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Third Theme Park – It’s dot-com!

The proposed project would compliment Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, possibly including a theme park or a water park, along with integrated retail, dining and entertainment experiences. The new park would evolve, with a first phase anticipated in 2003, and completion targeted for 2010

- Excerpt from thirdthemepark.com

It hit the Disney community like wildfire. Fans, not yet chastened by the stillborn carny-fests of California Adventure or Disney Studios Paris, or the overpriced botanical garden that is Hong Kong Disneyland, were thrilled. A new park? And so soon? 2003? And would would be in this park, when California Adventure itself was not yet completed? Reading the website, it was difficult to say.

AttractionsDinosaur! Typhoon Lagoon! Winnie the Pooh! Buzz Lightyear! Wait… what? These attractions, along with the mention of Ariel and Sebastian, were thrown into the strange theme park goulash hinted at by the website. While the site was promoting a new park, it seemed difficult to fathom what kind of park it was, or what any of these disparate ideas had to do with the other. In true Pressler fashion, it seemed that they were just going to raid the other parks for random ride concepts and throw them all together into… something. And Typhoon Lagoon, too. The idea of “phased” development re-emerged, and there were allusions to shopping, dining and entertainment areas as well as a bit of hedging on whether it would be a theme park, a water park or both. Truth be told, it seemed that Disney didn’t know themselves.

So why the website? It seemed an odd thing for Disney to do considering their typical secrecy, the obviously protean concept for the park, and their then-reluctant approach to engaging fans on the internet. It was an unprecedented step, and many doubted that Disney was actually behind the site. It makes sense, though, that Disney would want to do this. Both Port Disney and Westcot had been plagued by clashes with community activists and civic groups. Disney had been roundly castigated for their secrecy and back-room strongarm tactics. Putting on a show of openly consulting the public early in the permitting and environmental review process showed that they were taking the community’s opinions into consideration, and were behaving like good corporate citizens. It also allowed them to publicly trumpet the benefits of the resort, and the improvements that had already been made to the resort area.

Before and After

In the fall of 2000, Disney began the process of bringing this new park to life. Draft environmental studies were written, and a series of public meetings were held to reach out to citizens and local businesses. The land for the park had been consolidated and it seemed like this mysterious park was on its way for a 2003 opening. One little thing, though – the fate of the new park depended on the performance of California Adventure.

Amidst all the requisite hype, California Adventure debuted in February of 2001. While the press greeted the new park warmly, guests were wary. Disney fandom had taken off on the internet, and buzz on the new park was not good. News from previews and soft openings were even worse, and this combined with a number of recent missteps in other Disney parks – including Disneyland’s own botched Tomorrowland remodel – to create an atmosphere of hostility for DCA’s premiere. Disney suits admitted that DCA had been designed to meet specific budget windows; Barry Braverman, lead designer on the project and notorious Eisner lackey, admitted, “there are maybe some things that could have been better, but we’ve delivered a very compelling product.”

“Product.” Telling.

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4 comments to Third Theme Park – It’s dot-com!

  • [...] themes. We’ve already touched upon the story of Disney’s America, as well as the process that led WESTCOT to be downsized and eventually cancelled. Port Disney followed a similar path to [...]

  • Mike Kowalczyk

    Fascinating article, its really a shame what the management did to Disneyland and Disney World in the ’90s, even today.
    As of right now it seems the third gate is going to be a parking lot until at least 2017-2018. We can keep our fingers crossed for what it will become after that but they have lots of issues to fix in their existing parks before building a third or fifth gate.

  • Thanks… it’s true, we’re still paying the price for those policies.

    I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had a chance to cover the parking lot news. Looks like Third Theme Park is a ways away, and that’s probably a good thing. DCA is no Westcot, and needs many years of attention. Disneyland, too, needs some love and a new Tomorrowland!

  • Chason

    Another fantastic article. I am constantly captivated by the wonderful information you present and much appreciate (and in most instances agree) with your commentary about the state of Disney theme parks, its successes, failures, and changes that need to be made.

    I hate to take the discussion into the realm of backseat imagineering, but I hope the powers at be, as penance for DCA, really work to conceive a wholly original and inspired third gate for DLR. I cannot help but have a kernel of hope for DCA given the flavor of improvements they are applying to the park, specifically Buena Vista Street and the (albeit superficial) re-themed Silly Symphony Swings. DCA could be very successful as “Walt Disney’s California Adventure,” a park dedicated to the California young Walt experienced, the one that inspired and informed his work, and what came of it in his early years. I think this sort of philosophy, a sort of back-to-the-beginning investigation of Disney history and appreciation for classics, should really be at the heart of Disneyland development. Let Disney World be innovative. Let DLR be that little bit of the past Walt hoped no one would ever truly let go of.

    In that vein, I wouldn’t want to see a revival of Disney’s America or Port Disney. I wouldn’t even want to see WestCOT, as impressive as the concept was, just because it draws so heavily from Epcot (and I’m sure we will never see the concept of a city ever again). DCA’s Hollywoodland has, thankfully, saved us from another studios park, and the plot of land couldn’t accommodate something akin to Animal Kingdom. As I child, when I first saw the Silly Symphony short “Music Land,” I thought that would be an amazing theme for a park, with Disney shorts and Silly Symphonies as the themes for lands and attractions, though I am unsure now if an entire park could be built with that theme. Nonetheless, this is the sort of development Disneyland deserves, and I hope management realizes this, too.

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