The World That Never Was: Pop Century Resort
First of all, I must thank all of you who not only checked out my post on Thunder Mesa at WDW Radio but also took a glimpse at my personal blog at www.disneyparkhistory.wordpress.com. (Cheap plug) I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for Lou, Christy, and the rest of the crew at WDW Radio for inviting me to be a part of the team and I hope I can create some conversation on the site as well as put smiles on a few faces. Also, if you have something you know about and would like me to delve into further, please leave a comment and I will try my hardest to get every single suggestion into an article.
Now, in case you hadn’t heard, which is unlikely if you are reading this, but Walt Disney World has been hard at work on a new value resort called Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. This particular value resort will cater to larger families. Out of its nearly 2000 rooms, 1,120 of them will be family suites all themed to Disney and Pixar animated films. Certainly there are people excited for this as most of the value resorts have not been as accomodating for larger families until now, but I’m not here to talk about the Art of Animation resort, I’m hear to talk about the Pop Century Resort. Yes, Pop Century sits right across the lake from Art of Animation, but just a few years ago, there were plans for a Pop Century Resort that encompassed not only the current location, but also the location that is now taken up by soon to open Art of Animation Resort.
With the huge success of Disney’s All Star Resorts from the mid-1990s, Disney announced at the end of the “Disney Decade” that they had plans for a huge value resort that would encompass a space by the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The resort would have 20 buildings and 5, 750+ rooms. It would open in two phases starting in 2001. Just like the All Star Resorts, this huge complex would have larger than life figures which would be themed to different decades throughout the 20th Century.
Concept art for the resort could be seen in early 2001, but Disney postponed the project in June and had a slated opening date in March 2002. The reasons behind pushing the opening back was that they felt a partially compeleted resort wouldn’t look appealing and they wanted the “Wow factor” when guests arrived at the huge resort.
At the time of the announcement to push back opening, it was also made clear that the new Pop Century Resort, wouldn’t just come in two phases, but would be two seperate hotels, each with their own registration desk, shops, and food courts. The first phase was called the Classic Years, which would encompass the 1950s through the 1990s. The second phase, encompassing the 1900s through the 1940s, would be titled the Legendary Years and would have opened in 2003. Each of the buildings at both hotels would include large catchphrases from the decades as well as large items popular during that era. The two hotels would sit across from each other on Hourglass lake and would be connected by the Generation Gap bridge, so guests of one hotel could visit the other.
Of course, that was in June of 2001, and we all know what would become of American society just a few months later in September of 2001. What would change our daily lives also changed the travel industry. Disney lost millions of travelers after the 9/11 attacks on America. Because of the loss, Disney announced the March 2002 opening plans were cancelled and a new date had yet to be announced. Guests who already had reservations at the Classic Years were moved to different resorts.
Nearly two years after the planned 2001 date, the Pop Century Classic Years opened as the Pop Century Resort on December 14th, 2003. Work on the Legendary Years portion of the resort had been put on hold. With travel still down because of fear as well as a declining economy, it seemed like phase two of Pop Century was in some serious trouble.
When I say the resort was put on hold, I really do mean put on hold. The Legendary Years was just a model waiting to be built. I was fortunate enough to have stayed at the Pop Century resort in May of 2004, just after it had opened. The maps of the resort, as well as anything else that would acknowledge the seperation in Classic and Legendary years had been done away with. In fact, I had no clue this resort had been downsized until I took a stroll around Hourglass Lake my first morning at the resort. I was expecting a beautiful stroll around a scenic lake, but what I got was an eye full of a half constructed resort that looked like a ghost town. You could clearly tell that this was just abandoned by Walt Disney World to either be demolished or continued at a later date. The buildings looked great from the outside and you could see where plans had been put forth to create an identical hotel to the now finished phase one hotel I was staying at. If I could have gotten a closer look, I would have, but the whole place had chain link fence all around it with warning signs, and if you tried to cross the bridge from the open resort to the fenced off area, all you hit was a dead end.
Fortunately, business at Walt Disney World picked up and the second phase was green lit, but in a different manner. Instead of creating a hotel that would pay homage to the early half of the 20th century, the resort was turned into a tribute to animation with the addition of family suites instead of regular rooms. You can speculate all you want on why the resorts theme was changed as Disney never gave a clear answer. You could say the nostalgia factor of the 1920s is waning as people of that generation are dying, or you could say that nobody wants to remember the poverty of the 1930s and the two World Wars that took up a major part of the early 20th Cenutury. Maybe its the appeal of bright animated characters to children, instead of seeing the majesty of a swing band playing in the 1940s.
Regardless, the Pop Century Resort was never fully realized in the way it was originally announced. Yes, you can still have fun at the bowling pin pool and you can climb inside the giant rubix cube in the 1980s section, but what was once to be the largest value resort at WDW would never see the light of day. This is the World that never was.
Feel free to leave your comments below. Would you have liked to have seen the Legendary and Classic Years come together as one mega-resort, or do you prefer the more family friendly Art of Animation resort. Also, please leave any ideas for future “World That Never Was” posts. I’d love to see what everyone comes up with. Until then, be sure to check out my personal blog, take care, and see ya next week.
Posted on November 24, 2011, in Articles and tagged Classic Years, Legendary Years, Lou Mongello, Pop Century Resort, The World That Never Was, Walt Disney World, WDW Radio. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.