The original plans for Walt Disney World Resort included several resort hotels to be built along the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. Along with The Contemporary and the Polynesian Village Resort, which actually did open with Magic Kingdom in 1971, there were also plans for resorts inspired by Italy, Asia, and Persia. While the resort is currently home to more than 20 value, moderate, and deluxe hotels, there have been several resort ideas tossed around over the years that never quite made it off the drawing board.
Disney’s Asian Resort
The concept for Disney’s Asian Resort was developed n the 1960’s with plans to officially open in 1974. Primarily inspired by Thailand’s culture, the hotel plans featured a large center building more than 160-feet tall with a restaurant on the top (much like The Contemporary’s California Grill). Guest rooms would have been arranged in a square on either side of the center building with the fourth side left open facing the Seven Seas Lagoon. The plans originally included 600 guest rooms, but was later scaled down to 500 rooms. The overall design of the resort would have had heavy Thai influences, including all of the furnishings and the cuisine. Around 2/3 of the guest rooms would have had garden or lake views, and 50 suites would have been deluxe rooms with a Thai royalty theme. Unfortunately, the 1973 oil crisis had a very damaging effect on the tourism industry at the time, so all plans for upcoming resorts were scrapped, including Disney’s Asian Resort. Although the land had already been cleared, the project was halted and the property was left empty until The Grand Floridian opened in its place in 1988.
Disney’s Persian Resort
Planned for the west side of Bay Lake, Disney’s Persian Resort was an Iranian themed deluxe hotel that also never came to fruition due to the oil crisis. The resort’s design would have been completely circular, centered by the main lobby building with a 24-foot dome roof. The main building would have featured the entrance/check-in area, shopping, dining, and meeting rooms. All throughout the resort, the buildings would have displayed a blue and white color scheme. This resort was also planned to include a monorail track spur that led right through Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. In 1978, the Shah of Iran (formerly known as Persia) offered to fund the project, but it ended up being permanently shelved after the Iranian Revolution.
Disney’s Venetian Resort
Disney’s Venetian Resort was meant to be a Venice, Italy themed deluxe resort located on the Seven Seas Lagoon. The centerpiece of this resort would have been a 120-foot tall replica of the tower found in St. Mark’s Square. In addition to offering leisurely rides around the resort, a gondola would have been used to take guests to and from their rooms during their stay at the hotel. Due to the oil embargo in 1973, this resort was never built. The idea was revisited later, but the designs for Disney’s Venetian Resort were ultimately used as a jumping off point for The Mediterranean Resort instead. A smaller version of the centerpiece tower can currently be found in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion.
Disney’s Mediterranean Resort
After The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (at the time called Grand Floridian Beach Resort) opened with much success in 1988, Disney was highly motivated replicate the victory with an even bigger luxury resort. Executives revisited the idea of the Venetian Resort but ultimately decided on a new theme and larger vision for the new deluxe hotel, which resulted in the plans for Disney’s Mediterranean Resort. The ultimate goal of the Greece inspired resort was to surpass the Grand Floridian and become a five star destination. Land was cleared between the Transportation & Ticket Center and Disney’s Contemporary Resort, but the area proved to be very swampy and returned ground samples that were not ideal for building and the project was eventually halted. The area that would have housed Disney’s Mediterranean Resort is currently still empty.
Fort Wilderness Junction
Fort Wilderness Junction, also referred to as Buffalo Junction Resort in some plans, is an unbuilt Disney hotel that was planned to be built on a plot of land that is now located between Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Announced in the 90s as part of the “Disney Decade” project, the 600-room resort was meant to be a moderately priced with an old west theme. The immersive retreat would have been like its own little town, similar to Disney’s Boardwalk Hotel but with a western twist. Inspiration for the project came from Euro Disney Resort, which was still under construction at the time. In addition to being styled like Disneyland Paris’ Cheyenne Hotel, Fort Wilderness Junction would have also had its own version of the Parisian favorite “Buffalo Bill Wild West Show”. This resort was originally meant to be an expansion of Fort Wilderness Resort but Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was already in the works. Although the Buffalo Junction project was slated to begin after Wilderness Lodge opened, the enthusiasm for the expansion was lost and the funds for Fort Wilderness Junction were eventually used elsewhere.