When Hong Kong Disneyland was announced in 1999, the original concept was far grander than the one that eventually opened in 2005. Far closer to the first Disneyland in Anaheim, the Hong Kong theme park was to be a bigger enterprise than the four land park it is today. However, as history shows, budget cuts and managerial decisions lead to a much small world after all. With only four primary lands, as opposed to the traditional six or seven, it was obvious to many that a fair chunk of the original plans had been dropped from the drawing board by the time ground was broken on the Hong Kong resort.
In this section, we aren't speculating about forthcoming attractions or pointing fingers at where Disney went wrong. We merely wish to examine those areas of the park that were originally meant to be something else. After all, who doesn't enjoy a bit of armchair Imagineering?
On 2 November 1999, the official agreement between the Hong Kong SAR Government and The Walt Disney Company stated the original plans for the initial phase of the Hong Kong Disneyland development and their projections for future development.
The document contains the development proposal for the park, and includes mention of the lands and attractions we mention in details below. The press release has since become widely circulated on the Internet as an indication of how many compromises were made prior to the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland on 12 September 2005.
The full text of the the press release, with original concept art, may be found here.
The biggest difference between Hong Kong Disneyland and every other Disney them park is that it was not built with some form of Frontierland. However, this - along with Toon Town - were originally mentioned in the early Hong Kong Disneyland press releases.
Mentioned in the 1999 press release/project fact sheet, Disney described the planned Frontierland in the following way: "Frontierland is a walk right into the American Old West of the 1880s. Here park guests explore a frontier outpost at Fort Comstock. They might also take a frightfully funny trip through a haunted mansion, shoot the rapids on a river raft ride, or experience for themselves just how tough it is to be a bug in a one-of-a-kind show.". From this, we can gather that there were to be at least three lost attractions as well. The Fort sounds like an interactive play area, kind of like the former Tom Sawyer's Island in the US or Tarzan's Treehouse. The rafts could be something like the Grizzly River Run in Disney's California Adventure, or the Kali River Rapids in Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. The It's Tough to Be a Bug 3D (or '4D' if you prefer) show that can be found in Disney's California Adventure and Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida would have also been on the cards, which would have meant two such shows in Hong Kong Disneyland. Finally, and perhaps most disappointingly, the Haunted Mansion could be none other than the famous ride found in every other Disney resort in the world.
Another one described in the initial press release, Disney saw Toon Town as "Adjacent to Fantasyland will be Toontown, a wacky upside-down world where the beloved Disney characters live. Guests will be transported into a three-dimensional cartoon and meet one-on-one with Mickey Mouse. They will be able to stroll through Minnie’s house, climb aboard Donald’s boat or even zip through the wacky Toontown countryside on a whimsical roller coaster". Once again, we can probably gather that this meant the inclusion of tings such as Mickey's House Meet and Greet, Minnie's House, Donald's Boat and Gadget's Go Coaster.
Peter Pan's Flight
The press released promised guests that they could "fly to Neverland with Peter Pan". The dark ride would have "flown" guests through the key scenes of the story.
Little Mermaid Attraction
We don't know exactly what this could have been. It may have been the abandoned dark ride featured on The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition DVD, or a Parisian Voyage of the Little Mermaid stage show is unknown. This underrepresented character deserves more in every park!
Our friend the press release described this as "a roller coaster through a dark jungle filled with mysterious surprises", which sounds to us very much like Tokyo's Raging Spirits. This is now one of the long-rumoured attractions said to be 'one day' opening in Hong Kong Disneyland.
Mentioned originally as a " Dinosaur Archeological Site", this would have been very much like the play and exploration area found in Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Children could slip, slide, explore and play with fossils and 'artifacts' from the age of dinosaurs.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Allowing guests to "voyage to a whole new world on a magic carpet", one has to assume that this would have been the Dumbo-style ride found in Walt Disney World, Florida.
|Tomorrowland survived the process relatively unscathed, although it was not until July 2006 - 10 months after opening - that Autopia and the UFO Zone were finally installed in the futuristic setting. These were also joined by Stitch Encounter as part of the Summer 2006 Tomorrowland expansion.|
Thanks to the 2006 Tomorrowland expansion, Hong Kong Disneyland is slightly closer to what was originally planned. However, slightly is the operative word there, with the full park complement still two lands short of a theme park.
The above list does not represent a "list of things to come", although there are indications that at least some of them will surface one day. That said, it is not an exhaustive list either, as it's a small world is due to open in April 2008.
Hong Kong Disneyland is full of untapped potential. Some speak of expanded attractions and bigger rides; while others speak of a second park with expanded lands. Either way, we look forward to seeing Hong Kong Disneyland grow far beyond its original plans in the coming years.
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