Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Was Gotten Versus What Could've Been (Part Two)...

To recap what we were talking about last time...

The DisneySea theme park that was to exist in Long Beach was very similar and vastly different than the one Tokyo got. The American version of the park, while more ambitious, was much more vague in its focus and direction. Not because of any lack of vision, but because they wanted to know what they would have to build on. It would be foolish to design a lavish park constructed on over three hundred acres only to find the politicians approved two hundred. As it turns out, they approved zero and Long Beach missed out on a renovation that would have turned it into a massive tourist destination. The beautiful seaside park, hotels and retail district would have made the image of Long Beach a much different one than that pictured today. But it wasn't necessarily the politicians of Long Beach fault, but more the state officials and the California Coastal Commission which wouldn't budge on the landfill issues. So Port Disney died in a mass of red tape...

But from the death of Port Disney came the birth of Tokyo DisneySEA, quite literally the most ambitious theme park that WDI had worked on since EPCOT. Euro Disney as a resort was as big, but in terms of just the park itself, nothing had been this massive since Walt Disney Productions mounted that effort to build a second theme park in Florida.

Tokyo DisneySEA sprang from the desires of the Oriental Land Company to have a park that was unique to the resort that they planned on building. No clone would do... there would be no Tokyo Disney-MGM Studios despite what Disney CEO Michael Eisner wanted. Instead they planned on building a park that could reflect the Japanese people and their culture. When WDI pitched the project it was quickly approved, but was budgeted far less than the actual cost it would wind up once built. Around a billion dollars was planned for the project (still almost twice what DCA was to cost) until the plans the Imagineers proposed began expanding. Once the OLC could see that their desire to have such a immersive and detailed was going to cost more they could do one of two things. Cut the budget and settle for a smaller, less extensively planned park or go forward with the rising cost and find a way to pay for it. They chose to go forward and to do so they took their company public to raise the necessary cash for the project. Once it was done, this glittering jewel would be the feather in the Imagineer's cap.

Gone from the original Port Disney project would be any adherence to the realistic representation of the oceans. Instead the focus would be on the idealized vision of the oceans and the theming of exploration and adventure. In a sense it was the flip side of Tokyo Disneyland. Both are stylized, both celebrate fantasy, but TDS would celebrate mankind's love of the ocean and all things around it. They let TDL deal with the inland side of things. And the Japanese people have a particular affinity for the sea. It is a nation that likes to think of themselves as farmers and people of the sea and earth although it may not be the case anymore... again, an idealized view. Perfectly Disney.

Now for those that don't know, Tokyo DisneySEA is divided into seven "Ports" whereas Tokyo Disneyland is divided into seven "Lands" and each of these is devoted to a specific example of the oceanic world.

Mediterranean Harbor is set up as a Venetian style waterway. What better way to enter a park about the ocean than to go through a representation of city almost literally built on water.

Mysterious Island is at the center of the park and is basically the island atoll of Captain Nemo from 20K. Inside you'll find adventures that go beneath the earth and sea while a Mount Prometheus erupts continually outside. This port was to be off to the right and further back in Port Disney, but for Japan the Imagineers moved it right in the middle as the Weenie of the park.

Mermaid Lagoon is as the name says, a tribute to the classic film that officially started the Second Golden Age of Disney animation. The majority of it is housed in a large building whose front facade appears to be King Triton's Castle. It's beautiful in the daytime and jaw dropping at night. An area mainly for kids, but a wonderful Broadway quality stage show of "The Little Mermaid" is a must see. Event the C-Ticket in this place are themed beyond normal Disney standards.

Arabian Coast is essentially "Agrabah by the Sea" in this port takes its main influence from Aladdin. The area is filled with Middle East details that transport you to around the seventh century and has Disney's only double decker carousel.

Lost River Delta is the parks tribute to adventure in South America and is for the most part, a land designed around Indiana Jones. Think if Disneyland had more land what and had turned Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Eye into an entire land until itself. This port will take you back to the Continent in the mid to late 30's and offers an area that reminds you most of DAK's Asia area in theming and detail.

Port Discovery is a reimagined Tomorrowland set up with aquatic theming. Picture a seaside port in a retro-futuristic society where exploration is the primary means of the people's livelihood. Set amongst a collection of Art Deco buildings you get the feeling of being transported back to an oceanic world of a past that never existed, but you wish had.

American Waterfront is TDS's idealized representation of a turn of the century American. It's divided into two areas, the larger New York area which looks like what the city would have appeared at the dawn of the 20th Century (think 1890's-1910's) while the smaller area, Cape Cod evokes a past of a small fishing village.

A park which is truly the only offspring from Port Disney and the only true survivor of The Disney Decade. Now, let's look a little more over the Long Beach resort that could have been...

Around the Port Disney Resort:

The Queen Mary herself would have been moved down further and although the plans had not been finalized, there were several ideas for her use in the new resort. The Spruce Goose was to be sold off to someone since it didn't fit into the theme of things. The QM was going to be renovated and there were plans for themed parties and events on board. Some ideas involved an idea like Florida's Adventurer's Club, but more of a seafaring version. Several other sea-themed events, dining and shopping were planned, but like the resort itself, nothing was fine tuned since they were awaiting approval before moving ahead.

Disney Cruise Line:

We all know that the Disney Cruise Line is finally coming to California. It would have been here almost a decade earlier had this resort been built. The plans were extremely ambitious. Probably more so that was feasible. There were plans for up to ten ships with five of them stationed in the Pacific Ocean here at Port Disney in California(with other ports possible later) and the other five stationed where they are now in Florida, Europe and possibly other ports. What I love about this and many other projects is Disney's attention to detail and bringing out the best styles from the past to evoke a period of architecture romantically. We all know how the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic bring back the look and feel of old 1930's ocean liners and the port of call for the West Coast would look just as stunning.

Imagine a turn of the century harbor of New York, something along what you find in the American Waterfront of TDS. You'd feel like you entered another era as you left your car and walked down the buildings and corridors lined to look like something out of the early 20th century. If you've seen the Disney Cruise Line's home in Port Canaveral then you have a small idea of what it would've looked like. But picture it a little more themed to an earlier period and the surrounding area to evoke the past as well. Long Beach Harbor would be transformed back to the 20's/30's at least when you were in Disney's portion of it. The industrial area that exist there now wouldn't be seen from the sanctuary against time that the Mouse had intended on building. Off to the south of the cruise terminal were fishing piers and the entire area would be filled with lush greenery. The entire pier area would be teaming with life.

Much as Tokyo's reflects the spirit of the sea, Port Disney would have done the same, but on a "resort level" not just a "park level" scale. When you actually see how grand the area is in its respect for the ocean, one can imagine what was planned for an entire resort with hotels, shops, entertainment and naturally the park all paying homage to the aquatic life.

And speaking of hotels, Port Disney was to be filled with them. While the other proposal for California, "WestCOT" had new ones as well, it only had three planned new hotels. Port Disney was to get five...

Port Hotel - This was to have been the flagship hotel of the resort. The "Disneyland Hotel" so to speak of the entire grand plan. It was the inspiration for Tokyo DisneySEA's Hotel MiraCosta and was designed in an Italian style similar to it. An exclusive luxury hotel with 500 rooms and deluxe sweets. It sat across from the DisneySea theme park with an adjoining small inlet for yachts and water taxis. There were also going to be extremely large amounts of layered theming around the area to give it a sense of history. Old fashion sea ships would be placed in various slips and the docks would draw back to a Mediterranean port of bygone time to exhance the experience.

Canal Hotel - This would have been a hotel designed with a Venetian them, hence it would have canals that would have gondolas floating up and down them. While the Port Hotel would evoke the image one would get from a resort in central Italy, this one would be themed to that lovely city that's submerged in the Northern region. It would be three times as large as the Port Hotel(with over 1,400 rooms) and have its own shopping mall, fine Italian restaurants and an open retail area lined along its 150 slip marina.

Marina Hotel - Would have been a mid-size hotel(700 rooms) that would range from mid prices. This one would have been located near the Long Beach Convention Center, slightly where the parking lot is located. The plans for this hotel were not as advanced as the Port or Canal and several designs were under consideration. All of them would have aquatic themes, of course.

Shoreline Resort Hotel - A small, exclusive hotel(400 rooms) that would have low hung suites and rooms over a series of shops, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment opportunities in the Shoreline Aquatic Park. What was the Shoreline Aquatic Park? Think of the SAP as a very lushly themed, maritime version of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica with hotels built atop it.

Tidelands Hotel - Would be the second largest hotel(900 rooms) after the Canal Hotel. Themed to another variation on man's quest for exploration of the sea, this hotel would have been surrounded by rich foliage of trees and walking parks/bicycle paths, nature trails wrapped inside a six acre park. Several plans were drawn up and the architecture was not finalized... however, as with all the other hotels you could have expected a theme to match the water-themed extravagance of the other hotels.

During the changing plans there was at one time a decision to go with six hotels, but that was because of the shrinking land the resort was going to be able to use and the reduction in size of one of the original five hotels.

All we have left from these grand hotels is the Tokyo DisneySEA Hotel MiraCosta, an amazing hotel that leaves the trails of what could have been had they been built. As for the MiraCosta, it's an amazing hotel. A grand resort hotel that is the prime jewel of the Tokyo Disney Resort. Actually, it's the Hope Diamond of all Disney hotels. Simply put, there is no better Disney hotel in the world (Disney's worlds or the real world). From detail to service, this is the grail for every hotel to aspire to reach.

The Italian style, the layered theming, the shops, the restaurants and the location are absolutely top level service is unmatched anywhere. It's that good.

Styled in a theme that befit the Mediterranean Harbor it occupies the result is a hotel that blends in with the Old World of Europe while extending out into the other themes of exploration that the resort would offer. When looking at this lovely hotel you can get a whiff of what we in America could have looked forward to had it all not fallen apart.

Everything from the rooms to the excellent shops (MickeyAngelo Gifts, Minnie Lisa Sundries and Hippocampi) and restaurants (Oceano, Silk Road Garden and the Bellavista Lounge) are top notch and no detail is left unthemed. Don't believe me? Walk into the hotel lobby and look up at the lovely paintings on the ceiling. It's not just a lovely splatter of oil up there. There are eight goddesses up there that each symbolize one of the seven ports and one goddess that represents the entire park. In this park, as would probably have been in Port Disney, theming would not only envelop you... it would drown you.

Oh, and if you're interested, the eight goddesses are:

The Main Goddess of DisneySEA: Aventura

* Mediterranean Harbor: Romanza
* American Waterfront: Libertas
* Port Discovery: Minerva
* Lost River Delta: Ferista
* Mermaid Lagoon: Matuta
* Arabian Coast: Exotica
* Mysterious Island: Vesta

The devil's in the details, hmmm? This is why Disney fans love this park so much. There is so much care and detail put into the artistry and craft of this park. It gives you more and more reasons to return. Here that Suits in America? If you included this kind of detail in California Adventure you might have had more guests coming through those turnstiles and you might have had them returning over and over again. Lessons lost, lessons learned... we hope.

The 502 rooms in the hotel were divided into three sections.

The Venice Side which is the right of the hotel and provides rooms inside a nice inlet that is heavily themed to Venice, obviously.

The Porto Paradiso Side which is the area that is open up to Mediterranean Harbor and thus offers the most beautiful (and expensive) views.

The Tuscany Side are the rooms that face outside the park and offer the theming one sees when entering the park.

Tokyo DisneySEA is a wonderful park. An amazing experience that you won't find anywhere else in the world and something that totally fits in the Disney world. Before it was created, Tokyo Disneyland was an example of an incredibly marvelous hybrid of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. After TDS and the hotels the resort has become a destination of those seeking what was promised here in the states that the Mouse never delivered.

Lastly, let's finish up with a final section of Port Disney...


WorldPort was the area right across from the DisneySea theme park. It would be the aquatic point for excursions by fair and water taxi and had an entire entertainment complex set along a nostalgic boardwalk that evoked the late 19th/early 20th Century. A station for the Port Disney Monorail would also be part of the mix. Amongst the icons was that a variation of an old style wooden coaster, only it would be made of steel. There was also to be a Ferris Wheel modeled after a Wonder Wheel themed version with a shining sun at its center. Sound familiar? The area would feature hot air balloon rides and have many dining options as well.

All this and more was to be of a truly unique Disney theme park. If it would have opened on schedule, it would have thrown open those gates in 2000 had all the permits been issued and approved. My speculation is that a project this massive would of at least has some delays and you could probably add a year or so for the opening. That would put it in fall of 2001. Tokyo DisneySEA's opening was in September 4, 2001. So maybe it did open up after all? A little different than originally proposed and in a location a lot further east that Long Beach. We can dream at least.

It's good to dream...


Frog God said...

I wrote a blog about a Disney Park, A small comminty park like Fairytale town.

MarkTwain said...

Wow... how long this must have taken to type..

Good stuff, Honor.

Honor Hunter said...

You have NO IDEA, Mark...

Anonymous said...

how sad we didnt get a park as amazing as this :(

Mira Costa said...

Thanks for the book, I mean post. Fascinating.

Jump to 2009, and the goddess of the American Waterfront is changed to Woody the singing cowboy.

You can't trust that devil and his details. That's why they call him the devil.

Spokker said...

When I hear people say that the parking lot was better than DCA, I agree with them primarily for one reason. Because DCA is there, it means that nothing like TDS will ever sit across from Disneyland.

If the parking lot were still there, it could have still happened.

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