55 years ago today the world lost one of the great visionaries. Walt Disney passed away at the age of 65. In his lifetime, he revolutionized many elements of entertainment, most noticeably the animated film, but he also basically invented a few ideas. Technically the theme park existed prior to Disneyland, but nothing quite like Disneyland had existed before it opened in 1955. Walt only lived several years past its opening and barely saw its first major expansion, New Orleans Square, but he was clearly a man with no lack of ideas. If he had lived longer, there’s a good chance Disneyland would be a very different place today.
While most of Disneyland was the creation of Walt himself, based on his own passions, not every idea that Uncle Walt had worked perfectly. Some of these ideas never made it to fruition because Walt himself killed them off before they happened. Other ideas might have survived, or might have seen life in new ways, if Walt had lived longer. Here are a few theme park ideas Walt Disney considered that ended up not happening.
Mickey Mouse Park
The first theme park idea that needs to be discussed when looking at Walt’s history with the concept has to be the park that actually started it all, because it wasn’t Disneyland. Walt’s original plan for a theme park was what he called Mickey Mouse Park, and it wasn’t planned for Anaheim. Walt’s original plan was to build Mickey Mouse Park adjacent to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
It makes a lot of sense why Walt would want to put the park next to the studio. It connects the two locations not only in the minds of guests but also physically. It would also be much easier to control. Universal Studios eventually did exactly this. The plans for Mickey Mouse Park got pretty far along before it was decided that Walt’s idea would simply need more room than Burbank had to offer.
Disneyland was the only theme park opened by Walt Disney in his lifetime, but it certainly wasn’t the only one that was considered after Disneyland had proved its success. Eventually we would see the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World, but Walt also considered building a Disney park in St. Louis, Missouri that would have been called Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square. Several attractions that would eventually find their way to Disneyland, like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, were considered for this park as well.
Walt Disney grew up in Marceline, Missouri, and the town was always important to him, so putting a theme park in a major city close by makes St. Louis seem like a less strange spot for a Disney park. One thing that would have truly set this park apart is that it would have been entirely indoors, otherwise it would have had to operate only seasonally. Eventually Walt ended up passing on the idea, primarily because his focus was taken up by Disney World. According to some stories, he was also turned off of it because he was annoyed with the head of Anheuser Busch, who publicly stated Walt was nuts for opening an entertainment venue that didn’t sell beer.
Mineral King Ski Resort
Walt Disney never got to see Walt Disney World open because he died before it was completed, but it’s not the only major project that was in the works when he died. On the other side of the country, the Disney company was putting together plans for the Mineral King Ski Resort. The company was awarded the contract to develop the land just outside of Sequoia National Park just after it confirmed it was buying tens of thousands of acres of swamp land in Florida.
The idea was for an alpine village style resort that would offer skiing in the winter, but also a host of other activities that would keep the resort running year round. There would be no theme park per se, but many theme park-like elements were expected to be included. The Country Bear Jamboree was originally designed for Mineral King as entertainment in one of the restaurants.
Unfortunately, the massive construction effort that would have been required to develop the property, and the road leading to it, led environmental groups like the Sierra Club to protest the development. While the project survived Walt’s death, it eventually was left behind.
Not everything Walt Disney planned, but failed to execute, was a massive new resort idea. Many of his ideas for Disneyland ended up being abandoned or reduced in size, and in this case that ended up being quite fitting. There was once a plan for an entire land of miniature creations.
Walt Disney was a big fan of miniatures; he built many of his own as a hobby, and in fact had planned to create an entire world in miniature, that would travel around the country by rail so that people all over could see it. It was to be called Disneylandia, but it was seen as being too expensive and complex to make the traveling show work. When Disneyland became a reality, the miniature land was revived as well, but in the end, the land was shrunk to a single attraction, the Storybook Land Canal Boats, which still exists at Disneyland today.
Edison Square/Liberty Street
While these were technically two different ideas, it’s difficult to talk about Liberty Street and Edison Square separately, as they were largely conceived and abandoned together. These small lands would have run parallel to Main Street U.S.A, and would have continued the “story” of America started on Main Street by adding two different historic time periods to the park. Liberty Street was designed to be a street in America circa 1776, while Edison Square would have jumped forward in time to the era of Thomas Edison and electricity.
Both lands were even printed on Disneyland park maps in the early 1960s, showing that they were truly in the plans for Disneyland expansion. But when Walt’s focus moved to Florida, these lands went with him. Liberty Street would become Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, complete with the planned Hall of Presidents attraction. The key attraction of Edison Square would eventually become the Carousel of Progress at the 1964-65 World’s Fair. It would make it’s way to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland after that,
Some of these ideas were already gone before Walt Disney passed away. Others, if he had lived, might have actually happened. It’s clear that Walt was such a force of nature within his company that when he died, many of his ideas simply faded away because nobody was there to champion them as Walt would have been.
Looking at the present, some of these ideas survived in some fashion, while others are almost certainly lost to time. It’s a shame that we lost Walt Disney so early, but certainly a good thing that we had him for as long as we did.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.