The Disney That Never Was
ADAPTED FROM THE SHOWNOTES OF THE DISNEY DISH PODCAST
After Disneyland opened, Walt quickly realized he needed to give people a reason to come back, again an again. Changes and additions to the park could certainly help – but what’s better than a new attraction? A whole new park! And if that park came with a new built-in audience, all the better.
It just so happened that at this point in time, there was a unique confluence of socio-economic happenings in the USA.
Long-term mortgages of 20-30 years were becoming available (previously these loans were much shorter, around 5 years) which allowed people to buy second homes for vacation purposes. The economy was booming and people had more disposable income than ever to spend on leisure and luxuries. And technology was advancing to the point where things were possible that had been mere fantasy decades earlier.
The space race was on, and young adults were fascinated by anything sleek and modern. They were largely well-educated and well-employed, and wanted to spend their money on something nice for their families (and maybe “keep up with the Joneses”). Trade shows that showcased the best in modern living were the perfect way to demonstrate how they could – or should – be living.
Several of Walt Disney’s employees attended these shows and brought back materials that called to his attention the high attendance of the public (hundreds of thousands of people flocking to see the latest and greatest innovations), the opportunity for millions of dollars in sales to trade and consumers, and the ability to gauge what lifestyle products were most popular in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve for future Disneyland developments. An idea was born.
By 1962, Walt and his team had outlined an enormous project by the name of California Living. Structured much like Disneyland, it was composed of different lands, all accessed by a communal entry/exit point full of shops. The areas were structured around terrain types (mountains, beach and marina, and desert – awfully similar to the eventual design of Disney’s California Adventure, don’t you think?) and would each feature a central focus hub for special events (boat shows, car shows, motor home shows, Ice Capades, etc.) along with resort space to show off the unique elements of leisure in that type of terrain.
The Mountain Resort Area would feaure a mountain range, waterfalls, model cabins, lakeside model homes, and even a small-guage railroad. A hunting lodge themed restaurant and shows like yodeling, folk dancing, and skeet shooting would add to the rustic appeal here. They were planning Alps-style lakes with boating, fishing, camping, and more. A camp for underpriviledge kids was considered for this space too.
Over in the Beach and Marina Area, guests would find yachts and cruisers, model beach homes, and more camping. A Polynesian restaurant and an underwater seafood bar would draw diners, and boating, surfing, marlin fishing and more would be the sources of entertainement here.
The Desert Area would be modeled on the outdoor living concept so popular in Palm Springs. Patio furniture, BBQ equipment, swimming pools, and more would be on display alongside tennis and golf demonstration areas. Mobile homes and camping would factor in here too. Spanish fare and a cook-your-own-steak restaurant were in the works.
But, this idea was larger than life and the team at Disney was putting all their hard workin into the 1964 World’s Fair, The Sword in the Stone, and Mary Poppins. It was put on hold, until later that year Chemstrand (a subsidiary of Monsanto, who sponsored Disneyland’s Home of the Future exhibit) showed some interest in the idea, and they were off to the races!
With the second gate under serious consideration it was time to pull back from the big dream stage and figure out what was possible in reality to fit at Disneyland. The scaled down version, called Design for Living, included a series of pavilions: Mobile Homes (including one unit with the then-new technology of air conditioning), Travel Trailers, Campers, Trail Blazers (like Jeeps, off-highway vehicles, backpacking and pack horse equipment), Camping, and Floating (houseboars, cruisers, water skiing, etc.), and Vacation Homes (log cabins, chalets, desert-style concrete block homes, and one-room cabins).
A few months later, by the end of 1962, the project was put on hold, and never again re-visited.
Interestingly, some other potential projects from this time included an Aviary, Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Exhibit, and International Village displaying foreign cultures, and a Museum – these ideas came to fruition one way or another at Epcot!
If you want to hear more about Design for Living, check out The unofficial Guide Disney Dish Podcast here!