The Lost Resorts at Walt Disney World

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original master plan rendering for Walt Disney World

When Walt Disney World was still very much a concept, the plans looked incredibly different than the magical world we know today. There were three (in particular) planned hotels that never came to be but that were included in some of the original concept art for the Walt Disney World land. Disney’s Asia Resort, Disney’s Venetian Resort and Disney’s Persian Resort.

Walt Disney envisioned themed resorts, 24 of them in all, surrounding the theme parks in Walt Disney World and although that vision has certainly come to life, may of the original ideas did not.

Now, there have been other resorts planned or rumored throughout the years but these three were some of the originals and they were actually really cool. So what happened? Well, the oil crisis of the early 1970’s really had a negative affect on tourism across the United States, and it really hurt Disney. With profits significantly down, ideas for these expensive themed resorts were curbed.

Asian Resort 2
Rendering of Disney’s Asian Resort

Disney’s Asia Resort was scheduled to open in 1974 and the land was cleared for construction. The resort was planned to be a monorail stop and was sketched out for a square plot of land just off Magic Kingdom. What ended up there? Well, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. But, let’s take a look at what might have been.

This 600 room resort would include a grand lobby and would be Thai inspired. At least one lounge and Thai themed restaurant was included in the design as well as 50 suites. One interesting point is that although the hotel that resulted is nothing like the original design, the colors in the artist renderings are the same for both resorts. It is rumored that Michael Eisner, who was the head of Walt Disney Company during this time, was not a fan of including a Thai themed resort on this plot of land.

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Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa was viewed by Michael Eisner and the top executives of the Walt Disney Company to have been incredibly successful and Michael Eisner wanted to build another luxury resort and the original plans for the Venetian Resort which had been tabled well over a decade earlier were revisited.

Venetian Resort 2
Original rendering of Disney’s Venetian Resort

The land to be used for Disney’s Venetian Resort was set to be placed between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This truly is a prime location and the land was cleared for a resort to be built there. Plans for the resort changed from a Venetian themed resort to a Mediterranean themed resort. From the renderings, this was truly an incredible resort idea and I think that the artist drawings and concept art for this Mediterranean resort was far superior to the Venetian concept.

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Disney’s Mediterranean Resort Rendering Photo courtesy of Pinterest

So what happened? Testing on the soil and land that the resort was set to be built on determined that the ground was incredibly unstable. In order to safely construct anything on this land, the pylons would have to be deeper than the pylons used on Spaceship Earth. This would have been extremely costly and the plan was abandoned.

However, Disney has always been at the forefront of new and groundbreaking technologies for the parks the resorts and even construction methods. This land is in a prime location and I’d bet the castle that Disney has not given up on it. There have even been reports of ground tests being performed regularly on the land that was cleared for the Mediterranean resort.

The last planed resort was the Persian resort. This looked pretty incredible from the artist renderings. The land that was set aside for this resort however, was very awkward with how the set up of the parks ended up. This was the only resort that was set to be on Bay Lake. This resort actually came really close to being built and in 1978 it was on the docket to be completely funded and staffed and during construction of the Magic Kingdom the land was cleared out and it was likely used for construction storage during construction of the park.

Persian Resort 1
Rendering of Disney’s Persian Resort
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Note how close Disney’s Persian Resort is to Disney’s Magic Kingdom in this Rendering.

The Persian Resort was scheduled to be a Monorail Stop and to actually get to the station the Monorail would run directly through the Magic Kingdom park itself. In order for this resort to be built today major infrastructure changes would have to happen to the road system near the hotel and Disney’s Contemporary Resort as the current road system is not equipped to handle major traffic that a resort would bring. Not to mention this particular plot of land is incredibly close to much of the backstage area of Magic Kingdom and is currently being used for staff parking and extra storage.

Would a luxury resort be appealing if it was located that close to the backstage areas of the park? It would likely take a lot of money to ensure those areas remained hidden from guests, that coupled with the expense of the infrastructure updates needed for the road system, it is unlikely this area would be revisited for a luxury resort location. But, the idea of a Persian inspired resort is incredibly appealing.

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Original rendering of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Disney World Resorts.

There are so many Disney ideas that are magical that have been abandoned along the way. With the replacement of Michael Eisner with Bob Iger in 2005, it is unclear what ideas of Eisner’s remain tabled for possible future consideration and which have been completely removed from consideration. Are these hotel ideas still bandied about? The Executives and Imagineers at Walt Disney World remain tight lipped about so much of the Walt Disney Company but one thing is for sure. Disney is never finished. Disney is ever changing and ever evolving so who knows.

I would bet that the most likely resort location would be the unstable land that Disney often tests for stability but which resort would it be? Or would it be a completely different idea that we didn’t cover today? Time will tell.

Thanks for stopping by for this Disney what might have been post. I really enjoyed writing and researching this post and hope to do more in the future. The history and future of Disney is fascinating and I hope you liked reading about the resorts that never were. See ya real soon and for the love of the mouse, never forget, that it all started with a mouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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