In early 1971, I purchased the above booklet – a “Preview Edition” of Walt Disney World. Within its 21 pages were dozens of artist’s renderings of this fantastic resort that was under construction in Florida. I took it home and read it cover to cover, twice. The booklet briefly described each of the lands within the Magic Kingdom and the two new hotels being built. It talked about the Mickey Mouse Review and Country Bear Jamboree, both unheard of attractions at Disneyland. It described recreational activities like golf, waterskiing, and sail boating, also unheard of activities at Disneyland. The booklet closed with a discussion of Epcot, the city, not the theme park – a community that was to one day have a population of 20,000.
Another topic discussed was Disney’s Five Year Plan for the property and the three hotels that would soon follow the Polynesian and Contemporary. These were the Asian and Venetian resorts which would sit on the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Persian that would be located on Bay Lake.
For a number of years, the following picture (minus the animation) hung in every room at the Contemporary Resort. Here you can see all of the existing and planned hotels plus the Ft. Wilderness Campgound. Also notice, there is no Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom.
Let’s start with the Asian Resort. Slated to open in 1974, this Thailand-inspired hotel was to have 600 rooms, including 50 suites that would exhibit a royal décor. A lounge and theme restaurant would be found within the resort’s 160-foot center tower and provide dancing and stage-shows, in much the same way as the Contemporary’s “Top of the World.” This resort was also to have its own monorail station.
Here are three artist’s renderings.
The Asian Hotel was to sit where the Grand Floridian now resides. In this next picture, you can see a square plot of land jutting into the Seven Seas Lagoon. The resort was part of Walt Disney World’s master plan and was incorporated into the original design.
When construction began on the Grand Floridian, a portion of this land needed to be reconfigured to accommodate the new hotel.
The Venetian Resort was to sit in-between the Transportation & Ticket Center and the Contemporary Resort. Plans called for a “City of Canals” that would offer unique shopping opportunities as guests traveled by gondola under ornate bridges to various sections of the resort. Reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square, a 120-foot campanile would be the hotel’s icon. This resort would also have its own monorail station.
Here are two artist’s renderings of the Venetian Resort and an aerial view of its proposed location.
After the Grand Floridian’s success, Michael Eisner wanted to build an even more luxurious resort. The plans for the Venetian were given a second look and eventually discarded for a Mediterranean Resort that would be themed after a small Greek island. The land was cleared where the Venetian was to stand, but it was soon discovered that this area was unstable and would require pylons deeper than those used on Spaceship Earth to support the hotel. Because of this, cost estimates skyrocketed and plans were dropped. Eventually the land was replanted with trees and now can be seen as a lush forest as you travel past on the monorail.
The Persian Resort was to sit north of the Contemporary and to the east of the Magic Kingdom on Bay Lake. Some renderings show a spur from the monorail reaching this hotel while others display a second loop that traveled through Tomorrowland. You can see this loop on the picture below. To see the spur, look at the above Contemporary Resort “property” map.
The Persian Resort was to have a 24-foot dome atop a central building that would act as the entrance to the hotel and house a restaurant, shops, and meeting facilities. The guest rooms would radiate from this building in a circular design. Here are two artist’s renderings.
None of the resorts ever materialized for a number of reasons, but the main culprit was the 1973 oil embargo. Tourism dropped off significantly during this time and three more deluxe resorts were not needed.
The third resort to be built at Disney World ended up being the Golf Resort and opened in December 1973. It was later renamed The Disney Inn (1986) to give the resort a broader appeal. In February, 1994, this resort was leased to the U.S. Government for military personnel and the name changed to Shades of Green. The government purchased the resort outright in 1996.
The previous post in this blog was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The next post in this blog is ESPN RISE Games.