That Time Disney Almost Bought Knott’s Berry Farm

The Silver Bullet roller coaster towers above the entrance to Knott's Berry Farm. The coaster features several "upside-down" moments. (File photo by Mark Eades, Orange County Register/SCNG).

If you’ve ever beet to Knott’s Berry Farm in California you’ll find a fun alternative to what the usual Disney-esque parks you see out in Southern California. But at one point this park was almost scooped up and turned into a full on Disney Park. So what’s the story behind this planned purchase and what stopped it from happening? Let’s take a look.

Knott’s Berry Farm was founded in the early 1920s by Walter Knott as a berry and walnut stand. By the 1940s the property had a restaurant, multiple shops and a replica Ghost Town to entertain guests. As time went on the property became a fully fledged theme park with roller coasters, water rides and dark rides, the park was a must visit for anyone in Southern California.

In the early 1990s Walter and his wife Cordelia had passed away and their children wanted to sell the business as they had no interest. Once the property was listed for sale, who came calling but Michael Eisner in a Mickey Hat.

At this time Michael Eisner was busy doing all he could to make the Disney Decade as big as he could by expanding at the pre-existing parks, launching a cruise line and opening new parks both in North America and Internationally.

Eisner was looking for a new North American Park project after the cancelations of DisneySea, WESTcot and Disney’s America. When Knott’s was up for sale he saw an opportunity to revive the Disney’s America concept by bringing it to California instead of Virginia like originally planned. The park was only 7 Miles away from Disneyland so the property seemed like the perfect purchase. 

The concept was to rename a number of pre-existing rides and attractions that fit the Disney’s America theme, which most of the park at the time did. A number of newer attractions to give the park that Disney feel were also planned. But the plans for converting the park was almost immediately shot down by the Knott’s children. They saw Disney buying the park as destroying the legacy their parent left behind and held off the sale.

With his head hung low Michael Eisner instead moved forward on the California Adventure project as a second Californian Disney park. The Knott’s children were then approached by Cedar Fair and by 1997 the park was then bought by the park chain.

Knott’s Berry Farm still operates to this day and is one of Cedar Fair’s most popular parks. Imagine an alternate history where the park was indeed bought by Disney, maybe California Adventure might not even exist, which may be good or bad depending on your opinion of the park.

What do you think? Should the Knott’s children have sold to Disney or were they right to hold off for a different buyer?

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.