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The never made it list

A passion of mine is learning about attractions, ideas and projects that never materialized, especially those related to the Disney-MGM Studios and there have been a number of them.  Many of them were conceived before the Studios opened, during the planning stages of the park and it’s interesting to see not only what could have been but why it never went through.  I’ve researched a few of these “never made it’s” and each is quite unique and makes you sit back and wonder what it would be like to have had these attractions in the park today.

Mickey’s Movieland

When the Studios were first slated to open, Mickey’s Movieland was to be an area of the new park dedicated to showcasing the art of making feature films that would be highly interactive.  A Disney Crew publication in 1990 provided the following description:

“A replica of Disney’s original Hyperion Avenue Studio, where guests will encounter whimsical, hands-on movie making equipment where they can live out their own motion picture producing fantasies.”

Mickey's Movieland Concept Art (Copyright 1989. The Walt Disney Company)
Mickey's Movieland Concept Art (Copyright 1989. The Walt Disney Company)

In fact, Mickey's Movieland started as an attraction concept for EPCOT Center, for inclusion in a "Moviemaking" Pavilion and Imagineers Tim and Steve Kirk worked (with Ward Kimball consulting) on ideas for this attraction concept.  The idea became so big that the pavilion was later expanded to become the Disney-MGM Studios. In fact, a whole land was proposed which would portray, in Audio-Animatronics tableux, a comic behind-the-scenes history of the making of early Mickey Mouse cartoons. The project never made it out of the concept stage and instead, the Tower of Terror project happened (and subsequently Sunset Boulevard).

Roger Rabbit's Hollywood

The Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989 at the height of Roger Rabbit’s popularity and although there weren’t any Roger Rabbit attractions when the park opened, Roger’s presence was in the parks, such as the Maroon Studios billboard and the window above Hollywood & Vine restaurant showing a silhouette of Roger Rabbit to make it look like he had gone through the window. The idea for Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood (which was also known as Cartoon Hollywood) and was projected to have open in the mid-1990s. According to a New York Times article, the area was described, “This will be a kind of Toontown, where -- as in the movie - only cartoon characters may live.”

Three attractions were planned for the area: Toontown Trolley, Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy Ride and Benny the Cab.  Toontown Trolley was a simulator that used screens around it to project a movie of a wild trolley ride through Toontown, similar in ride apparatus to Star Tours. Baby Herman’s Buggy Ride would have guests board oversized buggies and ride through different sets of the Toontown Hospital, which was inspired by the Roger Rabbit short “Tummy Trouble”.  Benny the Cab was to be a dark ride that was actually later built at Toontown in Disneyland.  Also included was a restaurant called the Terminal Bar & Grill, based on the restaurant featured in the feature film.

Unfortunately, the project was scrapped after tension between Disney and Amblin Entertainment (Amblin jointly owned the Roger Rabbit franchise with Disney) led to delays in the attraction and without any new Roger Rabbit films, the character’s popularity faded and hope for the attractions with it.

Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers

Disney anticipated the Dick Tracy film was going to be a big success and planned an attraction that would re-construct the Depression-era gangster world of the Dick Tracy film.  The ride would be a high-speed chase ride in which guests can operate gangster-style tommy guns. The attraction was to feature Audio-Animatronics and some great special effects. According to a press release from Disney, the attraction was described as, "Guests will literally get "into the act" in this new high-tech action-adventure featuring the very latest in Audio-Animatronics, simulation, sound and special effects. Guest will join America's favorite comic-strip detective in a high-speed chase with his gangster adversaries."

Dick Tracy Crime Stoppers Concept Art (Copyright 1989. The Walt Disney Company)
Dick Tracy Crime Stoppers Concept Art (Copyright 1989. The Walt Disney Company)

The project didn’t make the final cut because of two reasons: the film struggled mightily at the box office and then-CEO Michael Eisner deemed the attraction “too violent”. However, thebox office struggles as well as Eisner's view on Crimestoppers didn't stop Dick Tracy Diamond Doublecross from being performed at the Theater of the Stars from June 1990 through September 1991, which would later become the home of the Beauty and the Beast stage show.

Muppet Studios

The Muppet Studios had two major parts to it and one part as we all know was actually built and is still at the Studios today.  Muppetvision 3D was planned since the concept of Muppet Studios, but the idea for Muppet Studios was grander than what we see today in the parks.  In addition to Muppetvision 3D, there was to be the Muppets Movie Ride, which according Jim Henson would be, “it would be a backstage ride explaining how movies were shot…and all the information is wrong.”  Both attractions were being developed by Jim Henson himself and the entire area that now has the Streets of America backlot and Backlot Theater was to be the Muppet Studios and the Muppet Movie Ride was slated to open in 1993.

The Muppet Movie Ride had the scope of being a premier attraction at the Studios.  Where Muppetvision 3D was a simple 3D film, the Muppet Movie Ride would be a major attraction with audio animatronic Muppets and special effects.  Like the name hints, the Muppet Movie Ride would be a parody of the Great Movie Ride that would appear to be the same as the scenes you would find in the Great Movie Ride, only you would see go wrong and then Muppet style fun would ensue.

Unfortunately, Jim Henson died in May of 1990 and Disney Imagineers decided to hold off on construction until the merger talks had been completed between the Jim Henson Company and the Disney Company.  Subsequently in the early 1990’s, merger talks fell through as well as plans for the proposed attraction.  Muppetvision 3D had been built, but the area for the Muppet Movie Ride as well as a Muppet themed restaurant was used for stores and Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano instead.

In gathering all this information, I found a number of sources, but two stood out for their in-depth information of some of these attractions and if you’d like to read more information about some of these could-have-beens, then check out these links.

Muppet Studios article by Jim Hill

Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood by Jeff Pepper

Agree with what I said? Disagree? Have a story to share sparked by this column? Share your own idea by posting a comment below.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 by