Many long time Disney parks fans may read the initials MK and
automatically translate those two letters to the phrase "Magic
Kingdom" but if Walt had gotten his way with one project he was
working on in the 1960's there might be another connotation to
those initials today "Mineral King" and that is where the Country
bears story began. The bears show had actually been in
development for several years before WDW opened. It was started
as a part of Disney's plan to build a new a different type of ski
resort. The "Mineral King" project was to have featured the bears
show, and I think more importantly that some of Walt's Ideas for
WDW and to a Lesser extent EPCOT would have been tested out here.
Don't believe me? Well here's my thinking. The whole idea of
having the Bears show, and any other non traditional Ski resort
activities planned (I wish I knew how far along other plans might
have gotten for the project) was to create an immersive resort
experience, so folks wouldn't need to "head into town" for
something to do after a day spent on the slopes, that is the part
I think of as being a pre-cursor to the WDW resort.
image from Desert magazine July 1966 Mineral Kings Hidden
One thing that made me think that some E.P.C.O.T. s ideas may
have started to blossom here is the fact that I seem to remember
hearing that they were going to remove the automobiles from view
by having the parking areas under the valley floor. Now you may
be thinking "glorified parking garage" but I am thinking of two
other things; The scale model prototype of E.P.C.O.T. , which had
the automobiles passing under the city of tomorrow with lots of
green space above (as well as monorails and peoplemovers for
transit). And the utilidors of the Magic Kingdom. Yes, I know the
magic Kingdom does not literally have a basement under all of it,
but the vital infrastructure services a town needs are there and
I presume some amount of goods move through it's passages to keep
the Magic Kingdoms, shops and restaurants supplied. Yet while you
are standing on "ground level" looking at the various attractions
shops, and yes green spaces too. It probably does not occur to
you that some of those green spaces are in a sense just planters
on the roof of a structure, surely Mineral Kings "valley floor"
would have had this quality too. Since my first writing of this
page though I acquired a copy of "Desert" magazine from 1966 with
a short article on Mineral King in it. Most of the article covers
the history of the area but the last section of the article
covers "... ten Basic guidelines which Mr. Disney and his staff
intend to follow in the development." Item #1 in this list
"Visitor automobiles will not enter the valley floor, but will
park at the valley entry. Otherwise Mineral Kings unique flavor
could be destroyed. Continuous transportation on the valley floor
will be by a new conveyance system aesthetically compatible with
the Alpine setting" So my original thought may have been a bit
off, but "continuous transportation" by a "new conveyance system"
sounds like some kind of peoplemover to me. How do you make it
aesthetically compatible? I would think the style of the
structure covering the guide way, and vehicles would be the main
things to make that work. Since this had been a mining area
perhaps design the cars to look like ore carts, with a open sided
covered bridge style guide way, but thats just off the top of my
head the imagineers probably could have come up with all kinds of
As to the rest of those ten guide lines here they are:
- 1. Visitor automobiles will not enter the valley floor, but will park at
the valley entry. Otherwise Mineral King's unique flavor could be destroyed.
Continuous transportation on the valley floor will be by a new conveyance
system aesthetically compatible with the Alpine setting.
- 2. A centralized village will be located at the lower end of the Mineral
King valley. It will be convenient to all visitors entering the area,
architecturally blending in with the terrain but with a minimum of
interference with ski development.
- 3. A dominant goal is to preserve one of the nation's most scenic
Alpine and outdoor recreational areas in its natural state while making
it available for more than a limited few to enjoy.
- 4. The natural attractions of the entire area and certain facilities,
such as warming huts, ski lounges, picnic areas, trails, etc., will be enjoyed
by the public without charge.
- 5. Clean, healthful fun and entertainment for all age levels,
compatible with an outdoor recreational area, will be provided in the
- 6. A pricing structure will be maintained whereby such basic
needs as food and lodging will be relatively inexpensive, particularly
for families and summer tourists.
- 7. Development will facilitate enjoyment of Mineral King's
wilderness and such outstanding natural features of the area as its
mountain peaks and snowfields, hot springs and other mineralized springs,
lakes, natural limestone caverns, waterfalls, cool summer temperatures, etc.
- 8. Mineral King can become the nation's outstanding winter
sports area. Skiers will have a variety of terrain, ski runs, and facilities
unequaled in the northern hemisphere. Other winter visitors will have their
own area to engage in a variety of snow play activities.
- 9. No development is needed for summer visitors to enjoy Mineral
King except to provide basic facilities such as food, lodging if desired,
hiking trails, picnic grounds, campgrounds, etc.
- 10. By day visitors will be able to spread out over the miles of
forests, mountains, and snowfields without crowding any area. By night
Mineral King must be able to accommodate thousands of people in a cluster
of essential buildings and facilities, leaving the forests and
mountains to the wildlife.
click here for a much larger version of
In the end though, opposition from the Sierra Club lead to the
eventual annexation by the park service into Sequoia national
park. I wonder if though in the end this might have been a plus
for Disney. How, you might ask? Well, perhaps the loss of that
project to environmental concerns made Disney and his planners
even more aware than they might already have been. A guy who
thinks that there are enough problems with the cities of today to
want to try to build a whole new type of city from the ground up,
almost certainly aware that we did need to be more careful with
the environment that we had been in the past, but still, I think
this must only have added to the determination to make sure
environmental concerns were handled up front in project Florida.
It may be hard for folks today to realize that there was a time
when a project being built in a lowland area in Florida would
have almost certainly have had as it's first step draining the
swamps. Disney's first steps on the other hand were to build a
system of canals to maintain the level of the water
throughout the property.