Over the years, Disney has created hundreds of historical attractions across the globe, many of which have become landmarks in American pop culture. However, the Imagineering talents at Disney have brainstormed thousands of ideas over the years that have never gotten off the ground. These never-built attractions may not be available for guests to experience, but they live on in Disney lore.
Some of these rides were scrapped because of budget cuts, while others were cancelled because the film they were to be based on underperformed at the box office. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s fun to explore the Disney attractions that could have been, but never were.
1. Rhine River Cruise – EPCOT
At the back of the current Germany Pavilion at EPCOT, lies two large arches that lead you to a covered area and the entrance to the Biergarten Restaurant. However, the archway on the right-hand side wasn’t always open; instead, it was blocked by a large wooden door because this archway was intended to be the entrance to the Rhine River Cruise attraction.
This boat ride would have had guests facing outward toward the starboard side of the boat. Miniature replicas of some of Germany’s most famous landmarks and events, like the Black Forest, Heidelberg Castle, and a traditional Oktoberfest were going to be included in the attraction. Although, the entrance to the attraction was partially constructed, the full show building was never built.
2. Thames River Cruise – EPCOT
In the mid-1980s, Disney released concept art for a Thames River Cruise ride for the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT. This slow-moving water ride would have taken guests past famous London landmarks, like Big Ben, the Tower of London, and the Houses of Parliament. There isn’t room for this scale of an attraction in the current UK Pavilion, so it’s unclear whether this was meant to replace the pavilion we’re familiar with or if it was going to be a large expansion.
3. Mount Fuji Roller Coaster – EPCOT
With a proposed location at the back of EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion, this massive roller coaster would have been similar to Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds. The ride vehicles would have traveled around the inside and outside of the mountain and it would have been the first roller coaster at EPCOT. One idea for the ride was a Godzilla-like lizard that would try to attack guests as they raced by. Like most failed EPCOT attractions, it had trouble finding a sponsor. One potential sponsor was Fujifilm. However, their business rival, Kodak, was already an EPCOT sponsor that hosted the Imagination Pavilion.
4. Bullet Train Simulator – EPCT
Another attraction for the Japan Pavilion that never saw the light of day was a Bullet Train Simulator, which would have been very high tech back in the ‘80s. This experience would have combined elements of a Circle-Vision movie and a motion simulator to make it look and feel like you were riding a bullet train, or Shinkansen, through the Japanese countryside. When guests looked through the “windows” on the train, they would actually be looking at screens that were playing pre-filmed Japanese landscapes. I imagine this attraction would have been similar to the Transport Ship section of Rise of the Resistance.
5. Beastly Kingdom – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Have you ever wondered why there’s a dragon on Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s logo? Or why there’s a parking lot named Unicorn? Well it’s because one of the proposed lands in the park was going to be Beastly Kingdom, and it would have paid homage to mythical creatures, like dragons, unicorns, and sea monsters. The land was going to be split into two realms: one for good creatures and another for evil creatures.
The good realm would have featured an attraction called Quest of the Unicorn, as well as a musical boat ride through some of the scenes from Fantasia. The evil realm would have been headlined by a thrill ride called Dragon’s Tower, which would bring you face to face with a fire breathing dragon. Due to budget cuts during Animal Kingdom’s development, this ambitious idea was replaced with Camp Minnie-Mickey. However, almost 16 years after the park’s opening, Camp Minnie-Mickey was closed to make room for Pandora: The World of Avatar, which in a way does carry on Beastly Kingdom’s legacy by exploring creatures that don’t exist on our planet.
6. Fire Mountain – Magic Kingdom
In the late 1990s, Disney was looking to build a new “E-ticket” attraction at the Magic Kingdom. With the release of Atlantis: The Lost Empire on the horizon, Disney thought the film was the perfect subject for a roller coaster in Adventureland. This attraction would have been known as Fire Mountain. Set a couple years after the events of the movie, guests would follow Preston Whitmore on his mission to offer expeditions to Atlantis for the general public. But like most Disney attractions, there would be a major mishap which would lead your ride vehicle to danger. In this case, it would have been the lava-filled caves of a volcano. Unfortunately, due to the film’s underperformance at the box office and the sharp decrease in tourism due to the 9/11 attacks, the ride was eventually cancelled.
7. Pixie Hollow – Magic Kingdom
The early concept art for Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland is much different than the finished product, which is mainly due to the fact that Disney was getting a lot of feedback from guests that this new expansion was going to be “too princessy.” The original plans for this expansion included Pixie Hollow- Tinker Bell’s fairy realm from her film franchise- and would have featured meet and greets with Tink and her friends, as well as a kids’ play area. This area was going to take up part of the old Mickey’s Toontown Fair, while a miniature version of Storybook Circus was going to take up the rest. However, due to the Tinker Bell film franchise’s decline in popularity and the feedback that the land was too princess focused, Disney decided to scrap Pixie Hollow and expand on the Storybook Circus concept.
8. The Museum of the Weird – Disneyland
Perhaps the most infamous of the unbuilt Disney attractions is the Museum of the Weird, which was spearheaded by legendary Imagineer Rolly Crump. This walk-through attraction was intended to display bizarre decorations and creepy concepts, which were inspired by artifacts that had been collected from around the world. Legend has it that Walt Disney was kept up at night thinking about all the unusual showpieces that Rolly had created. However, this idea was eventually scrapped when the Omnimover ride technology was invented, which led to the inception of the Haunted Mansion. However, some remnants from the Museum of the Weird still exist within the Haunted Mansion, like the popular purple wallpaper in the Corridor of Doors and the clock with only the number 13 on it.
9. Critter Country 500 – Disneyland
Personally, the Country Bear Jamboree has always been one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World. My grandmother still talks about how back in the ‘70s there always used to be a line to get into the show. However, in the early 2000s, Disney noticed a decline in attendance at the Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland, so they began looking for new ideas. One group of Imagineers wanted to salvage the beloved Country Bear characters, so they proposed a soapbox derby-style attraction, where guests would race past the bears in their silly vehicles. The Jamboree’s emcee, Henry, was going to be the announcer for the race. But this race would never reach the finish line. Instead, Disney decided to close down the Jamboree and build a near-replica of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh– which had been running for two years over at the Magic Kingdom- in its place.
10. Toontown Trolley, Baby Herman’s Runaway Baby Buggy & Benny the Cab Ride – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
In the late 1980s, Disney experienced an enormous commercial and critical success with the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And in the Michael Eisner era of Disney, if you had a success at the movies, you had to bring it to the parks. Due to the movie’s popularity, the Imagineers were actually brainstorming three Roger Rabbit themed attractions for what was then known as Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
The Toontown Trolley was going to be a motion simulator, where guests were immersed in the animated world by being surrounded by screens. Roger Rabbit would have acted as tour guide on your ride through his cartoon world. Baby Herman’s Runaway Baby Buggy was going to be a classic dark ride (similar to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride), where you would follow Baby Herman onto a movie set. The Benny the Cab Ride is the only proposed Roger Rabbit attraction that still lives in some form- the original idea was built upon and eventually became what we know as Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.
11. The Great Muppet Movie Ride – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
After Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, Michael Eisner was already thinking of ways to expand the park. One expansion idea was a whole Muppet Studios land, which would feature the Great Muppet Movie Ride. This attraction essentially would have been a parody of the Great Movie Ride, with your favorite Muppet characters taking you on a “misguided tour through movie history”- at least, that’s how Muppet creator Jim Henson described it. Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang would have recreated famous movie scenes, while Waldorf and Statler provided their mocking commentary along the way. Unfortunately, Jim Henson passed away in May 1990, and negotiations with his estate fell through, effectively squashing this Muppet expansion.
12. Western River Expedition – Magic Kingdom
When Magic Kingdom opened 50 years ago, it was missing one very popular Disneyland ride, Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney didn’t want to completely replicate the famous pirate ride, so they had plans to build a Frontierland version of it called the Western River Expedition. This attraction would have been located where Big Thunder Mountain currently sits. The original proposal for this ride was more educational and would highlight key points in the United States’ westward expansion. But legendary Imagineer Marc Davis lent his creative touch to the ride by designing the colorful scenes and characters that you would meet throughout your journey, giving the ride a comical side. His version of the attraction would have taken guests on a wooden boat through both indoor and outdoor scenes of the American Old West, like a lively saloon, stagecoaches riding through the prairie, and a bank robbery. However, guests at Magic Kingdom continuously filed complaints that there was no pirates ride within the park, so a few years after opening, Disney used the budget that was intended for the Western River Expedition to build an east coast version of Pirates of the Caribbean.
13. The Excavator – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
During the planning of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there were to be two thrill attractions within DinoLand, USA- Countdown to Extinction (now known as DINOSAUR) and the Excavator. This wooden roller coaster would have been an extension of the Boneyard playground’s set, where Dino Institute students would have turned the old ore car system- which was used to transport fossils- into an attraction to entertain visitors. Throughout the ride, guests would zip past large fossils and dinosaur sculptures made by the students out of whatever junk they found lying around. However, Disney soon realized that building an animal theme park was much more costly than expected, so this ride idea was shelved. With the permanent closure of Primeval Whirl, we can only hope that an attraction similar to the Excavator may make an appearance in the future.
14. Dick Tracy’s Crime-Stoppers – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney was expecting the 1990 film Dick Tracy to be a huge hit, so they tasked their Imagineers with creating an “E-ticket” attraction for the upcoming Sunset Boulevard section of Disney-MGM Studios. The story behind the attraction was that you were going to follow Dick Tracy through the streets of Chicago in a 1920s-style car, as you fought off gangsters. This ride would have featured a vehicle similar to the ones used in Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure, plus each seat would have had its own Tommy gun, which would allow you to help shoot out the gangsters and make the experience interactive. However, the film wasn’t as big of a hit as Disney had hoped, so the ride was scrapped and a live stage show, Dick Tracy Diamond Double Cross, was created instead.
We didn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to abandoned Disney attractions, these were just some of my personal favorites. Even though these rides never reached fruition, some concepts from them were integrated into other Disney attractions over the years, so they can live on in some way. And who knows, maybe one day Disney will get around to building some of these proposed attractions.
Which one of these never-built attractions would you have wanted to experience the most? Let us know in the comments below!