Disneyland Expansion Part1

February 8th, 2001, marked the day that Disney’s new “California Adventure” theme park opened right across the way from Disneyland. With a 1.4 Billion dollar price tag, this expansion included the new theme park, a shopping center, a brand new hotel, and renovations of an existing hotel.

The new park is themed around the exciting adventure of California. With various “districts” that display the fun and spirit of California, it was built atop Disneyland’s old parking lot. Even though the project was officially announced on July 17, 1996, the story begins far before then.

Back when Disneyland opened, in 1955, everyone thought Walt Disney was crazy. He was spending 17 million dollars on an amusement park. No one was really sure how it was going to turn out. Just think, if you saw somebody build an amusement park in the middle of an orange grove, wouldn’t you wonder “why”?

Well, opening day for the new park arrives. Within the first few months the park is a hit. But wait? Where are all these visitors going to stay. Walt Disney needed a nice hotel for all these guests to stay. He asks his pal Jack Wrather. Walt pleaded with Jack to help back the funds for a 60 acre site across from Disneyland.

Jack first said “no.” Walt was persistent, and made it a better bargain by giving Wrather the license to use Disneyland’s name on any hotel in California. To make the deal an everlasting cash machine, he made the contract last for 99 years.

This deal lasted far after Walt’s death. In fact, every year after Walt’s death Disney officials contacted Wrather. Every time, however, he said that he was happy with the deal he had. This all lasted until 1984, when Wrather died.

Just about this time Walt Disney Productions received a new leader-Michael Eisner. With a bit of bureaucratic run-around, and financial planning, the new Disney team finally got their way. After 34 years and a total of $161 million dollars Disney now had their own Anaheim Hotel. With this new hotel in grasp, Eisner wanted to expand Disneyland into something similar to what was done in Florida’s “Walt Disney World.”

Walt Disney Imagineering was asked to think up ideas for new parks. Originally ideas sprouted for a park on Disneyland’s parking lot, and one in Long Beach California. With the selection being eliminated to Anaheim, the Imagineers envisioned something grand. Something so great, it would outdo all other theme parks Disney had done. This new park would be called WESTCOT.

Rendering of WESTCOT (C) Disney. Text added by JustDisney.com
Westcot would be similar to Florida’s Epcot Theme Park (read about Disney’s Original EPCOT) As a centerpeice of the park would be a 300 foot “Spacestation” Earth. Crossing the bridge to Spacestaion Earth, is a World Showcase area filled with attractions, restaurants, and shopping.

Space Station Earth @ WESCOT (C) Disney
New Disney CEO Michael Eisner liked the idea. The park had everything. This was something that couldn’t be done in a day. A few days there, and then a day at Disneyland. Eisner was looking for this bait to draw people into this resort for a couple days at a time.

Everything seemed okay, however, someone neglected to ask Disneyland’s neighbors what they thought. Well, they thought that is wasn’t good. Neighbors to Disneyland created an organization against Disneyland expansion. This started a domino effect that eventually ran into congress.

At the same time of all this, Disney had just opened their newest park-Disneyland Paris. In the first few months, the park was way in the red. This nose dive caused a ripple in company expansion in 1992. The ripple ran right into WESTCOT

Considering the agitation of Disneyland neighbors, Imagineers adjusted the new park to their needs. Also scaling the design back. Instead of a beautiful globe as the parks symbol, it was changed into an odd spike monument.

After a few years of Westcot troubles Eisner looked to the opinion of his new Disneyland Resort President, Paul Pressler. Eisner asked Pressler to handle the Westcot situation, which he did. On July 17, 1995 Pressler announced the abandonment of Westcot.

Paul Pressler (was President of Disneyland)
now is head of Walt Disney Theme Parks (c) Disney
Go to Part Two of this article >

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