For hardcore fans of Disney’s theme parks, there’s perhaps no more interesting topic than unbuilt Disney. Everything from attractions and restaurants to full theme parks is poured over by members of the fan community, with everything from Imagineering plans to building permits studied to understand why these projects never saw the light of day.
Today we’ll be looking at three hotels that were once planned for Walt Disney World. Each was scheduled to be built along the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, and had any of them been, the Magic Kingdom Resort area would be fundamentally different than it is today.
Disney’s Asian Resort
The first unbuilt hotel we’re looking at is Disney’s Asian Resort, which was designed in the 1960s with the rest of phase one of Walt Disney World. According to the plans, the Resort was planned to have 500-600 heavily themed rooms built to mimic Thai architecture. The hotel was also to include a 160-foot-tall central tower topped by a restaurant.
Plans for the resort were well underway as Walt Disney World was under construction, with land cleared out along Seven Seas Lagoon and an access road to the site fittingly named Asian Way. The company planned to begin construction in 1972, however the 1970s energy crisis and the resultant downturn in tourism led to the Asian Resort being shelved. The Grand Floridian was built on the planned site of the Asian in 1988, effectively ending any chance of the hotel ever being built.
Disney’s Persian Resort
The Asian Resort wasn’t the only Disney hotel to fall victim to the early 1970s energy crisis. The company was also planning to build Disney’s Persian Resort on the shores of Bay Lake. The complex was planned to replicate Middle Eastern architecture, complete with spires and domes. Plans also seemed to indicate that the Resort would have a Monorail route that would run to Magic Kingdom.
The idea of the Persian was briefly resurrected in the late 1970s, when the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, allegedly offered to fund the project. However, the Iranian Revolution put a stop to the plans once again.
Disney’s Venetian/Grande Venezia/Mediterranean Resort
The final site we’ll look at — located between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Disney’s Contemporary Resort — has been planned for not one, not two, but three unbuilt Disney Resorts. The first, like the Asian and Persian Resorts, was planned to open in the 1970s. The Venetian Resort was to be themed after Venice Italy, complete with canals and a marina. Like the others, development was killed by the 1970s energy crisis.
Plans for a similar Resort on the site, to be known as Disney’s Grande Venezia Resort, were drawn up in the 1990s. The complex would have featured “intricately designed buildings with terra cotta roofs, canals with functioning gondolas, lighted fountains, a masquerade-themed pool, a conference center, and a wedding chapel.”
The site was also considered for a planned Greek-themed complex in the late 1990s. Known as Disney’s Mediterranean Resort, the hotel would have been themed to a Greek fishing village built on the banks of the Seven Seas Lagoon and was planned to rival the Grand Floridian in luxury and price. Allegedly the hotel wasn’t built due to the swampy nature of the ground at the site, which would have made the Mediterranean too expensive to build for Disney’s liking.