As we learned last week in Alain Littaye’s Mystic Manor article, sometimes the stories behind the attractions can be as interesting as the attractions themselves. It turns out that the stories behind the attractions that were never built can be even more fascinating. ~~Rick

Disneyland Paris: Automata-mericana, The Main Street U.S.A Attraction That Never Was

by Alain Littaye, Disney and more blog


Of all the attractions that were promised but never delivered at Disneyland Paris, the one that I miss the most is the “Automata-mericana” concept that Imagineer Eddie Sotto envisioned for Main Street U.S.A.

The idea for this one goes way back to discussions with Herb Ryman in 1988. Imagineers wanted to call it Automata-mericana. Walt Disney loved miniatures, and the idea for Animatronics had begun with his fascination for French Automata. Walt had an antique mechanical bird (which Eddie Sotto paid homage in Walt’s Restaurant above Main Street). There was a space available on Town Square East – under the Dentist (where Franklin Electric was originally) – and that space was considered for the “added capacity program” the year after Euro Disneyland opened. Les Mystères du Nautilus, Indiana Jones and other attractions were part of this program.

On an Imagineering research trip in 1988, Imagineers had visited a funny Automata museum in Covent Garden, London, (called Mechanical Cabaret Theater, now gone) and they were inspired by the displays and how much people enjoyed them. The exhibit displays were not antiques, but rather new designs and it gave Eddie Sotto the idea that Imagineers could make their own and customize them. Shrunken Ned at Disneyland’s Adventureland was inspired by one of the automata on display there. Imagineer Eddie Johnson worked with Eddie Sotto and came up with a series of sketches for the animated displays, each portraying life on Main Street in a funny way. Eddie Sotto used his drawing of the Main Street cinema as the basis for one of the proposed devices. A barber shop, fire station and Market House were also envisioned, each with the Main Street “citizens” doing funny things.

For Eddie and the Imagineers the idea was to bridge the language barrier and show rather than explain the story of American life in that time period by using intricate display animation. Unfortunately, the budget for the “added capacity program” was eaten up by one additional Steam Train – the Eureka. Eddie would still love to build this and thinks it would be a crowd pleaser in a quaint way. The sepia tone sketch above is from Eddie Sotto.

The video below shows some of the actual exhibits Imagineers saw in London. Done in a Disney style with a Main Street Story, they would have been a great addition with lots of American cornball humor.

This next video shows Disneyland Adventureland “Shrunken Ned”. Eddie Sotto played his voice.

If DLP had the budget to do it, it still would be possible to add this Automata-mericana attraction right where Eddie Sotto wanted to build it. Let’s hope that someone at DLP will remember this great concept and will decide to add it at DLP Main Street U.S.A! What do you think folks? Would this make a great addition to Disneyland Paris?

The artwork at the top of this article is among the 250 WDI renderings that you can find in the great Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book by Alain Littaye.


This edition is nearly sold out. If you’ve been holding off your purchase, now is the time to secure your copy while you still can.


  • Fortune Red

    This should be a staple on every park’s Main Street as far as I’m concerned. In fact, before the Penny Arcade in Anaheim was castrated, it was something Walt himself approved of in the representation of the hometown of his youth. Even as a 80’s kid I looked forward to watching the dusty images in the nickelodeons, hearing the blaring orchestrions, and testing my endurance at the “Shock-O-Meter”, while my Mickey waffle was baking next door.
    I realize that the Paris project is dealing with modern interpretations of machines of this era, rather than the antiques found in the original park, but either way it’s one of those small, special touches disappearing from the Disney experience because it’s doesn’t draw large crowds and it’s occupying valuable space where a Buzz Lightyear light chaser could be pimped to the masses.

  • eicarr

    That would have been cool. Visit the Musee Mecanique next time you’re in San Francisco for the Disney Family Museum. It looks and seems so similar that they must have been partially inspired by it.

    • Rick Wright

      Thanks for the reminder that we featured the Musee Mecanique in two previous Weekend Updates:

      Odd Frisco; Aussie Zoo; Canadian Snow Day; Dalí Museum 3-11-2011

      Welcome to the (Eclectic) Weekend Update! 4-05-2008:

      • Thank you for those links! I’m a big fan of these remarkable Victorian automatons. Like the one in the movie Hugo, or many of the artifacts in the Musee Mecanique. There’s no doubt that they posess a timeless wonder and would be an amazing addition to any of Disney’s Main Streets.

        Unfortunately, while I’m sure that Imagineering could craft the perfect devices and create the exact right look of the venue, do any of us think Disneyland Paris is capable of maintaining such complex machines? They can’t even keep the simple things in the park in an adequate state. For goodness sake, they let both their Nautilus and pirate ship literally rot away! The worst exames of neglect in any Disney parks around the globe.

        I’d like to be proven wrong on this. DLP has the strongest sense of design and place of any theme park in the world (except perhaps for DisneySea). Wouldn’t it be delightful if they could both pull off this project AND maintain it?!

  • Lucille

    I saw that exhibit a few years ago at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. It was incredible to see in person. I wonder if it will be traveling anywhere else.

  • Gullywhumper

    Dusty, both the Nautilus and the Captian Hook Pirate Ship were extensively refurbished for Disneyland Paris’ 20th anniversary, both look great! I had lunch with the Chief Operational Officer at Walt’s Restaurant in Disneyland Paris last April, he was recently brought in from Tokyo Disney! He spoke of maintaniance issues as a number one priority, also spoke of working on changing the culture within the Disneyland Paris Resort. I wish him well, aside from the refurbs I mentioned, both the Castle, Main Street and the Fantasyland village areas have had renovations. Disneyland Paris has a long way to go, yet I’m hopeful for the future.