World That Never Was: Myst Island

If you played computer games in the 1990s, chances are you played Myst, a puzzle game that was slightly creepy but extremely beautiful to look at with state of the art graphics. (For the time at least.) It was one of the most popular video games and brought along the “sandbox” games that we now see in modern times like Grand Theft Auto or Disneyland Adventures. (I know, polar opposites.) So what does it have to do with Disney? Well, Disney and the creators of Myst, Rand and Robyn Miller, all got to know each other quite well during the late 90s when Disney approached the Millers with a project called Myst Island.

There has been consideration to reach out to a certain type of guest for years. The guest that wants to experience something else beyond the theme parks. Myst Island was to be that effort into a new type of Walt Disney World resort experience. As Discovery Island, the small plot of land in the middle of Bay Lake, closed for good in 1999 with most of it’s animals moving over to the new Animal Kingdom park, Imagineers had new ideas for the island. One particular idea continued to come up. Rand and Robyn Miller, creators of the extremely popular PC game Myst, were contacted and the idea for Myst Island was to be made a reality. With the brothers Miller on board, plans formed to turn the former animal inhabited island into a giant puzzle. Guests would travel the island looking for clues that would lead them to the next before eventually solving the puzzle and earning whatever prize was at the end. The illustrious and over dramatic scavenger hunt would be a full day on the island, and to Disney’s credit, would have probably made them a considerable chunk of change oif they could have pulled it off.

The beauty of Myst Island was just simply that…beauty. The game Myst was extremely artistic, colorful, and detailed in its scenery and so too would be Myst Island. With a light fog filling the island 24 hours a day, the architecture along the paths guests would take wouldn’t be seen until up close, allowing exploration to not only be an adventure in itself, but also to make the scavenger hunt much more difficult and detail oriented. That seems right up Disney’s alley. They’ve always been big on details in architecture and backstory and that’s really what Myst was all about, so the Island in itself would be very much a Disney kind of story. The backstory to the island and the architecture that would be on the island is unclear as the project was dropped at the conceptual stage.

Despite Rand, Robyn, and everyone at the Disney company being keen on the idea, Myst Island never came to be. We can equate that too mostly one thing…money. Disney executives were a bit afraid to delve outside of the theme parks and spend a particularly large amount of money on a concept that would only excite certain guests. The price of shipping cranes and bulldozers to the island and the amount of time needed to upgrade the island and make it into a constant state of foggy art was not ideal. Also consider this fact. Discovery Island, before it closed, had a price tag just above $10 to visit the island and see all of the animals there. Despite the low cost of admission, a very small percentage of resort guests visited the island. Now take Myst Island’s price tag, which was to be much larger, and then consider the percentage of people who would want this experience at that price tag. (We are probably talking somewhere above $100 per guest.)

I don’t have any doubts that Myst Island was a great idea in concept and could have potentially been a highlight on some guests’ vacations, but imagining the cost of the island, the labor involved in buiding it, and the probable low returns in profits, I very much understand why this project got the axe. After the hit ABC show Lost gained popularity, the concept for an experience on the Bay Lake plot of land was again brought up, but just like Myst Island, it was seen as somewhat of a monetary problem. The question now is what to do with the island? It obviously has a history and has the potential to be a draw for Disney with the right idea. Will we ever be able to walk the island again? We may not, but with Disney, it’s a crap shoot.

What are your thoughts on Myst Island? Would you have visited even with a high price tag? What should the do with the island on Bay Lake if anything? Leave your thoughts and comments to keep this article going.

Josh Taylor
Twitter: @ModernMouseJosh
Email: ModernMouseRadio@yahoo.com

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Posted on November 28, 2012, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Definitely LOVED Myst back in the day, and while the idea of a Myst Island makes me giddy, I don’t think I could ever justify the cost to experience it (even if it was a full day adventure). The Disney parks already seem too pricey to some, so to add any additional fees on top of that is usually a turn off.
    Yet, it would make the most sense to have it be on that island, as opposed to a stand-alone attraction not associated with Disney. Has there ever been a history of a sponsor helping with the overall cost of building/producing something at a park, (in this case, maybe the developer of the game) to keep the cost to the public to a minimum?

    • Not in the video game sense, but there have been sponsors since the day Disneyland opened back in 1955. For example, General Motors is currently sponsoring the Test Track attraction at Disney World. It is pretty common, but I don’t think the Miller’s had the money to really help build this, they were more like advisors as far as how it would look.

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