The Story Of Discovery Bay. The Unmade Evolution Of Frontierland.


In the 1970s the Walt Disney Company was looking to revamp the Frontierland section of Disneyland in Anaheim. The facilitation of the Old American West had died down. In 1979 that change came with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, breathing new life into that section of the park. At the same time legendary Imaginieer, Tony Baxter, imagined a far greater expansion to that area, one which never saw the light of day. Let’s look at the lost world of Discovery Bay.

The main concept for the land was a world of 1800s Science Fiction or sometimes called Steampunk. The world was very heavily inspired by French author Jules Verne. The story is that this world was founded by a brilliant scientist named Jason Chandler used the gold he found in Big Thunder Mountain to fund scientific innovation that other parts of the world rejected. Here in this utopian landscape you would venture from the top of the world to the bottom of the ocean.

Attractions included a ride where you would board the Hyperion Airship from The Island on Top of the World and would make you feel like you were flying to a distant land, a restaurant that simulated the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, a River Rapids ride where you would visit a primeval world of dinosaurs and the Spark Gap Loop rollercoaster.

This world feels like it comes right out of an early pulp magazine imagining what the future would look like. It would have been quite the expansion. Passing by Big Thunder Mountain into a brand new world of discovery.

However the expansion was never built. due to executives not believing that the fantasy-adventure concept would be popular due to the rise in popularity of Science Fiction, partly due to 1977’s Star Wars.

Despite not being built the inspiration of this concept can be felt across multiple attractions and multiple parks. The concept of an inventive genius inspired Professor Marvel of Journey Into Imagination.

Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris reused a number of concepts from the Nautilus Walkthrough Attraction to the Hyperion Airship.

The Mysterious Island in Tokyo DisneySea also took heavy influences from Discovery Bay by including a number of attractions bases on Jules Verne novels. Even the infamous Society of Explorers and Adventurers has the character of Jason Chandler as a member.

It is an interesting “What If” in Disney history. What if this section of the park? What if it was successful? Nobody really knows. The last which it was meant to occupy is currently taken up by Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge. However, whenever a project in Disney Imagineering doesn’t comes to fruition it never truly dies, it inspires others.

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