OPEN THREAD: “Imagineering” Disney’s America in Williamsburg

Okay, boys and girls — put on your mouse ear hats and roll up your sleeves.  We’re doing an open thread here where you get to play Disney “Imagineer.”  We have some sketches and plans from the original “Disney’s America” that was set for Prince William County back in the ’90s as a basis to start from.  But what would YOU have Disney put in such a park (whether it be a remodeled Busch Gardens or built from scratch on undeveloped land elsewhere in/near Williamsburg)?  What would you suggest?  Here’s your chance to have some fun!


First up, an overview of the park: 

To give you a feel for the scope of things, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is 100 acres while Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando is 107 acres, so the parks are of comparable size.  One would expect, particularly if the Disney-Busch Gardens scenario comes to pass, that they would be dealing with a park of this size for Disney’s America. 

Now for the various “lands” envisioned for the park:

Native American Village – An accurate Native American village reflecting the tribes that were known in this part of the country. And also enjoy interactive experiences, exhibits and arts and crafts, as well as an exciting white water river raft ride that would have gone all around the area, based on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Civil War – A Civil War Fort would have plunged guests into a more turbulent time of American history, and adjacent to it, a big battlefield, where Civil War re-enactments and water battles between the Monitor and the Merrimac would have once again be fought.

Ellis Island – Moving in the 20th century, a replica of Ellis Island building where many immigrants came through, guests would have live the “immigrant experience” through music, ethnic foods and a great live show presentation.

State Fair – Area that was going to show how even during the big Depression of the ’30s, Americans knew how to entertain themselves. With folk art exhibits and a live show on baseball, guests could have enjoy, too, classic wooden thrill rides in memory of Coney Island.

Family Farm – A Recreation of an authentic farm where guests could have the opportunity to see different types of farm industries related to food production in addition to some hands-on experiences like milking cows and learning what homemade ice cream tastes like.

President’s Square – A celebration of the birth of democracy and those who fought to preserve it. The Hall of Presidents of Walt Disney World would have moved to Disney’s America.

Enterprise – Enterprise, a factory town, would have highlighted American ingenuity and guests could have ridden a major roller coaster attraction called the “Industrial Revolution”, traveling through a 19th century landscape with heavy industry and blast furnaces. And, on either side of the coaster, exhibits of famous American technology that have defined the American industry in the past, and new developments that will define industries in the future.

Victory Field – On Victory Field guests would have experienced what America’s soldiers faced in the defense of freedom during the world wars. It would have looked like an airport area with a series of hangars containing attractions based on America’s military fight using virtual reality technology. The airport would have served also as an exhibit area of planes from different periods, as well as a place for major flying exhibitions.


Now here is where YOU come in. What would you include, either based upon the various descriptions or your own imagination?  What at Busch Gardens could be converted for use in a Disney’s America if they bought the park?

Here’s a few things that I would put forward…

First, Disney would be crazy not to incorporate their one Disney Princess who was based upon a real person.

The Algonquian Indians lived in Virginia’s Tidewater region and Pocahontas is closely associated with nearby Jamestown.  As a result, Disney could use the Princess hook to get people to learn about the real history.  This could be the centerpiece of their Native American Village.

Next thing that I would suggest is a corporate partnership along the lines of what Disney does in its other parks.  In this instance, the “American Girl” brand.  They could have a store within the park that only dealt with the historical American Girl dolls, especially given that two of their most popular ones are set in Colonial Williamsburg and they even have a movie about them.

One other item that would be a natural fit would be to base an attraction on the Disney’s American Legions film that tells the stories of Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyon, Casey Jones and John Henry.

 American Legends

For that matter, Disney has a vault full of historical / patriotic material that Disney’s America could put to good use.  Doesn’t anyone else remember watching Johnny Tremain in grade school?

Johnny Tremain

(Actually, to be honest, I thought that I remembered watching it, but since I hadn’t heard anyone mention it or seen anything about it since then, I started to think maybe I had just imagined the whole story and there was no such movie.)

Well, even if you don’t, there’s still the iconic Davey Crockett that Disney produced.

So, that all should get the creative juices flowing.  Do tell what you come up with, Imagineers!


13 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD: “Imagineering” Disney’s America in Williamsburg

  1. I’d like a tribute to the glory of speakeasies and swing dancing. Being the big lindy hop fan that I am, I think it would be cool to have dance instructors there and folks could drop in for a few minutes of dancing and lessons and then watch a show. Big band music and the rest, it should be a mix between Frankie Manning’s Savoy Ballroom and Glen Echo.

  2. I’d like to see something on America’s earliest settlements including Plymouth Rock, maybe something on the Lost Colony in North Carolina. I would hope the “Enterprise” park would pay tribute to Detroit’s auto industry (at least through the early 1960s) since America was still the industry leader at the time.

  3. I agree that Pocahontas would likely be a central theme.

    Most parks tend to have a centerpiece(Cinderella’s castle, the earful tower, Epcot ball), so I have been wondering what kind of centerpiece that there would be for such a park.

    Disney has a way of applying their movies to their various park sections. I could see them incorporating Pirates of the Caribbean into an early American section and perhaps the “Disney War Years” cartoons into the Wars Years section.

  4. Timothy,

    The PWC park fell through for a variety of factors. Most of it was a concerted effort by some locals / enviros / NIMBY-types who falsely claimed that it would spoil the Manassas battlefield. Of course, none of them raised their voices when the Piedmont and Dominion Valley communities were built and 5,000 homes went on that same site Disney had. That leads us to think that there is more to the story and that something fishy went on. Don’t forget, PWC 15 years ago was run by the good ol’ boy network of Dems, so you can bet there is at least a hint of corruption involved here.

    We’re going to dig a little deeper into what happened and one source has even provided us with a neat overlay map of the proposed Disney property with what is there now.

  5. has anyone heard anything about the possibility of moving this park to new jersey, right outside of Philadelphia?

    1. The NJ thing was an April Fool’s Day joke. I saw the email on that and all they did was cut and paste from the original 1993 press release when it was announced for Prince William County, VA.

  6. Are you seriously kidding me, with this nonsense? Look, I’m all for making history more approachable, but only when it is done with RESPECT for history–the good and the bad. You want to use Disney’s Pocahontas as the central theme? You want to use an image that is not accurate, a story that solidifies myth, and one that is, quite frankly, somewhat demeaning to actual Virginia Indians?
    You talk about the Civil War, without mentioning slavery?
    No mention of Civil Rights?
    What this does is whitewashes history, to make history more acceptable for your obvious “America the Christian nation should rule the world” doctrine. Please, do me a huge favor. Leave history to the historians.

    1. What I am suggesting is Disney using things from their archives as introductions to the real history behind their entertainment.

      And don’t tell me that historians are an unbiased group. They’re not. My mom was a college history professor for 40 years, so I have an insight into the process.

  7. Well Riley, then that would be a museum best left to Disney World, and it would be fascinating to see. I have no problem with Disney backing up their entertainment with the real history. I do, however, have a big problem with Disney making their own brand of “History Lite”. History does not happen in a vacuum, there are layers-upon-layers of stories (good, bad, ugly, beautiful) that compose that particular song. Taking history, and diminishing it, for entertainment is a grave disservice. I believe that to “lure” people into a manufactured history is completely dangerous. And do I have a bias? Of course I do. I think you would be hard pressed to find a single human being who does not. My opinion is that I believe that historical events should be told from ALL sides. I don’t see that happening in a Disney-like setting. Imagine a roller-coaster ride, for the Holocaust, and you may get close to my revulsion, in this regard. Tell me who would like to go on a ride that shows the tight-pack vs. loose-pack configuration in slave ships, during the Middle Passage?
    There are plenty of reasons to love Disney (I DO like Disney) and there are plenty of reasons to love American history. But those two things do not mix.

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