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A Special Weekend Edition of Why For?

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

A Special Weekend Edition of Why For?

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My apologies, folks. But a freak wind storm blew into New Hampshire today. And somewhere out in the woods, a branch came down on a wire. Which was why Nancy and I were without power for most of Friday. Which prevented me from being able to button up this week's "Why For."

But finally around 5:30 p.m. EST, the lights (more importantly, the heat) came back on. Which is why I'm finally able to answer Darlene D.'s e-mail. Which reads:

Jim --

Love the site. Particularly those articles that you do about all the rides & attractions that are proposed for the Disney theme parks but then never actually got built.

Which brings me to my question: What is this "Disney Decade" that you keep referring to? This ambitious plan keeps popping up in a lot of your "What If" articles. But then you never actually get around to explaining what exactly the "Disney Decade" was supposedly to entail.

So -- for once -- could you give us some actual details about the "Disney Decade"? What attractions were proposed for what parks, etc.

Thanks in advance for your help. Keep up the great work,

Darlene D.

Dear Darlene --

Details on the "Disney Decade," eh? How much time do you have?

Sorry. I don't mean to be glib, Darlene. But the plans for the "Disney Decade" are kind of hard to sum up in just a few paragraphs. You see, the Walt Disney Company was on a real roll in the late 1980s. Coming off the smashing success of the grand opening of the Disney-MGM Studios theme in May of 1989, Michael Eisner told the Imagineers to dream big. And dream big, they did.

The "Disney Decade" -- arguably the most ambition plan that WDI ever out together -- called for many successful WDW attractions to be recreated in Anaheim. Above, you'll find a concept painting for Disneyland's Hollywoodland, a brand new "land" for the Anaheim theme park inspired by Disney-MGM Studios theme park.

Look, rather than try & sum up this entire plan in today's "Why For," why don't we concentrate on what was supposed to happen to just one of the Disney theme parks? Disneyland, to be specifc. Let's see what the "Happiest Place on Earth" would have wound up looking like if all of the rides, shows & attractions that were proposed for the Anaheim theme park as part of the "Disney Decade" plan had actually been built.

The first new show that was proposed for Disneyland -- "The *** Tracy Musical Revue: Diamond Double Cross" -- actually did get built. The action-packed stage show ran during the summer of 1990 and (to be honest) was a lot more entertaining than the Warren Beatty film that inspired it.

But -- after that -- things got pretty hit & miss about what made it off of WDI's drawing board and what didn't. Take -- for example -- 1991, when Disneyland was supposed to recieve:

  • The Young Indiana Jones Adventure Spectacular -- This elaborate stunt show (which was to have been presented in an outdoor arena where Disneyland's "Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools" show was eventually presented) was to have been produced in collaboration with George Lucas. According to Disneyland press releases circa the Spring of 1990, this " ... this action-packed live extravaganza will thrust Young Indy into a series of thrilling adventures and misadventures, adding a new dimension to the legendary lore of one of Hollywood's greatest heroes."
  • Here Come the Muppets -- Disneyland was supposed to have gotten a clone of Disney-MGM's original Muppet attraction (which used to be presented in the theater where that theme park's "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" stage show is now being presented). This stage show -- which was originally supposed to replace the "*** Tracy: Diamond Double Cross" stage revue -- would have been performed several times daily in the Videopolis Theater.
  • The Magnificent Muppet All-Star Motorcade -- Similiar to what wound up happening back in 1992 (When both Disneyland and Disney-MGM got copies of the "Aladdin Royal Caravan" parade to run in their theme parks), both the Anaheim & Orlando theme parks were supposed to get " ... a daily parade featuring the Muppet characters, their own 'Electric Mayhem' band and the legendary Muppet tour bus." Sounds pretty neat, huh?

Well, obviously, none of that stuff ever got built. Mind you, the Imagineers did a little bit better in 1993. When that year's plans for the "Disney Decade" called for (and I'm quoting directly from the Disneyland press release here) :

  • Mickey's 65th Birthday - Mickey Mouse will celebrate his birthday with a yearlong party at Disneyland and the opening of a whole new "land" in his honor:
  • Mickey's Starland -- In addition to being the home for Disneyland's biggest star and providing a place for guests to personally meet Mickey, Mickey's Starland will serve as party headquarters during Mickey's 65th birthday celebration. It will be located on a 4.5 acre site adjacent to "It's a Small World."

Of course, prior to the beginning of construction, this Disneyland expansion project underwent a name change. With "Mickey's Starland" (Which -- not so co-incidentally -- was named after the new "land" that had been hurriedly added to WDW's Magic Kingdom back in 1988 as part of Mickey's 6oth birthday celebration) eventually becoming "Mickey's Toontown."

Mind you, the Imagineers' original plans for this Disneyland addition do differ significantly from what eventually actually got built. For -- if WDI had gone forward with their first line-up of attractions for this part of the park, "Mickey's Starland / Mickey's Toontown" would have featured:

  • Kermit the Frog presents Muppetvision 3D -- Yep, prior to this show being proposed as a possible replacement for Disneyland's "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" attraction (and long before "Muppetvision 3D" wound up in DCA), the Imagineers envisioned building the Muppet Theater right in the middle of Toontown's downtown area. Which (I'll admit) seems like kind of a strange fit. But wait 'til you hear what was supposed to built right next door to Miss Piggy & pals.
  • The Little Mermaid -- According to the "Disney Decade" press release: "Set to open in the mid-1990s in Mickey's Starland, this magical adventure will take guests for a ride in the mirthful, musical undersea kingdom of Ariel the meraid and her friend Sebastian the Crab.

FYI: The "Little Mermaid" dark ride that the Imagineers were proposing for construction in Disneyland's "Mickey's Starland / Mickey's Toontown" area was actually going to be a clone of an attraction that WDI was already planning on building as part of Euro Disneyland's "Phase II." You can actually see images of this proposed "Little Mermaid" attraction on early versions of the EDL souvenir map, which list the ride as "Coming Soon." Sadly, neither the Disneyland nor the Euro Disneyland version of this "Little Mermaid" drak ride ever get built.

Starting to get depressed yet, Darlene? Wait. It gets worse. In 1994, Disneyland was supposed to have gotten a brand new Tomorrowland. AKA Tomorrowland 2055, a completely new take on this side of the theme park. Quoted again from that "Disney Decade" press release:

Disneyland's exciting "land of the future" will get a totally new 21st Century look for the summer of 1994. Guest will be able to stroll along "Sky Walks" which will give the area a second story. The ever-popular "Star Tours" and "Space Mountain" attractions will be joined by several sensational new adventures:

  • Alien Encounter, produced in collaboration with George Lucas, will put visitors in the middle of a teleportation experiment gone wrong. An interplanetary foul-up will cause a terrifying alien to appear in the spectators' midst.
  • Plectu's Fantastic Galactic Revue will house a resident troupe of itinerant alien entertainers. Stranded in Tomorrowland, these extraterrestrials will turn to show business for survival, presenting an outer-space musical-variety revue.
  • A New Circle-Vision 360 Film -- Presented by Delta Air Lines, the spectacular new addition to the Circle-Vision 360 theatre will explore the scenic wonders and culture of Western civilization. Sophisticated Audio-Animatronics characters will disappear into the film at key points, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

A New Disney 3-D Motion Picture, produced by George Lucas, will offer visitors to the new Tomorrowland the latest in dazzling, 3-D film technology.

Of the four projects listed above, only two of them -- "Alien Encounter" and that new Circle-Vision 360 film (I.E. "The Timekeeper" AKA "From Time to Time") -- ever actually made it off WDI's drawing board. And even then neither of these attractions were ever built in Anaheim. But -- rather -- made their debuts in WDW's "The Future That Never Was" version of New Tomorrowland and Euro Disneyland's Discoveryland, respectively.

For 1995 ... The Imagineers were able to stay on track for at least part of their "Disney Decade" plans for the "Happiest Place on Earth." Which called for " ... Walt Disney's first theme park will celebrate a historic birthday with bigger-than-ever festivities, parades and shows." One of the proposed highlights of Disneyland's 40th anniversary celebration was "... the welcoming of Disneyland's 400 millionth guest." Sadly, this part of the Imagineer's plan did pan out either. For the Anaheim theme park didn't actually receive its 400 millionth visitor 'til July 5, 1997, when Minnie Pepito pushed her way through the turnstiles.

Anyway ... Once 1996 rolled around, had the "Disney Decade" masterplan been closely adherred to, Disneyland would have seen the addition of a brand-new attraction -- *** Tracy's Crime Stoppers -- which would have actually heralded the coming of a whole new "land" at the Anaheim theme park, Hollywoodland.

"So what would it have been like to ride the '*** Tracy's Crime Stoppers' attraction?," you ask. Quoting again from that Disneyland press release from the Spring of 1990:

Guests will literally get "into the act" in this new high-tech action-adventure featuring the very latest in Audio-Animatronics, simulation, sound and special effects.Guest will join America's favorite comic-strip detective in a high-speed chase with his gangster adversaries.

1999 would have seen the completion of Disneyland's Hollywoodland. Which was to have been constructed on that piece of backstage property between Tomorrowland and Main Street U.S.A. This new "land" was to have been " ... an idealized recreation of Hollywood Boulevard in the '30s and '40s, complete with shops, restaurants and the atmosphere that marked the 'Golden Age of Movies.' "

"But what about Space Mountain?," you query. "Wouldn't that large white futurristic-looking building looming up behind Hollywood Boulevard have blown the effect that the Imagineers were going for?" Not to worry, folks. WDI had a plan. Which involved redressed the backstage-facing portion of Space Mountain so that the show building now resembled the Hollywood hills. Complete with its very own replica of the original Hollywood sign.

The above pencil drawing is one of the only layouts that I've ever seen for Disneyland's Hollywoodland. Guests would have enter this part of the theme park via the arch at the lower right, which was to have been located near just off of Town Square in Main Street U.S.A.

As for the attractions that the Imagineers hoped to have built in Disneyland's Hollywoodland area, these were to have included (again quoting from that 1990 press release):

  • Toontown Trolley will introduce a new fantasy dimension to the simulator technology made popular by "Star Tours." Roger Rabbit will take guests on a wild ride through the cartoon world of Toontown, first seen in the Touchstone Pictures release, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" executive-produced by Steven Spielberg.
  • Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy Ride, inspired by the misadventures of Baby Herman and Roger Rabbit in the recent Disney cartoon short "Tummy Trouble," will zoom through the sets of Toontown Hospital, fly down stairs, crash through doors and bound over beds.
  • The Great Movie Ride, which debuted last year at the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida, travels through the most memorable scenes from classic films of yesteryear, as recreated with the most complex and realistic Disney Audio-Animatronic technology ever developed.
  • Superstar Television will enable guests to step into scenes from classic television programs and take co-starring roles opposite their favorite TV stars.

Above is a concept painting of the interior of the "Toontown Trolley" attraction, where Roger Rabbit was supposed to take Disneyland guests on a tour of "The City That Toons Built" ... And -- of course -- something goes horribly wrong as soon as the ride gets underway.

As for the plans for the rest of the Disneyland Resort, this press release mentions that "... the Disneyland Hotel is already seeing the first steps in a $40 million enhancement program which will bring major improvement and additions in guest rooms, recreation and dining."

As for a second gate for the resort, there's absolutely no mention of Westcot, Port Disney or California Adventure. Just a bland, deliberately vague paragraph which reads:

Development and construction of a second Disney theme park for Southern California will begin before the end of the 1990s. The new park will be located either adjacent to Disneyland or in Long Beach.

And that -- my friends -- is Disneyland's portion of the "Disney Decade" plan. Please note that nowhere in this plan is there any mention of a "Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin" ride, an "Indiana Jones Adventure" attraction or a "Fantasmic!" waterfront show. Or -- for that matter -- is there any talk of a "Light Magic" streetacular or the "Rocket Rods."

Anyway ... That's enough "Disney Decade" for this week, Darlene. Maybe sometime in the not-so-distant future, I'll get around to detailing what sorts of rides, shows & attractions the Walt Disney World resort would have gotten under this plan.

Alright. Enough with talking about what might have been built at Disneyland. Let's get to the questions & the answers that you folks really want to hear. As in: Who won this week's JHM NYC / Disney Trivia Challenge.

QUESTION NO. 1: What's the name of the NYC theater where "Steamboat Willie" had its theatrical debut?

ANSWER: "Steamboat Willie" debuted at the Colony Theater in New York City on November 18, 1928.

QUESTION NO. 2: Which Disney feature length animated cartoon had its world premiere at this very same theater some twelve years later?

ANSWER: "Fantasia" debuted at this same theater (which -- sometime during the intervening years -- had changed its name from the Colony to the Broadway Theater) on November 13, 1940.

QUESTION NO. 3: What was the name of the first Disney animated feature to be adapted to the stage?

ANSWER: This was the trick question that tripped up most JHM readers. The answer was NOT "Beauty and the Beast," but -- rather -- "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Which Walt Disney Productions presented in NYC in 1979.

In which theater was this show presented?

ANSWER: The stage version of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was presented at Radio City Music Hall.

QUESTION NO. 5: What was the name of the first Disney Theatrical production to be presented in the newly renovated New Amsterdam theater?

ANSWER: A concert version of "King David" was the inaugural event at the New Amsterdam. This new musical by Alan Menken & Tim Rice debuted on May 18, 1997 was only performed nine times in NYC (Six regular performances and three previews).

Of the nearly 200 entrants, would you believe that we only had three JHM readers who actually got it right? Their names are:

  • Robert A. Kolakowski
  • Tony Ruberto, Jr.
  • Benji Breitbart

Congratulations, gentlemen! I'll be contacting you shortly to get your mailing information. Thanks to all of you who entered this week's JHM readers contest. If you'd like another shot at some pretty nifty prizes, go check out Andrew Frank's "Incredibles" contest.

That's it for this week, folks. Here's hoping that the lights stay on where you are this weekend. We'll see you all again on Monday, okay?

Have a great weekend,


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