Legacy Content

The Fabulous Disney Babe
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by Michelle Smith (archives)
May 25, 2001
This week Michelle discusses one of the greatest lands that never was - Discovery Bay.

Discovery Bay

I’ve been getting an overwhelming amount of mail concerning Disney’s greatest Neverland, DiscoveryBay. “What’s the big deal, Fab?” “What is it, Fab?” “Why is it your screen name?” “Was it for Disneyland or Walt Disney World?”

The model stood in the Previews of Coming Attractions…attraction…for a few years before quietly disappearing. I spent a good chunk of every bi-yearly Disneyland visit with my nose glued to the covering of the model, and eagerly awaited the day I could finally visit this wonderful place. Alas, I’m still waiting.

Discovery Bay was to have been located in the northern portion of Frontierland, where the Festival Arena and now-closed Big Thunder Barbeque are located. The Rivers of America was to have been expanded back into the area to form a "Bay." On a rock outcropping would stand one of the icons for the land, The Old Lighthouse. The Columbia would dock here, as well as several "set piece" crafts, similar to the entry of Tokyo DisneySea.

The land would be themed to Gold Rush era San Francisco of the 1850's-1880's, "a time and place that climaxed an age of discovery and expansion."

During the gold rush, Discovery Bay became home to the adventurous souls seeking new opportunity in this rich land, arriving from the East via the new cross-country Railroad link, bringing the culture and luxury of Europe and America's Northeast to the rugged frontier, earning the city a reputation as "The City of myths and eccentricities." With this backstory established, a western port city would have been a logical addition to Frontierland, and perfect bridge between Frontierland and Fantasyland. While the present-day Big Thunder trail is convenient, the shift between the two lands is a little jarring.

Discovery Bay would have filled in a few much-needed gaps at Imagineering at the time it was pitched, providing a home for some concepts that Imagineers were having trouble placing in the strongly defined “lands” of Disneyland, and offering a place for some fascinating new concepts. This one-of-a-kind land was flexible, as well, with the many styles of adventure offered there.

One of the areas would be a traditional Gold Rush era Chinatown, with several exotic eateries, merchandise, and an attraction alluded to many times in Disney Imagineering since: The Fireworks Factory. The Fireworks Factory would have been a shooting gallery themed to an assembly line, where guests could shoot at the packaged pyrotechnics with explosive results: skyrockets, pinwheels and various firecrackers providing guests a lot of “bang” for their buck (or half-buck, anyway). There’s a Fireworks Factory in Mickey’s Toontown, as well as the late-lamented barbecue restaurant at Pleasure Island (whose founder, Merriweather Adam Pleasure, was loosely based on Jason Chandler, Discovery Bay’s most prominent citizen, of whom I’ll go into in more detail in one of my later Discovery Bay articles. This place is my main passion, you know), and on a mural between the Stage Door Café and the RiverBelle Terrace.

Appleseed’s Cider Mill was to have stood at the entrance to the land, along with a cart selling apples and cider. The cart is there, now, just about exactly where it was supposed to be had Discovery Bay been built. It was tarted up for the Hunchback show, but you can see its “Art Nemo” (thank you, Moonliner Paul) styling in the shapes used in its construction and porthole window. Side note: someone wrote to me asking for the recipe for Legoland’s apple fries, which would have rocked at the apple cart: spiral cut Granny Smith apples, roll in a mixture of corn starch, cinnamon and sugar, fry them, sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar, and top with whipped cream. To die for!

So, starting from the apple cart and working North, we would have had the Cider Mill, then the Lighthouse, the Columbia and some prop ships, The Fireworks Factory and Chinatown, and then, slightly to the Northwest, the Hyperion Airship hangar that guests in Disneyland Paris’ Discoveryland see now. The building would have hosted, instead of a stage show/dining area, the Island at the Top of the World attraction, which I’ll get into more detail about later.

To the East of the Hyperion and North of Chinatown we would see the Nautilus Submarine, which Jason Chandler rescued from its watery grave. Guests would tour the submarine, as they do now in Paris, but would end up in the fabulous Grand Salon restaurant. Think Blue Bayou meets The Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot’s The Living Seas meets a Victorian bordello. (Sorry). This would be extremely fine dining, with the fish eye window opening, as in the film, to reveal real fish in real water, cavorting as you dine on their relatives.

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