For every project that Disney has produced, there are hundreds more that never happened despite significant investments of time, talent, and money. But what if you could see them anyway...
Jim Korkis enters the limbo of Disney Never Lands to report on new theme parks, new lands in existing parks, television shows, and animation that were left unbuilt and unfilmed. Over the decades, he interviewed Imagineers and animators who worked on these projects as well as researching contemporary newspaper accounts and official publicity releases.
Korkis details the usual suspects like WestCot, Mineral King, Roger Rabbit feature sequels, and Epcot's Africa pavilion as well as surprises like Jim Henson's television series about Ariel the Little Mermaid and the Disney Channel's series that would have featured Dreamfinder and Figment as well as the animation Disney had Ub Iwerks do for Danny Kaye's first feature film.
Korkis shares the surprises that he discovered in the deepest vaults of Disney history. For the first time, these stories are gathered together in one book to inspire Disney fans' imaginations of what might have been and to document in great detail these lost dreams.
The Theme Parks That Never Were
Port Disney Long Beach
St. Louis Riverfront Square
The Marceline Project: Walt’s Boyhood Farm
The Burbank Disney MGM Studios
The Lands That Never Were
The Beastly Kingdom
Roger Rabbit Toontown
The Equatorial Africa World Showcase Pavilion
Abandoned World Showcase Pavilions
The Television Shows That Never Were
Jim Henson’s The Little Mermaid
The Gray Seal
Abandoned Tomorrowland Shows
Hansel and Gretel
Walt Disney Biography Mini-Series
The Animation That Never Was
Morgan’s Ghost/Pirate’s Gold
Donald Duck’s Stratosphere Adventure
Danny Kaye’s Weavie-Weavies
Roger Rabbit Sequels
Abandoned Mickey Mouse Cartoons
Disney has been so prolific and successful that it is hard to imagine that many of its most intriguing projects despite significant investments of time, talent and money ended up abandoned and forgotten.
Disney developed enough unfinished projects to fill several books. In fact, I wrote an entire book about one of them, the famous unmade animated feature film Gremlins based on the novel authored by Roald Dahl. (Gremlin Trouble, Theme Park Press 2017)
Projects ranging from Disney’s America theme park in Virginia to the animated feature Chanticleer to the Dick Tracy’s Crimestoppers attraction that would have been in a 1920s Chicagoland area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios are missing from this book along with so many other things because of space limitations. There are more stories left to tell.
Many reasons can prevent a project from going forward including lack of sponsorship to help offset the cost, lack of existing technology to make something work, unresolved problems with the story, and not having the right talent that can make the dream a reality.
Of course a big reason is lack of money. Disney, after all, has always been a business and to remain in business must produce projects that will return more than enough money to compensate for the total cost of the project as well as a healthy profit to invest in new projects.
Imagineers and animators constantly dream up new things but most of them never get any further than some concept artwork. In some cases, perhaps a small model was prepared. Most of these dreams never materialized and it is just part of the normal development process.
Some ideas were put aside and brought back years later for another project. Walt conceived of the idea of the prince and princess dancing in the clouds for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) but when he couldn’t use it there, he considered it for Cinderella (1950). It finally appeared in Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Because things in this book were abandoned projects, Disney did not always maintain full documentation, artwork and definitely not models connected to them. Sometimes the only information that still exists comes from official publicity announcements or perhaps the people who worked on them and the few written souvenirs or photos they may have saved for their personal enjoyment.
When the plans for a Switzerland pavilion for Epcot’s World Showcase were cancelled, the stunning concept art painting was simply tossed into a dumpster because it was no longer needed. It was saved by an Epcot executive who had it framed and hung in his office until his retirement. He generously explained details on it to me one day when I was working in his area including how it would have featured a version of Disneyland’s Matterhorn.
A friend who worked as an animator on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) showed me artwork intended for the never animated scene of the funeral of Marvin Acme. One sequence had a Fleischer Studio Superman on his knees and sobbing while holding in his hands Mighty Mouse who was also crying at the loss of their human friend who meant so much to their animation community.
As Imagineer Eddie Sotto told me when I interviewed him about several Disney projects he worked on that never got made:
The unbuilt pavilion concepts never suffer budget cuts and always have the unfair advantage of being flawless in our imagination! There are always more ideas than there is room to put them or pay for them.
I have always been fascinated by things that were announced but never completed. I have also been equally fascinated by the stories behind those projects and why they never developed. Here are a few of my favorite stories.
Jim Korkis is an internationally acknowledged authority on Walt Disney whose hundreds of articles and presentations about all things Disney have been enjoyed by people worldwide for decades.