The Disney Parks are famous all across the world for showing people various fantastic and magical places that were once only in movies, now recreated in reality to give people a unique experience. Guests can see pirates, space aliens, princesses, talking animals and visit far away lands both real and fictional. But did you know that Disney once planned a park that would celebrate the history of America?
Former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, was expanding the company through the early 1990s with more parks in Florida and a new park in Europe. He also had an idea for a theme park that would celebrate the history and culture of the United States. In November of 1993 he announced “Disney’s America” which would be built in Haymarket, Virginia near the nation’s capitol of Washington D.C.
The initial idea was to build a smaller park in North America to help offset the looming debt Euro Disneyland was going to cost the company. Washington D.C. was one if the most heavily visited areas in the country, to the idea for a regional park at one of the most popular tourist spots in the country seemed like a good idea. They planned to acquire land from housing company Exxon who was selling it due to a recent housing market collapse.
When the park was announced practically everything that was planned to be featured was shown off to the public.
Guests would enter through a Crossroad USA and would be themed after an early to mid 1800s train station. Nearby would be Enterprise which would represent the industrial revolution of the late 1800s to early 1900s. President’s Square would recreate the time in which the nation was formed and would feature the Hall of Presidents attraction. Civil War Front would act as an area that featured a Civil War Fort that would feature a circle-vision film about the war and a battlefield where battles from the American Civil War would be reenacted. We the People would be a recreation of Ellis Island in New York about the mass immigration at the turn of the century. The Family Farm area would recreate the feeling of farm life and food production in the mid 1900s. The State Fair would recreate the traditional Coney Island State Fair with various classic carnival rides. Victory Field would recreate a World War II Airfield and show how the American Military operated, along with various flight simulations in the air hangars, which was later repurposed into the popular Soarin’ ride at EPCOT. Native America would show the culture and life of Native Americans from the 1600s to the mid 1800s, complete with a Louis and Clark River Raft Ride.
Besides the various attractions other plans included a large golf course, various camping grounds, a Civil War themed resort, similar to the Wilderness Lodge in Florida and a Downtown Disney like shopping center. Eisner figured that tourists who were visiting Washington D.C. would come to the park and stay at the resort where they would take a bus to the actual capitol during their stay. This was a passion project of his showing his appreciation of American History and attempting to make a popular hub area near Washington D.C.
The park did have support from officials such as the then outgoing Governor of Virginia, Lawrence D. Wilder (D) and incoming Governor of Virginia, George Allen (R). But the project began to go south quickly as many local counties and communities began to protest the park’s construction. They had concerns about the park affecting the local environment and economy while taking away profits from local smaller tourist attractions. There was also concern about Disney commercializing American History, especially with the site being a few miles away from the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Things heated up in Spring of 1994 when Award Winning Historian, David McCullough, formed a group called “Protect Historic America”, calling Disney’s Plans “commercial blitzkrieg”. Various other notable historians joined the group, rallying people to protest the commercialization of America. The farm conservation group, the American Farmland Trust, saying that its construction threatened 50% of the state’s orchards and 15% of the State’s farmland.
Propaganda Art Protesting Disney’s America
A number of politicians also had oppositions, some saying that they should relocate to another area while others criticized the section based on the American Civil War, with Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) stating “Civil War History should not be taught by Minnie, Mickey and Donald Duck”.
Eisner tried hard to fight back against the attempts to stop the project, dismissing criticisms from the PHA, but in Mid-September of 1994 a march of 3,000 people in Washington D.C. protesting the park proved that the project was seemingly more trouble than it was worth. These protests made the opposition Disney faced in Paris look like a house cat compared to the lion that these oppositions were becoming on both the local and state level.
The project was officially abandoned in late September of 1994. After this Eisner still tried to bring this project to life by attempting to by Knott’s Berry Farm in California and convert that park to Disney’s America, but with Euro Disneyland loosing the company $900 Million and the other canceled projects such as Port Disney and WestCOT, the project was 100% dead with all plans being set on the construction of Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim.
What do you think? Would this have been a good park celebrating American History? Or were they right to cancel it?
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.