Visitors from various destinations worldwide have traveled to Anaheim to visit the “Happiest Place on Earth” to see Mickey, Minnie and friends, indulge in one of Disneyland’s famous treats, or ride classic attractions like Space Mountain.
But another Southern California city was almost home to its own Disney magic: Long Beach.
Back in the ’90s, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner announced the Disney Decade, a plan that looked at how the company would expand across all sectors.
Included in those plans was the idea for Port Disney and a DisneySea theme park similar to the one the company currently has in Tokyo. But those theme park plans never materialized.
The elaborate proposed resort in Long Beach would have included six hotels, shopping and dining districts, in addition to a theme park and a cruise ship port for the Disney Cruise Line. Disney’s luxury cruise concept was in its infancy at the time, according to writer and historian Michael Crawford.
Crawford, who also cohosts a Disney history podcast, remembers when the Disney Port plans were first announced, reading about it in the newspaper.
“I grew up on the East Coast and I followed Disney as a kid and this was something they had in the annual report and something they had in the paper,” Crawford said. “As a young fan, I was really intrigued by it. It sounded like a really promising project.”
Plans for Port Disney began in 1988 when Disney finally purchased the Disneyland Hotel from its former owner, Jack Wrather, who built and operated the hotel adjacent to the famed theme park.
After the Wrather’s death, Walt Disney Co. purchased his company from his widow. Along with obtaining ownership of the hotel, the company discovered they were the proud new owners of other assets, most of which they decided to sell off, according to Crawford.
“One thing they did keep was a long-term lease to the Queen Mary, the Spruce Goose, and an accompanying parcel of land there on the bay in Long Beach,” Crawford said. “So, they started looking at this as an opportunity to develop a theme park there.”
While Disney had big plans for its most ambitious project yet, turning it into reality proved more challenging than expected.
Due to the proposed location of Port Disney and its potential impact on the environment, the company had to consult with local, state and federal officials.
In California, projects that aren’t considered necessities to the public could be subject to environmental review to determine how the proposed project will impact the environment.
Due to these potential complications, along with other roadblocks, Disney decided to cancel plans for Port Disney and focus on other projects shared in the Disney Decade plan, which included building another theme park in Anaheim.
“There were plans to build a second theme park in Southern California, and it was going to be in Anaheim in the parking lot of Disneyland. The project was going to be called WestCot, the West Coast version of Epcot,” Crawford said.
The WestCot plan never panned out, but the company did use the proposed site to develop the area that would come to be known as Disney’s California Adventure Park.
Now, decades later, Walt Disney Co. is once again eyeing a potential expansion for the Disneyland Resort. The plan, known as Disneyland Forward, details how officials want to update and renovate the Anaheim theme park.
The project will include new attractions, shops and restaurants within its existing 490-acre footprint, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In 2021, Disneyland officials told media outlets they did not plan to ask the city of Anaheim for more space for the theme park extension, but instead would add new additions to the park in the underdeveloped areas around the resort that the company already owns.
Specifically, officials want to add new theme park additions around the two Disney hotels west of the theme parks and in the site of a parking lot east of the resort.
The plan also seeks to update the zoning code for the undeveloped areas so theme park, hotel, retail, dining and entertainment additions could be built on the land. Disney officials previously wanted to add a third entrance to the resort, but those plans were abandoned after Disney received pushback from Anaheim city officials.
The company has not announced how much a possible expansion would cost, but it previously stated that the endeavor would be privately funded.
Disney officials have invited its Anaheim neighbors to community coffee events at local parks so officials can explain what the proposed plan entails and give residents a chance to ask questions about the proposed expansion.
Many hope the newest proposed expansion succeeds where other scraped ideas, like Port Disney in Long Beach, couldn’t.