Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Disneyland Australia : Finally, it was not a mirage

Do you remember the "Disneyland Australia" rumor we heard more than a year and a half ago in February 2008? At that time, Disney denied that they had plans for an Australian theme park, but you know what? finally, the Disneyland Australia project was not a rumor or a mirage, but was true.

Let's go back in time to remember the whole story. On February 27th, 2008 Jano Gibson, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, wrote this article:

WHITE BAY, NEW SOUTH WALES, AU -- The Walt Disney Company has been eyeing off a prime piece of real estate on Sydney Harbour as it seeks to expand its global empire of theme parks and resorts.

The State Government has confirmed Disney recently held unsolicited discussions with the Dept of State and Regional Development about the redevelopment of White Bay, a working port next to the Anzac Bridge.

A spokesman for the Minister for State Development, Ian Macdonald, would not elaborate on what was proposed during the discussions, saying only that they took place in the past few months and had been discontinued.

Disney, which has 11 theme parks, 8 resorts and a cruise line across 3 continents, was one of a number of unnamed companies that have approached the Government with unsolicited proposals for the site, the spokesman said.

There were no "active concepts" at present, he said.

A spokesman for Disney, John Nicoletti, said his company was constantly exploring opportunities to grow. "As part of that process, we have conversations with lots of entities," he said. "And, while Australia is an attractive market, at this time we have no plans for this region."

He would not comment on what Disney had envisioned for the White Bay site, including whether it was for a Disneyland theme park, a Disney resort or some other venture.

The Government has established the Bays Precinct Taskforce to formulate a development strategy for White Bay, Glebe Island, Blackwattle Bay and Rozelle Bay.

Details are expected to be released when the sub-regional strategy for Sydney's inner west goes on display this year.

The executive director of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Patricia Forsythe, said a Disneyland at White Bay would be a wonderful opportunity for Sydney. "It is a spectacular site worthy of an iconic development," she said.

She said a world-class arts facility would also be suitable.

The secretary of the White Bay Precinct Committee, Christina Ritchie, said locals must have a say on the site's development. She could not comment on the Disney discussion without more detail".

Personally, when I heard that news back in 2008, I thought it was a rumor. And, although I wish all of my Australian D&M readers to have a Magic Kingdom close to their homes as soon as possible, I thought that something was missing to make the project viable: not enough people living in Australia, and not enough tourists visiting the country.

The entire country of Australia has 21 million people and there are probably around 5 million tourists coming in the country each year. Most of them are coming from New Zealand and they could be interested by a Disney theme park as they don't have another one nearby. But for Japanese or British tourists, who are the other biggest tourists category visiting Australia, it's different. Japanese have two great Disney theme parks in their country (TDL and TDS) and the British have a great one just two hours from London (Disneyland Paris). Maybe they'd be counting on a heavy influx of other tourists from Asia, but why would they trek all the way to Disneyland Australia when they could just visit Disneyland in Hong Kong or Tokyo?
Also, Australia indeed has 21 million people, but considering that a Disney theme park needs at least 8 million visitors per year to have good financial results, I thought we could decide that there was not the required number of people/tourists to build a Disneyland in Australia, and that it was only a rumor.

And then last week Randy, a faithful Disney and more reader, sent me a link with these words: "Disneyland Australia? Have a look at this web site". Needless to say, I rushed to the link, and what a surprise it was.

This is the site of a company called JPI, with offices in many countries and two in Australia, including one called JPI Imagineering! But it's on their "most innovative projects" page that we can find the confirmation of the Disneyland Australia project, consisting of the map below and this description: "Nominated by Walt Disney Attractions, we were appointed by the Star Land Company, the Australian Government JV company, as the masterplanners and concept design architects for the proposed Disneyland Australia set within the $2.7 billion Star Land Project located on the Gold Coast Highway and rail-link between Brisbane and the Gold Coast in South-East Queensland."

Strangely, apart from a "hidden Mickey" in the map, it doesn't really look like a Disney park blue-print. Maybe the map includes other projects part of this $2.7 billion Star Land project, but it's on another page of the web site that I found what I was looking for: the first and only rendering available of a Disneyland Australia project. I should even say a Disneyland Australia Resort, as the artwork shows many hotels around a lake. You can see in the background one hotel with a kind of "Grand Floridian" architecture - and, always in the background, the castle lights in the sky. Sure, we would prefer to have a more detailed artwork of the theme park itself, but for now that's all that's available!

Over this artwork, are these words: "In association with the Harrison Price Company which was appointed at the direction of Walt Disney Attractions, we undertook the following on behalf of the Victorian and Queensland Governments:

* Site assessments
* Attendance, seasonality
* Per cap spends and economic profile including warranted capital costs
* Support infrastructure requirements
* Size and areas including required transport capacity"

So, yes, I think we can finally say that this Disneyland Australia was not a rumor or a mirage. As for Disney saying that "at this time we have no plans for this region," let's say that it's half-true. There is no doubt that Shanghaî Disneyland is the top priority for the company, but to say that they never had plans in Australia...well, um, we're going to be kind and say that it was a perfect corporate answer.

Many thanks to Nate Walz for the editing of the text.

Pictures: copyright JPI - Disney

The two first pictures/logos are my own creation, but they're copyright Disney

Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this article on D&M english forum on Mice Chat


Anonymous said...

Oh my, That's probably the only continent left (besides Africa) that is suitable for a Disneyland Resort. The first redering looks good, but I don't think Disney will confirm this project in the next couple of years. Like you said, they first concentrate on the Hong Kong expansion and the Shanghai project.

Matt said...

Wow! That is shocking news... but a concept not totally unexpected, seeing that they're expanding their Vacation Club concept with smaller satellite resorts all over the world.

Great find, Alain!

Michael said...

Argh! You beat me to it! :) I've been digging on this story but hadn't found these great images.

It is true that the Harrison Price Company did the feasibility studies, though. A lot of that work took place in the 1990s...

RandySavage said...

Nice find on the bottom artwork, Alain. And I like that logo with the kangaroo... your design?


Alain Littaye said...

A few explanation about how i find the two last images to. As you'll see things sometime can be very simple: Randy sent me the link to the first one (the map) but not to the second one (the artwork) which i could have found by looking more deeply in the JPI site. But i didn't find the rendering this way.

In fact, i've been to Google images and type as key word "Disneyland Australia". And believe it or not the two first images that appear on the page are these one! Just try, you'll see, it was just as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to hear this kind of news, I would gladly welcome Disney into Australia. I believe due to our population we don't need a whole Magic Kingdom style park (not yet), but maybe a small park of some kind, with some of the smaller Disney attractions and maybe a parade on weekends. I think it would be a good starting point for Disney in Australia. Population of close to 22,000,000 just isn't enough for a huge park. A DVC would be good, some other Disney style hotels and a Downtown Disney would attract a lot of people. The Australian population is said to boom over the next 10 years, so I guess Australia will just have to wait.

Good job with the Disneyland Australia logo, Kangaroo and all, how stereotypical. Just thinking about the name it would be called Disneyland Sydney, as no park is named after the country it is located in.


Chris Mayhew said...

Great find Alain!

One correction on your article though, New Zealand's population is closer to 4.5 million, not 1 million. :)

While I have always dreamed that Disney would set up a resort down under, I've always wondered about the feasibility of it, due to our small population as you mentioned. However, Australia is in its fast population boom ever right now, and while its still no where near Europe/Asia/US in size, I think a park on the scale of California Adventure would still be a fantastic success down here. Maybe when I'm old and grey...

Alain Littaye said...

Chris, I was talking of the number of New Zealanders going to australia each year (1M), not about New zealand population which is indeed 4.5 Million.

George Cauldron said...

The good old Disneyland Australia story is always around.

But re that "entertainment district", that is indeed true.

But Disney weren't always behind it, it was originally going to be a massive hotel/resort scheme just in general. THEN Disney expressed interest.

But I know Queenslanders, if something run by Disney crops up they'd be walking around "oi, where's the rides?"

So it's a stupid idea.
Just build us a Shanghai scale Disneyland.

Not that I mind flying to Tokyo. I love Tokyo Disneyland and are happy that Australian's are there really haha

Anonymous said...

hang on isnt white bay where the jhon oxley and water ways is in roselle bay?

Anonymous said...

FYI, Australia's population is 21 million.

and, quoting your article: New Zealand (population 1 million), so you did get that wrong.

Nate Walz said...

Ooo. I'll take blame for that one. I'm Nate Walz, I edited the article. Just a miscommunication. Sorry about that.

noremac and roads less traveled said...

Is there a commercial port or anyplace to park a cruise ship nearby?

Unknown said...

While this sounds and looks very exciting, I have some serious doubts about whether the information is coming from a reliable source (JPI).
It's been said before, and I am inclined to believe, that Disney are looking for a port location for their cruise liner.
On the other hand, we have a projected population of 35 million by 2050, so it might just be true. I do hope that Disney does comes to Australia, as I am an avid fan.
I'll believe it, however, when Disney makes an official announcement....

drnilescrane said...

They would be monumentally stupid to build it with all the trash on the Gold Coast. The fact that the OOL routes can only support Low Cost Carriers should be indication enough there isn't the type of money in the region to support the type of tourist they desire.

Building a Port Disney Retail, Hotel and Entertainment district on Sydney Harbour would open up a huge international and US market to the Cruise line with the added benefit of a local population that's hungry for some decent quality entertainment with the Disney drawing power - Darling Harbour but less mind-numbingly boring and touristy. It would also be close to an airport that international carriers actually bother flying too.

The best way to make that work would be a Joint Venture with local companies like Westfield and AHL.

(Oh, and before anybody says anything about Melbourne... Would you seriously go there to start your cruise? Really?)

Anonymous said...


robert metzler said...

dear alain wow they are giong be 8 disney park i am hope they are giong to get make more disneyland resort. but where disneyland park in australia ?

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Disney in Australia! Nice! Melbourne Hotels

In the know said...

As much as I'd ike to believe it, I think it's highly unlikely. A quick search reveals that there is neither a JPI Global or Star Land Company registered as business names in Australia.

And as has been stated, "Walt Disney Attractions" doesn't exist. It would be Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

DisneyDreaming said...

I keep returning to this page again and again in the extreme hope that it becomes true that we will soon have a Disneyland park of our very own.
Having been lucky enough to visit Disneyland, Disney World and also Hong Kong Disney, I believe that the Australian population would welcome, with adoration, a Disney park and the associated entertainment districts. Almost all parents dream of someday being able to take their children to Disneyland. If it was located here in Australia, nearby suitable accomodation and transport facilities the people would flock to visit, I am certain many would purchase annual passes. Many families do the yearly pilgrimage to the Gold Coast attractions. Pricing could be an issue however the Gold Coast attractions are not exactly cheap and they continue to do a thriving business annually. The whole magical Disneyland experience and then the supporting entertainment areas like Downtown Disney and the restaurants, shopping, bars and nightlife that continue the experience is something that we don't have here. Darling Harbour in Sydney and anywhere on the Gold Coast falls far short of being able to provide the family experience after dark. Disney has created the unique ability to cater for all ages, whether you are in the park or visiting the surrounding area.
Like Walt Disney declared, when you visit Disneyland it truly is the Happiest Place on Earth and since Australia is the Most Beautiful Place on this Earth, what a wonderful Place it would be!!

Anonymous said...

i wish they put it in Perth...

Anonymous said...

Just to leave Perth /Australia costs an absolute fortune so to be able to fly over to another state to visit a Disneyland would be a child's dream come true. Coming from the UK and having visited Florida all we want is to have some great theme parks here (in Aus) and take our little one to live some magic too.