Disney Stuck on the Drawing Board: Unbuilt Magic Kingdom Area Resorts
As you take a brisk ride along monorail blue, and look out at the expansive land of the Seven Seas Lagoon, many will see the beauty of the Grand Floridian, the wonder of the Polynesian and the marvel that is the Contemporary resort. An even sharper eye will see the grandiose Bay Lake Tower and maybe even the hidden gem of the Wilderness Lodge (though those eyes need to be better than perfect.) What you will never see is just how busy the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon might have been, if only the drawing board ideas had come to fruition. Just think of how busy the Magic Kingdom Resorts would look with additions like Disney’s Venetian, Mediterranean Resort, Disney Persian Resort or maybe even the creation of the Asian Resort or Cypress Point Lodge. Some of these resorts became the first concepts for the current day Walt Disney World Resorts. Some of these resorts were actually built on the original site bookmarked (like Cypress Point becoming the Wilderness Lodge) but many resorts never left the drawing board. Across the Magic Kingdom area, we could have been looking at possibly three more resorts if only the concepts became reality. Lets look around the Lagoon and bring light to each one’s idea and place in Disney World history.
Disney’s Venetian Resort
When Disney World was in the early stages of development, the theory was to build many resorts radiating away from the theme park. This would have allowed for a dedicated guest area, with the prototype city, EPCOT, located further to the south. One of the first conceptual resorts that Disney developed was the Venetian Resort. Located between the current homes of the Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary Resort, the resort would be themed after the canal city of Venice, Italy. The resort would have used gondolas to transport guests from area to area within the resort.
Though logistically this may have proven to be extremely difficult, it was one thought that would have made the resort unique to any in the United States. The resort would have featured a naturally lit lobby, with a stained glass atrium, and a working campanile (bell tower) of St. Mark’s as its icon. The Venetian Resort would have had its own dedicated station on the monorail loop, adding to its popularity. What became a huge problem for this and other resorts conceived in the 1970’s was the oil embargo of 1973. This caused many plans to be halted because of the skyrocketing price of gasoline.
Disney’s Asian Resort
A Thai themed Asian Resort was another concept of the early stages of the Walt Disney Resort. Originally planned in 1967, the resort would have featured a deluxe restaurant on the top floor, similar to California Grill, as well as over 50 suites, that would have featured architecture from Thai royalty. The lobby would have been in the center, with the rooms surrounding the lobby, making the lobby appear to look like a palace.
The courtyard of the lobby would have the swimming pool and walking areas. The lobby would have four A-frame windows. This lobby would have featured shops and a large convention center. Eventually the resort fell victim to the 1973 Oil Embargo as well, but would not be completely abandoned. Though its theme would change drastically, the area where the Asian Resort was originally planned would eventually be home to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
Disney’s Persian Resort
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Disney’s Persian Resort became a concept that would have called for it to be arguably the closest resort to Magic Kingdom. Located just to the north of the Contemporary, (taking up area that is now part of Bay Lake Tower) the Persian Resort’s circular layout would have been a departure from the normal resort layout. Being another resort featuring a monorail station, this resort would have necessitated the monorail to travel through Tomorrowland to make it to the Magic Kingdom Monorail station.
The focal point of the resort would have been a 24 foot white and blue dome. Within the domed building would have been shops, a restaurant and the lobby. A focus of the resort architecture would have been a focus on archways and onion shaped domes, like the one on the lobby. The guest buildings surrounding the central building would be two stories on the inner ring and single story on the outer ring. This means that the footprint for the Persian Resort would have been gigantic, considering most Disney resorts are at least 3-4 floors. This visually stunning concept also never saw construction because of the 1973 Oil Embargo.
Disney’s Mediterranean Resort
When the Venetian Resort concept was scrapped, the area reserved for the resort was reserved in case a suitable concept could be found, or if the Venetian concept was rehashed. As the years went on, the feasibility of the gondola rides throughout the resort proved impractical, and thus the concept was permanently shelved. A Venetian concept without gondola rides throughout would have become difficult to create effectively. In the late 1980’s, as the DisneyWorld Resort continued to grow, and guest numbers skyrocketed, it was decided that another resort would be necessary.
Michael Eisner wanted a resort that would rival the Grand Floridian as the grandiose Deluxe Plus resort that it became. Thus plans for a resort themed after the Greek Islands were created. Unfortunately, the plans were short-lived, as when land was cleared, it was found to be unsuitable for construction, as it was swampland. To build a resort on this land, pylons would have had to be sunk into the ground deeper than those sunk for Spaceship Earth. As the cost estimates continued to rise, the decision was made to pull the plug on the project, and the land was replanted with trees and landscaping.
Disney’s Cypress Point Lodge
The last of the resorts to be conceptualized, but never see construction in its original form was the one that was created closest to its original plan. The Cypress Point Lodge was originally planned for an area south of the Contemporary Resort. Cypress Point was planned as a turn of the century hunting lodge, modeled after Yellowstone Park (sound familiar?). It would have featured log cabins along the shores, as well as two restaurants, a pool and a boat dock with transportation to Magic Kingdom.
After the Oil Embargo, all resort building was halted. Cypress Point Lodge was furthest along, having had land cleared and prepped for construction. Plans for this resort along with the Mediterranean Resort would be halted until the late 1980’s. By the time Michael Eisner took over the Disney Company, the concept was slightly changed as well as the name. What was once the building site of Cypress Point Lodge is now home to Wilderness Lodge, which opened on May 28, 1994.
Imagine a Magic Kingdom Resort Area featuring onion shaped domes, A-Frame Asian architecture and Gondola rides. This was the original concept of this area. As what was planned, the area would feature five Monorail stops and everything from Persian architecture to the Polynesian islands. Had everything gone to the original plans, the area would be vastly different than today, and we can only imagine what affect the Disney Vacation Club would have on each of these resorts. Though some of these resorts came to fruition in various forms later, it is always interesting to see how the area may have looked if everything went according to plan.