It has been called the most ambitious project in theme park history, but before you start jostling for a place in the queue for the grand opening of Star Wars Land, it’s worth knowing that a disturbance in the workforce is likely.
Throughout their 61-year-history, Disney parks have become synonymous with development hell. And if there has ever been a tall order, it’s the delivery of two Star Wars-themed zones, one in each of the Disney parks in Florida and California; construction began a year ago and they will supposedly be transporting thrillseekers to far-away galaxies by 2019.
The Lands have been described by Walt Disney Imagineering (they do imaginative engineering, not like those pedestrian skyscraper-makers) as being on an unprecedented scale. They will bring to life a port planet on the edge of “uncharted space” populated by smugglers and rogue traders, and, at 14 acres each, they are the largest single-themed expansions in Disney history.
At least, that’s what the plan is. The Imagineers seem to love plans. In fact, they usually have got more plans than space, or time, or money. Here are a few rides that never got off the ground.
Indiana Jones Land
Planned as a Disneyland Paris “mini-land” based on everyone’s favourite whip-wielding archaeologist, the zone was to comprise jungles, temples and mineshafts. Allegedly for budget reasons, the project was scaled down to a single rollercoaster called Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril. In its lifetime, the mine-cart coaster has changed from a backwards-facing ride to a forwards-facing one. The Imagineers really can’t settle on anything.
Jolly Old England
A Mary Poppins aesthetic replete with merry-go-round horses was set to be imported to Disneyland Tokyo as part of a Victorian England-style mini-site. Instead the resort, which sits right on the water’s edge in the middle of Tokyo Bay, ended up developing a gothic hotel called Tower of Terror kitted out with a 61-metre plunge down an elevator shaft on the area earmarked for the flying nanny’s chimney-pots.
Rock Candy Mountain
Envisaged as an addition to Disneyland California’s Fantasyland, a fairy tale-themed zone, this one got everyone into a sticky situation. Rumours abound for why this coaster and canal boat-filled mountain made of liquorice and candy canes was shelved. They include worries about smog from the local area discolouring the outsized candy, and the unveiling of a scale model made of actual sweets discolouring everyone’s enthusiasm.
Soviet Union Pavilion
One of the lesser-known consequences of the dissolution of the USSR was the spanner it put in Walt Disney World Florida’s development works. The roll-out of a host of globally themed zones was a product of a chequered history for Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), with Imagineers eventually deciding to pursue a showcase of international communities rather than a utopian, cutting-edge city of the future; confusingly, however, they kept the acronymic name. The pavilion would have brought a replica Kremlin and a St Basil’s Cathedral to US soil, in a symbolic diffusion of the cold war fit to adorn endless history books.