Disney World, known as the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” has always been a hub of imagination and creativity. However, not all concepts and ideas make it from the drawing board to reality. There have been several proposed attractions throughout the history of Disney World that were never built. Some were too ambitious, some were not feasible, and others were set aside for new priorities. Here is a brief history of some of the most intriguing Disney World attractions that never happened.
Disney World Attractions That Were Never Built
Western River Expedition
Marc Davis, one of Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men,” envisioned the Western River Expedition as an elaborate East Coast counterpart to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean for the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland. This attraction was meant to be a massive indoor boat ride through the Wild West, complete with cowboys, Native Americans, and a climactic bank robbery. Due to the energy crisis of the 1970s and the high cost, the project was shelved, and parts of its concept eventually evolved into what we know today as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.
The Enchanted Snow Palace
The Enchanted Snow Palace was a proposed Fantasyland attraction designed by Marc Davis in the 1970s. It was to be a cool respite from the Florida heat, taking guests through an icy wonderland inhabited by frost giants, snow fairies, and a Snow Queen. The idea was ultimately considered too seasonal and not fitting with the Florida climate, and it was never developed beyond the concept art stage.
Fire Mountain was an ambitious project that was to be added to Adventureland in the late 1990s. This volcanic-themed attraction was to be a roller coaster that would have explorers venturing into the heart of a smoldering volcano. The project was very close to getting the green light, but the financial failure of Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris) and the subsequent cost-cutting measures at Disney parks led to its cancellation.
Perhaps the most famous of all the unbuilt attractions is Beastly Kingdom, planned for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This land was to focus on mythical creatures with areas such as a dark ride based on “Fantasia” and a thrilling dragon-themed roller coaster. Due to budget constraints, Beastly Kingdom was postponed during the initial construction of Animal Kingdom. The area designated for this expansion was eventually used for Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Dick Tracy’s Crime Stoppers
With the success of the “Dick Tracy” film in 1990, Disney World planned an attraction for MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) called Dick Tracy’s Crime Stoppers. This interactive ride would have armed guests with tommy guns to help Tracy fight gangsters in a Chicago-like cityscape. The attraction was scrapped after a decline in the film’s popularity and complications with character licensing.
Rhine River Cruise
Among the many attractions that never saw the light of day at Disney World was the Rhine River Cruise in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion. This boat ride was designed to take guests on a scenic journey through the picturesque landscapes and historic landmarks of Germany’s most famous river, the Rhine. Concept art and plans depicted scenes of the Black Forest, the Neuschwanstein Castle, and Oktoberfest celebrations, aiming to encapsulate the cultural and architectural heritage of Germany in a tranquil and engaging ride. The attraction would have provided an immersive experience into the heart of German folklore and tradition, complementing the Pavilion’s architectural style and dining experiences. Unfortunately, the Rhine River Cruise was shelved due to budget constraints and the shifting focus of park expansions. Like many other dreamt-up projects, it remained an intriguing glimpse into what could have been a richly detailed and educational addition to Epcot’s World Showcase, offering guests a voyage through the enchanting stories and regions of Germany.
Mount Fuji Roller Coaster
Epcot’s Japan pavilion was once considered for a Mount Fuji-themed roller coaster. Guests would have experienced a high-speed adventure modeled after Japan’s iconic mountain. However, potential conflicts with a then-sponsor of the park (Kodak, a competitor of Fuji Film) and other priorities within the Disney parks led to the project being shelved indefinitely.
Museum of the Weird
The Museum of the Weird was an early concept for what eventually became The Haunted Mansion. Imagined by artist Rolly Crump, it was intended to be a walk-through attraction featuring strange and unusual items from around the world. Walt Disney himself was intrigued by the idea, but after his death, the plans for the Museum were set aside in favor of the classic ride format of the Haunted Mansion.
Following the release of “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” there was a proposal to convert the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea into Atlantis Expedition. This re-themed attraction would have taken guests on an adventure to explore the underwater city of Atlantis. However, the film did not perform as well as expected at the box office, leading to the cancellation of the attraction re-theme.
Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood
Amidst the golden age of animation revival, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios) had conceived an ambitious plan to bring the zany world of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” to life with a dedicated attraction called “Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood.” It was to be an immersive toontown, drawing guests into the film’s 1947 Los Angeles, blended with a cartoon twist. The heart of this new land was to feature “Benny the Cab” ride, where guests could careen through the streets, narrowly avoiding disaster in true Roger Rabbit style. Plans also included a “Toon Patrol” dark ride, a “Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy” attraction, and interactive experiences like “Jessica’s Hollywood Club.” However, due to the complex rights issues surrounding the characters (shared with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment) and the shifting strategies within the Disney parks, the full vision for Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood was never realized. Elements of the concept were eventually distilled into smaller attractions, such as Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin at Disneyland, but the grand plan for Disney’s Hollywood Studios was pared down, leaving fans to wonder what could have been if Roger Rabbit had been given his own corner of the park to run amok.
Tron Arcade in Epcot’s Communicore West
In the neon glow of the 1980s, following the release of the groundbreaking film “Tron,” Disney envisaged bringing the digital frontier to life with the Tron Arcade in Epcot’s Future World. This attraction was set to immerse guests in the cutting-edge world of video games, echoing the movie’s cybernetic theme. It promised a space where visitors could step into the role of a user navigating the grid, surrounded by the sights and sounds of classic arcade games and interactive experiences that blurred the lines between physical and digital realities. The Tron Arcade would have been a celebration of the era’s burgeoning technology and gaming culture, allowing guests to live out their own “Tron” adventure. However, as Epcot continued to evolve and focus on broader technological advances and educational experiences, the concept of a dedicated arcade in the style of “Tron” was set aside, leaving it as a nostalgic ‘what-if’ in the annals of Epcot’s history.
Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, the iconic geodesic sphere, was once the subject of a radical reimagining known as Time Racers. Envisioned in the late 1990s as a high-speed adventure through time, Time Racers was meant to replace the gentle, educational journey with a more thrilling experience. The ride would have catapulted guests into the future at unprecedented speeds, juxtaposing Epcot’s educational ethos with the adrenaline of a roller coaster. The attraction promised to blend cutting-edge technology with a narrative of human innovation, offering a dash through history with the excitement of a race against time. Although concept art and rumors of the project stirred excitement, the idea was eventually set aside. Time Racers would have represented a significant shift in Epcot’s direction, potentially altering the park’s focus on edutainment in favor of more conventional theme park thrills. Its cancellation allowed Spaceship Earth to continue as a beloved classic, preserving its original vision as a slow-moving ride that takes guests on a journey through the history of human communication.
The Great Muppet Movie Ride
The Great Muppet Movie Ride was a concept designed to be a hilarious and irreverent parody of the park’s Great Movie Ride, a staple of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Set to feature the Muppets’ take on classic movie moments, this attraction was intended to put guests in the middle of chaotic and comical reinterpretations of iconic film scenes, all guided by the Muppets’ unique brand of humor. Imagine Kermit as a swashbuckling adventurer, Miss Piggy as a glamorous starlet in a golden age musical, or Gonzo reenacting stunts from action-packed blockbusters. This meta-attraction was to highlight the Muppets’ endearing self-awareness and propensity for breaking the fourth wall, while also celebrating the history of cinema in a way only the Muppets could. Despite the initial excitement and potential for this attraction, the plans were ultimately shelved following Disney’s acquisition of the Muppets. The Great Muppet Movie Ride became one of the many “what if” scenarios in Disney Park history, leaving fans to imagine the laugh-filled journey that could have been a highlight of Hollywood Studios.
Main Street Theater at Magic Kingdom
The Main Street Theater was a recently planned addition to Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A., poised to transport guests back to the heyday of theater in the early 20th century. Announced as a lavish venue that would have showcased Disney’s storytelling prowess, the theater was designed to draw inspiration from the iconic Willis Wood theater in Kansas City, where Walt Disney once watched silent films. It promised state-of-the-art productions and a chance for guests to see Disney characters and stories come to life on stage, providing a new level of entertainment and immersing guests in the nostalgia and charm of a bygone era. However, in a surprising move, the project was canceled before ground was broken. The decision to halt the Main Street Theater’s development was part of broader strategic shifts and budget reallocations within the company.
The history of Disney World is not only written in the attractions that have delighted millions but also in those that remained as whispers of imagination and ambition. The attractions that never came to be are like ghost stories of the park—tales of grand visions that hover in the realm of ‘what could have been.’ They remind us that innovation is often accompanied by challenges and that not all ideas, no matter how brilliant, see the light of day.
These unbuilt attractions—from the Western River Expedition to the Main Street Theater—represent the limitless creativity and the ever-evolving nature of Disney’s theme parks. They are testaments to Disney’s relentless pursuit of perfection and its willingness to dream big, even if some dreams remain dreams. The legacy of these unrealized concepts continues to inspire the designers of today’s Disney experiences, ensuring that the spirit of innovation at Disney World never fades.
As we walk through the parks and bask in the realized dreams around us, we carry the unseen wonders with us, allowing our imaginations to fill in the blanks of the Disney tapestry that continues to be woven with each passing year.