A Walt Disney Christmas Carol
Here is a Disney “Did-You-Know?’ that you can file under “things you never knew you never knew!”
As you can imagine there are many things that are planned in blue-sky meetings as Imagineers toss about ideas and concepts that possibly would fit into the worlds of Walt Disney theme parks. Sometimes those ideas take flight and are explored, others disappear quickly, but all have merit…because they might be the very idea that sparks the imagination that leads to the next Disney classic.
Here is a Christmas story that you may or may not be aware of.
If you have ever visited the Walt Disney World resort, you are familiar with the World Showcase of Epcot. The area is rich in detail and loaded with things to discover on any trip you take. One of the busy pavilions is the United Kingdom Pavilion. There are places to shop, eat, and discover a variety of things that transport you back into an era of British history that is full of enchantment.
But this is a Christmas story, so here is what happened and didn’t happen.
In the early 1980’s the idea was born that a new Audio-Animatronics show should be added to the United Kingdom. The Imagineers began to play with the idea that Charles Dicken’s classic novel, a Christmas Carol, could become an attraction that would transport guests into the pages of the familiar story. Ideas were played with. It could be a motion ride that would move guests on cars, perhaps moving bed frames, maybe even a boat ride might be the attraction vehicle of choice. While these concepts were being thought through and processed, artists went to work on some of the concept art for the scenes that might be included in the adventure.
Sam McKim, a Disney Imagineer created scenes that included – “Are you the Spirit, Sir, Whose Coming was Foretold to Me?”
In this scene a very frightened Scrooge is hiding underneath his bed sheets as the Ghost of Christmas Past makes an appearance above the fireplace.
“A Jolly Giant – Glorious to See” blends Santa, a Christmas tree, and the Ghost of Christmas Present into an encounter that Scrooge is having as he peers over the side of his bed. (You can see the thinking of having guests travel in some sort of moving bed frame emerging in the early drawings) Scrooge is still frightened as the Ghost stares back at the miser.
The last painting, which is included in this post, is called “The Last of the Spirits”-and in some ways is very dark and spooky. It is the scene from the story that finds Scrooge in the graveyard, with the imposing Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, cloaked in a black robe showing Scrooge his own tombstone. The snowy scene is chilling as the guest come face to face with a bleak future where the spirit of Christmas is lost.
What an amazing attraction this might have been.
It would serve as powerful reminder of the importance of remembering the hope that Christmas gives. The joy you can find in making life about others and not about yourself, and would give guests the chance to keep the spirit of Christmas alive. It also could have served as a powerful reminder of how much we all need a little Christmas all year long.
But like many ideas, it never really went much beyond the early development and now fades into the lore of Disney memory. However, the story of Christmas, the transformational power of the Christmas event, and the need to discover the joy of Christmas is not lost. So although you can’t actually ride the attraction, the images and the story resonated with all of us and serves as a reminder of how we should face each day.
(The research for this article draws from Jeff Kurtti, Bruce Gordon, Sam McKim, and Christopher E. Smith. The Walt Disney World That Never Was (Theme Park Press) and The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort all contain additional information)
This article is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life. The book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.