|Location||Haymarket, Virginia, United States|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Operated by||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
Disney's America was a planned theme park that was to have been built in the early 1990s in Haymarket by The Walt Disney Company. Announced in November 1993, the park, which would have been near Interstate 66 west of Washington, D.C., was to have been dedicated to the history of the United States and opened in 1998. Amid opposition from citizen's groups, however, the project was canceled in September 1994.
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.
Announcement and Initial Support
After concept plans for Disney's America were drawn up for the history-based attraction in 1993, it became Michael Eisner's pet project, obtaining the support of outgoing Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D) and incoming Gov. George Allen (R), as well as the Virginia Commission on Population Growth and Development. Many local citizens, including representatives of the historical society, supported the project for economic reasons.
Opposition & Project Abandonment
Public support, especially from the historian community, was mixed. Historian David McCullough described it as a "commercial blitzkrieg" while some 3,000 protestors staged a march against the park in mid-September 1994. By the time Disney withdrew the project in 1994, the New York Times could report that Disney "made it clear in a statement that the company had bowed to a torrent of criticism, in part out of a fear that opposition could delay the project." The land slated for the proposed park has instead become tens of thousands of single and multi-family homesites in the Dominion Valley and Piedmont housing developments.
The plans for Disney's America called for nine distinctly themed areas:
- Crossroads USA - A 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.
- Native America - 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.
- Civil War Fort - 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 and water battles between the Monitor and the Merrimac would have once again been fought.
- We The People - 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.
- State Fair - A 1930s area with a live show about baseball and Coney Island themed rides.
- Family Farm - 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.
- President's Square - 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 moved to this section of Disney's America.
- Enterprise - 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. 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.
- Victory Field - 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. Soarin' from Epcot and Disney's California Adventure was originally proposed for this area. 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 these concepts were slightly re-themed, becoming part of Disney California Adventure Park, 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).
Additional Proposed Development
According to Peter Rummel, president of Disney Design and Development, plans included:
- resort hotels
- an RV park
- a golf course
- and nearly 2 million square foot for retail and commercial development.
Additionally, there were tentative plans to sell land for over 2,000 residential unit and municipal buildings including schools and a library.
Proposed conversion of Knott’s Berry Farm
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.
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