Disney History: The Unbuilt Resort Hotels of Walt Disney World

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.

A view of the Seven Seas Lagoon, ringed by several resorts that were never built.

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.

Concept art of Disney’s Unbuilt Asian Resort

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.

Concept art of Disney’s Unbuilt Persian Resort

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.

Concept art of Disney’s Unbuilt Venetian Resort

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.

Concept model of Disney’s Unbuilt Mediterranean Resort

Do you wish Disney had built any of these hotels in the Magic Kingdom Resort area? Which would you have liked to stay in? Let us know in the comments below!

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10 Replies to “Disney History: The Unbuilt Resort Hotels of Walt Disney World”

  1. I’m fascinated by the Asian resort concept, and the Persian is great, too. I love that they all had such immersive themes; such classic Walt showmanship. Except for the Contemporary and the Polynesian, the resorts there today run the gamut from generically homogenized to post modern tacky. The value properties in particular remind me of the original Disney’s California Adventure Park.

  2. I wish they had built them all, tbh. I’m sure the names would have been changed by the 90s. I think it would be nice to have more infrastructure in a smaller area, more monorail stops, more to see and do near Magic Kingdom. Then maybe Disney would feel more like the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. Now it is so spread out and annoying to use the slow buses and other resort transportation to get around. I would love being able to get more places efficiently by monorail.

  3. I wish they would resurrect the Venetian and the Greek style hotels. They would be spectacular additions to the seven seas lagoon.

  4. I would like to see the All Star Resorts changed at some point. To me it always seemed like since they were considered “value” resorts, Disney made them fast trying to cover up the “cheapness” with large statues/icons. You can stay at a good neighbor or Disney Springs Hotel for about the same price and the rooms and grounds are better. Let’s bring back some of these cool ideas and redo those value resorts! ❤️

  5. I always thought it would be cool to have a middle eastern resort (like the Persian) built near Epcot to back up to the Moroccan pavilion, maybe with a private entrance to the park?

  6. What about the resort concept of the early 1900’s? I stayed at the Pop Century in 2010 and heard talk that they were doing another resort over the bridge (bridge of time?), where the theme were decades that predated the decades at the Pop Century. The earlier resort was not built and instead, the site was used to build the Art of Animation Resort. I think I would have liked to see that.

    But of those listed in the article, the last resort with the white Greek flair.The white was probably just a default concept color. Disney would have created some visual flair, of this I am certain!

    1. They scrapped those because they thought only very old folks would have any memories of the early 20th century and the family experience would not be as good.