A Tarzan deathtrap and an 80ft Goofy: prepare for your tour of scrapped Disneyland rides

Estimated read time 4 min read

Sad to say, but you have just missed out on one of the greatest auctions of all time. Earlier this month in Beverly Hills, as part of its The Art of Disneyland collection, Heritage Auctions sold off a collection of artwork commissioned by Disney, for a number of rides and attractions that were initially conceived for Disneyland but never actually built.

As such, the lots amount to a parallel universe; one in which millions of visitors a year would have strolled through the bellies of giant crocodiles gazing at aquarium exhibits, travelled around on Steamboat Willie’s paddle boat and embarked on another Pinocchio-themed water flume that would have flung visitors through the mouth of Monstro the whale.

Also included in the auction was something called Anything Can Happen Land, based on a weekly segment of the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, that would have led tourists through a maze of attractions based on classic Disney shorts.

Obviously some ideas were never going to make it to fruition. One – in which the park’s iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle was never built, in favour of a nightmarish-sounding 80ft statue of Goofy dressed up as a clown – sounds so terrifying that it isn’t unreasonable to assume that it would have single-handedly destroyed Disney as a functioning entity.

Proto Storybook Land ‘Monstro the Whale’ Concept Brownline Print by Bruce Bushman.View image in fullscreen

Another, a Tarzan-themed area where children would have been able to swing freely on jungle vines, may well have necessitated changing the park’s motto from “The Happiest Place on Earth” to “The Place Where Your Children Will Almost Certainly Shatter Their Bones”.

What’s so fascinating about these designs, however, is just how quaint they are. The rides and lands are all based on the early years of Disney, when the brand was built on delicate, wholesome films like Dumbo, Peter Pan and Pinocchio. Given what Disneyland is now – essentially a garish, noisy hellscape where various absorbed intellectual properties scream themselves hoarse in a desperate bid for your attention – it’s almost impossible to conceive any of them enduring to this day. The aquarium would have never survived Blackfish, while the proposed Alice in Wonderland walk-through funhouse, as well-intentioned as it was, seems like it was exclusively designed to bore children unconscious.

Indeed, if the auction highlights anything at all, it’s the delicate balance between tradition and modernity that Disneyland has to walk. The original Disneyland Park, for instance, has largely been kept to Walt Disney’s original and slightly stuffy worldview, giving it an air of the Island of Misfit Toys in comparison to the neighbouring Disney California Adventure Park. The latter area is basically where all the cool new inclusions like Marvel and Pixar are kept. It’s also the bit where your children will want to go first.

Anything Can Happen Land Concept Brownline Prints by Bruce Bushman Group of 3 (Walt Disney, 1954).View image in fullscreen

And this is something that will keep happening as Disney keeps evolving. The bits people like now, like the Spider-Man thing and the Guardians of the Galaxy Dance-Off, will start to lose their lustre over the years and will need to be replaced. The question is, by what?

The newest advertising campaign to tempt more subscribers to Disney+, for example, involves reminding people that it isn’t just a platform for brightly coloured innocence. It’s also home to The Bear, and the Predator spin-off movie Prey. And maybe this will one day be absorbed into the wider Disneyland experience. Who knows, perhaps as we speak some underpaid artist is slaving over his desk conceiving an as-yet unmade world set in a professional kitchen where dozens of people scream at you at the same time until you end up accidentally getting stabbed, or a ride where you’re systematically hunted down and killed by a merciless alien.

Maybe there’ll be a Shōgun world in the future. Or a Renegade Nell world. Poor Things was just added to the platform. Maybe soon there’ll be a walkthrough attraction where you get to stroll through stylised versions of retro-futuristic cities as you are gradually gripped by the gnawing worry that its intended feminism has in fact turned out to be exploitative and vaguely misogynistic. Anything is possible in The Happiest Place on Earth.

Source: theguardian.com

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