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Another Kingdom That Never Came: Disneyland expansion plans circa 1976

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Another Kingdom That Never Came: Disneyland expansion plans circa 1976

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Mike P. wrote in yesterday to say:

I loved last week's "Why For" about all the pavilions and attractions that were planned for Epcot and Disney World but ultimately never built. But what about Disneyland? Do you have any information about rides, shows and attractions that were proposed for the Disney Company's first park that were never built.

Thanks in advance. JHM is my favorite website.

Mike P.

Dear Mike P.

As it turns out, I do have a copy of a document that goes into great detail about a number of changes that were originally proposed for "The Happiest Place on Earth" back in the mid-1970s. But few of these proposed new rides, shows and attractions (as well as full-blown new Disneyland "lands") ever made it up out of the ground.

 Copyright 1954 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

Published in June of 1976 by the Disneyland Interdivisional Team (Which -- back then -- featured the creative input of Disney Legend Charles Boyer. Who is best known these days for the many Disney-themed lithographs that he created over the nearly 40 years that he worked for the company), the Disneyland Long Range Masterplan was designed to " ... determine what new attractions and support facilities will be required for Park expansion after the completion of Space Mountain."

As the plan was originally mapped out, these proposed changes would be made to the park in six distinct phases. With construction of Phase One beginning the Fall of 1978 and Phase Six being completed by the Spring of 2000.

Now what's intriguing about the Disneyland Long Range Masterplan is that virtually all areas of the Anaheim theme park were going to see some changes and improvements ... With the notable exception of Tomorrowland.

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

"Why For no changes to Tomorrowland?," you ask. Well, given that this side of the theme park had received a significant facelift in 1967 (More to the point, given that Space Mountain would be opening in this part of Disneyland in May of 1977), it was felt that this "land" had already received plenty of attention over the past decade. So it was now time for other areas of Disneyland to receive a little TLC.

As for Tomorrowland ... Well, the tentative plan seemed to be that this side of the park would receive yet another facelift in the late 1990s. So that Tomorrowland would look bright, shiny and new just in time for the new millennium.

Anyway ... getting back now to that six part long range Disneyland masterplan. Frontierland was due to receive both a facelift as well as a name change as Phase One got underway. According to the description in this master plan ...

... To give Westernland a completely new appearance, the Davy Crockett area and the Frontierland log fort would be replaced with a new facade. This facade would be more of the Pendleton - Golden Horseshoe architecture. While viewed from the central plaza it would give the appearance of a new development and would also add the continuity to Frontierland that presently does not exist. Two major attractions would be added in the existed Mine Train area, an indoor thrill / show type 3400 / hour, and an outdoor gravity thrill attraction of 2200 / hour. These two would help ease the demand problem that exists at our thrill attractions.

Copyright 1955 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

Once that work was complete, the Imagineers were slated to turn their attentions to Fantasyland. Where their main goal was ...

... reworking the west end of Fantasyland. A marquee type attraction similar to Dumbo or the Rocket Jets possibly with a Mary Poppins theme would be added where the Fantasy 1 food stand is presently located. This would serve to set the area off as a new experience and create interest as a visual and physically exciting attraction. In addition, a new dark ride attraction possibly with a Pooh theme with 900/hour capacity could be added near Casey, Jr. The major attraction of the reworked area would a thrill show attraction of 2600/hour capacity. This could be developed around Mary Poppins and include a major merchandise complex at the exit. The Pinocchio attraction would round out the area fiiting into what is now the Mickey Mouse theatre, with 1000/hour capacity.

Once Phase Two was complete, the wizards of WED intended to turn their attention to a long-standing problem at the Park. In that ...

... During parade time, guest completely block Main Street, which necessitates walking guests entering or exiting the Park through service areas. To relieve this problem, a second Main Street area is needed. This could very likely be a Liberty Square themed area between Main Street and Space Mountain, containing Hall of Presidents, food, merchandising, and a new first aid facility.

Copyright 1976 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

Once the Main Street U.S.A. expansion project was complete, the Imagineers were to concentrate their efforts on a spot that was actually located outside the berm. You know, where "Mickey's Toontown" was eventually built?

Well, according to Disneyland's Long Range Masterplan, this brand-new "land" wouldn't have been home to Mickey & his friends. But -- rather -- it would have been a stylized recreation of turn-of-the-century New York City called Big Town U.S.A. The physical description of this new "land" reads as follows:

The theme of (this) new land could be developed around the Big Town setting. This would enable the use of shops and food facilities of a variety of sizes and types, which were all part of the city at the turn of the century. Several other legitimate Big Town elements could be used that are not properly themed elsewhere in the Park. An indoor theatre, 3000 seat, could be included for live stage shows with big name talent. The use of our existing railroad in an elevated fashion would serve as another visual attraction while adding a new dimension to our steam trains.

Part of America that was once very exciting and has since died out is the old carni-amusement park. The use of a Victorian style playland could show this piece of our history in a themed area. A ferris wheel, roller coaster, and small water sports such as paddle boats could be included by extending our Rivers of America. Other elements might be the entrance of a time machine ride through an old subway.

Copyright 2001 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Food facilities could be developed around a number of themes. An automat, cafeteria or even small delicatessans are good themes. A Golden Horseshoe type experience might be set under a Ziegfeld theme including a dinner with the show.

Directly to the west of Big Town U.S.A., the Disneyland Interdivisional Team envisioned ...

... a new area with an adventure theme could be developed, extending the Rivers of America to provide a large water area and a volcanic island. Some of our studio properties -- Island at the Top of the World, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well as the Lost Continent of Atlantis, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and other H.G. Wells - Jules Verny type attractions could be used. The water area could also be serve as the setting for some smaller water activities or attractions.

Meanwhile, directly below New Orleans Square and out beyond the berm was the last undeveloped piece of property in the Park. Here, the Imagineers planned on building World Holiday Land, which was supposed to approximate the fun of traveling through Europe. Among the rides and shows that were proposed for this part of the park were ...

Copyright 1976 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

... A thrill attraction with a Bavarian theme; a Scandinavian folklore attraction; a medieval England oriented show; a CircleVision 360 theatre with a world travel theme; and another indoor theatre with international live stage shows are all possible attractions. Food facilities such as a Bavarian waitress service, old English pub, French sidewalk cafe and a gourmet snack shop would provide the necessary artmosphere, while small artisan and souvenir shops would be themed to the various European areas.

That sounds like a very ambitious plan, don't you think? So why didn't the Imagineers (with the exception of "Pinocchio's Daring Journey" as well as "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad") actually go forward with any of these proposed expansion projects?

Well, to be blunt, the folks at Imagineering felt that a lot of the ideas that the Disneyland Interdivsional Team had come up with were a bit on the bland side. Which is why -- instead of going forward with Big City U.S.A. and the Lost Continent themeland -- WED employees opted to refine & adjust these concepts until they became respectively Discovery Bay and Dumbo Circus.

Of course, the company ultimately decided that they wouldn't go forward with construction of these proposed new "lands" either. But a revamped version of Fantasyland was completed by 1984. And a number of the rides, shows and attractions that were originally proposed for Big Town U.S.A. 's "carni-amusement park" section were eventually built as part of DCA's Paradise Pier area. While the overall theme of this proposed Disneyland addition eventually served as the inspiration for the "American Waterfront" area at Tokyo DisneySea. Just as that Scandinavian folklore attraction that was originally proposed for World Holiday Land proved to be the leaping-off point for the "Maelstrom" attraction that was added to Epcot's World Showcase area in the mid-1980s as part of that park's new Norway pavilion.

Copyright 2001 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So what do you folks think? Obviously, Disneyland would be very different today if this 1976-era Long Range Masterplan had actually been implemented. Is there a particular part of this expansion plan that you wish had been built. And -- if so -- why?

Your thoughts?

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  • I love this stuff.

    And yes, thank you for IMing me, I did write about this back at MP, but I have to tell you: Jim showed me the info on it, so now you're actually getting it from a better source, and of course, with much more detail, 'cause I'm horrible at that.

  • Great Jim.  Thanks for this.

    I am struck by how scattered this proposal appears on the surface.  It just seems all over the map. And so much of it is real-world representational...so different from today's fantasy character-inspired attractions.

    It's always been intriguing to cinsider what the ultimate impact of Discovery Bay would have been, had it been built at Disneyland.  I have to believe that, in spite of its cool-factor, DB would have eroded the integrity of the park's inherently pure concepts of "the future," "the old west," "the exotic."  A lot of the heart of Tomorrowland (invention, forward-thinking concepts, technology that is beyond its time) would have sprouted up behind Big Thunder, along with touches of Adventureland.

    These plans seem even more random.  

    The Liberty Street concept always seemed to be a weird notion as a parallel for Main Street (though Edison Square felt right...the residential complement to the main drag).  It seems to be better suited as a complement to the Rivers of America attractions, building off that historic platform.

    Big Town sounds like fun as a starting place but what would guests really do there?  And how the heck does it make sense behind Fantasyland?   Same with World Holiday Land...how do you transition from Old New Orleans and the Old West into world traveling without just having things feel weird.  And the holiday connection?  Was that just the fumes left over from the old Holiday Land?

    Folks grumble about how the Eisner years were this vapid, penny-pinching era.  I am glad that, standing in the here-and-now of 2007, we have the park we got.  

  • This article confirms that imagineers of today have absolutley no original ideas.  it seems that the more and more we find out about past ideas...they are transformed later into "new" attractions.  Could also be that their hands are tied behind their back as well......

  • That photo of The Hall of Presidents...    I think the 1976 copyright might be a bit off.

  • Any reaction from Disney yet on the nude photo of Vanessa Hudgens that's all over the internet?

  • Though it is completely off topic, here an article from CNN regarding Vanessa's photo:


    Now, let's get back on topic.  These are the type of articles that has me going back to Jim Hill every day!  Keep up the good work, Jim.

  • I'd book a trip to Disneyland if Journey to the Center of the Earth were to be built. I know it was built in Tokyo. Maybe it'll appear at DCA?

  • Long time fan of the site... these are the type of articles that keep me checking in every day..  These are the ones that makes Jim hill different than other sites.....

    Stick to the History man and youll keep alot of people and get more to join~~

  • Good article - I visited some of these proposed attractions - at Epcot!

  • Jim Hill's back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, he shares info about a trio of rides that were supposed to have been built in TDS's American Waterfront area. With at least one of these attractions drawing its

  • Awesome as always Jim, keep us dreaming and thinking :)

  • A street parallel to Main Street just sounds incredibly odd. The Edison Square concept seems like it would have made much more sense.

    I would love to see the Big City USA concept sent to Florida and employed at DHS... rip out Streets of America and create an area reminiscent of NYC during the golden era of Broadway, to complement Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and its classic cinema theme. Big city aesthetic and amusement, and a relocation of the stage shows to fit the Broadway theme.

    The rest of it, I agree, is sort of bland.

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