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Why For the Muppets didn't make it into Tokyo DisneySea

Jim Hill

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Why For the Muppets didn't make it into Tokyo DisneySea

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Hirota K. of Yokohoma writes in to say

Dear Mr. Hill --

I have been greatly enjoying your recent articles about Disney theme park attractions that were never built. Could you please share some stories about rides that were proposed but never built for my favorite theme park, Tokyo DisneySea?

Thank you kindly,

Hirota K.
Yokohoma, Japan

 Copyright 2001 Disney / OLC. All Rights Reserved

Dear Hirota --

As it turns out, I have a copy of the August - October 2000 issue of "The Hub." Which was the official newsletter of the Imagineers who were living in Japan at that time while they worked on the Tokyo Disney Resort Project. And in this particular issue, there is an article that talks all about how " ... plans for even more adventures for Guests' enjoyment are (now) underway with recent Oriental Land Company approval of the design for the Tokyo DisneySea Expansion Plan."

This story goes into great detail about a trio of new attractions that were planned for the American Waterfront part of that park. These rides were ...

Manhattan Motor Mania -- Guests were to have boarded a brand-new "RoadKing 6" roadster just as it was rolling off the assembly line. These vehicles were then to have veered onto one of two tracks, each providing a different show.

These turn-of-the-century roadsters were to have meandered through scenes depicting immigrant neighborhoods of the period. On occasion, your vehicle would make a sudden turn and roll straight on through the front door of one of these neighborhood businesses. Which is how your car would then lay waste to a French restaurant, an Irish pub, a Danish bakery, an Italian marketplace as well as a Chinese firecracker factory. One running gag throughout the attraction involves a little newsboy whose headlines are amazingly up to date, commenting on the havoc that the your vehicle had just caused in the preceding scene.

Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

With a chassis design based on that of the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride vehicles at Walt Disney World Resort, each ride vehicle was to have accommodated up to four guests. Because the track traverses a route that is both indoors and outdoors, the ride system is not considered to be your typical "dark ride."

The timeless conflict of good guys versus bad guys was the underlying theme of our next proposed Tokyo DisneySea's addition, the Cops & Robbers Chase, a roller coaster-type attraction that was also set in turn-of-the-century Manhattan. Guests enter a "police station" and at a "booking desk" separate into groups of either "cops" or "robbers." The cops pass through a series of typical police station scenes, then hop into "squad cars." The robbers find themselves in "jail" where a jailbreak has obviously taken place, allowing them to escape in waiting "getaway cars." With both cops and robbers now equipped with wheels, the vehicles begin a dizzying chase through a crazy construction zone. As either cops or robbers, Guests on this roller coaster-type attraction travel along one of two mirror-image tracks. The ride system for Cops & Robbers Chase is called a wild mouse coaster, which describes flat, fast curves (i.e. the track is not banked), with the resulted momentum that simulates much faster speeds.

The enticement of luxurious transaltantic ocean travel forms the story of the S.S. Columbia Showcase of Nautical Marvels, an all-new attraction located in the nautical icon of American Waterfront. Beginning in an enclosed foyer and continuing through a queue area "gallery," Guests view a series of witty paintings that tantalize prospective passengers to book passage on the "maiden" voyage of the S.S. Columbia. The Guests are promised that to do so would ensure that they experience the safest, fastest, and, above all, the most comfortable Atlantic crossing heretofore available. Of all the latest in nautical comfort technology featured in the sales gallery, the grandest of all are the dual "Gyroscopically-Stabilized Self-Leveling Anti-Turbulence Lounges." It is this very technology that the Guest is going to experience firsthand by participating in an actual "demonstration." Each of the two lounges carries 40 Guests and, guided by a gyroscope that "controls" the self-leveling action, promises to deliver a safe, relaxing experience free of the usual personal discomforts of an ocean voyage.

 Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Guests receive a surprise when the gyroscope seemingly runs amuck and their cabin begins spinning, at times to 360 degrees in either direction. When the cabin subfloor appears to move overhead and the ceiling and skylights disappear, Guests hold on to their wits and hope that the promised comfort kicks in -- and quickly.

"So why haven't any of these additional attractions ever added to TDS's American Waterfront area?," you ask. Well ... All three of these proposed rides were a bit on the low tech, somewhat generic side. Basically they were rethemed versions of classic early American amusement park attractions. You see, WDI's ultimate goal here was up the hourly ride capacity of the Tokyo Disneyland Resort's newest theme park without the Oriental Land Company having to lay out big bucks.

And while OLC did initially okay construction of these three attractions (In fact, if all had gone according to plan, Manhattan Motor Mania, Cops & Robbers Chase and the S.S. Columbia Showcase of Nautical Marvels would have been opened for business by early 2004) ... But -- in the end -- these Oriental Land execs just thought that these proposed additions just weren't special enough to be added to Tokyo DisneySea's already stellar assortment of rides, shows and attractions.

And Imagineering did (for a time, anyway) try to respond to OLC's concerns by tinkering with the theming & the storyline of at least two of these attractions. At one point WDI purposed retooling Manhattan Motor Mania so that this Mr. Toad's Wild Ride-like attraction would then have featured well-known characters from the Muppets impersonating all of those immigrants that you were supposed to encounter as you rolled through the streets of turn-of-the-century New York City.

Mind you, this Muppets-as-immigrants idea actually got its start as part of the Ellis Island attraction that was originally proposed for Disney's America. You know, that history-based theme park was to have been built in Prince William County back in the mid-1990s. Which was eventually derailed when Virginia's horsey set rose up en masse and cried out "NIMBY !" (i.e. "Not in my backyard !")

Copyright 1994 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Anyway ... The Muppet attraction that was proposed for Disney's America was to have been called "We the People." This widescreen 3D movie would have featured Kermit and pals talking about the immigrant experience. How people the world over had made that long & difficult journey to the U.S. so that they could then jump into the melting pot. But once that theme park was aborted, this whole Muppets-as-immigrants idea was shelved as well. Until the Imagineers, sensing that OLC execs were losing their enthusiasm for Manhattan Motor Mania, resurrected this concept. And then proposed that the streets of this faux little old New York be filled with Audio Animatronic versions of Fozzie Bear and friends. But this time around, they'd be dressed in bowler hats, spats and the like.

WDI also proposed a similar retheming of the Cops & Robbers Chase attraction. Taking their cue from that McDuck's Department Store located just down the street from the proposed construction site, the Imagineers wanted to rework this ride so that Guests were then pursuing Scrooge McDuck's arch nemeses, the Beagle Boys.

It was hoped that this tie to the still-popular "DuckTales" franchise would be enough to convince Oriental Land Company executives to go forward with construction of this trio of relatively low cost attractions. But given how grandiose the rest of Tokyo DisneySea was, OLC execs still felt that only the best would do. Which is why then-Muppet Motor Mania, the renamed Beagle Boys Jail Break ride and S.S. Columbia Showcase of Nautical Marvels was tabled in favor of a super-deluxe version of that old Disney-MGM favorite, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Copyright 2006 Disney / OLC. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, these ideas could still be revived and built at Tokyo DisneySea at some point in the future. Or -- for that matter -- any of the attractions mentioned in today's article could eventually be dropped into one of the 10 other theme parks that the Mouse has scattered around the globe. That's the real beauty of WDI. It's a place where strong ideas for rides & shows never actually die. They just get tucked away for future use.

So who knows, Hirota. You may get the chance yet to spin around the inside of the S.S. Columbia aboard one of those Gyroscopically-Stabilized Self-Leveling Anti-Turbulence Lounges someday. You just have to have a little patience and wait & see which of these ideas actually does make it off of Imagineering's infamous drawing board.

Your thoughts?

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  • keep up the good work jim ...     Enjoyed the article today its amazing how much WDI recyles ideas that were used from the past

  • Ah the poor Muppets! They may as well be in an orphanage. They have no one to champion them. They have became second class citizens at Disney.

  • I must say, the two rides for the NY section of the american waterfront sound awesome. Even i they were based off of old technology. Especially the Jailbreak ride.

  • I thought the Cops and Robbers ride sounded really cool. Maybe a bit lame in the sense of it being an off-the-shelf wild mouse, but if they had put together an uber-coaster to go with it (I'm thinking bigger/better RRC) that could have been something.

    Great article Jim. I enjoyed it immensely!

  • Great article... would love to see more of these blue sky/never built pieces with concept art.

  • The nautical themed attraction is really just a reworking of the old "Haunted Swing" rides of old American amusement parks.  Alton Towers in England has the best one so far (in my opinion).

  • Didn't you run the same article just a few months back?  Or have I read all this on another site?

  • Hi Jim: I like the old Haunted Swing based attraction. I don't think any of them survive in America. My cousins once owned and operated one of those LOL. I'd love to see a Disney version.

  • misterjohnson - I too thought of the same thing when I read the article (albeit I did not recall the Muppet part).  I even remembered the artists renderings of the rides.  Perhaps Jim did, but it is an excellent article anyways that keeps up with the tradition of these Friday's "why fors".

  • WEC, I think Kennywood has a Haunted Swing in their updated Noah's Ark.

  • The Tower of Terror theming looks awesome!  I want so much to go to Tokyo DisneySea!

    Thanks for another great article, Mr. Hill.

  • TDS' Tower is gorgeous, has a great lobby and a jaw-droppping preshow room.  Too bad once you leave there it turns into "Stitch's Tower of Terror."  They pretty much did the same thing to it that they did to Alien Encounter...took away the scary parts (even the drops are uber-slow) and added a goofy character (extremely close to looking like a skeletal Stitch) who giggles throughout the incredibly short ride.  Oh well, I personally think the Mr. Toad-ish Motor Mania would have been welcome in a park that is so heavy on the short thrill rides.

  • "Ah the poor Muppets! They may as well be in an orphanage. They have no one to champion them. They have became second class citizens at Disney."

    What a difference six years makes.....Now, the Muppets are "Most Wanted."

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