One of my favorite Disneyland specials of all time was “The Disneyland Story” hosted by Harry Anderson which aired in 1990. The nearly hour-long program is near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. First, it features the soundtrack for “Back to The Future” throughout the entire presentation. Secondly, it features Harry Anderson from tv’s “Night Court” (google it, kids!) who is also a fine magician. Finally, the last few minutes of this special covers the future plans for Disneyland’s part in what Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO) dubbed as the “Disney Decade”.
The link above will let you check out “The Disneyland Story” in its entirety. While it is certainly worth your time, this article is focusing on the last three minutes of the special which features Harry Anderson “riding” the Disneyland Railroad into the future and touting all the great new attractions coming to Disneyland over the next decade. The problem is, none of it came to be. Sure, some attractions ended up going to other parks. However, none of these ideas in the form they were being pitched in 1990 ever made it to Walt’s original Disneyland. So what happened? Today we will take a deep dive into each of these announced never-came-to-be attractions and find out what Disneyland could have looked like had the “Disney Decade” panned out how Eisner envisioned it.
Without question, the Walt Disney Company would not be where it is today without the two gentlemen in the above photo. Frank Wells and Michael Eisner together turned Disney around from potential buyouts in the early 80’s, after a creative and financial downward spiral after Walt’s death. The strategic investments in talent, how the business was being run as well as reinvigorating Disney’s Studio and Animation department surged the company back into the entertainment forefront quickly. Thus, Eisner dubbed the 1990’s as the “Disney Decade” where he had plans for exponential growth at Disney Parks and resorts worldwide. While Walt Disney World also didn’t have many of their plans come to fruition, today we will focus on the Disney Decade plans announced during the 1990 “The Disneyland Story” special.
First up, in 1991 Disneyland guests were going to be able to attend a stunt show featuring a “young” Indiana Jones. While the idea of a stunt show did come from the Disney/MGM Studios Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, this version was actually based on a little-known television show. “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” was an ABC series of 28 episodes that ran from 1992 to 1993. While the series was critically acclaimed, it never gained much traction in the ratings. The show was in development in 1990, thus why this version of the Indiana Jones stunt show was put into development. Fun fact: the white hearse that is parked in front of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion was a prop originally designed to be used in the Young Indiana Jones Stunt Show.
Also in 1991, Disneyland guests were going to be treated to a live stage show featuring the recently acquired Jim Henson Muppets. As luck would have it, this new offering would go on to open at the Disney/MGM Studios in 1990. Unfortunately, this live-action show featuring 6-foot tall Muppets didn’t go over so well with Walt Disney World audiences and closed a little over a year after it opened. In reality, these plans were scrapped when MuppetVision 3D eventually opened at the Disney/MGM Studios in 1991.
The plan later became to recreate MuppetVision 3D either in Mickey’s ToonTown or replace Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln on Main Street with the 3D movie. Neither of those ideas ended up coming to fruition either. The Disneyland Resort never saw a permanent Muppet attraction until 2001 when MuppetVision 3D debuted as an opening day attraction in Disney’s California Adventure.
Fast-forward to 1993 and Harry Anderson announces that guests would be able to go on an adventure with Ariel and Sebastian “under the sea” at Disneyland. Indeed, the Disneyland Resort does feature a Little Mermaid attraction at Disney’s California Adventure which debuted in December 2012. Unfortunately, this is not the version of the ride that was being pitched in 1990.
You see, this version of The Little Mermaid (see video above) ride was slated to go into Disneyland Paris upon opening. It later got pushed back, but it was also proposed for Hong Kong Disneyland and even Tokyo DisneySea. Alas, the idea was shelved and eventually morphed into the rides we know at Disney California Adventure and the Magic Kingdom in Florida we know today.
The Disney Decade was to put George Lucas and Disney together in 1994 with Disneyland’s debut of Alien Encounter. Keep in mind, this pre-dates the opening of the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland, another collaboration with Lucas which opened in 1995. Alien Encounter was proposed for a project known as “Tomorrowland 2055” and was supposed to take over Mission to Mars. Other projects slated for “Tomorrorwland 2055” included The Timekeeper, which was to open in the former Circlevision 360 space. Ultimately the idea was scrapped to duplicate the Alien Encounter that opened in Florida due to budgetary concerns with other “Tomorrowland 2055” projects. Maybe the Tomorrowland favorite with a huge cult following might have made it a little longer in Disneyland? We shall never know.
My personal favorite concept from Disneyland’s missing Disney Decade attractions was Dick Tracy’s Crime Stoppers. You may know that this ride was also slated for the Disney/MGM Studios and with good reason. The attraction combined the same ride vehicle used in Indiana Jones at Disneyland (and Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom) with sets similar to The Great Movie Ride’s gangster scene.
Each ride vehicle was going to be equipped with a tommy gun aiming out the window where guests could embark on an adventure through the 1920’s to round up Big Boy, Mumbles and Breathless Mahoney. Who are they? Fine question.
Back in 1990, Disney had one of their biggest flops of all time. “Dick Tracy” starred Warren Beatty as the yellow fedora-wearing detective based on the comic book series. With a budget of $47 million and seven Oscar nominations (including 3 wins!), the film was a flop at the box office. Though the Disney/MGM Studios did have a live stage show called Dick Tracy’s Diamond Doublecross and a section of the Backlot Tram Tour dedicated to helping promote the film, which never found an audience. Thus, Dick Tracy’s Crime Stoppers was left in the dust for the Disney Decade in both Disneyland and the Disney/MGM Studios.
Are you noticing a pattern here? Nearly all of these attractions were designed to be duplicated in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Since the Disney/MGM Studios was the newcomer to the Disney Parks family, it made sense for many of these additions being added to that very small park be designed for Walt’s original as well. A perfect example: Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy Ride.
A tip of the hat goes to Jim Hill who covered this story in great detail over at his website, Jim Hill Media. The attraction featured 4-person baby buggy ride vehicles that took guests on a ride through the “set” of Baby Herman’s short feature “Tummy Trouble”. Unfortunately, this ride never got off the drawing board due to ongoing squabbles between Disney and Amblin entertainment about who owned the theme park rights. While it took years to come to an agreement (and of course, Disney won) Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy Ride got the boot in favor of the Benny The Cab Ride we all know today in Toontown.
Finally, Harry Anderson announced that a new land would be coming to Disneyland that would actually be the home of Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy Ride and Dick Tracy’s Crime Stoppers, known as Hollywood Land. Granted, Disney California Adventure did end up getting a land devoted to Hollywood when it opened in 2001, but this wasn’t the version slated for Disneyland. Back in 1990, the concept of going behind-the-scenes to learn about how movies were made was a hot commodity in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Unfortunately, the last of these announcements also never made the light of day at Disneyland, and maybe that’s for the better? As we have stated here at Theme Park University, the idea of a behind-the-scenes movie and television theme park didn’t exactly withstand the test of time. However, maybe some of these attractions would be better than what actually ended up in the park. Your thoughts?
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