Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Disney's America theme park project - UPDATED 27/3 with new high-res scans

We had a look recently at the WestCOT "that never was" project, and today i invite you to another Disney theme park that, 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


Anonymous said...

This is why your site is the best... you have Imagineering concept art that I've never seen before. I check this site every day. Merci Beaucoup!!

Michael said...

Thanks! Some nice pieces here I had never seen before. I really regret that this park never came to be - I wrote a brief history of it on my blog. I'd love to see it come to fruition some day, but along a slightly grander scale...

Anonymous said...

Have to get to that Factory Town. I just loved that timeback in history.

Wavecritter said...

That would have been some great addition to the Disney experience! A bit sad that the whole thing didn't pan out as planned originally. Thanks for the article.

Anonymous said...

This project might not be so dead after all and could even wind up being in Virginia, just in a different location.

Anonymous said...

I remember in the mid 90's when the plans in Va fell thru that my hometown of Halifax, NC pitch to Disney for the America park. I dont know what ever happened with that. Maybe Disney wasn't interested in the site propossed.

Anonymous said...

I heard today that the concept may be coming to Williamsburg VA, home of Colonial Williamsburg and a very appropriate location. Any truth to that??

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DRG said...

Wow very impressive. This would, imo, be a national treasure if ever built. What an ideal way to teach our youth (and the world) about the great history of our country and entertain them at the same time! Fantastic in every way I have no criticism just one comment however. Maybe it could be build in the Central area or midwest. This is also a huge tourist hub of USA because of its proximity to Chicago. It's also the area that could use the jobs and industry as it has been hit the hardest since de-industrialization of the past 50 years. Anyway, as a patriot and huge fan of history, I would visit this park in a heartbeat, I hope it gets built somehow in the future!

Anonymous said...

Disney Always Wanted hes main Park in Missouri near his home town. Branson Missouri is one of the main town's we plan to get ideas for. Silver Dollar City owned By Herschend Family Entertainment and the Near by Resort being built Mentor Town Park's is stopping us from building some of our property's there. We can't do it in Springfield due to Mentor Town Parks Owned by the Raab Family that has been under the news for awhile but is being seen from the roads now. There parks plan to open in the coming years.

It will be the First Family Christian Theme Park in the United States. They have a great future in there business indeed!

Anonymous said...

The Idea of Disney America is from 1960, Mr C.V.Wood who Designed and Built Disney Land would later Design and Built Freedomland in N.Y.C Which was a great Amusement park, pressure to Built Co-op City forced Freedomland to Close,If you look at both Parks you will see that they are both alike.

Anonymous said...

Yes i herd about Mentor Town in the CC Headliner. The concept is "wow". The ideas of the place is like stepping back into the late 1700's- early 1800's. And it's being done by a young college kid that goes to Missouri State in Springfield, MO.

He has a place of his own at the moment, but i don't know if he plans to build on to his park in Rogersville, Missouri on his family's property....

malamute20@aol.com said...

I was just at Disney World. The idea though good leaves much to be thought about. Would the history be Disneyfied? There is a historic site in upstate NY called Fort William Henry. Many historians refer to it as Fort Disney. Rather than presenting the true history of the site with accurate presentations, displays, and the correct fort layout, they have the motto of "History done FUN!" If you sugar coat history what is it we are teaching? I am an 18th century Native American historical re-enactor. I very much love the idea of having such a large company present a great learning opportunity so long as they do it along the line of say Colonial Williamsburg. I am not sure they would have support of the Native community. With past representations, and Pocahontas they do not have a good reputation among Natives. I found at Disney world also some glaring diffrences that disney must consider. We attended the Electric light parade. At the end they had young ladies dancing down the street as colonial soldiers. One would believe these to represent American soldiers. The only problem being that the lights are RED rather than BLUE. In all the history I have re-enacted the British wore the red! Also they must look at how they represent the Natives in the parks now. My daughter dragged me to collect the autograph of Pocahontas. In a felt gown with plastic necklace and ballet shoes this white woman with a very bad wig reverberates the racist stereotype. Could Disney not find a cast member of Native decent? If they build History USA will they hire Non-natives to portray Natives? I will say that at the American exibit in Epcot they did a good job of representing Chief Joseph as an animatronic. However will Disney only portray Native peoples from the 17th through the 19th century? Or will they present the Native people of the past and those of the present. All this should be considered if they ever decide to proceed.

Anonymous said...

For those who believe that NOT having Disney in Haymarket VA was a good idea because they would have paved over historical battlegrounds need to take a look at the site today. Get a map of the original Disney property in Haymarket and overlay that in google maps. Thousands of Houses, Apartments, Condos and shopping centers now cover the area and is still growing. I live in that area and was living there when Disney purchased the property and made the announcement.. I see this disaster unfolding every day now and is getting worse. If people were so concerned about the park destroying a historical site, where were they when all these homes and shopping centers were put in??

I guess the real story is that no one actually cares, people just like jumping on the band wagon for something they really don't understand. Typical!

I know the people of Virginia were duped. Not many around here at that time had ever been to Disney and believed the hype about them potentially destroying the area and causing a major traffic problem. Being from Southern California (approx 1 hour from D'Land) and my Wife from Orlando (great combo btw) We have watched Disney grow over the past few decades and handle these problems. They are all about moving people efficiently. Heck, McDonald's has even consulted with Disney on how to move customers efficiently.

For Disneyland, one of the Major issues they resolved for Park traffic interfering with the local area traffic was to build dedicated lanes on the Freeway that connects to their own private exits that dumps directly into the par... to name one example of them caring about issues.

Secondly, the Civil war battlefields ((you could say they are technically everywhere around here)), the ones people thought would be destroyed actually were not even close to the Disney site. The Manassas battlefields were actually a few miles east of the Disney Property. Disney purchased a lot of land but were NOT proposing to build up to their borders, the park would have been in the center with a buffer zone of untouched preserve encircling it. Using approximately 1/4 of the actual property. So it would have been really far away from the Battlefields.

I was here when all this took place, my house was actually on the border of the Disney Property and know first hand how all this unfolded. Have seen and heard it all. I believe that ultimately this boiled down to some high up official not getting his kickback. not sure of that 100%, but im almost positive that it had to do with some A$$ H#@$ official being a baby about something he wasn't getting his way and helped to kill the project.

GO Corruption! Whats the score now?

Cheri Carter said...

Is this Disney America still an option? I lived 1 mile from where Disney America was going to build in Haymarket. the blogger who stated it was all politics is right! I moved out of Haymarket in 1996. I have been back to Haymarket just a couple of years ago and for all that baloney about too much water and air and traffic pollution Disney would of caused, well there must be thousands and townhomes, apartments and senior home buildings there now. Talk about water, air and traffic it is truly there now.

so if Disney is still a possibility and I think it should as a lot of current college kids don't even know about the civil war and don't even know who was in the civil war. We need to get America back on it's feet and educate everyone about our real history.

Let's look at Charlottesville, or Fluvanna County the next county over. this is Thomas Jefferson's home and Madison's home is nearby. There is a lot history here and people here live for our constitution and our history. Please Disney come down here and help America relive and educate our history and loyalty to all. How do we get Disney to relook and consider Charlottesville or Fluvanna County? Thanks!!! 7-6-16 Cheri

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