Disneyland St. Louis? The Planned Disney Parks That Were Never Built
Disney theme parks are pure magic for children — and children at heart. So many people embark on epic Disney family vacations or even go for their honeymoons. Up next for the industry leader in family vacations? There are plans for the brand’s latest heavy hitter, Star Wars. The coming Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World is destined for greatness, like so many other Disney parks that came before.
But that doesn’t mean all Disney parks are perfect. In fact, they’ve seen their fair share of duds over the years, including theme park concepts that never got built or were abandoned. Ahead, check out some of the most insane abandoned Disney parks that never happened.
1. Disney’s America (Haymarket, Virginia)
One of Disney’s most ambitious parks that never happened in the ’90s would have been on a 3,000-acre park right outside the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.
Taking a cue from the area, the park was supposed to honor the history of the nation, with attractions themed after real events in American history. But that’s exactly what made this Disney outpost so controversial. Because park creators had no intention of ignoring negative aspects of history, the proposed themes caused an uproar.
“How can you do a park on America and not talk about slavery?” the park’s creative director Bob Weis said. “This park will deal with the highs and the lows. … We want to make you feel what it was like to be a slave, and what it was like to escape through the Underground Railroad.”
But there was so much negative publicity that the idea was canceled in 1994.
Next: This planned Disney park would have included a unicorn hunt.
2. Beastly Kingdom (Bay Lake, Florida)
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a hit. But it was also supposed to have a counterpart.
Beastly Kingdom was planned for the area that’s presently Harry Potter Land. The medieval town would have focused on legends and mythical creatures like those in Disney’s Fantasia. One area of the park would have allowed visitors to hunt for unicorns, while another featured a roller coaster ride through the ruined castle home of a fire-breathing dragon.
Ultimately, the concept was abandoned due to the exorbitant cost. But if you look closely at the signs posted in Animal Kingdom, you might spot a dragon in some of the logos and signage. The inclusion is part of the theme park that never was.
Next: This was supposed to be the location of Disney’s second park — not Orlando.
3. Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square (St. Louis, Missouri)
You might already know Disneyland preceded Disney World. But did you also realize Orlando wasn’t Walt Disney’s preferred location for the second park?
Disney knew he needed a park closer to the East Coast, but his intended destination was St. Louis, not Florida. One huge issue with St. Louis was the unpredictable weather, which would have necessitated building the park indoors. The blueprints included a five-story building with the same Pirates of the Caribbean ride and Haunted Mansion that you’ll find at Disney World today.
What happened next is unclear. Some claim Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis’ most famous tenant, insisted the park sell beer (but some sources say this never happened and that beer and wine would be restricted to the adults-only section of the park). One Disney researcher claims the deal fell through when Disney requested that the city pay for the outer structure of Riverfront Square, and it refused.
No matter what the reason, St. Louis was ultimately abandoned in favor of Orlando.
Next: Residents reacted negatively to this theme park.
4. WestCOT (Anaheim, California)
Disney planned to re-create Orlando’s EPCOT at Disneyland themed around a Utopian vision of the future. It would have been the first park to have on-site hotels for guests.
The project got canceled for a few reasons. First, it would have needed a large amount of land acquisition and would have caused land prices to increase, which angered the locals. Residents of the area were concerned over potential light pollution and that the replica of Spaceship Earth would have been an eyesore.
The area eventually became Disney’s California Adventure, which opened in 2001.
Next: There was almost a Disney ski resort.
5. Mineral King (Sequoia National Park, California)
You could almost ski Disney. Almost.
In 1965, the Forest Service petitioned for someone to build a ski resort in California’s stunning natural wilderness. Disney provided the winning bid.
Plans for the area included a 1,030-room hotel, movie theater, ice rink, tennis courts, 10 restaurants, and dizzying 3,700 foot ski runs. The planned animatronic show for the attraction eventually served as inspiration for Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree.
Disney expected an audience of 1 million people per year and budgeted $35 million to build the park, which was twice as much as Disneyland cost to create. Environmentalists criticized the project, concerned with the idea of tearing up the land. But the thing that ultimately killed it was when Mineral King Valley became part of Sequoia National Park in 1978.
Next: This Disney aquarium would also have had pirate-themed rides.
6. DisneySea (Long Beach, California)
DisneySea in Tokyo opened in 2001, but the one slated for California never happened.
The plans for this aquatic-themed park were certainly ambitious, which is most of the reason the concept ultimately failed. There was supposed to be a huge aquarium and educational center with a functioning lab alongside fun attractions, such as Pirate Island, ocean-themed rides, and a shark cage encounter.
One source estimates the park would have cost about $3 billion to build at a time when Disney was facing financial issues. Another problem was persuading the Coastal Committee to allow them to use 250 acres of ocean, which was no small feat. This combination of roadblocks ultimately led to DisneySea getting scrapped.
Next: This huge Disney project was abandoned.
7. Port Disney (Long Beach, California)
Port Disney was part of a much larger-scale project that Disney announced in 1990. The 443-acre destination was slated to include five gigantic resort hotels with a combined total of 3,900 rooms and themed cruises, to name a few.
Local opposition was part of the reason the project failed. Critics pointed out that the expansion would violate the Coastal Act, and in 1991, the Port Disney plan was abandoned.
Read more: The Disney Park Secrets You Never Knew
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