Why Disney Actually Never Built Disneyland Dubai

Disney fans recently rejoiced when the Melaka administration announced plans for their very own Disneyland in Malaysia, only for the Walt Disney Company to indirectly renounce the rumors the very next day. However, this is not the first time a hopeful country has made plans for a Disney Park to grace their borders only for it to never come to fruition.

For example, concept art for a Disneyland-style theme Park in Dubai began circulating online a few years back. This “Disneyland Dubai” would have included many of the well-loved features of other Disney Parks around the world. In fact, as the art suggests, this version of Disneyland included familiar elements with an Arabian flair and favored a sampling of top attractions.

Disneyland Dubai Was Planned to Include a Giant Castle, 'Star Wars' Tomorrowland, and Cars Land

Credit: Twitter

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Indeed, you can see in the concept image below that this hypothetical “tasting flight” would have featured its own Radiator Springs Racers and Cozy Cone within a Pixar-themed area, but not a full Carsland. Additionally, Star Wars-themed attractions like the Death Star pepper Tomorrowland in lieu of its own Galaxy’s Edge.

Plus, a lush jungle and riverboat-style ride reminiscent of the Jungle Cruise is the sole element of Adventureland. What’s more, Guests entering the Park would have passed beneath an Arabian-style train station into a Fantasyland-esque Main Street, U.S.A. that led into Mickey’s ToonTown before reaching the Castle.

 Is Dubai Disneyland on the Way?

Credit: Favilli Studio

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However, this visual blend of Agrabah-inspired Arabian domes and European fairytale elements would have served not as just the Park icon for Disneyland Dubai, but a stunning five-star Resort hotel for Guests centered within the actual theme Park! Beside it, the Cave of Wonders invited Guests to an Aladdin (1992) attraction. So, why was the Park never built?

Well, it all goes back to who actually created the concept art and why. Despite utilizing Disney intellectual property and the standard Disney Parks design, Riva Creative actually commissioned Favilli Studios (owned by a former Senior Concept Artist at Disney) to create the art at a time when Dubai Parks and Resorts desired to rival Orlando, Florida as a themed entertainment destination.

disneyland dubai

Credit: Favilli Studio

Although the Walt Disney Company has turned to Favilli Studios in the past to render their authentic ideas for areas such as Disneyland’s ToonTown, Tokyo DisneySea and Glacier Bay, and Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris, the Studio itself is not Disney-affiliated. Of course, this means an outside contractor, and not Walt Disney Imagineering, created the designs.

Moreover, it appears Riva Creative intended to use the concept art in a pitch to the Walt Disney Company in order to gain licensing for their character content and approval to construct another Disneyland Park with more than half of its offerings contained within show buildings to withstand Dubai’s intensive heat.

Therefore, Disney Parks and Resorts never had any plans to invest in the Dubai travel landscape. When Disney declined, Riva Creative shelved the project and thus ended the dream of Disneyland Dubai.

Would you have liked to see a Disneyland Dubai? Luckily, Guests hoping to visit a Disney Park outside of the US still have many options with unique experiences to choose from, and can even visit them all at once!

About Spencer Beck

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the halls of the Walt Disney Family Museum, and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @pinknpurble everywhere.