Lost Disney Parks

5 Disney Parks That Were Never Built

Disney has twelve parks worldwide, with more to come. But, did you know there were plans for other parks that never came to fruition? Some of these ideas included WestCOT, DisneySea, Disney’s Riverfront Square, MGM Studios Europe, and Disney America. Read below to find out more!

1. Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square

Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square was a planned theme park in St Louis, Missouri that would have been the second Disney park after Disneyland. After the construction of Disneyland, Walt stated that he had no plans of opening parks elsewhere. However, in 1963, Walt met with the mayor of the City of St. Louis to discuss plans for a new theme park in the riverfront area. If you’re interested in learning even more about this park, check out this article from the St. Louis Magazine!

Abandoned Disney Riverfront Square Blueprints

Courtesy of St. Louis Magazine

The park would have been part of the redevelopment of the city for the city’s bicentennial.  The park fell through for several reasons, but Imagineers drew up plans and designs for new attractions for the parks.

Disney's Riverfront Square Drawings

Courtesy of Disney History Institute

Park Details

The entrance of the park would have been similar to Main Street USA, but one side of the street would have been Old St. Louis and the other based on Old New Orleans. Some of the classic Disney attractions that were conceived for the park later became Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the “Western Riverboat” ride (later incorporated into Big Thunder Mountain Railroad). Other attractions included:

  • A Lewis and Clark Adventure
  • A ride based on the folk legend Mike Fink
  • An opera house
  • An aviary
  • An attraction based on the Meramec Caverns on Missouri
  • A ride based on Davy Crockett
  • A Pirates of the Caribbean ride
  • and dark rides based on Peter Pan, Snow White, and Pinocchio.
Disneyland Lewis and Clark Adventure

Courtesy of Disney Archives

2. DisneySea (Port Disney)

DisneySea was an oceanic theme park that was designed to be a part of the Port Disney complex in Long Beach, California. The park was first introduced to the public as a pamphlet – it was distributed to residents in the area detailing the plans for DisneySea. The master plan explained the park as:

“Disney Imagineers have focused their efforts on exploring the myths, romance, challenges, and mysteries of the ocean – the world’s last great frontier. Both fun and educational DisneySea would break down barriers between our guests and the sea. At the rim of the American continent and the Pacific Ocean, DisneySea will be a place of magic and wonder”. 

Image result for port disney 1990 brochure

Park Details

Port Disney was going to be built in two phases. The initial construction was to occur in 1995-1999 for a 2000 opening, with a planned expansion to open in 2010. Port Disney would have included the DisneySea theme park, five new resort hotels, several waterfront restaurants, marina slips (for boat storage), a monorail linking the city and port sides of the bay, and a cruise ship port.

The theme park specifically would have included:

  • “Oceana”, the architectural centerpiece that included a research center and an outreach center
  • Mysterious Island, a recreation of Atlantis with a suspended thrill ride called Nemo’s Lava Cruiser
  • A boardwalk
  • Heroes’ or Harbor with rides themed for mythological adventurers
  • A Grecian village
  • and Venture Reefs, a Caribbean lagoon featuring artificial tropical reefs and a shark cage dive experience.

Disney Sea California

The park never came to fruition, as Disney went forward with the plans for WestCOT instead. Some of the concepts developed for DisneySea were later used at Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001.

3. WestCOT

WestCOT was a proposed “clone” of Epcot, to be built in the space now occupied by California Adventure. For an in depth look at the park, head to our article about WestCOT here. WestCOT would have contained seven wonders of the world, three in Future World and four in the World Showcase.

Park Details

WestCOT California Drawings

Courtesy of Disney

Future World would have contained three pavilions: Wonders of Land, Wonders of Living, and Wonders of Space. There were also plans for improved versions of the other Epcot Future World attractions. Most interestingly, Spaceship Earth would have been a near replica, but would have been painted gold.

The World Showcase would have been grouped into regions rather than individual nations. The pavilions would have included:

  • an Americas pavilion with the USA, Canada, and Mexico
  • Asia with China, Japan, and Indian architecture and a Chinese dragon roller coaster
  • Africa, with a white water rafting ride, outdoor entertainment, and an Egyptian Palace
  • and Europe with a London area, a Paris model, and a boat cruise with Audio Animatronic scenes depicting da Vinci, Michelangelo, and more.
WestCOT World Showcase

Courtesy of Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, the park was never built due to space issues and financial costs. Years later, California Adventure was built and westCOT was permanently put on hold.

4. Disney MGM Studios Europe

Disney MGM Studios Europe was the planned second theme park for Disneyland Paris, which evolved into Walt Disney Studios. The original 1990 plan for the second Disneyland Paris park was another MGM Studios.  The park would have included attractions similar to MGM in Orlando, restaurants, and sets and film studios as well as a Euro Disney headquarters building.

Park Details

One of the main attractions would have been a studio tram tour.  50% of the park would have been theme park, while the other 50% would have been a studio production set where live films were shown. The images below show the original plans for the park. You’ll notice it closely reflects the Walt Disney Studios park.

After the low attendance of Euro Disney, the plans for the second park were put on hold in 1992. Finally, Disneyland Paris gained popularity and in 2002 the original MGM Studios plans opened as a scaled-down version called Walt Disney Studios.

5. Disney’s America

Disney’s America is likely the most fascinating never-built park. In 1993, Disney announced plans for the newest Disney park: Disney America, located in Haymarket Virginia. This park would have been a 3,000 acre historical theme park with nine different lands representing historical time periods of America.

Disney America Overview Map

Disney’s America, Courtesy of Disney

Park Details

The lands would have included:

  • Crossroads USA, a Civil War era village
  • a “Native America” featuring the history of the Native Americans
  • President’s Square, featuring the history of the democracy and the Hall of President’s attraction
  • Civil War Fort, featuring Civil War reenactments
  • We The People, a replica of Ellis Island, where guests would have lived the “immigrant experience”
  • Enterprise, an American factory town from the Industrial Revolution
  • Victory Field, featuring airplane hangars
  • State Fair, with a wooden roller coaster and a Coney Island inspired area
  • and Family Farm, which would have been an authentic midwestern style farm.
Rendering of Disney's America

Courtesy of Disney

Disney's America Concept Art

Courtesy of Disney Archives

Imagineers had moved forward with this idea and designed renderings, models, and designs of the attractions and theming. They even created a model of the park, pictured below.

Imagineers Planning Parks

Courtesy of Disney Archives

While state officials and local residents were generally in favor of the project, there was intense opposition from a group of historians and environmentalists. They thought the site was too close to the Manassas Civil War battlefield. Due to opposition and outcry against Disney, the project was canceled in September of 1995.

Disney's America

Courtesy of Disney

The park almost had a second chance when Knotts Berry Farm announced they were selling the amusement park and taking bids in 1995. However, despite Disney’s excitement, the Knott family turned down the offer, fearing Disney would tear down too much of the park their parents built.

Wrapping It Up

Of these five parks, which would you want to visit the most? Let us know in the comments below!

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