When Michael Eisner took the reins of the Walt Disney Company, he
recognised the tremendous success Walt Disney World had as a vacation
resort, and wanted to replicate that model at Disneyland California. Crucial
to his massive expansion would be the construction of a second gate, but
without the blessing of size in Florida, the Imagineers were going to have
to do some creative thinking about where to place the new park. Michael
Eisner approached the Imagineers for some ideas with one piece of direction;
Initials plans were for a west coast version of Epcot, known as Westcot,
which would have gone on the Disneyland parking lot, where Disney's
California Adventure is now located. Unfortunately, plans got more and more
ambitious to the point where Westcot just wasn't financially feasible.
Eisner put a halt to the plans, and instructed the Imagineers to think up
At the same time as this, the Walt Disney Company had bought the Queen
Mary and Spruce Goose which were on display in Long Beach, just a short
drive from Disneyland, in a deal which had the goal of buying the Disneyland
Hotel (Walt had sold the rights to the hotel to fund the park's
construction). The Imagineers realised that these attractions could become
the anchor of sea themed park on the Long Beach coast, solving the problem
of the minimal land available in Anaheim. Eisner liked the idea, but didn't
want to put all his eggs in one basket. He created two teams; one to design
the sea themed park resort for Long Beach, a project known as Port Disney,
and one to create a park for Anaheim. His plan was to play off the two city
councils against each other and gain the most favourable terms for Disney.
Port Disney would contain a theme park, DisneySea, but so much more as
well - it would have been a resort all of its own, linked to Disneyland with
a dedicated Disney bus service to shuttle guests between them. Furthermore,
the entire resort would be linked with its own monorail circuit, with stops
at the hotels, retail areas and theme park. It was a $2.8 billion project,
covering 414 acres and divided into two sections, Port Side and City Side,
separated by Queensway Bay but connected by water taxis and the monorail.
City Side would contain the Marina Hotel near the Long Beach Convention Center
and hold 700 mid-priced rooms, while the Shoreline Resort Hotel would have
been a 400 room luxury hotel of suites and condos. The highlight of the
Shoreline Resort Hotel would have been the adjacent Shoreline Aquatic Park,
an ocean themed retail area of shops, restaurants, theatres and
entertainments. The final hotel, the Tidelands Hotel, would be a 900 room resort with
extensive grounds and landscapes with nature trails, bicycle paths and rock
pools across a six acre site.
Port Side would have the flagship accommodation, the Port Hotel, would have been designed in an Italian,
Mediterranean style - something that would fit in Portofino. With 500 rooms
and suites, it would adjoin a small inlet for yachts and water taxis, themed
with old fashioned sea ships and rustic docks. The Canal Hotel, with a massive 14000 rooms, would have been themed to
Venice, with gondolas cruising the waterways between its buildings. With its
own shopping mall, Italian restaurants, retail area and 150 slip marina, the
Canal Hotel would have evoked northern Italy (in contrast to the Port
Hotel's southern and central representation). After a redesign, the Canal
Hotel was renamed the Regatta.
Port Side, the more fantasy of the two sections in contrast to the urban
dynamism of City Side, would be centred around WorldPort - the hub of Port
Disney. As well as transportation, dining and retail, WorldPort would have
theme boats, pageants and special events. It would contain the Queen Mary
luxury liner, moved 700 feet from its current location - although despite
terming it an important visual icon of the project, Disney didn't really
know what they were going to do with it.
Beyond WorldPort would be Disney's very own five-berth port - the west
coast hub of the Disney Cruise Line offering routes north and south to
Mexico, Alaska, San Francisco, Mazatlan, Ensenada and Seattle, making Long
Beach the largest cruise terminal on the west coast. A 1,500 space parking
structure and 250 slip public marina would complete the port, along with
fishing piers, a promenade stretching all along the coast. A second, 17,000
space parking structure would block views of the ugly cargo port nearby.
But, of course, the jewel of Port Disney would be the
DisneySea theme park.