Disney's America

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Disney's America
Disney america.jpg
Disney's America logo
Location Haymarket, Virginia, United States
Coordinates 38°49′55″N 77°38′39″W / 38.83194°N 77.64417°W / 38.83194; -77.64417Coordinates: 38°49′55″N 77°38′39″W / 38.83194°N 77.64417°W / 38.83194; -77.64417
Theme American History
Owner The Walt Disney Company
Operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Visitors per annum 11 million (projected)
Status Canceled

Disney's America was a planned theme park that was to have been built by The Walt Disney Company in the early 1990s. The park was planned to be built near Haymarket, Virginia, only 5 miles (8.0 km) from the site of the Manassas National Battlefield Park near Interstate 66 west of Washington, D.C..[1][2] Announced in November 1993, the park was to have been dedicated to the history of the United States and was scheduled to open by 1998[2][3] with a US$650,000,000 (equivalent to $1,073,220,000 in 2017) planned budget.[4] Amid opposition from citizen's groups, however, the project was canceled in September 1994.[5]

The concept was revived in 1997 as a potential re-theming of Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, when the Knott family offered its amusement park for sale. However, the Knott family refused to sell its park to Disney, largely due to concerns over what Disney would do to the property, and the project was canceled again. Several of the proposed elements of Disney's America were incorporated into Disney's California Adventure, which opened in 2001.


Disney's America is located in Virginia
Disney's America
Disney's America
Proposed location for Disney's America.

Michael Eisner stated the genesis for Disney's America was sparked by a visit taken by him and other Disney executives to Colonial Williamsburg three to four years before the 1993 announcement. After coming up with the concept, Disney spent two years scouting potential sites near Washington DC.[6] However, officials from Explore Park, a history theme park near Roanoke that opened in 1994, alleged that Disney stole some of the ideas for Disney's America from their park after a 1987 meeting between the officials from the two companies.[7]

Announcement and Initial Support[edit]

At the time it was announced on November 11, 1993, Disney had already purchased or held options on the 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of land needed for the proposed park.[3] After concept plans for Disney's America were drawn up for the history-based attraction in 1993, it became Michael Eisner's pet project,[8] obtaining the support of outgoing Governor L. Douglas Wilder (D) and incoming Gov. George Allen (R),[3][9] as well as the Virginia Commission on Population Growth and Development.[10] Wilder said he was "pleased that you [Disney] have come to us," and Allen promised to "kick down any hurdles" that would hold up the park.[3] Wilder, who had learned of the proposed park approximately two weeks before the announcement, elaborated that Disney had not forced Virginia into a bidding war through government concessions to attract the development, in contrast with the first American Legoland park, which was the subject of an ongoing competition between Prince William County and Carlsbad, California.[6] Many local citizens, including the head of the Haymarket Historical Commission, supported the project for economic reasons.[2]

This is not a Pollyanna view of America. We want to make you a Civil War soldier. We want to make you feel what it was like to be a slave or what it was like to escape through the underground railroad.

—Bob Weis, Disney Senior Vice President (November 1993)[6]

Peter Rummell, president of Disney Design & Development, stated the park was designed to be a one-day experience, and the goal was to make history "real but also make it fun." Rummell acknowledged that creating entertainment around historical events such as slavery and the Civil War could be controversial, but he elaborated that "an intelligent story, properly told, shouldn't offend anybody ... But we won't worry about being politically correct."[3] The location was chosen to tap into the tourist crowds visiting Washington DC and several local attractions, including the battlefield at Manassas, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens, Jamestown, Yorktown, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Dulles-based Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum.[11]

Although Disney did not ask for concessions at the announcement in November 1993,[3] the company warned the purchase of land options would not proceed without improvements in roads and infrastructure.[12] Allen proposed US$163,200,000 (equivalent to $269,460,000 in 2017) in State of Virginia spending, one of the costliest incentive packages offered to-date,[13] to improve roads at the proposed Disney site, defray relocation costs, and promote tourism in the area.[14] In addition, Prince William County had requested US$50,000,000 (equivalent to $82,560,000 in 2017) in loans from Virginia to improve water and sewer lines.[14] The project was granted subsidies by the Virginia state government in March 1994,[9] with Disney advancing the subsidy proposal on the last possible day and threatening to abandon the project if it was not passed.[15] The Disney's America project received additional project support as late as September.[5]


The parcel intended to host Disney's America was close to the town of Haymarket and the Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Public opposition to the theme park and associated development was strong, especially from a vocal group of prominent historians named Protect Historic America.[16] Historian David McCullough described Disney's America as a potential "commercial blitzkrieg" in May 1994, predicting the same urban sprawl that surrounds Disneyland and Disney World for Virginia.[16] Other members of Protect Historic America included C. Vann Woodward, John Hope Franklin, James M. McPherson, Barbara J. Fields, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Shelby Foote, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., William Styron, Tom Wicker, Richard Moe and Roger Wilkins.[16][17][18] McPherson warned that sprawl "would desecrate the ground over which men fought and died."[19]

Disney also faced opposition from groups concerned that historical events such as the Civil War and slavery could be trivialized by teaching history through entertainment and possibly selling "little souvenir slave ships."[17] Eisner would later disavow comments from Weis, a senior vice president who had stated a planned exhibit on slavery would "make you feel what it was like to be a slave," saying that Weis had misspoken and was not used to speaking to the media.[12] Rummell also rejected the fears as premature: "Those are harsh words for a production that not only hasn't opened, but hasn't even been fully written."[17] Weis later stressed the content of the park had not yet been decided, saying "I'm not sure we have a certain direction yet ... Our thoughts are evolving" in March 1994.[20] By August 1994, novelist William Styron penned an opinion that any exhibit that would allow visitors to "experience" slavery would be inadequate[21] and soon afterward, Disney announced the proposed slavery exhibit had been shelved.[17]

In addition, the heavy subsidies proposed from Virginia faced opposition in the state legislature.[14] By late February 1994, the planned Disney park was still locally popular in Haymarket,[15] but faced opposition from nearby towns who echoed McCullough's prediction: "following [the theme park] will be all the things people want, gas stations, motels and, God help us, the fast-food strips."[11] A national farm conservation group, the American Farmland Trust, voiced its opposition to the project, saying it threatened up to 50% of the state's orchards and 15% of its farmland.[22]

Proponents of the theme park project alleged Protect Historic America was merely a front to advance the interests of wealthy landowners who owned land close to the planned development. Disney projected up to 35,000 automobiles per day, which raised traffic and pollution concerns amongst local residents.[17] The Disney official in charge of the project, Mark Pacala, penned an editorial touting planned road improvements as benefiting all motorists.[23] Virginia Transportation Secretary Robert E. Martinez announced the state would seek a full federal review of the planned freeway improvements, which would delay the approval of road construction funds.[18] Other residents, citing the already-low unemployment rates, were skeptical of the economic boost generated by the park.[17] An economic report commissioned by park opponents said that Disney had overstated economic benefits, saying that only 6,000 (not 12,000) jobs would be created, in mostly low-wage, low-skill categories, and the park would only bring in an additional $1.5–5.1 million in annual tax revenue (compared to the $14.1 million Disney had estimated).[24] Disney Vice President John Dreyer dismissed these protesters as stereotypical NIMBY citizens, saying "I think it's very similar to the arguments you've heard about a dozen projects around the country—which is, 'I'm here, I don't want anyone else to come.' "[17] Despite the vocal opposition,[24] polls showed a majority of Virginia residents supported the project.[5]

Operators of other area attractions, including Colonial Williamsburg, feared that Disney's America would siphon away tourist time and spending instead of adding another attraction for the Washington DC area.[25]

Rep. Michael A. Andrews (D-TX), a Civil War buff, introduced a resolution on June 16, 1994 to send a message to Disney not to build the project in the proposed location,[26] saying he was "not opposed to Disney or the park, as long as the project is built in another location."[27] Andrews was joined in support by Reps. Tim Roemer (D-IN) and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), with Torricelli adding that Civil War history should "not [be taught] by Minnie and Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck."[27]

Disney's America not only will not replace historic sites but rather will add to their luster by enthusing our guests about events that occurred there and the people who took part in them. We are confident our project will actually encourage more people to visit historic areas. And we believe our presentation of the American heritage can make a significant national contribution to the important cause of historic preservation.

We plan to use all of the tools available to us -- filmmaking, animation, environments, music, interactive media, live interpretation -- to bring the American experience to life. We are working with historians and other experts to make Disney's America an engaging and genuine encounter with America's past. Together, we have identified some common themes that run through the American experience -- our persistent resistence [sic] to injustice, our quest for tolerance and inclusion, our history of rising to challenges, our faith in the promise of the future and our belief that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.

We believe that every person, particularly the children, who can touch history and sense the emotions of a time or event, will be impelled to learn more. This is the vision and purpose of Disney's America.

—Michael Eisner, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company (June 1994)[28]

Eisner rebuked protesters and detractors, especially the historian members of Protect Historic America, saying in a June 1994 interview with The Washington Post that "I sat through many history classes where I read some of their stuff, and I didn't learn anything. It was pretty boring. I guess I can say that I object to some of their stuff."[4] Eisner was surprised by the opposition, stating that he had "expected to be taken around on people's shoulders" for both the economic stimulus of 19,000 new jobs and the entertainment value that would allow visitors "to get high on history."[4] In the same interview, Eisner reiterated Disney's rights to develop on the 3,000 acres (1,200 ha), saying "it's private land that is not in the middle of a historic area."[4] Eisner did not rule out moving the park to other sites, noting that the governors of Maryland and North Carolina had begun to court the company.[29]

A crowd of 3,000 protesters, including Ralph Nader, staged a march in Washington DC opposing the park in mid-September 1994.[30][31] Specific objections at the march included Disney's precedent of a privatized governing district in Florida and skepticism about Disney's plans to "make you feel what it was like to be a slave."[31]

Project Abandonment[edit]

We remain convinced that a park that celebrates America and an exploration of our heritage is a great idea, and we will continue to work to make it a reality. However, we recognize that there are those who have been concerned about the possible impact of our park on historic sites in this unique area, and we have always tried to be sensitive to the issue. While we do not agree with all their concerns, we are seeking a new location so that we can move the process forward ...

Despite our confidence that we would eventually win the necessary approvals, it has become clear that we could not say when the park would be able to open -- or even when we could break ground ...

The controversy over building in Prince William County has diverted attention and resources from the creative development of the park. Implicit in our vision for the park is the hope that it will be a source of pride and unity for all Americans. We certainly cannot let a particular site undermine that goal by becoming a source of divisiveness.

—Peter S. Rummel, president of Disney Design and Development Co. (September 1994)[32]

Disney announced they would not build the Disney's America theme park at the originally-proposed site near Manassas on September 28, 1994,[32][33] despite the political backing of numerous officials.[34] By the time Disney withdrew the project from Haymarket, the New York Times reported that Disney felt they could gain official but not public approval, resulting in unacceptable delays.[5] Disney put the 600 acres (240 ha) of land they had already acquired up for sale in March 1995 and relinquished options to purchase an adjacent 2,037-acre (824 ha) property in December 1994.[35] The land slated for the proposed park has instead since been used to build tens of thousands of single and multi-family homesites in the Dominion Valley and Piedmont housing developments and Camp William B. Snyder for the Boy Scouts of America.[36] Since the demise of the Haymarket project, the promised road improvements have been on hold and traffic has increased from the housing developments built on the site, though some residents credit the new housing with attracting a wealthier, more-educated population; the population of Prince William County grew by nearly 100,000 people in the 10 years following the end of the project.[37]

At the same time they announced they were abandoning the Haymarket site, Disney announced they still intended to build the theme park at a "less controversial" site in either Virginia or Maryland.[33][34] One anonymous Wall Street analyst claimed there was a schism in support for Disney's America amongst top executives at Disney, including opposition from the recently-ousted Jeffrey Katzenberg.[33] In addition to scrapping Disney's America, the Walt Disney Company also abandoned other theme park projects in the 1990s, including WestCOT and Port Disney.

Park Plans[edit]

Themed areas in the 1994 proposal for Disney's America

Themed Areas[edit]

The plans for Disney's America called for nine distinctly themed areas[38][39] within a 125–185-acre (51–75 ha) theme park serving up to 30,000 visitors per day.[11][20] Much of the information is taken from a promotional brochure published by The Walt Disney Company in 1994.[38]

  • Crossroads USA, 1800–1850 - A pre-Civil War-era village that would have served as the hub of Disney's America. Guests would enter under an 1840s train trestle, which would have featured antique steam trains circling the park.[2][7]
  • Native America, 1600–1810 - A recreation of a Native American village that would have reflected the tribes that were known in that part of the country. Guests would have also enjoyed interactive experiences, exhibits, and arts and crafts, as well as a whitewater river raft ride that would have traveled throughout the area, based on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.[2][7]
  • Presidents' Square, 1750–1800 - A celebration of the birth of democracy and those who fought to preserve it. The Hall of Presidents from Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, would have been replicated in this section of Disney's America.
  • Civil War Fort, 1850–1870 - A Civil War fort would have plunged guests into a more turbulent time of American history; with an adjacent replica battlefield where Civil War re-enactments would be staged and an adjacent man-made Freedom Bay, where water battles between the Monitor and the Merrimac would have been staged as a "thrilling nighttime spectacular".[2][38]
  • Enterprise, 1870–1930 - A mock factory town, it would have highlighted American ingenuity where guests could have ridden a major attraction called Industrial Revolution, traveling on a roller coaster-type ride through a 19th-century landscape with heavy industry and blast furnaces.[2] On either side of the ride would have been exhibits of technology that defined America's industry, and developments that would have defined future industries.
  • We The People, 1870–1930 - A replica of the Ellis Island building, which acted as the gateway to America for many immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Music, restaurants, and a live show would be here.
  • Family Farm, 1930–1945 - A recreation of an authentic farm where guests could have had the opportunity to see different types of industries related to food production, in addition to hands-on experiences.[7]
  • State Fair, 1930–1945 - An area based on 1930's Brooklyn with a live show about baseball and Coney Island themed rides, including a 60-foot (18 m) Ferris wheel and a wooden roller coaster.
  • Victory Field, 1930–1945 - Guests would have experienced what America's soldiers faced in the defense of freedom during world wars. It would have been themed to resemble an air field with a series of hangars containing attractions based on America's military might using virtual reality technology. The air field would have also served as an exhibit of airplanes from different periods, as well as for major flying exhibitions. Concepts for what would have been the world's first dueling inverted roller coasters, which would have been named Dogfighter, were drawn up, but were ultimately abandoned due to the projected cost of the attraction. The ride would have had guests flying through the air in German and American biplane-themed trains, and would have featured several near misses. Both tracks would have featured inversions (the American track featured a cobra roll, a vertical loop, a zero-g roll, and two corkscrews; the German track featured the same elements with an extra corkscrew leading into the final brake-run), and at one point the German train would have come close to hitting both the floor and walls of a trench and a tank as it looped over a tank that had crashed into the trench.

Some of the ideas alleged to be lifted from Explore Park for Disney's America include the Lewis and Clark-themed water ride, Native American village, American main street and working family farm.[7]

Additional proposed development[edit]

According to Rummell, plans also included:[17][39]

  • resort hotels (with 1,340 guest rooms)
  • an RV park (with 300 campsites)
  • a 27-hole golf course
  • and nearly 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) for retail and commercial development.[39]

Additionally, there were tentative plans to sell a portion of the land to a developer to build over 2,000 residential units and donate land for other municipal buildings, including schools and a library.[39] Disney intended to leave up to 40% of the total land undeveloped as a greenbelt/buffer between the Park and its surroundings.[39]

Ideas transferred to other parks[edit]

Soarin' from Epcot and Disney's California Adventure evolved from some of the rides planned for Victory Field.

Other concepts originally intended for Disney's America were slightly re-themed and re-worked as elements of Disney California Adventure, including the Bountiful Valley Farm (Family Farm), Grizzly River Run (Lewis and Clark Expedition raft ride), California Screamin' (State Fair roller coaster ride) as well as Condor Flats (Victory Field).[40]

Disney's American Celebration[edit]

Faced with public relations issues in the wake of vocal opposition, Disney put together a conceptual study of a park in August 1994 with an overarching theme celebrating common American themes and experiences. The conceptual study was discontinued weeks later. The planned pavilions for Disney's American Celebration would have included:[41]

  • Democracy, the entrance area featuring attractions such as America: A User's Guide, the American Free Speech Forum and the American Hall of Fame.
  • Family or Generations, featuring a multi-media show called American Families following four generations of a family from 1929–1999.
  • The Land, based on the Epcot attraction of the same name.
  • Creativity and Fun, similar to the original concept for State Fair, featuring a full-scale recreation of Ebbets Field and Coney Island-themed attractions.
  • Work featuring factory tours of iconic American companies such as Apple, Ben & Jerry's and Crayola.
  • Service & Sacrifice, similar to the original concept for Victory Field, featuring the attraction Soldier's Story taking guests through memorable moments in American wars and other interactive areas where guests could attempt military training.
  • American People telling the Immigration Story on a ride and film featuring the Muppets as well as the Dream of Freedom movie discussing the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality.
  • Streets of America, a dining district featuring "streets" themed for cuisine from different cities, including:
  • Disney's America Live, the entertainment venue featuring outdoor stages and the State Farm Arena where guests could attempt hog calling and calf roping.

Proposed conversion of Knott’s Berry Farm[edit]

Independence Hall replica construction at Knott's Berry Farm, 17 March 1966. Courtesy of Orange County Archives.

A conversion of Knott's Berry Farm (in Buena Park, near Disneyland) into Disney’s America was drafted shortly after the Knott family announced that they would take bids for its property. The idea for the conversion reportedly came from the exact replica of Independence Hall, which sits in the parking lot of Knott’s Berry Farm.

The plan called for stretching out the park’s entrance across the street to the Independence Hall replica. The new entrance to the park would then be built to resemble Walt Disney World's Liberty Square, although the name of the entrance would have been changed to Presidents' Square. The major attraction for this area would have included the Hall of Presidents.

Another section of the proposed park would have included the “Native American” territories as it would have paid tribute to America’s native people. The area would have included where the Mystery Lodge, Indian Trail, and Bigfoot Rapids are currently located. Also, Bigfoot Rapids would have had its name changed to The Lewis & Clark River Expedition, which was a similar attraction proposed for Virginia. This idea was eventually scrapped because the Imagineers felt it was an "inconsistent hybrid of thrills and education."

Other proposed ideas would have been the conversion of the former Roaring '20s section into the “Enterprise” territory. Reflection Lake would have been converted to Freedom Bay, and would have showcased a recreation of the Ellis Island immigration center. Finally, the Old Ghost Town section of Knott's Berry Farm would have been mostly unchanged. Camp Snoopy and Fiesta Village probably also would have been converted into different “territories”.

The California Disney's America project was canceled due to several reasons. One was a lack of a practical means to transport guests from the Disneyland Resort to Disney’s America, ruling that extending the existing Disneyland Monorail System would be too expensive; also noting that bus transportation would not have been practical. The main factor was that the Knott family had rejected Disney's bid since they were afraid that the Imagineers would replace much of what their parents had originally built. Ironically, Cedar Fair (the company that bought Knott's Berry Farm in 1997) removed more original features from the park than Disney's plans would have done, although keeping the Knott's name and layout intact.[42]

Contemporaneous opinions[edit]

Editorials from 1993–94
Don't Build Build

 Will the project encourage sprawl beyond the boundaries of the park itself? There's little doubt that it will.
 What is sprawl? It is low-density development on the edges of cities and towns. It is poorly planned, land-consumptive, automobile-oriented, designed without regard for its surroundings -- and usually ugly as well.
 Sprawl has already established a solid beachhead in Northern Virginia, and this project will almost certainly give it a big push westward. New and widened highways will be built for the 30,000 tourists expected at the park each day, and this will likely lead to the rapid proliferation of fast-food restaurants, motels and strip malls. It is sadly easy to envision this "road rash" devastating some of the most beautiful and historic countryside in America.


 What effect will "Disney's America" have on public visitation at "real" historic sites? Disney spokesmen claim that the park will draw thousands of additional visitors to the area and that all historic sites will benefit.
 But the park's power to attract new visitors is no sure thing. When Disney steps too far beyond its tried-and-true formula of audience-pleasing entertainment and storybook endings, it can stub its toe. EuroDisney, an American-style theme park near Paris, drew disappointing crowds and lost nearly $1 billion in its first year. Disney may find that selling real history to Americans is as great a challenge as selling the Magic Kingdom to Europeans.
 If the park does draw huge crowds, it will likely do so by cutting deeply into the area's already-established tourist market. Washington is one of the country's most popular vacation destinations. Last year, more than 13 million domestic tourists came here for fun and a dose of history; it's as time-honored a ritual as anything in American tourism. Disney surely knows that a family planning the typical three- to-four-day visit to Washington will be under strong pressure from children -- and probably adults as well -- to spend at least one day at the theme park.


 What will "Disney's America" mean for the teaching of American history? How authentically will Disney portray the awfulness of slavery or the brutality of the Indian wars? Is the "warts-and-all" teaching of history too much at odds with modern notions of mass entertainment?
 Not necessarily. Ken Burns's television classic, The Civil War, deeply moved millions of viewers, and David McCullough's series on The American Experience has reached millions more. Any number of films and plays, ranging from Abe Lincoln in Illinois to the recently released Gettysburg, have enriched our understanding of American history.
 Can Disney do the same? Perhaps, but the countervailing pressures of authentic history on the one hand and sustained commercial success on the other are probably too great for each other. Can George Washington co-exist with Mickey Mouse? Can the meaning of the Civil War be conveyed next to a roller coaster? Once a visitor has seen the Disney version of Ellis Island, will the real thing retain its appeal? Can slavery be properly interpreted in an amusement park?

—Richard Moe, 21 December 1993[43]

 Critics complain that Disney is in the business of telling stories and is not up to the challenge of "serious issues."
 Yes, by its own admission, Disney's strength is story telling -- using creative methods and advanced technology to add realism and accuracy, and to hold the listener's interest. But what is history, if not a true "story"? Indeed, Webster's is instructive, defining history as "an account of what has or might have happened, esp. in the form of a narrative, play, story, or tale."
 Moreover, Disney has an impressive record in addressing serious questions. Its Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World is a sterling example of the company's ability to bring history alive without sacrificing accuracy. Given the opportunity, I'd rather meet Abraham Lincoln in the flesh. Given that Mr. Lincoln isn't available, Disney's Hall of Presidents is the next best thing.
 Disney's critics have also posed a fundamentally false choice between "real" history as represented by the monuments of Washington, D.C., and the Civil War battlefields of Virginia and "synthetic" history at Disney's America. Once exposed to history as depicted at Disney's America, the critics lament, tourists would ignore the White House, the Manassas battlefield, Mount Vernon, Monticello and other historic landmarks.
 No such choices are necessary. Disney's America is designed to complement the historic attractions in the D.C. area and the state of Virginia. By stimulating an interest in history, Disney's America should whet the appetite for visits to battlefields, museums, and Disney's critics also seem to suggest that there is a single, correct version of history. In fact, no book, no museum, no single authority possesses the final word.

—Richard R. Willich, 15 February 1994[44]

 Disney says that it intends to build a new city with 2,500 houses for a population of some 7,000 people on this now uninhabited site, along with hotels, offices, shopping and malls. The magnet for this suburban city is a theme park on American history, sitting at the project's center, that Disney estimates will attract some 30,000 visitors a day. Adding residents, visitors and some 9,000 workers together, we have a daily population of 46,000 people added to Haymarket's present population of 375. Ancillary development attracted by the project will draw at least half again as many people. (In Anaheim and Orlando, such development has drawn far more.) That will leave a city with a daily population of about 70,000 people, approaching the size of Alexandria. Issues of crime, sprawl, gridlock and pollution can't be dealt with here -- but Disney's claim that these won't be serious problems is wishful thinking.
 Certainly anyone who owns land in Haymarket could profit from Disney's America, provided he or she is prepared to sell it and move away. A family with 10 acres on the highway could be rich right now. If land values rise 20-fold, property taxes must certainly follow -- particularly with the vast, open-ended public commitment to infrastructure that the project will require. National chains and franchises are already bidding up the price of land in Haymarket -- they will soon control the land market entirely, just as they do in Manassas and other suburban cities. How many present residents of the region will remain after the conversion to an international tourist economy is complete? Those who can't afford the taxes will be forced to move, while those who can will go of their own volition. Whole communities like Aldie, Haymarket and The Plains, which are centuries old, are apt to be destroyed.


 Let's assume we're lucky -- that the presence of 13,800 new jobs attracts just 10,000 new families of 2.8 people to the Piedmont region, and that trailer parks along Route 66 and Interstate 95 spring up fast enough to handle them. The region will then have some 8,000 new students to educate, to which we should add another 2,000 students from Disney's housing tracts. At $5,000 per student per year, Disney's America could cost the public some $50 million a year for schools alone. New taxpayers will help foot some of that bill, no doubt. But it's a plain demographic fact that the candidates for Disney's low-paying, service-sector jobs are most likely to be those very people with young children who pay the least in taxes.


 Disney will be followed by a secondary invasion of national and global chains, to feed off the stream of tourists flowing through the park. The profits from these companies -- Sheraton, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Pizza Hut -- will be shipped back to their various home bases. Meanwhile, in the process of establishing themselves, they'll likely drive Joe's Pizza, Gossom's Hardware, Little River B&B and The Plains Pharmacy out of business. When that happens, Joe and his fellow business leaders will have no profits to re-invest, and no choice but to work at Disney or Pizza Hut like everyone else. Local leadership dies when the locally owned economy is wiped out.
 It's ironic that a 20th century mercantile power like Disney would choose Virginia, of all places, to establish a colony whose money would come from selling history, of all subjects. The first English mercantile colony was founded at Jamestown in 1604, and the revolution that drove the English from America was led by Virginians -- mostly from the Piedmont -- who accepted the English surrender, the first of many in their colonizing history, at Yorktown. Somewhere in its collective memory, Virginia knows about colonial oppression.

—Richard Squires, 23 January 1994[45]

 The naysayers paint a simplistic picture in which commercial development and a respect for history are mutually exclusive, in which past and present are combatants in a never-ending war of attrition. The actual arguments against Disney's America are more animated and exercised than "Fantasia's" dancing hippos.
 It is ironic that the jeremiads against Disney's America are themselves so cartoonishly overwrought. Disney's America will certainly spur traffic and population increases in the area (up to 6 million visitors are expected annually), but it is doubtful that the growth will consist of pushers and prostitutes. The anti-Disney forces repeat time and again that the park's site is "sacred" but never explain precisely how commercial development precludes an appreciation for the area's history.
 While T-shirt and souvenir shops may not be particularly rustic, they won't be plopped down in the middle of a historic battlefield, either. That is one of the reasons -- along with the economic opportunities generated by the park -- why a majority of residents of Prince William County, where the park will be situated, are in favor of the development.
 Much of the intellectual contempt for Disney's America is purely reactionary, exhibiting what the late Nobel laureate economist George Stigler identified in his 1963 essay, "The Intellectuals and the Marketplace," as "the instinctive dislike for a system of organizing economic life through the search for profits." By this logic, it is all right to maintain historic landmarks, as long as they don't draw very many visitors. But to build something nearby that local inhabitants support and that might actually generate tourism and money is, in C. Vann Woodward's mind, an act of 'invasion.'

—Nick Gillespie, 18 July 1994[46]


  1. ^ Crawford, Michael (22 November 2007). "Thanksgiving Special: Neverworlds — Disney's America". Progress City, U.S.A. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wines, Michael (12 November 1993). "A Disneyland of History Next to the Real Thing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Shiver Jr, Jube (12 November 1993). "With Liberty and Justice for Mickey". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Powers, William F. (14 June 1994). "Eisner Blasts Critics of Disney Virginia Park". Los Angeles Times. Washington Post. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Perez-Pena, Richard (29 September 1994). "Disney Drops Plan for History Theme Park in Virginia". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Singletary, Michelle; Hsu, Spencer S. (12 November 1993). "Disney Says Va. Park Will Be Serious Fun". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Shear, Michael D. (26 July 1994). "Disney may have taken ideas from Va. theme park, officials say". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Michael Eisner's passion - Disney's America". Chotank.com. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  9. ^ a b "VIRGINIA APPROVES DISNEY SUBSIDIES". The New York Times. 13 March 1994. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-05-07. Retrieved 2005-04-03. 
  11. ^ a b c Feinsilber, Mike (27 February 1994). "Virginians in Civil War Over Disney Park Plans". Los Angeles Times. AP. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Opposition May Derail New Disney Park". Los Angeles Times. Washington Post. 19 December 1993. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  13. ^ Hsu, Spencer S. (6 February 1994). "Disney deal feeds concerns about costly state incentives". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c Baker, Peter (1 February 1994). "Virginia Lawmakers Back Away From Disney Aid". Los Angeles Times. Washington Post. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Fiore, Faye (25 September 1994). "America as Disney's Land: The Fantasy vs. the Reality". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c Janofsky, Michael (12 May 1994). "Learned Opposition to New Disney Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Mehren, Elizabeth (17 August 1994). "An Uncivil War Over Disney Plan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  18. ^ a b Hsu, Spencer S. (11 May 1994). "Historians, Writers Organize Against Disney Theme Park". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  19. ^ Kennedy, J. Michael (27 June 1994). "The Historian and His Friend Abe". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  20. ^ a b Hsu, Spencer S. (9 March 1994). "Disney Unsure How It Will Organize New Theme Park". Los Angeles Times. Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  21. ^ Styron, William (5 August 1994). "OPINION: Slavery and Disney". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 13 December 2016. Imagineering, an adroit neologism, is the Walt Disney Co.'s name for the corporate unit involved in developing Disney's America, the projected mammoth theme park in northern Virginia.
     Not long ago, the chief imagineer, Robert Weis, described what would be in store, among other historical attractions, for hordes of tourists.
     'We want to make you feel what it was like to be a slave, and what it was like to escape through the Underground Railroad.' He added that the exhibits would 'not take a Pollyanna view' but would be 'painful, disturbing and agonizing.'
     I was fascinated by Weis's statement because 27 years ago I published a novel called The Confessions of Nat Turner, which was partly intended to make the reader feel what it was like to be a slave.
     Whether I succeeded or not was a matter of hot debate, and the book still provokes controversy.
     But as one who has plunged into the murky waters where the imagineers wish to venture, I have doubts whether the technical wizardry that so entrances children and grown-ups at other Disney parks can do anything but mock a theme as momentous as slavery, the great transforming circumstance of American history.
     If it is so difficult to render the tragic complexity of slavery in words, as I once found out, will visual effects or virtual reality make it easier to comprehend the agony?
     No one knows what Disney's Department of Imagineering has up its sleeve, but whatever exhibits or displays it comes up with would have to be fraudulent, since no combination of branding irons, slave ships or slave cabins, shackles, chained black people in their wretched coffles, or treks through the Underground Railroad could begin to define such a stupendous experience.
     To present even the most squalid sights would be to cheaply romanticize suffering.
     For slavery's abyssal pain arose far less from its physical cruelty - although slave ships and the auction block were atrocities - than from the moral and legal savagery that deprived an entire people of their freedom, along with their rights to education, ownership of property, matrimony and protection under the law.
     Slavery cannot be represented by exhibits. It was not remotely like the Jewish Holocaust - of brief duration and intensely focused destruction - which has permitted an illuminating museum.
     This renewed bondage is the collective anguish from which white Americans have always averted their eyes. And it underlines the falseness of any Disneyesque rendition of slavery.
     The falseness is in the assumption that by viewing the artifacts of cruelty and oppression, or whatever the imagineers cook up - the cabins, the chains, the auction block - one will have succumbed in a 'disturbing and agonizing' manner to the catharsis of a completed tragedy.
     But the drama has never ended.
     At Disney's Virginia park, the slave experience would permit visitors a shudder of horror before they turned away, smug and self-exculpatory, from a world that may be dead but has not really been laid to rest.
  22. ^ "Disney Called Threat to Va. Farms". Los Angeles Times. 24 March 1994. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  23. ^ Pacala, Mark (28 January 1994). "OPINION: In defense of Disney's America". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  24. ^ a b Bousian, Mark (21 January 1994). "Report Says Disney Overstates Benefits of History Theme Park". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  25. ^ Hsu, Spencer S. (4 May 1994). "Virginia Attractions See Threat in Disney". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  26. ^ H.Con.Res. 255
  27. ^ a b Fehr, Stephen C.; Shear, Michael D. (17 June 1994). "For Disney, fight takes new twist". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  28. ^ Eisner, Michael (20 June 1994). "OPINION: Let's Celebrate America". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  29. ^ Powers, William F. (21 June 1994). "Virginia's neighbors are courting Disney's America project". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  30. ^ "Disney Park Is Protested". The New York Times. 18 September 1994. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  31. ^ a b "Thousands Protest Disney History Theme Park Plans". Los Angeles Times. Reuters. 18 September 1994. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  32. ^ a b Baker, Peter; Hsu, Spencer S. (29 September 1994). "Disney gives up on Haymarket theme park, vows to seek less controversial Virginia site". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  33. ^ a b c Harris, Kathryn; Sanchez, Jesus (29 September 1994). "Disney Gives Up Plans for Park at Historic Site". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  34. ^ a b Fiore, Faye; Harris, Kathryn (30 September 1994). "Company Town: Some See Disney's Magic Dimmed With Pullout From Virginia Site". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  35. ^ Faiola, Anthony (3 March 1995). "Disney selling Virginia land and the new theme is departure". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  36. ^ Stewart, Nikita (5 April 2006). "Theme Park-Like Camp for Cub Scouts Built on Old Disney Site". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  37. ^ Ginsberg, Steven (24 November 2003). "Disney's Defeat Didn't Stop Growth -- Or End Debate -- in Prince William". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  38. ^ a b c "Disney's America: Celebrating America's Diversity, Spirit and Innovation". The Walt Disney Company. 1994. Archived from the original on 14 December 2016. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  39. ^ a b c d e Zenzen, Joan M.; foreword by Edwin Bearss (1998). "11. More Battles: The Horse and the Mouse". Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park. www.nps.gov. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01721-X. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  40. ^ Hill, Jim (12 July 2007). "Why For Zac Efron doesn't have more fans in Mouse House management". Jim Hill Media. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  41. ^ Hill, Jim (24 January 2005). "Another great what-might-have-been: Disney's American Celebration". Jim Hill Media. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  42. ^ "You're KNOTT going to believe where "Disney's America" almost got built". Jimhillmedia.com. 2005-02-02. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  43. ^ Moe, Richard (21 December 1993). "OPINION: Downside to 'Disney's America'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  44. ^ Willich, Richard R. (15 February 1994). "OPINION: Let Disney tell the story". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  45. ^ Squires, Richard (23 January 1994). "OPINION: Disney's Trojan mouse". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  46. ^ Gillespie, Nick (18 July 1994). "OPINION—Disney in Virginia: See how they cry". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 


External links[edit]