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The Disneyland That Never Was

The Disneyland That Never Was

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If you get out to "The Happiest Place on Earth" this year, you should really make a point of dropping by the Main Street Opera House and checking out the "Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years" exhibit.

Mind you, this new installed-just-for-the-50th-anniversary attraction is worth visiting just for the movie that stars Steve Martin and Donald Duck. But -- if you're a theme park history buff like me -- you're going to love the stuff you find in the pre-show area.

There is Disneyland concept art here that will just blow your mind. Take -- for example -- this early rendering of the "Mad Tea Party" ride ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

... which shows that the Imagineers were once toying with a much more elaborate take on this Fantasyland attraction. Up to the left in this drawing, you'll see that Disneyland guests actually entered the "Mad Tea Party" by walking past oversized recreations of the Cheshire Cat & the Caterpillar. Then -- once they climbed inside their tea cups -- these theme park visitors would whirl around a giant table where the Mad Hatter & the March Hare would sing  the"Very Merry UnBirthday" song.

Speaking of oversized Disney characters, take a look at this never-built Disneyland attraction ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

... where guests would have actually walked right into the mouth of an oversized version of the Crocodile from "Peter Pan." Then -- by walking down a set of steps (Which supposedly put Disneyland visitors down inside the croc's belly!) -- they could then peer out plate glass windows at a colorful collection of tropical fish.

I have to admit that I -- like Jim -- have a fascination with these never built attractions. Rides and shows that didn't quite make it off of WED's drawing board.

Speaking of Mr. Hill, I'm sure that you've seen his stories about those never-built Disneyland expansion areas like Liberty Street and Edison Square. But there's another Main Street U.S.A. addition that Jim has yet to write about. And that's International Street.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Maybe if we ask nice, we can eventually get Mr. Hill to do a story about this set of twisty, turny European-themed streets that were supposed to be built between Tomorrowland and Main Street U.S.A.

Of course, it's not just concept paintings for never completed projections that you'll find in the "Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years" exhibit. The Imagineers who put together this anniversary attraction also unearthed some pretty amazing maquettes. Take -- for instance -- this "Horace Horsecollar" figure.

Photo by Jeff Lange

This dimensional model was actually created by the Imagineers back in the early 1970s, in an attempt to sell Disney Productions executives on the idea of building a huge new attraction at Disneyland. An Audio Animatronic extravaganza called "Circus Disney." Which -- in turn -- was supposed to be the centerpiece attraction for a brand new land at Disneyland called "Circusland."

There was actually a fairly big write-up about this proposed addition to the Anaheim theme park in the 1976 Walt Disney Productions annual report. Here. Let me share the appropriate passages:

"Also contemplated as part of the park's new seven-year developmental master plan is 'Circusland,' an entirely new "land to be located on approximately five hitherto undeveloped acres both inside and outside the berm adjacent to 'It's a Small World.'

Copyright 1976 Walt Disney Productions

Here, circus banners will herald a wide variety of attractions, including a relocated and elevated 'Dumbo' elephant sky ride, a new 'Pinoccchio' dark ride with Stromboli's Little Puppet Theater gracing its queue, a whimsical 'Clown Restaurant' and 'Mickey's Mad House,' a thrilling ride-through themed to the 1930s and the days of glorious black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons and ragtime music.

Photo by Jeff Lange

However, the highlight of this all-Disney themed area will be 'Circus Disney,' a major ride-through attraction featuring a myriad of favorite Disney characters, all brought to life through the 'Audio Animatronic' process. Guests will travel through the wild animal menagerie (featuring King Louie and Shere Khan from 'The Jungle Book') down the midway where familiar Disney stars may be seen in the sideshow, like 'The Amazing Flying Dumbo - Ninth Wonder of the World,' through clown alley and finally into the Big Top where they will actually be 'on-stage' as part of a three-ring show featuring such daredevil acts as 'The Flying Goofys.' "

Photo by Jeff Lange

Sounds pretty cool, don't you think? Sadly, though the Imagineers did put together an amazing site plan for this Disneyland addition, they were never quite able to convince the executives who were running Walt Disney Productions that "Circusland" was a wise investment.

Mind you -- over the past 30 years -- at least one of the attractions that was originally proposed for "Circusland" did eventually make it into the Anaheim park theme: "Pinocchio's Daring Journey," which opened  at Disneyland in May of 1983 as part of the New Fantasyland revitalization project. And -- over time -- those "five hitherto undeveloped acres" were eventually swallowed up as first Videopolis, then Mickey's Toontown and the outdoor Fantasyland Theater were built.

Mind you, if you keep your eyes open, you can find bits & pieces of "Circusland" scattered around the Disneyland Resort. Like this "Circus Disney" concept painting ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... which you'll find in the first floor lobby area over the Bonita tower building at the Disneyland Resort Hotel. But -- even so -- when you look over all this cool "Circusland" concept stuff, it really makes you wish that "Circus Disney" had ultimately made it off the drawing board and been built out behind Fantasyland.


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