The Sad Tale of Port Disney


Back in the 1990s, during what was called the “Disney Decade”, plans for another park in California was planned. But this wasn’t the infamous WESTcot Park, no, this was something called “Port Disney”.

Port Disney was a park and shopping center planned to be built at Long Beach, California, 15 Miles away, roughly a half-hour drive, from Disneyland itself. 

When Walt Disney was building Disneyland he also wanted to have a Disneyland Hotel on the property, but he couldn’t afford it. He decided to lease part of the land to entrepreneur Jack Wrather. For years the Wrather Corporation had complete ownership over the hotel, and in the 1980s Disney’s Newest CEO, Michael Eisner, wanted to buy the hotel back.

When Jack Wrather and his wife passed away Michael Eisner bought the Wrather Corporation, thus bringing the Hotel Back under Disney, but with the purchase also got them another land lease, one that Disney hoped to take advantage of, that was the historic landmark and tourist attraction of the Queen Mary Ocean Liner and her surrounding land.

When the land was acquired by Disney concepts were almost immediately being worked on for what the company could do with the land. The property contained 55 acres of land and 230 acres of bay.

Around this time Disney was growing with its theme parks with the opening of Disney-MGM in Florida and EuroDisneyland currently being built, the plan was for Disneyland itself to receive a new expansion. In 1990 Port Disney was officially accounted with the estimated price of $3Billion, with five hotels, a shopping center, a new theme park and even a working port to hold Disney’s various Cruise-liners which were in early development at the time.

The park itself would have been called DisneySea. Imagine a mix between a Disney Park and SeaWorld with various rides, shows and attractions having an aquatic theme to it.

The Park itself would have been located on artificial land that was currently occupied by part of the bay, which Disney would have to fill in. Of course this contributed greatly to the Park’s cost.

Each land would be based on different ports and cultures from around the world, each with a unique experience from the Mediterranean, the Tropics and even the Arctic, there would even be a giant volcano set piece.

The Centerpiece of the park would have been called “Oceana” and would serve as a futuristic aquarium where you could learn all about the ocean and all that lived in it.

So what happened to all of this?

Well the $3 Billion Price tag didn’t help, but there was a large number of things working against it. A Number of local residents and officials were concerned over the effects the park could have on traffic, the local economy and hotels in Long Beach, not to mention that the city may be forced to chip in on the construction.

In early 1991 the California Coastal Commission (CCC) stated that Disney was not allowed to create land for recreational purposes. Disney tried to fight it but didn’t have much luck.

At the same time the shipping company Maersk had recently renewed their shipping contract with the port and stated that if Disney was allowed to build a park there they would back out due to the water space being taken up.

When all of these factors added up it made the venture less appealing. Michael Eisner then ironically opted to go with the WESTcot Plan and officially canceled Port Disney in mid-1991.

The DisneySea concept would later be handed off to The Oriental Land Company in Japan and developed Tokyo DisneySea, which is considered to be one of Disney’s most popular Parts Worldwide.

Overall Disney was becoming ambitious with their projects, which would later bite them in the butt with the near failure of Euro Disneyland shortly afterwards. 

Port Disney would have been a Unique Park for sure, and would have given Disney fans another reason to visit the California Parks versus Florida.  Now it’s just another “what could have been.”

What do you think? Comment and let us know!

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.