The Huffington Post recently published a story written by Jeff Kesselman, a 25-year veteran of the computer gaming industry titled, “What Are Some Disney Park Rides and Attractions That No Longer Exist?” Good news: Kesselman listed many attractions that are closed now. Bad news: Nearly every explanation Jeff gave was filled with inaccuracies, incorrect information and numerous grammar issues.
As a public service to the reader who sent in the question and the millions of people who read The Huffington Post, I will answer with accurate information on why those Disney attractions closed and I’ll even throw in a few for good measure. Here we go:
This attraction opened in 1995 and closed in 2003. To date, it was the scariest attraction in any Disney Park anywhere on the planet, which was intentional. Michael Eisner wanted to create an attraction that teenagers could enjoy that was high on thrills, but not the roller coaster kind. George Lucas was brought into help develop the back story and in the end, it became somewhat of a cult classic in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. Most guests either sat one side of the fence or the other: they either loved it or hated it with very little wiggle room in between.
In June of 2002, “Lilo and Stitch” debuted with huge success. Not only did it do well at the box office, but Stitch quickly rose to one of the top five selling character toys in the Disney empire by Christmas of that year. With a new alien in town that could be a little less frightening, Stitch’s Great Escape ended up replacing Alien Encounter with a plan to route both theaters into gift shops where they could snatch up more Stitch plushes and t-shirts. In the end, merchandise sales were the driving force for the closure.
The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management:
In fall 1997, the Enchanted Tiki Room got an “upgrade” to include two popular bird film stars: Iago from “Aladdin” and Zazu from “The Lion King,” who put the attraction Under New Management. The original Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971, had become an attraction that many Walt Disney World visitors skipped and needed an attendance boost as shows never came near capacity levels aside from peak periods throughout the 1990s.
Naturally, bringing in characters that children in 1997 were familiar with and could see on the marquee would be a draw to put butts back in seats again. The gimmick did work, but minimally. Disney purists didn’t care for it because it was an attraction Walt Disney personally had a hand in designing, yet it did have its own small following, but those fans were also few and far between.
In January 2011, a small electrical fire started just above the theater between shows, damaging many of the shows props and effects that had to do with the 1997 refurbishment. While no one was hurt, the theater remained closed for several weeks until Walt Disney Imagineering and Magic Kingdom Operations ultimately decided to bring back the original show instead of creating a third version or rebuilding the damaged sets and figures. The current/original version is still sparsely attended.
Debuting in October 1983, Horizons was the attraction that defined EPCOT Center. It was revolutionary at the time for being interactive, all while using a simple yet effective ride system and even predicting future of communication like Skype or FaceTime.
Not only do I think it was the best dark ride of all time, thousands of other passionate fans agree with me. Alas, Horizons was not pulling in the numbers it originally did around 1995 and also lost the sponsorship of General Electric, who helped pay the enormous upkeep costs of the attraction year after year.
In addition, Epcot was seen as the snoozer park at that time with no thrill rides, so after Test Track finally opened (after years of delay), Horizons closed its doors in January 1999 to eventually make way for Mission: Space. A thrill attraction that simulates what astronauts feel lifting off into space that is much more advanced and most importantly, comes with a sponsor: Hewlett Packard (originally Compaq).
Wonders of Life:
Opening in 1989, this pavilion was one of the first to feature a simulator attraction in a major theme park: Body Wars. Guests were “shrunk” down and injected into the blood stream of the human body and explored everywhere from the heart to the brain.
This was also sponsored by a “very big insurance company” known as Met Life who helped foot the bill for the original construction and upkeep. As big businesses do, Met Life took their sponsorship money and decided to use it in other ventures (a perfectly normal business practice) and unfortunately, the attractions slowly started to close. Today, it is used for special events like the Food and Wine Festival and unfortunately, none of the attractions within were directly transported to Innoventions.
World of Motion:
An original EPCOT Center attraction that opened in 1982, this dark ride showed guests the evolution of human transportation, from the invention of the wheel to the development of the automobile and beyond. With nearly every ride in Future World having a capacity of well over 2,000 riders per hour, many were thought to be unpopular due to the shorter lines. However, this was rarely the case.
In 1996, World of Motion closed due to Disney wanting to give thrill seekers a reason to come to Epcot and General Motors was willing to sign another sponsorship contract in order to open Test Track. Even though the ride experienced several opening delays, it still stands as one of the most unique thrill rides in the world.
Journey Into Imagination:
By far the most popular attraction in all of Epcot Center right down until the day it closed was Journey Into Imagination. Another original attraction, this was beloved by fans and still is to this day. While Disney didn’t use any of its own characters from its library for the first few years of operation, the Dreamfinder and Figment became the unofficial spokesmen for the park. The public fell in love with these characters and the park sold tons of Figment merchandise over the years.
Unfortunately, when Kodak’s (who sponsored the pavilion) contract was up, they only agreed to re-up with a few conditions, 1: the ride track needed to be shortened in order to provide an interactive area that guests were required to walk through and could sample new digital photography. And 2: Dreamfinder and Figment had to go and entirely new ride had to be designed with a fairly small budget. When Marty Sklar (former President of Walt Disney Imagineering) was asked why the characters got the boot during Epcot’s 25th anniversary celebration, his answer was “K-O-D-A-K.”
The second version of the attraction, starring Eric Idle of Monty Python, was short lived. Management recognized the public outcry for Figment’s return, who can be seen in the ride’s current iteration.While the ride isn’t as popular as the original, Figment merchandise sells fairly well, as seen by the recent comic book series sold in 2014. The ride currently sits without a sponsor, so who knows what the future holds?
One of Epcot Center’s most beloved shows was sponsored by Kraft in The Land pavilion. Singing the praises of good nutrition was Bonnie Appetite and her cast of animatronic fruits and vegetables. For its time, it was charming, informative and missed by many to this day. It was shortly replaced by Food Rocks, a similar theme with more current music.
When Soarin’ Over California opened in 2001 at Disney’s California Adventure, it was the most popular attraction in the park. As a way to, yet again, add more thrill rides to the park, Soarin’ was added to the lineup and remains one of the three most popular attractions at Walt Disney World in terms of guest satisfaction. Maybe they should have opened up a Lion King animatronic attraction here instead? There’s still time, I suppose.
Rocket Rods was the marquee attraction of the New Tomorrowland at Disneyland which debuted in 1998. Using the old Peoplemover track, these new five-person vehicles zoomed in and out of various Tomorrowland attractions and shops. They would break heavily every time there was any kind of a turn to absorb the shock on the track which was built for a much tamer attraction in 1967.
Ultimately, the speed of the cars was too much and the system was closed just as much as it was open. Currently the track sits abandoned and would need major renovations to become compliant with the American Disabilities Act. This would not only be cost prohibitive, but nearly operationally impossible.
After Carousel of Progress was packed up and moved to Walt Disney World, Disneyland wanted to create a show to celebrate America’s bi-centennial and America Sings opened in 1974. America Sings used the carousel theater, complete with five unique acts all celebrating American music, from folk songs to more “current tracks” of the day.
The cast was an all-new crew of audio-animatronic animals that were incredibly charming. In the end, America Sings was only designed to be temporary, but lasted until 1988. When Splash Mountain was being designed in Disneyland, the attraction was put on the fast track thanks to Michael Eisner, so the animatronics were recycled for that attraction and are still being used to this day.
This Disneyland attraction sent riders in one-person flying saucers on a “cushion of air” in a small space where they were allowed to bump into each other and bounce back via rubber cushions surrounding the pod. It was the future of bumper cars, but was plagued with many problems from the floor that provided the air bursts riders traveled upon.
Luigi’s Flying Tires:
On Friday, February 7, 2014, Disney announced that Luigi’s Flying Tires would be closing, which used a similar and updated technology from the Flying Saucers when it opened with Carsland at Disney’s California Adventure. Unfortunately, due to capacity demands of having two guests per vehicle, an inefficient loading system, bumpers that absorbed most of the shock, and an extremely slow speed, the attraction was kind of a dud with guests, especially if there were longer waits.
I hope this adds clarification to the inaccuracies of the article previously written, as well as gives you some more insight on why attractions close. My entire life has been spent studying attractions from my extensive library on nearly every book written about themed entertainment, to interviews, to visiting parks around the world. Yes, I am a self-proclaimed expert and there are many of us.
My recommendation to the Huffington Post as they look to publish a story on theme parks? Find one of us experts, as we are not in short supply. I’ll keep from answering questions about video games if Jeff Kesselman promises to not write about theme parks again using the knowledge he has off the top of his uninformed head.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Martin Smith who created most of the videos seen in this article. Visit his site at MartinsVids.net!
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