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Confused about what the Walt Disney Company wants to do next in Anaheim? Then maybe it's time to take a second look at thirdthemepark.com

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Confused about what the Walt Disney Company wants to do next in Anaheim? Then maybe it's time to take a second look at thirdthemepark.com

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Earlier this week, Jill T. wrote in to say:

According to today's Los Angeles Times, the Walt Disney Company and SunCal have failed to reach a compromise on that big housing project. So now we're back to Disney pushing the Anaheim City Council to get this zoning issue put on the November ballot.

What I don't understand is why Disney is so dead set against letting SunCal build this condominium complex. It's not like you'll be able to see any of this low cost housing from inside the parks.What's the real harm in letting this construction project proceed?

Dear Jill,

To properly answer your question, I'm first going to have to turn to the Wayback Machine (i.e. The Internet Archive website). Which will then take us back to the Fall of 2000. Back to that heady handful of months just prior to the opening of Disney's California Adventure, when Mouse House managers were still confident that that theme park would be an absolute smash. So confident, in fact, that these suits were already itching to tell the public how they planned to follow-up DCA.

Which is why these Disney officials then set up thirdthemepark.com.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

That website was exactly what it sounded like. Thirdthemepark.com outlined (in the vaguest possible terms, mind you) the Walt Disney Company's long-range plans for those 52-acres of strawberry fields that Mickey had purchased from the Fujishige family back in 1998.

Of course, what's funny about looking at these plans today is to see how many rides, shows and attractions that were originally proposed for Park No. 3 back in the Fall of 2000 eventually wound up in Disneyland anyway. Case in point: "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" (Which opened in April of 2003) and "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters" (Which opened in March of 2005).

 Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

According to Imagineers that I've spoken with who were very familiar with the Walt Disney Company's plans for Park No. 3, this DLR addition would have really piled on the interactive attractions. The goal this time around was to create a very hands-on sort of Disney theme park. Where it was the guest who really made things happen as they rolled through rides and/or participated in shows.

 Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

If all of this hands-on stuff sounds familiar to you SeaWorld fans out there ... Well, there's a reason for that. As originally designed, the Disneyland Resort's third theme park was supposed to be the Mouse's answer to Discovery Cove (i.e SeaWorld Orlando's pricey sister park. Where guests now pay upwards of $279 per person per day for the privilege of swimming with dolphins and then lounging on a private beach).

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Ever since Discovery Cove opened in July of 2000 and was then able to convince 1000 guests a day to pay that astronomical entrance fee so that they could then  get friendly with Flipper, the Mouse has been anxious to also get into the high-priced-boutique end of the theme park business. And given all of the affluent communities that there are in Southern California, it was felt that this particular version of Disneyland Resort Park No. 3 would have a very strong customer base to draw from.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Of course, all of this pie-in-the-sky planning was being done before Disney's California Adventure opened in February of 2001. Once it became apparent that this new theme park was failing to meet virtually all of its initial financial & attendance projections ... Well, there was no point in continuing to talk about how much money the Mouse could possibly make off of Park No. 3 while Park No. 2 was circling the drain.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And then 9/11 happened. Which was followed by the whole "Save Disney" brouhaha. And given all of the distractions that the Walt Disney Company has had to deal with for the past five or six years ... Well, it's easy to understand why any plans for a third theme park at the Disneyland Resort have been placed on the back, back, back burner.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But that said, the Mouse still has dreams (a decade or so from now) of turning those 52-acres that they bought from the Fujishige family back in 1998 into a theme park / resort that would cater to Disney's high-end customers.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So now do you understand why Mickey doesn't want any low-cost housing being built directly across from this future construction site? Disney want to avoid a "Let Them Eat Cake" scenario. Where would-be guests might feel guilty about enjoying themselves at a high-priced theme park that's located next to a condominium complex where some of the residents may have trouble making their monthly rent.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Which (I know) might seem like a somewhat ridiculous concern. But let's remember that this is the Walt Disney Company that we're talking about here. A corporation that is always very concerned with its public image. Which is why -- if the Mouse had its druthers -- it would really prefer that SunCal build some sort of luxury hotel right next door to where Theme Park No. 3 is going to be built. So that the park's would-be patrons wouldn't then feel any guilt when they visited the Disneyland Resort's third theme park.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Which brings us back to thirdthemepark.com ... Given that they kept getting questions about all of the artwork, photos and descriptions that they'd originally posted on that website, Disney Company officials decided to change thirdthemepark.com in the Summer of 2002 into a page that promoted DCA's next big attraction, "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror." Once that thrill ride opened in May of 2004, thirdthemepark.com limped along for another year or so (Still featuring that ghostly image of those doomed hotel guests gesturing in the corridor) before it finally went dark.

Mind you, the Mouse still supposedly owns the thirdthemepark.com domain name. And provided that the Anaheim City Council does allow this zoning referendum that Disney is currently pushing for to wind up on the November ballot ... Who knows? Maybe Mickey will then have a compelling reason to bring this website back from the dead someday soon.

But -- for now (More importantly, at least for the forseeable future) -- all of the Imagineers' efforts will be concentrated on trying to turn DCA into a worthy companion for Disneyland. Once that effort's complete ... Well, maybe then we'll discover what sort of Discovery Cove-inspired theme park the Mouse plans on building out on top of those Anaheim strawberry fields.

Your thoughts?

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  • Too bad Disney decided to pull the plug on the website. True, there wasn't a whole lot of information, but it was fascinating to see the photographs of the resort area before and after the beautification project (which was the City of Anaheim's doing more than Disney's, but still).

    It was also interesting to see those glimpses of Disney's plans for further resort expansion, like the second parking structure and the transportation system linking up the parks and the parking areas. I can't help but wonder, given the boosts in attendance over the last couple of years and the hotel construction boom that I've seen in the Anaheim Resort area, whether or how soon at least that part of the Resort expansion plan would come to fruition...  

  • well, i think Jim either forgot to mention or just does not know that WDI is already working on plans on a third gate.  The parkis already in blue sky development.

    Also, he forgot to mention the real truth of why Disney is determined on not allowing Suncal to build low income housing.

    First of all it goes against the plans for the resort but most importantly is that there are already another three developers that are hoping Suncal gets away with changing the resorts zoning.  This would allow them to push for their plans of more housing in other areas directly next to the third gate land to build more houses.

    They would argue that SunCal was allowed and so should they.  This would really destroy the resorts look and have any third gate surroudned by houses.

    It had nothing to do with guest feeling guilty.  That is ridiculous

  • I really liked the pictures from the old website.

    I am hopeful for a refreshed DCA and a third park someday.  

  • As micky said, it has nothing to do with a fear of guests having a guilt trip.  Disney simply wants everything exactly as they would like it, and they would prefer a hotel on that property.  (Its an RV park now...)

    However, this isn't exactly a case of Disney wanting to avoid a precedent.  There are two other developments in the Resort zone that were already moving forward with plans that Disney did not originally object to.  Only when they decided they wanted to opposed the SunCal development did they reverse their position on the other developments.

    It certainly is odd.  And for a company that is supposedly so savvy about public relations, they are taking a pretty big hit by opposing this development in a city that, like many others, desparately needs more housing.  Sueing the city hasn't exactly helped their image either.  They're coming across like a bully in all of this, and that's unfortunate.  

  • Jim, you said that Disney owns the site, thirdthemepark.com, right?

    Well, if you do a domain registry search, you can see the site is owned by a Chris Manos from Littleton, Colorado.

    Apparently back when the site was active this was an issue among online Disney fans. So I guess my question is, who is Chris Manos?

  • Housing and tourist areas simply do not mix. If tourists from around the country travel to Disneyland and see its surrounded by houses, it would lead them to believe that the park is less a worldwide tourist attraction than a local amusement park, ruining the park's isolation and making it less attractive to tourists. It is clear that tourists and residents do not mix well, as most of the major tourist attractions in the U.S. are devoid of much housing (ie Las Vegas strip, Times Square in New York, the Mall and surrounding areas in Washington). Plus, housing in a recreational areas ties up space that could be used for more hotels and attractions, and in the long run may rob the city of Anaheim of more tax revenue. The city shouldn't cave in, but it should not want to crusade against Disney. After all, Disney can always begin investing less in its Anaheim and just be content with what it already has, instead of trying to lure new tourists to the area.

    Also, if housing is built near the Resort area, then Disney will have to deal with the concerns of these new residents. Noise, traffic, and utilities will all become a concern, as new residents will inevitably complain about just about everything happening on Disney property. And with dense developments as condos, there will surely be enough voting power that can force city politicians to come down harder on Disney than they have in the past. Disney is not opposed to new housing in Anaheim, as it would undoubtedly bring new business to Downtown Disney. Disney is just opposed to the housing being right next door to its operations, because of the headaches and the loss of opportunity it will create.

    Walt Disney bought up all those acres in Florida not only to keep tacky motels from springing up, but to also have complete political and developmental control over its property. This episode clearly shows how important that control is.

  • I agree with pretty much everything that Ctman said.  But, if it is low income housing that would be built, then Downtown Disney may not be helped so much.  Also, as a consumer, I'd rather have more wealthy housing or hotels nearby than low-income housing.  I'm not trying to be rude or elitist, but I'm just saying...

    I just finished taking a victimology class, and there is a higher rate of crime in low-income neighborhoods.

    I also loved seeing the pictures from the website.  Disney must do a good job of keeping pictures after they're done with a site- 98% of the time I use archive.org, the pictures are just red X's.

  • Honestly, I think the reasons Disney wouldn't want a low income housing development built right next to where they ultimately plan to build their bright, shiny new theme park are fairly obvious.

  • The fact is that low income housing is not really the question to Disney -  and really not to the developer except as a tool to change the attention from the real issue. The developer wants to develop 1,500 units in a small area. Of which 255 are intended as "low income" (and in this case low income is those making under $90,000 per year). The rest are the luxury condos sold at "market will bear" prices. And those 255 units are replacing 275 units in the mobile home park that currently exists in the space planned. Anaheim has plenty of room for low income housing in other areas of the city even nearby.

    It is unfortunate that some people have fallen for the developer's hype, making Disney sound like a bad guy for asking (with the overwhelming support of the city's Chamber of Commerce, by the way) that  the city abide by their legal agreement know as the Anaheim Resort Plan.

    BTW, to give you an idea of the developer's tactics, they brought up WESTCOT as something Disney planned and then presented it as if Disney had intended to back out of it and replace it with DCA. Which as those here know, was actually forced by "not in my back yard" citizens in the city of Anaheim. And that action was one of the reasons why the Anaheim Resort Plan was originally created.

  • You would also think, just down the street is the Platinum Triangle area. A mass area designated for mixed-use. This area was setup for growth, which included thousands of homes. Why not just build out there? One reason: The land out there has already ballooned significantly to the point that developers are beginning to look at the cheaper, empty plots of land around the Anaheim Resort area.

    From my understanding, the SunCal project alone had 225 units out of a 1500 units designated for low income housing. Considering there is already a waiting list for low income housing, those who want to move in to such a place probably won't even have a chance to get in. I'm not sure what the minimum requirement per housing project in Anaheim is, but 225 units will not be a huge impact to those searching for low income housing as long as there are the thousands of others willing to pay the premium for it.

  • swmike: My understanding is that Disney owned the thirdthemepark.com site for a while, but once they pulled the plug on the site they let their rights to it lapse. AFAIK, Chris Manos has no affiliation with Disney - he's prbably just hoping that someday Disney or someone else will pay him for the domain name at some point.

    As far as the other comments on Disney vs. Suncal: The more you look into this thing, the more it looks like nobody's really being all that honest about their intentions. Suncal's not focusing on building condos for the low-income workers who keep the Anaheim Resort running (and goodness knows, those folks could use some decent housing near their jobs), and Disney's got no definite plans to build on the Fujishige site anytime in the forseeable future (or at least in the timeframe that Anaheim politicians would care about).

    It'll be interesting to see whose side the Anaheim voters take in this mess. The NIMBY contingent is still out there, and if anything, they're less happy now with Disney than when they helped shoot down Westcot; there may also be enough low-income voters who will buy into Suncal's (and the other developers' - don't think they'll sit on the sidelines during this vote) promises to get Disney's initiative shot down. Still, don't count Disney out - if they could excite Long Beach and Anaheim politicians and residents with their phony DisneySea vs. Westcot "competition" a few years ago, they just might be able to pull enough people over to their side this time.

  • I hope they do get to build more, I mean just looking at the before and after pictures, you know that Disney actually beautifies the area so much.  It makes a lot of sense to keep the low-income housing farther away, because wouldnt those low-income families..with children.. be sad they couldnt afford to get in there?  I sure would be.  I live in a small town in Ontario Canada, and I make like under 30,000 a year. So I could live in low-income in California, eh? Man, SWEET! Get me a green card, NOW! hahahaha

  • Today's article has been very interesting. I hope that Disney wins this one. Disney isn't the bad guy here. Now as for plans for what to build on that property:

    How about what Tony Baxter had planned for that addition to Disneyland that never happened? Or how about Blizzard Beach West? (Keeping in mind that Knotts has it's water park right down the road). Then again that "interactive park that Jim mentioned? Or maybe revisit "Disney's America"? I could go on an on...good idea I have Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. It's much cheaper than the real thing, and for those that complain, I just drop them in a virtual lake LOL

  • I read on another site that another reason for Disney fighting the Suncal proposal is because of the bond that the city of Anaheim floated to create the Resort area. This bond was suppose to be paid of with hotel bed taxes. Since DCA didn't do so well Disney didn't end up building the additional hotels that they had planned, and many other hotels were scrapped as well. Instead people started building condos do to the huge rise in housing costs. If the hotel bed taxes don't raise enough money by a certain date then Disney has to start chipping in to pay off the bond. Disney wants that area to build more hotels instead of condos to help pay off the bond so that they aren't on the hook to help pay it off.

  • What's the acreage for DCA compared with the 52-acre strawberry fields? DCA isn't tiny, but it's a smaller park than Disneyland and they'll have a harder time expanding in the future without tearing down old attractions.

    I don't buy the argument about the third park's guests "feeling guilty." That's silly, Jim. Disney would build a berm and surround the park with fences topped with razorwire. Disney just wants to control the land for development. I'm not sure whether that's necessarily evil, because that's a resort area. Why is Suncal proposing to build low-income homes in a hotel and shopping district? I agree with the commenter who said there is something both sides aren't telling us.

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