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A Friday Visit With Jim Korkis: The Missing Disney World Resorts



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE THREE MISSING DISNEY WORLD RESORTS

By Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis on the Missing Disney World Resorts from yourfirstvisit.netIn 1970, the Disney Company announced its hotel plans for soon-to-open Disney World:

“The hotels are called ‘theme resorts’ because everything from interior décor to employees’ costumes and dining room menus will carry out an overall theme. Two hotels, the Contemporary-style and the Polynesian, will open the first year. The Asian, Persian and Venetian will follow later in the Phase One plan.”

The Phase One plan for Walt Disney World was that not everything could be built and operational by October 1971, but rather was planned to be added in total within the first five years.

The Disney Company was very specific what the Asian, Persian and Venetian hotels would be like:

“The Asian hotel will be strongly Thai in its motif. A theme restaurant and lounge at the top of its 160 foot tower building will provide an enchanting setting for nighttime dancing and stage show entertainment. Each of its 600 rooms, including 50 elegant suites in royal Thai décor, will look out on the lagoon or a central recreation area.”

Jim Korkis on Missing Disney World Resorts from yourfirstvisit.net

The Asian resort hotel was scheduled to open by 1973. Land had been cleared and prepared where Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa stands today.

A square plot of land prominently jutted out into the Seven Seas Lagoon and the nearby road had been dubbed “Asian Way”. There were also plans to have large meeting rooms under the guest area of the resort for conventions.

Design for the Asian resort went as far that a sample interior for the rooms was completed and approved, and elaborate Oriental gardens had been designed by landscaper Bill Evans. Guest rooms would have been arranged in a square around the perimeter, with two-thirds of the guest rooms having beautiful garden or lake views. The remainder of the rooms would have been in a tower building providing a view into the central recreation area that would probably have featured a themed pool.

“At the Venetian resort, an enclosed small boat harbor and intricate system of waterways will recreate the old world charm of the famed Italian ‘City of Canals’. Shopping will be a unique experience as guests travel by gondola along ‘streets of water’ and under ornate bridges linking various sections of the resort. The style is reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square, complete with a 120 foot campanile which will toll the time. The entire lobby will be glass-topped, creating a brilliant, sunlit atrium effect indoors.”

Intended to be located between the Contemporary Resort and the Ticket and Transportation Center on the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Venetian would have resembled the current Italian pavilion at the World Showcase at Epcot in terms of architecture and style.

“Stepping right out of The Arabian Nights is the Persian resort which will reign like an exotic far-Eastern palace on the Northwest shore of [Bay Lake]. Jewel-like mosques and columns will rise above landscaped courtyards, while terraced sundecks offer sculpted swimming pools and ‘old Persian’ dining facilities. Guests will practically be able to sail to their own rooms through a sheltered marina.”

Intended to be located to the north and slightly east of the Contemporary Resort on Bay Lake, the Persian would have been laid out in a circular pattern with a large central building featuring a twenty-four foot blue dome. Smaller blue domes would have highlighted the white columns and buildings.

After a stop at the Contemporary, the monorail would have journeyed to the Persian. From there, instead of the current route, the monorail would take a short detour through nearby Tomorrowland, just like the monorail at Disneyland, to offer park guests a glimpse of the highway in the sky in the future.

These unbuilt resorts were meant to create an exotic and unique experience for WDW guests from the seven seas of the world. That’s why it is the Seven Seas Lagoon.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! None of these were built–partly because of the 1973 oil crisis, and partly because attention (and capital) turned to Epcot. As Jim noted, the location planned for the Asian hotel was filled by the Grand Floridian in the late 80s.

Disney comes back now and then to the Venetian resort location, which would be on the monorail and is classed as a suitable site for development on Disney’s land-use plans. (Red circle on the map below, cut and pasted  from this.)

Jim Korkis on Disney World Unbuilt Hotels from yourfirstvisit.net

However, apparently the soil characteristics make it very expensive to build there.

The site for the Persian, circled in gold, is now classed as “Marginally Suitable,” which is defined in the land use plans as areas where development “is strongly discouraged and would require mitigation of wetland impacts.”

Come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis.

In the meantime, check out his books, including The Vault of WaltWho’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, and The Book of Mouse, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.

MORE DISNEY WORLD HISTORY POSTS FROM JIM KORKIS

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2 comments

1 Anthony { 06.19.15 at 10:36 am }

Great report. I’ve read about these resorts before, but you’ve provided a lot more detail that I’ve seen earlier.

It’s always nice to think about what could have been. The hard part is not letting the vision of what could have been taint what is currently there. With that said, I’ve never been a fan of the Grand Floridian’s theme.

2 Dave { 06.20.15 at 8:36 am }

Thanks Anthony!

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