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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

10 Planned Disney Theme Park Rides That Were Never Built (& Why)

Your Nerd Side Halloween Special part 1 and 2



When it comes to exercises in "what ifs" and "what could have beens," Disney's unbuilt theme park rides are a fascinating curiosity. Over the years, stories, concept art, and past ambitions have surfaced, revealing how the happiest places on Earth evolved among Imagineers. With over a century of magic behind them and new attractions designed by Disney every day, it's intriguing to reflect on the rides that never came to fruition.

Commencing in 1955 with Disneyland Resort in California, Walt Disney's vision for a higher caliber of theme parks established a new milestone in travel, entertainment, and hospitality. With locations worldwide and a host of distinctive attractions, Disney theme parks remain as remarkable achievements in engineering and entertainment. Nevertheless, as times evolved and technology advanced, Imagineers found themselves challenged to push the envelope to create new experiences, even though not all of them would see realization.



The Bantha-Back Pack Tour Through Batuu

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge



When Disney was designing Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, they had ambitious ideas and scrapped attractions that wouldn't make the cut, including a ride where visitors would book a tour with an alien salesperson across Batuu on the back of a Bantha. Reminiscent of the Peoplemover and, in many ways, a spiritual successor to Pack Mules Through Nature's Wonderland, it unfortunately never happened.

While concept art has surfaced and even proudly displayed at D23 2015, for unknown reasons, the Bantha ride failed to debut at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Considering Disney's recent difficulties and disappointments within the Star Wars franchise, including the closure of its immersive Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience, the attraction is unlikely to see the light of Batuu's bright suns.



The Dragon Ride That Never Took Flight

Disney's Animal Kingdom



By now, the lost land of Disney's Animal Kingdom and its failure to manifest is positively legendary. Designed to represent the content of Europe and all the magical creatures of myth, The Beastly Kingdom planned to open with a roller coaster that took guests into the lair of a fire-breathing dragon.

Although remnants of The Beastly Kingdom are still noticeable to eagle-eyed parkgoers, including its iconic dragon, the land became abandoned for the more cost-effective Camp Minnie-Mickey. While a similarly themed roller coaster appeared at Universal Islands of Adventure and a land based on James Cameron's Avatar allowed guests to soar over Pandora, like its namesake, The Dragon's Tower only exists in the imagination.


A Planned Jolly Holiday With Mary Poppins

Disneyland



One of Disney's classic films, Mary Poppins, created a colorful world where anything could happen, and once upon a time, Imagineer Tony Baxter proposed plans to bring parkgoers into it. Boarding carousel horses, guests would delight as they left the merry-go-round and entered a chalk drawing for a brightly colored outing with the magical nanny.

Although an enthusiastic Baxter submitted the concepts to producer Bill Anderson, Disneyland passed on the project while also offering the designer friendly advice to progress his career. While Jolly Holiday never came to life, Baxter would have a hand in creating other iconic Disney rides such as Splash Mountain, Journey into Imagination, and Indiana Jones Adventure.


Who Put the Breaks on Roger Rabbit's Toontown Trolley?

Disneyland and Walt Disney World



Despite being cleared of murder charges in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? the chaotic cartoon character still faced post-credits challenges in Disney's discussions about his future. As part of a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? expansion, Disney parks considered a cutting-edge simulator ride that'd take guests on a wonderfully wacky tour of Toontown. However, despite Roger's popularity, Disney would send a slew of new attractions back to the drawing board, never to realize their potential.

While guests today enjoy Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, future plans for Roger Rabbit faced a setback due to the disappointments of the Disney Decade and a legal battle so gloomy that it might as well have been presided over by Judge Doom himself.


Mel's Hotel Checks Out

Disney Hollywood Studios (Formerly MGM-Studios)



Having created comedy classics such as Spaceballs and Young Frankenstein, director Mel Brooks was offered a rare chance to collaborate on an attraction at Disney-MGM Studios. At one point, Brooks pitched an idea about a ride that'd take guests onto the set of a haunted hotel where he was filming his latest horror parody. However, like the Invisible Man, this Mel Brooks attraction became a no-show on opening day.

While Brooks became disillusioned with the project, it did live on. The idea of Mel's horror hotel transformed into The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Dropping the comedy for a surreal elevator trip into the Twilight Zone, it rose to new heights as it pushed the boundaries of thrills, theming, and storytelling.


The Strange Case of Dick Tracy's Crime-Stoppers

Disney Hollywood Studios (Formerly MGM-Studios)



Once a themed to the golden era of Hollywood, Disney-MGM Studios considered an attractionbased on 1990's Dick Tracy. A hybrid shooting gallery and dark ride, Dick Tracy's Crime-Stoppers would have guests on the streets of 1930s Chicago and mowing down gangsters with a tommy gun. Ahead of its time and utilizing advanced technology, Dick Tracy's Crime-Stoppers ultimately didn't get the go-ahead.

Expected to be Disney's answer to Tim Burton's Batman, Dick Tracy's performance underwhelmed at the box office, leading to the cancelation of the upcoming attraction. In addition, due to legal issues with star Warren Beatty over the rights to Dick Tracy, fans had to settle for two bizarre specials in which Beatty talks to himself in a yellow trench coat.


The Nightmare Before Christmas Ride That Didn't Happen

Disney Parks



From the portfolio of Imagineer Christopher Merritt came a delightfully eccentric pitch for a ride based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. Seemingly inspired by attractions like Peter Pan's Flight, parkgoers would embark on flying coffin sleds into the world of Tim Burton's stop-motion animated film. With iconic scenes portrayed and beloved characters surrounding tourists on all sides, Merritt's ride seemed ideal for Tim Burton fans and Hot Topic shoppers of all ages.

While the ride was only a concept, The Nightmare Before Christmas later became well-represented at Disney theme parks. Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie have hosted special events, and an annual retheming of The Haunted Mansion allows guests to get into the holiday spirit with Tim Burton's creepy classic.


The Mystery of Fire Mountain

Magic Kingdom



Before gaining recognition as one of Disney's most underrated films, Atlantis: The Lost Empire launched with high hopes, marking an explosive expedition into the mysteries of the titular lost civilization. With the movie's theatrical release and the potential of a new Disney franchise, Imagineers eagerly began designing attractions based on the 2001 pulp adventure. One of these proposed attractions was Fire Mountain, a roller coaster inspired by Atlantis: The Lost Empire, where guests would journey inside a volcano and encounter the legendary city in a pulse-pounding dive into the unknown.

Despite numerous theories, the cancelation of Fire Mountain primarily remains a mystery, further contributing to the tragic legacy of Atlantis: The Lost Empire's missed opportunity to become a successful franchise.


The Mayhem of The Great Muppet Movie Ride

Disney Hollywood Studios (Formerly MGM-Studios)




The main attraction of Disney-MGM Studios theme park, The Great Movie Ride, transported people into the world of classic cinema to learn about the history of filmmaking. However, leave it to Jim Henson's Muppets to create their own adaptation and a cleverly chaotic ride into the world of Hollywood.

Planned as part of a Muppet expansion, unfortunately, The Great Muppet Movie Ride remained unrealized after the passing of the late Jim Henson. While it never joined the ranks of attractions like Muppet Vision 3D, recently unveiled concept art has revealed what could have been, showcasing the creative energy invested into the once-promising Muppet parody.


Marvel's Missed Spider-Man Ride

Disneyland Paris



Disneyland Paris had once envisioned a retheme of Rock' n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, with plans to introduce a Spider-Man ride as part of a New York-themed "Marvel Land." A recently revealed model showcases the experience in which guests would blast off into the Manhattan skyline, finding themselves at the thrilling epicenter of a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.

However, the envisioned retheme materialized as Avengers Assemble: Flight Force, which received a lackluster response. Disney also previously introduced WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure at Disneyland, but many visitors found it underwhelming, especially when compared to Universal Islands of Adventure's Marvel-themed attractions. Looking back at the unrealized Marvel area and the MCU projects that went nowhere, it's sad that this Spider-Manconcept didn't stick.



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