Ungranted Wishes: The Disney World Attractions That Never Were

Never built Beastly Kingdom art concept
Credit: Disney

The Walt Disney Company is renowned for being the ultimate creative team of magical experiences, bringing dreams to life and granting countless wishes for all fans. This initiative, which we see echoed throughout various Disney Parks all over the world, rings true through their seemingly unending abundance of optimal attractions. But what if we told you that there were even more fantastic Disney concepts that never came into fruition?

It goes without saying that there would be many, from projects that didn’t fit within a slated budget and were eventually withdrawn to other ideas that were once actually works in progress prior to being put on pause permanently. We’re taking a look at the scene in Walt Disney World Resort, specifically, to recount for you just some of the tentative wished-for attractions that were never dreamed into being.

Related: Which Other Countries Were Almost Added to EPCOT’s World Showcase and What Could Be Still to Come?

8. The Mount Fuji Roller Coaster

This never-built attraction, intended for EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion, is sometimes considered to be the tentative Walt Disney World answer to the popular Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction at Disneyland Resort in California. With the eventual scrapping of a planned Switzerland Pavilion, which would have likely offered such, it would seem only natural to want to bring some sort of equated roller coaster to the World Showcase. According to concept art depicting the planned project, the Mount Fuji-themed coaster would have been situated in a stately position at the far end of the Japan Pavilion. Following suit with Disney’s other mountain-themed coasters, the ride was intended to take Guests on a high-speed race zooming in and out of the mountain at various entry and exit points. It’s exciting just thinking about it!

Former Japan Pavilion concept with Mount Fuji
Credit: Disney

So why then was this would-be awesome attraction axed? The short answer is money. It’s obvious that carrying out such a large-scale project would be an expensive endeavor. And EPCOT attractions are heavily dependent on sponsorship as it is. Therefore, finding the right sponsor for this grand idea was initially its undoing. While Fujifilm would have been arguably the perfect sponsor, it would have created a conflict of interest given the fact that the company’s rival Kodak was already a huge Disney sponsor.

Related: Everything Disney World Desperately Needs to Take From Disneyland

7. Japan’s Bullet Train

The unbuilt Mount Fuji Roller Coaster wasn’t the only planned idea floating around for EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion. Once upon a time there were also hints at establishing a Bullet Train simulator attraction, which would also incorporate the components of Circle-Vision film technology. Delivering to Guests an experience reliant on movement and other tactile simulated effects, the concept behind the ride would have been to take folks on a bullet train-like scenic ride through the Japanese countryside, with the surrounding windows really being high-tech screens depicting pre-filmed landscapes from Japan.

Bullet Train concept art
Credit: Disney

Like the aforementioned coaster, this train of thought left the station before viable sponsorship could be scrounged up to bring it to fruition. Again, Fujifilm would have made a lucrative possible sponsor, but as explained beforehand it would have caused a conflict of interest.

6. Creatures’ Choice Awards

Not long after Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios) first opened to the public back in 1989 there was a strong consideration for this creative creature-themed attraction. Developed by Imagineer Kevin Rafferty as a way to pay a lighthearted homage to Hollywood’s horror genre, this attraction would have been a theater-based presentation, taking cues from Disney’s many animatronic featured follies. The initial plot, however, would follow that of a staged awards show, in which the one and only Godzilla—King of the Monsters is set to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

But his journey from Japan to Walt Disney World Resort is met with a few minor delays, to say the least. As a result, host Eddie Frankenmurphy (yes Eddie Murphy) and celebrity presenter Elvira would be called on to keep the show going by awarding other notable monsters and aliens. Audiences would be treated to visual footage updates on Godzilla’s ETA throughout the show. For the finale, Godzilla would at last make his climatic entry and, in doing so, quite literally “bring down the house.”

Concept renderings featuring Eddie Frankenmurphy and Elvira
Credit: Disney

There were many who were entirely on board for making this attraction a reality, including then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg. Disney President Frank Wells, however, objected on two accounts. First, he felt that an attraction such as this would not fit within the slated budget of a Hollywood horror homage. Second, he believed that such a representation of the horror genre would be better offered as a thrill ride to make people scream. And that is what eventually led to the establishment of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride in 1994.

On a side note, there were also other earlier plotted concepts for consideration, including a murder mystery-style hotel-based idea developed by Mel Brooks—Hotel Mel.

Related: 13 Amazing Facts About Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror

5. Western River Expedition

Believe it or not, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean attraction that was all the rage in Disneyland was never intended to be replicated at Walt Disney World Resort. Instead, Disney World Imagineers had planned for an entirely different yet equal quality themed boat ride experience. Patterned to be a recreation of sorts of United States Westward Expansion, Western River Expedition would have been constructed within the northwestern section of Frontierland within Magic Kingdom Park.

Yet when the Magic Kingdom first opened back in 1971, one of the biggest, most resounding questions from Guests was “Where are the Pirates?” It became evident to the folks at Disney World that forgoing an attraction that was in such high demand would be a mistake. Therefore, they decided to put a pin in the Western River Expedition concept and give the fans what they wanted—Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World Resort.

Related: Top 10 Classic Disney Attractions of All Time

4. European River Cruises

We’re not talking about those scenic river cruises you hear about in Europe, but we are talking about river cruises that were at one time intended to be attractions at two European nations within EPCOT’s World Showcase. First, there’s the Rhine River Cruise, which was to be a part of the Germany Pavilion. Then, there’s the Thames River Cruise, intended for the United Kingdom Pavilion.

Concepts for a planned Rhine River Cruise attraction at EPCOT’s Germany Pavilion actually predate the Pavilion’s very construct. While there aren’t many concrete documented details about all that it would have entailed, what we do know is that it was intended to be a slow-moving boat ride showcasing many different scenes and events throughout the German nation. These would have likely included the Black Forest, Oktoberfest celebrations, Heidelberg Castle, and other sights and experiences to behold. While finalized plans never came about, Guests visiting the Germany Pavilion today can still see one telling remnant of at least part of the once-intended ride’s structure—a formerly blocked-off archway meant to serve as the entrance for the Rhine River Cruise.

Targeted locations for where the Rhine River Cruise entry would have been
Credit: Imagineering Disney

On a much lesser-known scale, there were once plans for a slated river cruise excursion for the United Kingdom Pavilion. This one would have rightfully been a Thames River Cruise. Similar to the intended Rhine River Cruise concept but localized accordingly in regards to the nation, the vision for the Thames River Cruise was to take Guests through a slow, gently moving excursion, passing through historic sites and famous landmarks along the way. Existing concept art denotes that recreations of Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, and even the Tower of London would have all been included en route. Sadly, this idea never even made past the planning phase, and what emerged following the building of the United Kingdom leaves no room for revisiting such a notion.

Concept art for Disney's Thames River Cruise
Credit: Theme Parks and Entertainment

Related: 18 Sensational Secrets About Walt Disney World’s EPCOT

3. Monsters, Inc. Door Coaster

What is perhaps arguably the most controversial ride concepts to get axed in more recent times was the one-time planned Monsters, Inc. Door Coaster. What many at Disney envisioned to be a welcome addition to Hollywood Studios initially came at a time when the Park just wasn’t looking to increase its already abundant thrill-seeking rides. It was the 2000s—a time when Hollywood Studios was think-tanking ways for bringing in more mutually inclusive family-friendly rides and experiences. And while the content in the Monsters, Inc. film is clearly appropriate for any age, a high-speed roller coaster inspired by the one depicted in the film (that scene in which Mike, Sulley, and Boo make a harrowing escape through the Door Warehouse) would have eminently come with size restrictions for some children and would have been too intense for others. Therefore, as a way to avoid capitalizing on an attraction that would still result in divisiveness within a visiting group, Disney decided to put a pin in what would have otherwise been an exceptional experience.

Monsters, Inc. Door Warehouse Escape
Credit: WDW Radio

2. Beastly Kingdom

There was once an intended, albeit never built land slated for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, which would have been the focus for more mythical, fictionalized creatures. It was to be known as Beastly Kingdom, and what concept work reveals is that it was to be broken into two separate sections—one profiling good creatures and one featuring darker, more sinister beings. And it goes without saying that in conjunction with the varying spectrums of the themes to be presented, Beastly Kingdom would be host to its own anchoring attractions.

Quest for the Unicorn concept art
Credit: Disney

Quest for the Unicorn, for example, was a much-anticipated attraction planned for the good side. It would have come about as maze-like experience, taking Guests to a grotto where lives a magical unicorn. Another attraction to be featured in this section, offered as a musical boat ride, would have been Fantasia Gardens (no relation to the golf course). This ride would have been greatly inspired by Disney’s iconic Fantasia film.

Fantasia Gardens concept art
Credit: Guy Vasilovich/Progress City USA

The darker side would have showcased a menacing roller coaster adventure called Dragon’s Tower. The storyline tells us that Guests would embark on a thrilling ride ultimately leading to a face-to-face encounter with the attraction’s titular fiend.

Concept art for Dragon's Tower
Credit: Disney

As the story goes, Beastly Kingdom was never built. Therefore, neither were any of these attractions. The site that was once plotted for Beastly Kingdom was later established as the location for Camp Mickey-Minnie before eventually being transformed into what is now Pandora—The World of Avatar.

Related: OpEd: Why Disney’s Animal Kingdom Needs Australia

1. Fire Mountain

Did you know that an Atlantis-inspired roller coaster was once a considered concept over at the Magic Kingdom? Following the closure of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage, there were actually two ideas being floated, but Fire Mountain was the more popular one and the one that would have resulted in rerouting several other well-known Adventureland attractions. Fire Mountain was set to be a volcano-based roller coaster, which would follow a continuing story arc and theme to Disney’s then upcoming film Atlantis: The Lost Empire. One of the most compelling aspects for the ride would have been the utilization of a hybrid system in which Guests start out on a traditional tracked roller coaster model but then would be hooked to a suspended track and continue on a flyby adventure through caverns.

While there were high hopes for getting this project underway, the film’s less-than-stellar box office performance put a halt to any plans for moving forward. Additionally, this came at a time when tourism was at an all-time low following the 9/11 attacks.

Concept art showing Adventureland with Fire Mountain inclusion
Credit: Disney

There have been many more ride and attraction concepts that have come and gone throughout the 50 years that Walt Disney World Resort has been in operation. For instance, did you know that prior to The Great Movie Ride being replaced with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Rail there was an earlier consideration for replacing it with a Disney Movie Villains specific theme? Or how about the once reckoned replacing of iconic Spaceship Earth with an attraction to be called Time Racers? The list goes on and on. And Walt Disney World Resort in Florida isn’t the only Disney Park known to scrap some excellent attraction concepts. With a much longer history to its credit, it goes to reason that Disneyland has an even farther-reaching list of ungranted wishes. A perfect Disneyland example would be the one-time considered Alice in Wonderland Maze attraction, which was later revisited (to a degree) at other Disney Parks.

Disney's The Great Movie Ride
Credit: D23

Casualties in creativity are to be expected to come up time and again, especially within a company that has so much creativity and imagination to go around. But through the magic of Disney, anything is possible. So perhaps in the long run none of these ungranted wishes are entirely gone. And perhaps there’s hope still for at least some, if not all, to make a comeback in one way or another.  

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.

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