February 13, 2014

Disney Attractions Never Built: Port Disney

Oh, what could have been! In fact, preparing these latest series of posts, I almost named the Disney Attractions Never Built, "Great Opportunities Missed"! You're looking at a piece of art for the aborted Port Disney, the predecessor to the elegant, expensive, but extremely successful Tokyo Disney Sea

Had the project been built as deigned, the city of Long Beach, California, would have become home to a Disney styled aquatic theme park and more. Disney already owned the nearby Howard Hughes' airplane Spruce Goose and the ship Queen Mary. Both acquired from Jack Wrather- who Walt Disney persuaded to build the Disneyland Hotel when his cash was tied up into creating Disneyland

Plans were announced in 1991 and quickly abandoned. Some say the entire idea was actually a ruse, a power play by Disney to get the City of Anaheim to fund very expensive infrastructure improvements as Imagineers prepped a second gate for the parking lot of Disneyland. If it was, it worked.

Whatever the truth, Port Disney was never built, and the plans for the water based theme park morphed into what became Tokyo Disney Sea. The brilliant, forward thinking executives of the Oriental Land Company previewed the designs for the proposed second Disney gate in Japan. With their philosophy closely aligned with Walt's- quality creates loyalty and high returns on investment- they immediately moved ahead, realizing it would be the new gold standard for outdoor entertainment. The results speak for themselves.

As for California, with Port Disney now dead and the City of Anaheim committed, Michael Eisner and company planned for Westcot, a new take on Epcot, which quickly gave way to the much cheaper to build California Adventure. It was a bait and switch for guests, the city, and eventually for the Walt Disney Company. To say the Golden State themed park was a flop would be kind. The deservedly maligned amusement park became an overnight embarrassment to the company, the fodder for late night television jokes, created open disdain from fans, and a let loose a financial drain instead of being an income builder. Within the company, the disaster turned into a divide among creatives and  executives which has never truly healed.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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