Co.Design

7 Insane Things Walt Disney Proposed For The First Disneyland

Miniature donkeys, flying saucers, and a "rocket space ship to the moon," among many more crazy ideas.

BoingBoing snagged a rare copy of Walt Disney's original--and completely insane--proposal for Disneyland. Some of the ideas in the proposal can be traced, directly or indirectly, to the eventual park; Tomorrowland made it into the final version, and Disney's "Liliputian Land," where nine-inch-tall robots talk to guests, is a clear predecessor to the "It's a Small World" ride.

Then there are . . . the other ideas. The ones that weren't practical then, aren't practical now, and won't be practical in the future. The ones that violate laws on interstate commerce and animal cruelty. The ones that have yet to become affordable enough to provide. Check them out below, and read the whole proposal over at BoingBoing.

1. Many of Disney's proposals are commerce-based; Disneyland from the start was designed to be a place for people to buy stuff. That included a catalog where you could have miniature donkeys, rare birds, and rare fish shipped to you, anywhere in the country. This likely violates several laws.

2. Disney loved animals, so much so that he wanted a safari ("Adventureland") that includes dozens of species of animals, like American alligators, monkeys, and otters--all of which require totally different habitats, and some of which eat the others. "You glide through the Everglades," he writes, "past birds and animals living in their natural habitat." Welp.

3. "When you enter the gigantic ROCKET SPACE SHIP to the Moon," Disney writes (emphasis his), "and are safety-belted to your seat, the trip through 'space' will be scientifically accurate." Cool! It's unlikely that there'd be anything scientifically accurate about a "roaring ride" past exploding stars, constellations, and comets, given the relative sizes and lengths of time needed to observe that stuff, but: sounds cool.

4. "FLY-THROUGH the air with PETER PAN, over London...past Big Ben clock...beyond the second star to the right for Never-Never Land. Fly over Captain Hook's ship...the Indian encampment...the Crocodile...Mermaid Lagoon...Through Skull Rock..." No detail on how you'll fly through the air is given.

5. In Frontier Country, Disney proposed that guests could take a stagecoach "past GRANNY'S FARM, a practical working farm operated with real live miniature horses, cows, oxen, and donkeys." This is actually technically possible; there are miniature breeds of all those animals. But the idea of full-blown production farm--only tiny--is still nutso.



6. Disney was so taken with the idea of his miniature perfect world that he proposed some boring miniatures, too. Does Main Street really need a miniature newspaper office or miniature bank? What are people supposed to do there?

7. Mickey Mouse was originally supposed to live in a multi-story treehouse on Treasure Island, where real treasure would be buried.

8. Bonus, a non-crazy idea: In the future, doors would open and close just by asking them to--they would "obey your voice like a Genie." This is easily doable today; probably all you need is an iPhone and a few rubber bands.

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26 Comments

  • Daniel Melvold

    When Disneyland opened, it had a newspaper and a fully functioning bank. It also had a fully functional barber shop, a brazier shop - and in fact Main Street was much more a functioning representation of a "Main Street USA". in fact, as late as 1986 when I started to work there, the bank was still a fully functioning bank and during our Cast Member Orientation, they even mentioned one could apply for a loan (mortgage/auto), at the BoA on Main Street. Over time the functionality of it gave way to the bean counters in favour of more profit zones - ie, SHOPS. The bank is now the current location of the Disney Gallery - it was the last of the functioning zones to leave the land when it was converted just prior to the park's Golden Anniversary. But what you call "zanny" actually survived the first 50 years of the park's history. Also, what you call "zanny", helped create the mood and atmosphere and charm that was Disneyland - unfortunately today that is on short supply in the parks.

  • Mike Wilton

    These aren't that "insane" and in most cases nearly ALL of these things came to light in Disneyland in some form or another. You also have to wonder if this document was meant to be taken literally.

    #2 is clearly the inspiration for what is now the Jungle Cruise, where you ride in a boat alongside animatronic animals in their native habitats.

    #3 The park opened with Rocket to the Moon, which is more or less this exact concept. The attraction took you through a simulated trip to the moon and back.

    #4 This is Peter Pan...you literally do all of these things on the attraction as you sit in a boat that is suspended over all of these locations as though you are flying.

    #6 This exists in the Storybook Land canal boats where you take a tour of numerous miniatures of various locations from classic Disney films.

    Next time do your research. All of these "completely insane" ideas eventually turned into something the park used. This article is awful.

  • Andrea Tallent

    There used to be a huge model of Walt Disney's idea of what Disney World should have been in Space Mountain. A person could only see it if they went on the people mover. I still wonder what became of it as it was fascinating. I looked forward to seeing that glimpse of Walt's idea every time we went.

  • Andrea Tallent

    I remember at Disney World there was huge model of a city park that Walt Disney had created. It was just fabulous. A person could see it when they went on the people mover through Space Mountain in Future land. I really missed it when it wasn't there anymore. I looked forward to this quick glimpse every time we went. I still wonder what became of it.

  • Aleks Vujovic

    The author of this article doesn't have enough imagination. They're all problems, sure, but just because you can't figure out the solution doesn't make them entirely invalid. It just makes you invalid for real-life implementation in the Disney ideology. You'll never be like Walt Disney, so stop pissing on his ideas.

  • Scott Thompson

    I comment on about one article a year, and generally don't see the point of negative comments. However, this is a truly regrettable "article." This is what a Buzzfeed post would be like if Buzzfeed hated imagination and fun.

    As it has been mentioned several times, a lot of these ideas have been implemented in one way or another. In different hands this could have been a great article about how blue sky thinking can lead to actual, tangible progress, but unfortunately the author's snarky attitude turned it into garbage.

  • Jay Shaw

    Wow Dan, looks like creativity has passed your life by... including the fact that you picked a few tidbits up off of the street and formulated an opinion totally out of perspective to what Disney has achieved. Every new idea begins as a grand dream and then is adapted to the real world to make it functional. If you were to venture inside the halls of today's design firms, you would find hundreds of comparable ideas posted everywhere. Better go back to describing how somthing someboday else built works.

  • I'm really surprised to read an article this jaded on co.design. Where is the appreciation for imagination? Are "blue sky" sessions really "insane"?

  • Cynthia Murnane

    Boy, I usually love these articles but this one is so off the mark. Walt Disney was a genius. Perhaps that was your point by illustrating (literally) the types of reactions he must have gotten.

  • I love how co.design writers venture outside the design and… apple industries just to let every reader know they do zero research on articles

    Thanks for the link to BoingBoing!

  • I love how co.design writers venture outside the design and… apple industries just to let every reader know they do zero research on articles

    Thanks for the link to BoingBoing!

  • Dan, you need to get out more. Have you ever been to any of the Disney parks? He's pretty much done everything that you're ridiculing here. Mission Space? The Jungle Cruise? The Peter Pan ride for goodness sake? These are stables of the Disney park experience. Better to sit there and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  • Joel Emmett

    Disney did all of those attractions. In a fashion.

    There was originally a donkey ride (a la the ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon).

    The miniature town thing can be seen in Germany at Epcot; miniature villages remain very popular there, and in Asia, so that was an established theme park concept.

  • Michael Watts

    This is what we experience now with the internet and the space for anyone and everyone to call themselves a freelance writer.........

    Not news and/or interesting content, rather a "soap box" for one to express an opinion--or grudge..........not saying one cannot have or do that, just not in the space of supposedly technical and newsworthy writing.............

  • The rocket ride was done in the first park, it took you to the moon, around it, and back. It was a very well done theater in the round actually, and had screens above and below the audience. When Apollo became commonplace to U.S. audiences, and attendance on it dropped, Disney replaced the ride. A miniature Bank and Newspaper; its called Education. He also did the Jungle ride, still running today. He used animatronics for all the animals once he realized the cost and problems associated with using real ones. Disney took amusement parks from carnival side show to family destination and set the bar for all future parks. He basically invented park branding by partnering with commercial entities to sponsor rides. A great example was Monsanto's house of the future. It had Flat Screen TVs and a microwave bases kitchen. Bell Telephone had picture phones. All in the late 1950's. I'm not sure what the intention of this article was, seems a bit mean spirited to me.

  • Roy Niles

    I agree, the article was mean spirited and worse. But then the writer may not have the imagination that made the Disneys of the world work.