When he was 8, Spencer David Prescod said he designed an “adventure” for Disneyland, and he believes the basis of that design became what is known as Disneyland’s California Adventure theme park.
Prescod, now 22, said he did the design in 1998 after the Big Brothers organization with which he and other youngsters were involved, were contacted by the Santa Monica architectural firm WWCOT to participate in a Workplace Mentorship Program. The youth were asked by the firm to design a concept ride for Disney. Rather than design a ride, Prescod said he told them he wanted to design an adventure.
Though that was 13 years ago, Prescod has kept his original model, which is made of plastic foam-type board, brown corrugated paper, poster board and various household type materials, in the family garage. Two protuberances stand out on the design, one representing a volcano and another a waterfall. It also depicts tunnel openings for an underground ride. Prescod maintains that the park Disneyland completed in 2001 is substantially like his design.
“Basically, the whole layout is–the rough terrain, fern trees, cactuses–is what I had,” said Prescod. Prescod said his project was originally called “Tigger’s Great Adventure.” Tigger is a tiger-like character from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books. Tigger is also a well-known Disney character.
After the presentation, the architect wanted to keep the model, Prescod said, but he said he wanted to hold on to it because the architects had already made a blueprint of the original design. Other than in their offices, he said he never saw the blueprint again.
However, a Disneyland spokesperson said Disney California Adventure was already on the drawing board in 1996. She sent an article from the Spring issue of Disney magazine titled “California Dreamin’.” The article indicates that the park was already “in the works” well before Prescod did his design.
In fact, the spokesperson said, over the years Disney has worked with “thousands and thousands” of young people on various mentoring programs.
On the other hand, the article does say, “Many of the details are evolving and there is still another year of the design phase …”
Prescod and his mother, Desiree, said Disney personnel met with them and several other youth during Prescod’s presentation at Disney. The meeting reportedly took place in “a boardroom” under Tomorrowland.
“It was like a whole ‘nother world,” said Prescod, of the underground offices. Invalided by a series of recent surgeries, Prescod speaks very slowly.
Mrs. Prescod indicated that her and her son’s association with Disney went beyond the limits of a simple mentoring program. She said they met with several high-level Disney executives, who indicated that her son’s project was one they would use and that he would be compensated for it. One of those executives was Paul Pressler, then Disney president. Mrs. Prescod said she believed there were also attorneys present at the meeting.
Spencer Prescod said he never received anything from Disney other than a half day and the park, but even there he said they had to buy their own food.
Last week, Eddie Jones, president of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, called a press conference to air the Prescod’s issue. Several television stations reportedly ran the story.
Asked why they didn’t come forward before, Mrs. Prescod said, “We did contact an attorney years ago, but he suddenly became wealthy and dropped the case. Another one said he was too busy.”