plans to locate the ride between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain, or possibly to the south of Pirates. But then the plans were axed. We don't know why (money; it's always money), but we do know that some of the ride's characteristics have been picked up in a rollercoaster at Tokyo DisneySea.

9. Dick Tracy's Crimestoppers. Oh, my husband will lament the fact that this one never came to fruition. I don't think it's a secret that Disney was banking on the 1990 movie Dick Tracy to be a huge smash hit. It wasn't. But back when they still had high hopes for a new franchise, Imagineers were working on Crimestoppers, an interactive high-speed chase through Chicago, complete with Tommy Guns. A press release announcing the revolutionary new ride was put out"¦ and then the film tanked at the box office and the ride was given cement shoes. But not all was lost "“ the Tommy Gun technology ended up paving the way for the interactive shooting adventure Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

NIGHTMARE10. The Nightmare Before Christmas Ride. Here's another one I would have been thrilled to ride. This would have allowed guests in flying coffins to help Jack Skellington "save Christmas." It was all planned out in detail, from queue theme (the Halloweentown graveyard) to the happy ending where Jack and Sally hug in the snow. Although the concept was abandoned with no reason given, (it would have been next to It's a Small World at Disneyland; can you imagine stranger juxtaposition?), Disney has since incorporated Nightmare into the Haunted Mansion every year from Halloween to Christmas. You can read more about the details of the ride at The Neverland Files, where the picture comes from.

There are plenty of unrealized Disney rides and resorts to discuss "“ do you remember one I left off of the list? Let us know! And have a good weekend.

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October 9, 2009 - 12:00pm
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