When you think of Disney and Main Street, you probably think of the original classic Main Street USA in Disneyland, or perhaps the follow-up version in Orlando Florida. However did you know that for just under a year, on a little known project, we almost got a Disney Main Street in South Carolina?
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📰The Atlanta Constitution
“Disney to catch the mousebound” (Jan 24 1996)
📰The Orlando Sentinel
“Disney teams with AAA to provide multipurpose rest area for travelers” (Jan 25 1996)
“Disney, AAA encounter potholes while planning South Carolina rest stop” (Jul 11 1996)
📰The Palm Beach Post
“Themed tourist stop in S.C. will point way to Disney” (Jan 24 1996)
For their next collaboration, #TheDisneyStop, as it was going to be called, was planned to be over ten times larger than the Ocala stop at 46 acres. For comparison, that’s just under half the size of The Magic Kingdom. Disney chose the small town of Hardeeville, South Carolina for its location. Sitting off of exit 8 on I-95, The Disney Stop would be a five hour drive from Disney World, and just a 20 mile drive to Hilton Head Island. That second part was relevant because beyond just being a popular tourist destination in South Carolina, it’s also where Disney was planning to build their next DVC resort. Disney figured that this would be the perfect spot to grab the attention of tourists heading down I-95 to Florida as well as locals who might be heading to the island.
And with a $35 million dollar budget, Disney didn’t want just any old interstate rest stop. According to Tom Elrod, the President of Marketing and Entertainment at Walt Disney Attractions, The Disney Stop was going to offer a “level of entertainment that people expect out of Disney.” The complex would feature a travel center, obviously, a hotel with 550 rooms, a combined 2,000 dining seats spread across multiple restaurants, an auto service center, a kennel for travelers to keep and care for their pets, and between thirty to forty thousand square feet of retail shopping space. To top it all off, everything at The Disney Stop was going to be tied to a central Main Street that was going to be themed to a 1950s midwestern American town. So think less Main Street USA and more American Graffiti.
Disney themselves would own and operate very little of the center, however they’d overlook the design in order to standardize the look and feel of all the buildings there. They even began to reach out to prospective businesses to work with them on emulating their older looks from the 50s and 60s. If they weren’t around back then they were asked to instead emulate the style of design that was popular for the era.
Taking a slightly different approach for the advertising, the lead up along I-95 to The Disney Stop would trade in the subtle and authentic theming of the 1950s for large and bold Disney related props along the road, which were described to be “like those adorning the All-Star Resorts” in Walt Disney World.
As for the big picture, if all of this worked out, the plan was for AAA and Disney to collaborate on an entire chain of similar rest stops across the country.