Concept Art and Descriptions of 64 Never-Built Disney Theme Park Attractions – Part Two
WDWNT’s March Madness tournament for 2020 is about to begin (you can read all about it and how to play along for prizes here), so we’re giving you a refresher course on Disney theme park attractions that never made it off of the drawing board. This next piece will cover the bracket below. Here are 16 famous Disney rides, shows, and more that were never built:
Mary Poppins (Dark Ride) – Disneyland Park, EPCOT
When Baxter was a student in college, he began designing a Disneyland attraction that would take visitors on a magical ride through one of his favorite films. “I thought ‘Mary Poppins’ was, like, the very best Disney live-action animation film I’d ever seen,” Baxter said. “And I thought, it’s just a natural to do a ride at Disneyland. Maybe if I do a concept idea, I could get hired.”
Baxter’s proposed ride starts on a carousel, before the horses “jump” off the carousel onto an overhead track. Riders then travel through the chalk sketches through which Mary Poppins transported herself, Bert, Jane and Michael in the film. After seeing the horse race and meeting the penguins, a thunderclap washes riders out of the chalk pictures. They find themselves over the rooftops of London, where the chimney sweeps put on a show. Finally, the horses fly back to their carousel to the chorus of “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.”Baxter’s design did catch the eye of Disney producer Bill Anderson. But rather than hire Baxter on the spot, Anderson encouraged the young designer to continue his training and offered some pointers. Baxter got his degree three years later, then joined Disney shortly after graduating and stayed with the company for 47 years. The attraction was considered for Disneyland, and again for EPCOT years later.
Dragon Tower – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom focuses on three types of animals: existing animals, extinct animals, and animals that don’t exist. The latter was not fully featured in the park until the Yeti and the creatures of Pandora were added years later, but there was a land planned for 1998 which would include mythical beasts. Beastly Kingdom was to feature such animals as dragons, unicorns, and sea monsters.
Beastly Kingdom was to be comprised of realms surrounding “good” and “evil” creatures. The evil side would feature an attraction calledDragon Towerruled by a greedy fire-breathing dragon that housed a treasure in the tower’s chamber. The attraction would also involve a group of bats threatening to take the dragon’s throne and riches. The bats would enlist the guests help and take them on a wild roller coaster to do so. The climax, similar to other rides, would involve an encounter with the dragon himself, resulting in a near-charred train of guests.
Bald Mountain – The Magic Kingdom
Bald Mountain, from Fantasia fame, was to have been built near or on the exact spot as the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. To draw guests to this portion of the park, the attraction would house a log flume themed to Disney villains. Also known as Villains Mountain, this attraction would take guests through a hair-raising experience of escaping from some of Disney’s most famous evil characters. As a log flume, guests would have boarded longboat-style rafts modeled after Hades’ boats in Hercules. Guests would have been taken through Chernabog’s mountain, where the villains were meeting to decide who was the most evil, and how to take over the Magic Kingdom. Suddenly, guests would be “attacked” by a combination of Disney villains, saved only by a slide deep down the plunge in the front of the mountain.
The backstory of the Dinoland U.S.A. area of Animal Kingdom revolves around the discovery of dinosaur fossils in a former sand and gravel pit. The benefactor of a local college bought up the site, setting its paleontology students to work on uncovering the dinosaur bones. He also founded the Dinosaur Institute, which hosts the Dinosaur attraction.
Leftover from the site’s days as a gravel pit was a piece of machinery: The Excavator. This ore car circuit would be home to a heavily-themed, mine cart-style roller coaster. The storyline would be that the college students had once again restarted the Excavator, using it to transport dinosaur fossils. The cars would race through a dinosaur skeleton, before being menaced by moving folk art-style dinosaur sculptures.
The Excavator was dropped from Animal Kingdom’s opening day line-up due to the budgetary concerns.
Equatorial Africa – EPCOT
Equatorial Africa was intended to be part of World Showcase’s original line-up proposed in 1979, being placed between China and Germany. However, it would be pushed back with the intention of becoming World Showcase’s first addition with a planned 1983 opening.
Imagineers would work with Roots author Alex Haley, who served as an adviser as well as the narrator for one of the pavilion’s shows. Haley would appear in Epcot Center: The Opening Celebration in a brief segment talking about the project.
In contrast to the single-nation pavilions in the rest of World Showcase, Equatorial Africa would be a pan-African experience devoted to different parts of East and West Africa along the equatorial belt. One of the village’s central landmarks would be a large treehouse that guests could climb to view a diorama of a busy watering hole on the savanna populated by numerous animals. The central part of the village, the Heritage area, would be a cultural demonstration space featuring performers from different nations. Additionally, an exhibit of African art could be found here.
Two main shows were proposed:
The Heartbeat of Africa: The story of Equatorial Africa’s history told through the music of its different cultures. A pre-show would be dedicated to the history of the drum, while the main show would be a trip through Africa’s past, present and future through the eyes of a traditional storyteller. The finale would conclude in a modern African city at an outdoor jazz concert with lasers being projected onto the screen and bringing the instruments to colorful life.
Africa Rediscovered: Hosted by Alex Haley, Africa Rediscovered was a film that would explore Africa’s natural and cultural history, exploring different environments and Africa’s status as the “cradle of humanity”.
Mel Brooks’ Golf Cart Ride – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
When it opened in 1989, the Disney-MGM Studios was meant to compete head-to-head with the Universal Studios theme park. Disney’s new park needed a star attraction, and the “Imagineers” thought a ride based on horror movies would bring in the crowds. However, Disney prided itself on being family-friendly, so the company concocted a less frightening theme that starred comedy actor, writer, and director Mel Brooks. The ride would have taken guests through an old hotel that Brooks had supposedly taken over to shoot his next picture. They would then discover that the hotel was crowded with ghosts, ghouls, and monsters. Riders would board golf carts that took them through various rooms that showcased comedic setups. One room contained a vampire who keeps cutting himself as he shaves because he can’t see himself in the mirror. Another featured a closed bathroom stall with Frankenstein reaching for some toilet paper, only to grab one of the Mummy’s bandages instead. The project ran into problems when developers couldn’t come up with a cohesive story for the ride, and Brooks left the project to star in and direct the movie Life Stinks. The hotel, however, was revamped and turned into the wildly popular elevator drop ride “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.”
Space Jetpack Ride – EPCOT
In 1990, Disney announced a new Space Pavilion in Future World sponsored by Delta Airlines. GE declined to renew its sponsorship for Horizons in 1993 just as plans were being made to refresh Horizons for the 21st century. The lack of sponsor made Michael Eisner decline the update as it would’ve been too expensive. Disney then toyed with the idea of turning the Horizons building into the Space pavilion. In this version, one of the attractions had guests suspended from overhead ride rails in vehicles that closely mimicked a space jetpack and they would be sent on a Spacewalk.
In 1999 Compaq (the manufacturers of my first laptop) entered talks with Disney about a possible space pavilion, deciding on just the simulator portion off the planned pavilion.
Road Trip USA/Goofy About Road Trips – Disney California Adventure
The idea for a themed land at Disney California Adventure celebrating California’s car culture had been kicking around at Walt Disney Imagineering for years. The working premise focused on the classic cars, tourist attractions, auto-centric restaurants, roadside architecture and cross-country road trips popular during the 1950s and ‘60s when vehicles became less about transportation and more about personal expression.
Combining an Autopia-style attraction with dark ride elements, Road Trip USA probably went through the most iterations during the evolution from Carland to Cars Land. The original ride concept featured a cross-country road trip in a 1962 station wagon past Mt. Rushmore, under waterfalls and across covered bridges. Along the way, riders would encounter oversized chickens and life-sized dinosaurs designed to entice motorists to stop at roadside attractions. The ride journeyed through a Nature’s Wonderland-like cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites and a car wash filled with spinning bristle brushes, blowing air dryers and squirting water jets. Visitors entered Road Trip USA through a Route 66-style souvenir shop advertising strange, amazing and thrilling attractions not to be missed. Concept art of Road Trip USA hinted at elements that would end up in the massive Ornament Valley rockwork that will dominate Cars Land, including the distinctive Cadillac Ridge and the jutting Gas Cap butte.
A second version of Road Trip USA added a Disney character overlay called Goofy About Road Trips, based on the 1995 “A Goofy Movie” about a cross-country road trip by the anthropomorphic dog. The attraction took riders on a journey with the absentminded Goofy where things went awry and mayhem ensued.
A third version of Road Trip USA dubbed Sally’s Road Rally took visitors through familiar locations in Radiator Springs and into the world of the “Cars” characters. Those plans ultimately inspired the development of downtown Radiator Springs as the centerpiece of Cars Land.
A massive attraction that was announced for EPCOT early on, but never made it. Produced with the assistance of author Ray Bradbury, the centerpiece of this pavilion would have been a massive simulator attraction that would have moved an entire theater in sync with outer-space visuals.
The official description reads: “A huge, interstellar “Space Vehicle” will transport passengers to the outer frontiers of the universe, highlighting man’s efforts to reach out for the stars around him … from the early pioneers who looked and wondered … to modern-day space travelers and their triumphs … to the challenges and possibilities of future space technology and exploration.”
A Herbie the Love Bug dark ride was envisioned for Disneyland Park. The ride featured a unique system where a 4 passenger car could split in half, and also featured a roller coaster portion as Herbie rides the Golden Gate bridge.
Rock Candy Mountain – Disneyland Park
Rock Candy Mountain was originally envisioned for Disneyland park as part of the Storybook Land Canal Boats. The Casey Jr. Circus Train would have traveled around it. It was Imagineer and Disney Legend Claude Coats who worked on concept art for the mountain back in 1957.
The Enchanted Forest (United Kingdom) – EPCOT
The Enchanted Forest was a multi-zoned, interactive play experience built around three United Kingdom literary works, and one English legend, that led to Disney film treatments: Alice In Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Winnie-the-Pooh and Robin Hood. It would have relied heavily and landscaping and topiary sculptures, along with character greeting areas and a few fully-realized architectural works to make the worlds of those characters come to life in a walk-through environment. At the end of the trail was an open-air tent entitled Mouseterpiece Theater, with a stage for live entertainment and (at least in the rendering above) a Mickey Mouse Revue-style Mickey-as-conductor topiary. The Enchanted Forest also would have brought the United Kingdom a badly-needed vertical feature in the form of a scaled-down Big Ben, which on its flip side would have held a “rooftop stage” where petulant chimney sweeps could dance around to the probable consternation of an unseen Admiral Boom.
The area was located between Canada and the United Kingdom where the World Showplace event pavilion currently stands.
As part of the never-fully-realized Project Gemini for EPCOT, The Land’s exterior would have been obscured by several attractions, including a Rainforest Rooftop family-friendly roller coaster.
Rainbow Road to Oz – Disneyland Park
In 1957, Walt Disney announced plans for a new film called The Rainbow Road to Oz—a live-action musical based on L. Frank Baum’s book The Patchwork Girl of Oz. The film would star his merry Mousketeers, and Walt took the opportunity to promote the film on the Mickey Mouse Club. Walt also had plans for a possible theme park attraction based on the Oz tales. Tony Baxter would later draw up plans for a Oz the Great and Powerful themed land at Disneyland, but the movie didn’t succeed as planned and the land was used for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
The Land Pavilion Hedge Maze – EPCOT
As part of the never-fully-realized Project Gemini for EPCOT, The Land’s exterior would have been obscured by several attractions, including a large-scale hedge maze.
Arab Nations Pavilion – EPCOT
The pavilion wasn’t made up of just one country, but rather a collection of them. Egypt, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco would have been represented here. Guests would enter into the pavilion and pass an Arab Souk (bazaar), which would feature a circular restaurant on the second floor.
Just beyond that would have been a flying magic carpet ride. A genie would appear from a bottle via projection and act as a host through the region’s past and present. Your carpet would actually fly through the genie into a star-filled night sky where you’d learn about Arab contributions to astronomy, navigation and mathematics and how they have affected Western culture. The journey would continue to fly over scenes showcasing Arab contributions to science and architecture that have shown their influence all over the world. In the end, this version never got built, and in the end Morocco opened in World Showcase.
If you’ve enjoyed this series on never-built Disney theme park attractions, make sure you check out Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4 for the full, 64-attraction list, and don’t forget to tune in to our WDWNT March Madness 2020 tournament starting this Thursday at 9:00 PM on WDW News Tonight! Got a favorite never-built attraction you’d like to root for? Register NOW for WDWNT’s March Madness (sign-ups end at 11:00 PM on 3/11) and play along to win some fabulous prizes!