Abandoned by Disney

Katherine Veloso, Staff Writer

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From their mouth-watering churros and overpriced water bottles to their iconic parades and character costumes, Disney parks are known as “the happiest place on earth.” And if you’ve ever been to one of the 11 Disney parks across the globe, then you’d understand the magic of the themes and ambiance. They’re filled with creatively constructed castles and mountains set to make animation come to life. Today, however, there are a handful of parks that Disney has abandoned to weeds and vandalism.

Designed to resemble a traditional watering hole, the now-closed Disney River Country opened in the summer of 1976 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and was shut down in the fall of 2001. It was the first themed waterpark ever constructed and soon after its opening, Disney began profiting from its rustic setting and 260-foot Whoop n’ Holler Hollow slide in Bay Cove. The waterpark closed at its usual seasonal time in the fall, and never reopened again. Disney officials attributed the close to low demand in the wake of newer waterparks and lack of funding and interest after the 9/11 attacks. But a fatal amoeba that causes the nervous system disease, meningoencephalitis, may be to blame for the death of a young boy and the subsequent abandonment of the Disney park.

The only other amusement park confirmed to be abandoned by Disney is Discovery Island in Bay Lake, Florida. Named Blackbeard Island until its development, it opened as Treasure Island in the spring of 1974. The 11-acre Disney property was then renamed Discovery Island in 1978 in order to refocus on the island’s botanic environment.

The park was widely known for hosting endangered animals like the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, but faced many allegations of animal abuse such as the mishandling of vultures. These claims charged Disney  with 16 state and federal charges on bird abuse and forced them to pay a settlement of $95,000.

Discovery Island closed in the spring of 1999 after the debut of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. It returned to the spotlight in 2009 when photographer Shane Perez, accompanied by friends, trespassed onto the still-standing park and publicized its remains in a blog post. The post included pictures of abandoned vultures still alive 10 years after closing, photos of employees around the island and reptiles preserved in glass jars.

The “Fake” Disneyland, Nara Dreamland in Nara, Japan was built in 1961. The knockoff theme park mirrored Disneyland’s main street entrance and pink castle. It failed to bring in visitors and profit, ultimately leading to its closing in 2006.

Disney officials deny that Mowgli’s Palace in Emerald Island, North Carolina ever existed. Said to have been doomed from the beginning because of the locals’ disapproval, the theme park based on the Disney classic The Jungle Book cannot be found on any public records. However, blogger and photographer Christopher Howard Wild boasts to have found and explored the mysteries of “Mowgli’s Palace.” Wild claims that he saw the graffitied phrase “Abandoned by Disney” upon entering the unmaintained property and “Abandoned by God” within the walls of the eerie palace. The Disney park was deserted abruptly before opening day, angering locals and compelling the Disney corporation to deny any reports of the building of the park.

Disney remains an entertainment powerhouse in society, leaving the possibility open for future  construction and abandonment of more parks.

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Abandoned by Disney