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Disneyland Doodlers Toy With Old Idea for New Attraction

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Co. designers are drafting plans for a new waterfront attraction inside Disneyland that would provide a badly needed upgrade to Frontierland and lure tourists to the park after a new one opens next door in Anaheim.

David Fisher, spokesman for Burbank-based Walt Disney Imagineering, said Thursday that the new attraction would be based on Discovery Bay--a decades-old idea that is being dusted off and modernized. It would be the largest addition to 43-year-old Disneyland.

The attraction, tucked behind the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer’s Island, would include a thrill ride in which a dormant geyser roars back to life, propelling riders in a mine-shaft elevator skyward.

The project has been the buzz of the tourism industry, among Disney aficionados and Internet junkies in recent weeks.

But park officials, who usually are mum when it comes to discussing projects still in the works, either don’t like the idea or don’t want to discuss it.

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Disneyland spokesman Ray Gomez dismissed talk of a possible Frontierland addition as just one of a blizzard of rumors about the park that have popped up of late on the Internet.

“Disneyland does not have plans for that project, anything called Discovery Bay or anything like it,” Gomez said. “And we have not been in any internal discussions about it.”

Among those working on reviving Discovery Bay is top Disney Imagineering designer Tony Baxter, Fisher said. Baxter headed the 1984 make-over of Fantasyland and this year’s revamp of Tomorrowland.

Baxter was traveling Thursday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Fisher described Discovery Bay as the most expensive of several attractions proposed for Disneyland. Industry experts and longtime observers said it’s the kind of project Disneyland needs to retain its appeal after the new park, Disney’s California Adventure, opens two years from now.

For starters, Discovery Bay fits well into an update of Old West-themed Frontierland, which park officials acknowledge is in need of an overhaul.

“I have heard from Imagineers that Frontierland is the next one they want to do,” said David Koenig, author of “Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland.” “It’s the one that’s gone the longest without a complete remodel.”

Discovery Bay has been on Disneyland’s long-range-planning charts since the mid-1970s, said Thor Degelmann, a longtime Disney executive who now has a theme park consulting business in Newport Beach. Initial plans included nautical, San Francisco and California gold rush themes, elements that would extend Frontierland’s Old West concept.

In 1985, park officials even announced they were planning something for the area--only to back away from it a year later.

In addition to the geyser ride, the new area could include re-creations of the submarine from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” the Jules Verne tale that won Oscars as a Disney film in 1954, and the airship from “Island at the Top of the World,” a Disney Arctic fantasy that bombed in 1974.

Those elements, part of previous work on Discovery Bay, reappeared in an internal sketch being circulated this week.

The new attraction also would address long-standing traffic-flow problems at Disneyland by allowing the park to connect the back of Frontierland and nearby Critter Country to Fantasyland. The areas have long been awkward dead-ends for visitors.

“It completes that loop in the back of the park,” said Degelmann.

Discovery Bay also would give Disneyland executives a powerful tool as they gear up for the opening of the second Anaheim park.

The new park and a related retail-entertainment complex are all part of a strategy to lure visitors to the area for several days at a time, as Disney has done so successfully in Florida.

Disney marketers would love to have a new addition to Disneyland to tout along with the other new attractions, said Al Lutz, producer of the Disneyland Information Guide, an exhaustive online site dedicated to the park.

“I think for them it’s a question of, ‘What do we have to sell?’ ” Lutz said.

That question has become more pressing because of the imminent closure of one of Disneyland’s original “E-ticket” rides--the costly sentimental favorite Submarine Voyage--and troubles at New Tomorrowland, a $100-million update that opened this summer.

The problems include the indefinite closure of the main thrill ride, Rocket Rods, because of mechanical and software glitches. Exhibit problems also have kept Innoventions, featuring cutting-edge products, from officially opening.

“The word of mouth on Tomorrowland is pretty bad,” Lutz said.

Still, Lutz characterized the prospects for an expensive Frontierland addition to the park as unlikely any time soon. He said the geyser ride or other elements of Discovery Bay might even wind up in California Adventure or elsewhere in the Disney empire.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

RETHINKING THE LAYOUT

Keeping Walt Disney’s promise to continually remake his signature theme park, Disney designers constantly dream up ideas for the 43-year-old park. Floated as a new themed land in 1985, Discovery Bay would enliven an underused corner of the park.

Graphics reporting BRADY MacDONALD / Los Angeles Times


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