Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Disney's America theme park project

Today i invite you to have a look to a Disney theme park which, very unfortunately was never built, the famous Disney's America project. Announced in 1993,it was supposed to occupy 1200 acres of a 3000 acre property in Prince William County, Virginia.

Bob Weis - who was at the head of the creative development for the park - defined it as "an ideal complement to visiting Washington's museums, monuments and national treasures" was supposed to be a park " that will be a venue for people of all ages, especially the young, to debate and discuss the future of our nation and to learn more about its past by living it". A place where guests "will be able to have rides, shows and interactive experiences that are both about the history of America, about America today and also give you a sense of America in the future. And he added: "In some ways the park is a timeline, we start in the mid-1860s and go backward or forward in time".

Yes, but what kind of rides and shows guests would have enjoy at Disney's America? Well, once they entered the park, guests would have found themselves in a detailed Civil War era village, the hub of "Disney's America.

From that point, guests could discover either "Native America" and explore the life of America's first inhabitants - including an accurate Native American village reflecting the tribes that were known in this part of the country. And also enjoy interactive experiences, exhibits and arts and crafts, as well as an exciting white water river raft ride that would have gone all around the area, based on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Guests, then, would discover Presidents' Square, a celebration of the birth of democracy and those who fought to preserve it. The "Hall of presidents" of Walt Disney World would have moved to Disney's America.

A Civil War Fort would have plunge guests into a more turbulent time of American history, and adjacent to it, a big battlefield, where Civil War re-enactments and water battles between the Monitor and the Merrimac would have once again be fought.

Moving in the 20th century, a replica of Ellis Island building where many immigrants came through, guests would have live the "immigrant experience" through music, ethnic foods and a great live show presentation.

Enterprise, a factory town, would have highlights American ingenuity and guests could have ride a major roller coaster attraction called the "Industrial Revolution" , traveling through a 19th century landscape with heavy industry and blast furnaces. And, on either side of the coaster, exhibits of famous American technology that have defined the american industry in the past, as new developments that will define industries in the future.

On Victory Field guests would have experience what America's soldiers faced in the defense of freedom during the world wars. It would have look like an airport area with a series of hangars containing attractions based on America's military fight using virtual reality technology. The airport would have serve also as an exhibit area of planes from different periods, as well as a place for major flying exhibitions.

Another area, the State Fair, was going to show how - even during the big Depression of the '30s - Americans knew how to entertain themselves. With folk art exhibits and a live show on baseball, guests could have enjoy, too, classic wooden thrill rides in memory of Coney Island.

Finally, in Family Farm, WDI imagineers would have recreate an authentic farm where guests could have the opportunity to see different types of farm industries related to food production in addition to some hands-on experiences like milking cows and learning what homemade ice cream tastes like.

Mind you, all was not lost in this Disney's America project, as some of the concepts were finally used in Disney's California Adventure. Jim Hill wrote an article about it, and you can read it HERE.

After the big battle between Disney, and almost everybody who lived in Virginia - okay, i'm exagerating a bit - the project was cancelled. However, in 1995 Disney envisioned to build it - guess where? - at Knott's Berry farm that the Knotts family, tired to run their theme park, wanted to sale. Jim Hill, again, wrote another great article describing all what happened, and you can read it HERE

I know, this Disney's America project look great and we will all miss it forever, but there is one last good news: Bob Weis, the imagineer that was in charge of the project's creative development is now back at WDI, and is now supervising the new placemaking of Disney's California Adventure. And, believe me, all imagineers welcomed him back like the messiah!

All photos: copyright Disney Enterprises Inc

All my thanks to Jim Hill for some of the infos included in this article.

Many many thanks to Michael of the excellent Progress City web site.

Those of you who want to find more infos on the Disney's America battle can find good links HERE


Aladar said...

I hope this project doesn't end as the third theme park of Disneyland Paris. I would never be interested in this kind of theme park that just seems to be an exagerated extension of Frontierland but without any kind of Magic. It just doesn't feel or look Disney at all.

Blake said...

I agree

SamLand said...

It already does exist. It is called Disney's California Adventure.

Anonymous said...

It always sounded like a great concept, but looking back, it was going to have exactly the same problems that DCA ended up having -- an emphasis on shows and "experiences," no real rides and (not a negative if you ask me) not enough "Disney." It's kind of a good thing, in the end, that this didn't get built, because reviewing the images and concepts again, it sounds like it would have been doomed to failure. And can you imagine it during a week like this week, covered in snow, unable to operate, sitting there mostly empty with water-based rides and outdoor attractions?

Great review of the plans, though!

RobbieM said...

Interesting article but I have to agree with other posters on the lack of Disneyness of the park as a whole. ‘America’ could be an interesting concept for a theme park with different ‘lands’ themed to different places / times in US history (Colonial, Victorian New York, 40’s Hollywood, Wilderness, Hawaii, Mexican south west, 60’s space age etc) which celebrate the diversity of the states but this doesn’t really fit that format.

One thing I can never understand with Disney is why they keep trying to push theme park areas themed as amusement parks – like the one proposed here and paradise pier in DCA. Surely the whole point of a Disney park is to create a sense of space and theme you can’t get anywhere else, if all you are going to get is lightly themed carney rides and candy floss you might as well save your pennies until the travelling fair comes to town or go to your local beach resort. Personally I’d love these areas to be ripped out and repalces with something more ‘Disney’ like some of the lands in TDS

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