In his previous articles Shaun Finnie has guided us through the hotels and the World Showcase section of Westcot, the Epcot-style expansion to Disneyland that was planned for the mid-1990’s. This time he examines Westcot’s Future World.
In my last article, I looked at what was intended for the World Showcase section of WESTCOT, the park that had been proposed for Anaheim in the 1990’s. It would have been a wonderful, innovative update of the Orlando park, not just a copy but a complete update filled with never-before-seen attractions. But that was only half of Disneyland’s planned second gate. Just like Epcot in Florida, WESTCOT would have had it’s own Future World.
At WESTCOT’s centre there would have been a 300 foot high globe sitting on an island in a lake. Whereas Florida’s Epcot has the gleaming silver ball of Spaceship Earth as its icon, the new park’s Spacestation Earth would have shone a brilliant gold and been surrounded by a tubular lattice framework. And like most constructions in WESTCOT, this globe would have contained a ride. The Imagineers had learned that one of the complaints aimed at Epcot was that there was too much “education” at the expense of fun. For the West Coast version they were determined that the fun would win out, with guests learning as a pleasant side effect.
Beneath the incredible web-like sphere of Spacestation Earth would be VenturePort, a natural yet futuristic environment acting as a gateway to the Future World pavilions. Future World was planned to be at a lower level, which guests would reach via an escalator. The entire area would be filled with greenery, mist and waterfalls, but once guests passed through VenturePort into the second half of WESTCOT, everything would be indoors, on soundstages to increase the feeling of being removed from reality.
The three pavilions of Future World would have been dedicated to the wonders of the human body, the delicacy of our natural environment and the expansiveness of new horizons. The quote they were using was that this was a place where we could all “Dare to Dream the Future”. And these three “Wonder” areas , when added to the Four Corners of the World in the World Showcase would make up The Seven Wonders of WESTCOT.
Imagineer Tony Baxter described this version of Future World as being “a lot more participatory, a lot more theatrical. Once you step inside our theater and walk from the audience side onto the stages of Land, Living and Science, we’ll ask a little bit more of you”.
The Future World Wonder housing The Land would be a two storey pavilion approximately the same size as Epcot’s Living Seas. It would contain a horticultural area similar to the backstage tour available to guests at Epcot’s The Land, as well as jungle, desert and frozen landscapes to explore. It would also include underwater viewing areas much the same as the Living Seas. One final show in the Nature area would have been the first stop on the River of time boat ride that I mentioned in the first part of this article.
This 9 minute show would have covered the forming of planet Earth up to the beginning of man’s intellectual development. Guests would then be able to get back into a boat continuing over to the World Showcase for the rest of the story, or exit out into Future World.
The Living World Wonder would include a new attraction called Cosmic Journeys. This would be based upon the old Disneyland favourite, Adventure Thru Inner Space, but as well as showing guests their world from a small perspective as Inner Space had done, Cosmic Journeys would also let them grow in the other direction, allowing them to view their whole Universe.
Epcot fans would no doubt have been delighted to hear that the Body Wars and Horizons rides were to be cloned from the East coast, and that a new, expanded version of the ever-popular Journey Into Imagination ride with Figment and the Dreamfinder would be built here too. And of course, at the end of each day WESTCOT would, like its East Coast counterpart, feature a spectacular fireworks show.
WESTCOT could have been absolutely fabulous for its paying customers, but perhaps not so good for the people who lived in the area. There were complaints from locals who had seen plans for the 300 foot tall reflective golden ball in their “back yard”. Compare that to Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, which stretches up a ‘mere’ 180 feet. The Imagineers also tried to envisage how it would look from the Disneyland castle if it could be seen shining over the Main Street Railway Station. Their conclusion? It dominated the skyline far too much. So the Spacestation Earth idea was dropped and replaced as the major icon of the park by a less intrusive (and, it has to be said, much cheaper) huge white spire. You can hopefully see it on the left of this concept painting by R. Tom Gilleon.
But the expansion wasn’t to just be for a new park. The new planned Disneyland Resort would have cost over $3 billion and covered 470 acres, stretching from the original Disneyland park to the old Disneyland Hotel.
Much of this overall layout of the entire planned Disneyland Resort can be seen on the two maps I included in my earlier article on the Hotels of WESTCOT.
Guests would travel from the car parks to the entrance plaza via moving walkways and an elevated shuttle train, while an extended monorail loop would take them from the parks to the Disney hotels. The peoplemovers and monorails would terminate at the seven acre Disneyland Plaza, an open air oasis of tranquillity between the two parks that would be filled with greenery, waterfalls and beautiful landscaping.
Leading from the parks to the hotels would have been an area of shopping and restaurants known as the Disneyland Centre, the design of which would eventually evolve into Downtown Disney. To one side of this there were designs to build The Disneyland Arena (also referred to in some plans as The Disneyland Bowl), a 5000 seat outdoor amphitheatre suitable for concerts and other live events.
As well as the new hotels being built in the style of famous Californian landmarks there would also be representations of Catalina’s Avalon Ballroom and the Boardwalk at Venice Beach at the Disneyland Centre. So even at this early stage you can see where the idea of Disney’s California Adventure came from.
The expansion was to have been constructed in stages, with the entire resort being finished by 1998 at the latest. It all sounds wonderful, and would have totally transformed Disneyland – had it ever actually been built.
But there was competition for Disney’s theme park construction money, with a plan for a major development in another city out on the Californian coast.
And that other proposition will be the subject of my next column.