Saturday, August 17, 2019

D&M Exclusive: The Michael Jackson's Peter Pan's Neverland Theme Park that never was

Unless you live on another planet, you probably know that last week was another "Michael Jackson week". The "This Is it" documentary and CD album were released and a major Michael Jackson exhibition opened last Tuesday in London. I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce to you one of Michael's most secret - and really fantastic - projects: the Peter Pan's Neverland theme park that never was.

Let's first go back in time to 1997, when Michael Jackson and Prince Al-Waleed - Disneyland Paris' biggest private stock-holder - created a company called Kingdom Entertainment and purchased 50% of Landmark Entertainment, giving the company a huge infusion of cash. Prince Al-Waleed had 45% and Michael had 5% of the shares. I remind you that Landmark is the famous company directed by Gary Goddard which created the Spider-Man ride at IOA and the Jurassic Park and Terminator 3D attractions at Universal Studios.

Above: Michael Jackson and Prince Al Waleed during the press conference announcing the creation of Kingdom Entertainment Co. I've aded the video of this press conference at the end of the article.

So, what had to happen happened, Michael asked Landmark if they could design a theme park, a real one, not only for him but a park where anybody could go, just like Disneyland. And this theme park would have been named Peter Pan's Neverland! Here is a bird's eye view of the park - please double-click on the image below to see it in big size.

This first concept is amazing, isn't it? Fully inspired from Peter Pan's story, the park would have started with a grand London entrance, as you can see on the artwork below.

A replica of Kensington Gardens, where anyone can see the famous Peter Pan statue, as well as Big Ben and the House of Parliaments in the background, not to mention horse guards at the entrance, all of which would have set a stunning replica of the Victorian city.

Here is another artwork showing this entrance by Greg Pro.

From that point guests were supposed to go to Neverland Island, and Landmark designers had designed two different way to go there, both of which were attractions. The first one, which would definitely have been an E-Ticket attraction, was... to fly to Neverland! As you can see on the artwork below, the take-of was over London, with a fly over Big Ben and other famous London landmarks like the Tower Bridge (note that on the artwork Big Ben and the Tower Bridge are close together but two miles separate them in reality) and then, lead by Tinkerbell, they would fly all over Neverland, the Mermaid Lagoon and Skull Rock and finally land near the Lost Boys home and woods.

And how would Landmark have achieved this wonder, you ask? First, no, the ride was not designed like Soarin' over California - which, by the way, was not built at that time. Instead, guests would have sat on a platform which would have turned down on a 50 degrees angle, a bit less than on the "flying" coasters, and the movie would have been projected on a huge Omnimax dome located under the platform, giving to the guests the illusion of flying over London and Neverland! What a great ride it would have been!

The other way to reach Neverland would have been by boat. During this short boat ride the boat would have go through mysterious caves before arriving to Neverland Island with its lush vegetation and waterfalls.

Once at Neverland, guests would have had the choice of six different areas:

"Lost Boys area" would have been a fun play area for young kids with slides, jumping fountains, a tree house but also a great roller-coaster with tracks going all over the land.

In "Mermaid Lagoon" guests would have had the choice between a boat ride going through Neverland Island caves or to enjoy a meal at a beautiful restaurant located underground with a huge window looking towards the lagoon where a Mermaid show was envisioned. Close to Mermaid Lagoon, the "Indian Village" would have been another area of Neverland where a raft ride was envisioned.

On the other side of the huge Neverland rock, guests would have find "Pixie Kingdom", a great area for young children with giant mushrooms playground and re-themed carnival rides.

Another major area - not so far from Pixie Kingdom - would have been the Pirates village with Skull Rock nearby as well as Captain Hook's ship.

It's there where guests could have watch a great live action show, including a flying Peter Pan fighting his eternal ennemy, Captain Hook. And of course the Crocodile was part of the show.

You may also have noticed that in this first concept three hotels were envisioned: a London hotel, a "Pirate's Cove" hotel and a "Lost Boys Tree top" Hotel. As we will see now, the project had significant changes in its final version.

This next document below is another map of the Peter Pan's Neverland park, actually it's the conceptual master plan. Drawn May 24, 1999 at a scale of 1" = 60' it shows a more advanced project with new attractions and also backstage facilities. Let's have a look again at the whole park to see the differences with the first concept.

First, the three hotels are gone, instead we have one big hotel facing the lake of the London Town area. Located near the entrance, a bit like the Disneyland Paris Hotel it would have allowed the hotel guests to have a unique view on the Neverland park.

In the London Town area, always located at the entrance, Big Ben is still there, but a replica of London's famous Tower Bridge was added. Also, a bigger Kensington Gardens at the entrance and a music hall dinner show in one of the main building on the right.
Inside the House of Parliament replica, a new show: "Salute to J.M Barrie", the creator of Peter Pan. Right on the other side of the Tower Bridge an indoor coaster as well as a 3D simulator theater were also envisioned.

In Pirate's Cove a Pirates Dinner show, another indoor roller coaster and a Pirates stunt show in front of Skull Rock were added. Also envisioned, a lagoon show, probably in the evening.

In Pixie Kingdom, the main difference with the first concept is a big building for a Pixie World dark ride. On the top of the picture below, what seems to be a inverted roller coaster would have had its entrance in a new land "Future Zone".

Lost Boys area always have its roller coaster running all over the land and even inside Neverland mountain, and as you can see below, Future Zone was located at the top with not only the inverted roller coaster but also a smaller coaster and a simulator ride.

In Mermaid's Lagoon, an underwater simulator was added to the first concept and a new area - Kid's Creek - was designed for young children with playground and water fun including small boats.

Peter Pan's Neverland was not designed to be as big as Disneyland, but it certainly would have been a great theme park where all the "Peter Pans" living on this planet would have rush!

So what happened? Why this Peter Pan's Neverland theme park was never built? Well, some years later, Michael Jackson and Prince Al-Waleed ended their association, and considering the cost of a concept like this one, it was very unfortunately the end of the Peter Pan's Neverland project. Although Michael lived in his Neverland Ranch, he never got to walk in this "real" Neverland. However, years later, Landmark designed for Michael a great statue showing Michael as Peter Pan!

Does this mean that we will never see this great park concept become real one day? Who knows, with all the different Michael Jackson celebrations that will happen in years to come - not to mention that Neverland Ranch could become for Michael Jackson's fans what Graceland is to Presley's fans - maybe somebody who has enough money will find, just like we do, that it would be great to build this Peter Pan's Neverland for real? And, hey, there is plenty of land available inside Neverland Ranch. Who could imagine a better place to build Michael's dearest dream?

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

Artwork: copyright Landmark Entertainment Group, and Gary Goddard

Please do NOT post these artworks on other web sites or forums without asking permission, thanks.

Many thanks to Gary Goddard for the park's description and to Eric Wong for the pictures. Thanks to Nate Walz for the editing of this article.

Also, I've already let you know about it in a previous article, but i would like to remind you that most of the Landmark Entertainment old artwork is actually put on sale on two sites - but NOT the Neverland park artwork you saw in this article. The first site is the Landmark Selections site and the other one is on where they have their own Landmark artwork store.

Edited Nov 7: Here is a rare video of the 1996 press conference where Michael Jackson and Prince Al Waleed announced the creation of their Kingdom Entertainment Co.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge : The Limits of Synergy

Star Wars Only has posted this video below in which they’ve got a point, and a big one: Disney doesn't understand Star Wars fans? The answer is: yes, for a big part, but what really screwed the opening of Galaxy’s Edge is to don’t have wait that Rise of the Resistance would be ready to open the land. The expected double-bingo with two openings instead of one didn’t worked as planned as we saw.

So, you’ll tell me: « well, when ROTR will finally open everything will go fine... » Well, yes and no. Yes, because the ride will be incredibly immersive, but no because they did another big mistake which is to have create a land storyline on the new Star Wars trilogy and not on the first ones. Did they forget that it’s the generation who are now the fathers and mothers of the children coming to DL, who are the ones paying for park tickets and hotels, etc? And for them Star Wars will always be Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Obi Wan, Yoda, AND Darth Vader. And you won’t find any of them in Galaxy’s Edge attractions , though Han Solo Millenium Falcon is indeed there with the Smuggler’s Run ride. Basically it’s like creating Peter Pan Neverland without finding Peter Pan in it. Or a Harry Potter land without Harry Potter, Hermione, Hagrid, and all the others good or bad guys of the saga. Would you even think doing such a mistake? Of course not.

So, what happened, how could they screwed something which was normally impossible to screw like creating a Star Wars land? If we except the greedy mistake of the supposed two openings instead than one at the right time with everything ready, the thing in my opinion which is responsible of this mess is Disney’s endless thirst for « synergy ». I bet you that if you won’t find any characters of the first trilogies, it’s because they were sure that they’ve been replaced in guests minds by the characters of the new trilogy, and that, in the name of the all powerful synergy, should be enough to bring in everyone at Galaxy’s Edge.

Well, no, it doesn’t work like that, everything has limits including synergy and Disney is learning it the hard way. That’s the problem with synergy: it’s made and work fine for people who don’t have insights. In two words, it’s an easy tool for people lazy to think a bit more deeply. And of course if you get it wrong when you spend one billion dollars on new lands, such a mistake becomes catastrophic at the end...

Picture: copyright Disney

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Will the Land of Anaheim Angel Stadium be the One Where Disneyland Resort Will Build a Third Theme Park ?

Following the reactions last week about the upcoming Marvel Land at DCA and considering that DLR fans, since years, request a third theme park at Anaheim, i repost this January 2018 article which was precisely talking about the Anaheim Angel Stadium land that some think Disney should buy and build a third theme park park there. And, hey, may be it's the secret project that Disney will announce at D23!

Two weeks ago, in an article titled "A roadmap to a third gate at Disneyland needs Gardenwalk" John Frost from The Disney Blog explained, now that the Gardenwalk property is on the market, why Disney should buy it as "it’s half a block away from Disney California Adventure and across Katella from one of Disneyland’s remote parking lots which has long been rumored to be the potential site for a third gate for the Disneyland Resort". John posted a satellite view of the whole thing and it's true that Gardewalk is just next door to Disneyland Resort, and Disney could create a kind of "East Downtown Disney" there easily.

I did a post on the D&M Facebook page linking to John article HERE and then, one day later, someone whom i won't reveal the name but who is a faithful D&M reader and a Disney insider ( not an Imagineer ) sent me a very interesting message in which he was saying:
"In regards to GardenWalk. I worked in Anaheim for many years and we did a walk with the city through GardenWalk. Disney was interested in buying but it came down to looking back at Downtown Disney and realizing that no vendors stayed, so Disney ended up placing Disney owned shops to keep shops open while vendors would leave. For example, House of Blues left and moved to Garden Walk. Also, the third gate area is currently a cast member parking called K lot (Katella lot) and Toy Story lot is behind K lot. They would need more parking structures before a third gate."

"Also, just down the road if the Angels of Anaheim baseball team move to the new stadium which will be build in Irvine area, Disney would buy that massive open area. For now, they make Anaheim cast members park at the baseball stadium on busy days and they get shuttled into the park backstage for work.

The fact that a third gate could not be considered until 2025 literally sounds accurate as it is the time frame of the new hotel in Anaheim plus the new structure parking. The best bet is for Angels Stadium to be moved to another city and take over that massive land. And Angel stadium if they leave is the best Disney's future potential. Check out the amount of land Angel Stadium sits on."

So i did a screenshot showing the land of Angels Stadium in Anaheim, that you can see below as well as aerial view of the stadium above. Definitely click on the screen captures to see them in big size.

But i thought that the land look a bit too far from Disneyland Resort and even from the Patella lot... I thought that they won't be able to make the junction between the two, even if the Angels Stadium was going elsewhere and the land became free. To what he answered:

"Well, just imagine they make Disneyland Resort cast members park here on busy days! Yes they will be able to make the junction when Bob Iger will approve the Walt Disney World driver less vehicles as behind Toy Story lot the city built a brand new street called Gene Autry Way that connects Disney property to Angel Stadium. I guess you could say it runs behind Toy Story lot. If Angel Stadium move, all the green area you see on the map will be up for sale. "

The red line on the screen capture above shows the way going from Disneyland to Angel Stadium.

Going back to have a look on the Google map where this Gene Autry way i agree that Disney have at least a road to connect. The high green space where the stadium is on the map is probably as big as Disneyland. I still find it a bit too far from the rest of DLR even with the roads to connect but we'll see if they move the stadium if Disney will buy the land.

To what my D&M reader answered: "They say that Disneyland is gridlock like Las Vegas and if Disneyland is going to expand they need to move out more. For example, Disney Sea originally was originally planned for Long Beach that is 28 miles away from Disneyland Resort. It’s going to be really interesting whatever plan falls through but right now it makes the most sense to purchase Garden Walk now that they've bought the land behind Garden Walk where the parking structure was supposed to be built. "

I agreed that that was right, they wanted to build a DisneySea there and the fact that it was near the sea was in favor of a Disney Sea park. But what i've also been told as one of the reason why Bob Iger didn't wanted to have a third park with a Star Wars land and a Marvel land was because Iger is apparently determined to use each square inch available in DL and DCA before creating a third park in Anaheim. The reason why comes from WDW where, because they have four parks there, plus the water parks, the operating costs are so high that at the end they make less money than in Anaheim, or so.

He agreed that "Iger did a great job removing backstage facilities and moving them off site as well as the horses ranch that took up valuable land behind Big Thunder Ranch. There is still a little room behind Haunted Mansion show building to play with if they really got serious. And possibly re-locating TDA could cause an expansion behind Toon Town in the future. I think a third park won’t be considered for a long long time... The Marvel land at California Adventure behind Cars Land is another project not even announced yet. Until they are out of room it won’t happen... back to Garden Walk I think it’s a good investment to have the land there."

To give you a better idea of how big is the land where Angel Stadium is i've copied it and placed it above Disneyland - see picture below - and i'm pretty sure that i've even forgot to include a parking lot west to the Stadium... As you can see the Angel Stadium land is really huge, there is no doubt that there is enough land there to build a 3rd theme park if they wish.

So, will Disney buy the Angel Stadium land and build on it its third theme park in Anaheim? I wouldn't bet on it at 100% but i think my D&M reader has a very good point and it could be a good bet indeed for a third park, probably an even better one than to have the Katella and Toy Story lots used for a third park. What do you think? Thanks to leave your thoughts about it in a comment below!

Pictures: copyright Google Maps

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Editor's Note: Al Lutz is back on MiceAge with a terrific Disneyland Rumor Update : "Promising the Moon" in which you'll learn a LOT about what went wrong with Galaxy's Edge and what has been cancelled, also about the awaited "Rise of the Resistance" ride, what's next coming for Disneyland, and even in which country should be built Disney's future theme park! Definitely don't miss it, jump HERE.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Disneyland Haunted Mansion 50th Anniversary Celebration Paintings

Disneyland Haunted Mansion celebrated its 50th Anniversary last Saturday and here are pictures of some paintings that were done specially for the event by various artists and displayed at WDW Disney Gallery.

Pictures: copyright Disney