Welcome back to Not Club 33 the home of Cynical Disney!
Disney World has been operating for 48 years, and over the years many beloved attractions have closed to make way for new attractions or updates. Nostalgia is important for many WDW fans, and every now and then a debate occurs between these WDW fans as to which attraction shouldn’t have closed or been updated. Much like politics, this debate often leads to yelling and screaming, divorce, and occasionally violence. The only reason I’m even touching this subject is because of an inner company debate at Not Club 33 between me and Steve. If not for internet distance, it may have come to fisticuffs, as the Horizons vs. Mission:Space debate is near and dear to me. So, as a response, here is my definitive list of bygone attractions at Walt Disney World!
*Editors note: The attractions listed here are ones that have closed in the past 30 years. I’m not going to write something up on an attraction I never experienced. Also, to make this list, some drastic change to the attraction or an integration of IP that changed the experience had to happen. Something like the PeopleMover wouldn’t be eligible, because literally the only thing that’s changed is the name.
17. Closed Attraction: Circle of Life – An Environmental Fable
Replaced By: Nothing (as of yet)
I wish hunters could pay a premium for attractions to get lined up and shot like they do with actual lions and BLEEP in Africa. I would’ve paid a premium to take this sum bitch out with a .50 caliber. It boils down to me wanting to be entertained, not preached to while I’m on vacation. Even as an 8 year old I was rolling my eyes at the Inconvenient Truth style film making that this attraction used. Mercifully, this attraction was put out of its misery in 2018.
16. Closed Attraction: Honey I Shrunk the Audience & Captain EO
Replaced By: Nothing (waiting until they kill Figment off)
When Captain EO was originally released, it was essentially an experiment in film making for George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Micheal Jackson. But, like so many things from the 1980’s (including yours truly), it was too weird and never got the acclaim that it sought. It was eventually replaced (you know damn well why) by Honey I Shrunk the Audience, a neutral attraction based off of a neutral, family friendly straight to VHS film franchise of the early 1990’s. I think Disney had more plans for the franchise, but alas, the Canadian treasure Rick Moranis retired from acting. Captain EO was brought back after the King of Pop passed away (and everyone had forgotten the shrink ray stuff and what MJ did), but it has since closed again in 2015.
15. Closed Attraction: If You Had Wings aka Delta Dreamflight
Replaced By: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
At one time flying was still a mystical experience for your standard middle class 2.5 kids and a golden retriever family. Seeking to capitalize on the idea of flight, multiple airline companies (Eastern Airlines and Delta most notably) sponsored the attraction as means to get people onto planes. Of course, the easiest thing to do to get people on planes these days would be to offer comfortable seating, not pack us on to the plane like sardines and lobby congress to have the TSA stop molesting me while indulging in a foot fetish. Instead, with a crap ton of three-eyed alien wall paper, some robots and lasers, we now have Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, a damn fun ride that is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint.
14. Closed Attraction: World of Motion
Replaced By: Test Track
This dark ride was one of the opening day attractions that never should have been. Mercifully, it was put out of its misery in early 1996. I joked on Twitter in the thread that spawned this listicle that no one has the reverence for this attraction that no one has the reverence for this lost attraction like they do for its former next door neighbor. Then I looked at the Wikipedia article and literally said to myself out loud with no one else around “oh…that’s not good”. It was the story of transportation, and it literally started off with feet. It did not get better, even if the methods of transportation did. It’s no surprise that they shut this attraction down in favor of one with more thrills.
13. Closed Attraction: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Replaced By: Seven Dwarf”s Mine Train (eventually…)
What the hell is a league? Why are there 20,000 of them? These questions remain unanswered as far as I’m concerned. This attraction really only operated seasonally when I was a kid, and I know the crowd that was alive when Walt was is probably going to roll their eyes at this (if they even read my dribble), but my recollection of Disney films was not the live action stuff, it was the animation. Sure, Walt may have been inspired by Jules Verne at many turns, even leading him towards the futurism that Walt practiced, but in an ironic twist, the science fiction of Walt’s era is what inspired me, not that of Jules Verne. After its closure, the random mosquito breeding ground in the middle of the Magic Kingdom it became was turned into a Little Mermaid themed attraction, then drained and overhauled into the Ball Buster…I mean Mine Train.
12. Closed Attraction: Timekeeper
Replaced By: Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
Alas, this standing Circle-Vision attraction starred two of our national treasures of the 1980’s in Robin Williams and Rhea Pearlman. Mork of Mindy and Carla of Cheers fame paired up for a robotic tour of history, a much more sensible use of time travel technology than displayed at Dinosaur. Carla played “Nine-Eyes”, a robot with nine cameras attached to it that was sent through time to visit different historical periods. Mrs. Doubtfire played The Timekeeper, basically Nine-Eyes’s wise cracking handler. Nine-Eyes pairs up with the aforementioned Jules Verne and hi jinks ensued. I know what you’re thinking, “how could this fail?”. Well, for starters, the interaction between characters was confrontational to say the least, and while I happen to find that funny, god forbid the strained marriages that took the kids to Disney World face a similar situation through robots. Monster’s Inc was a successful animated movie, and with Disney taking maximizing their IP, it was a matter of…ahem…time before Timekeeper was closed.
11. Closed Attraction: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Replaced By: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mr. Toad is one of the classic Disneyland attractions, having operated since 1955. It was popular enough that it became an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom. It actually was one of the more intricate ride systems used for a long time at the park, as there were two tracks that offered a different experience for riders. That said, who the hell has seen The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad? It came out in 1949. I think I maybe saw it in the 90’s on TV, but I don’t recall a clamoring for it to be released on modern devices. Although the left coast attraction may be popular, the film the attraction was based on is rather low on the list of popular Disney films. Winnie the Pooh, on the other hand, was still going strong in 1998 (the year the attraction closed), and the company made the decision to keep the Disneyland version of the ride and ax the WDW one.
10. Closed Attraction: Legend of The Lion King
Replaced By: Mickey’s Philhar-Magic
There have been other attractions that operated in this theater, but I’m picking the most recent closure to cover. The Lion King was so damn popular (and still is mind you) that upon its release, Disney needed to quickly put an attraction together for guests to experience. So they decided on a puppet show. It was better than your public library sock puppet show, don’t get me wrong, but unless you’re the Muppets, puppet shows are not long-term solutions or attractions. With Animal Kingdom opening in 1998, and it making FAR more sense for the Lion King to be represented there, Disney made plans for its closure and opened the Cynic built Mickey’s Philhar-Magic in 2002.
9. Closed Attraction: Lights, Motors, Action!
Replaced By: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Lights, Motors, Action! was a vehicular stunt show that showed an amphitheater full of guests how car chase scenes were performed and shot. It had explosions, screeching tires, gun play and many other Tom Cruise movie-esque stunts play out, with a director and stuntmen explaining how it all works. Because it wasn’t directly tied into a film franchise, like the Indiana Jones stunt show, there never was a dedicated fan base that felt compelled to see it. They may as well have called it “Generics: The Car Explosion Show”. This show closed Residential Street, which was part of the Backlot Tour and also home to the Griswald Family Christmas Lights….wait, sorry, I’m now being told it’s the Osborne Family. Not that the Backlot Tour driving past facades of houses for TV shows long since cancelled was interesting, but the opportunity cost of doing something different ended up hurting the park in the long run. Disney has since learned from its mistakes, closed the stunt show and is opening up Star Wars Land in its place.
8. Closed Attraction: Horizons
Replaced By: Mission:Space
Here’s where I’m going to piss some people off. I put Horizons in the middle of this listicle because it was, at its best, decidedly average. The conceptual sequel to Carousel of Progress was open for 13 years straight, then operated seasonally for a few years before finally shutting down for good in 1999. If you didn’t have a chance to ride this attraction, it basically looked at the future through the prism of Jules Verne (there’s that damn guy again), and showcased how certain technologies could be used to conquer environments inhospitable to human life. The environments covered were deserts, under water, and space. It was ok, but much like the rest of “Future World” technology caught up to, and in some cases surpassed, what was put on display. At the end of the attraction, guests would choose their future inhospitable environment to conquer, a decidedly analog version of the “Choose Your Future” feature on Spaceship Earth. Bottom line, this attraction was dated by the early 90’s and was rightfully closed in favor of the much better and more thrilling Mission:Space. Long-time WDW fans bemoaned the closure of the attraction, and to this day rebel against the superior attraction currently installed. I hated it. If I didn’t like Carousel of Progress, I was never going to like part deux. I’m glad it was closed and I don’t care who knows it.
7. Closed Attraction: Universe of Energy aka Ellen’s Energy Adventure
Replaced By: Unnamed Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster
I liked this attraction in an ironic sense. It was so bad it was entertaining. Basically, you were put on electric cars that drove on carpeted surfaces to different movie screens and for 10 seconds you saw unrealistic dinosaur animatronics and one of Ellen DeGeneris that looked nothing like her. In fact, it looked like a less-lesbianic Hillary Clinton. Along with co-star Bill Nye the Climate Change Activist guy, the pair glossed over global warming and learned about fossil fuels, hydroelectric, solar and wind power. Ellen then competed on an energy centric version of Jeopardy as hosted by a still mustached but not yet bearded Alex Trebeck. Ellen’s old collegiate rival, “Stupid Judy” (as played by Jamie Lee Curtis) reared her somewhat attractive for the mid-90’s head early, but was ultimately defeated by Ellen in the final scene. It was as boring as it sounds. But, like I said, it was so bad it was good. That only goes so far with attraction, and since it wasn’t created to be ironic, Disney closed the attraction in 2017 and will be opening up a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster by 2021…because, you know, there’s no chance of breaking up that band…
6. Closed Attraction: The Studio Backlot Tour
Replaced By: Toy Story Land
Everyone really just called this attraction Catastrophe Canyon, because that was the actual attraction to get on this ride. In an era when Hollywood Studios was more focused on how movies were made, this attraction showed audiences how one might film a scene on a boat while facing gunfire and airplanes, and also how a bridge goes out while explosions happen at an oil refinery. It also, at one point, had you drive past facades of homes from TV shows long past, that eventually was scrapped for the previously mentioned Lights, Motors, Action!. It also had a walking component, allowing guests to take pictures with big props from Disney/ABC/Touchstone films and TV shows. With the shift in focus to rides based solely on known franchises, the Studio Backlot Tour was closed in favor of Toy Story Land in 2014.
5. Closed Attraction: Maelstrom
Replaced By: Frozen Ever After
Norway was certainly in need of an update, but the Maelstrom was a standout among World Showcase attractions because it literally had a drop. Until Test Track opened, it was the most thrilling ride at Epcot. It covered Norse mythology, such as Odin and Thor, and at some point a tree started talking to you, you went backwards and dropped 15 feet. Actually, the attraction was quite popular, but then Frozen and its double downed version of story telling from The Lion King (go watch the Honest Trailer for Frozen and then come at me) came on the scene. Elsa and Anna weren’t actually definitively from Norway. They didn’t even use Fjord in the film, but damn it the main character was a hot blonde surrounded by snow, and if that doesn’t scream Lillyhammer to you then I don’t know what does. I’d have been happier with a tour led by the Swedish Chef, because that would’ve been as Norse as Frozen.
4. Closed Attraction: The Living Seas
Replaced By: The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Nemo…cough cough…rained on this attractions parade. I did a deep dive on both versions of this attraction a few weeks ago, so I’ll keep this short. Fish, marine mammals, and an underwater seabase weren’t good enough for people, so they added a named fish from a Pixar movie and now kids are interested again. It’s a sad commentary on the state of society, but if you don’t care about Nemo and just want to see fish, walk in the exit. No one will stop you.
3. Closed Attraction: The Great Movie Ride
Replaced By: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Like The Seas, I’ve already done a deep dive on this, so I’m going to keep it short, but you went through animatronic version of scenes from classic movies. It closed in 2017, and is soon to be replaced by a not 3-D 3-D attraction. To summarize my deep dive, it was clearly dated and the intensity of the cast member interaction had decreased over time, but I wish there was a way for us to get an update and go back to the original level of intensity of the attraction rather than a closure.
2. Closed Attraction: Body Wars
Replaced By: Ferns and other Indoor Potted Plants
Body Wars was awesome. It was directed by Mr. Spock, starred Otter from Animal House and Elizabeth Shue of “don’t BLEEP with the babysitter” and playing a hooker with Nicholas Cage fame, and was a fun way for guests to learn a little about the circulatory system. Aside from that awkward time in health class where we talked about HIV, this was really the reason why I know anything about white blood cells. As I covered in a Cynical Pitch a few months ago, the closure of the Wonders of Life pavilion boiled down to a health insurance dispute, and when the sponsorship of the pavilion dried up, so did the funds for keeping it open. Thus Body Wars closed has since been boarded over and covered by a couple of ferns for when Epcot needs extra space for a festival, or most of the year.
1. Closed Attraction: Alien Encounter
Replaced By: BLEEP-ing Stitch’s BLEEP-ing Stupid Escape
BLEEP Stitch. I’m sorry if your sensibilities are such that you only want BLEEP for kids under 10 at the Magic Kingdom. If they are, BLEEP you, and this is going to be rough. Alien Encounter was the one attraction at Disney World that had a psychological thrill. You knew there was no alien monster in your mind, but because you were strapped in and felt hot breath on your neck, you felt it to be real. This ride had no movement, no drops, no track, it literally sat you down and an alien escaped. It was BLEEP-ing awesome, and even as a child I got a thrill from this attraction. Then that stupid bitch Karen with the “I need to speak to the manager haircut” got involved and said she didn’t bring her kids to the Magic Kingdom to be scared. Karen then promptly walked her children over to the other side of the park, forcing them to ride the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, where they pooped their pants because there was a fake ghost in the Doom Buggy and Johnny Depp was running from cannon fire. After Karen complained loud enough, a sign was put up saying it may scare the BLEEP out of children under 12, and after a couple of years the majority of parents who give their kids participation ribbons refusing to get on the attraction, Disney capitulated and stuck the worst character from any Disney movie ever in it. Now we have a generation of people crying over pronouns. Thanks Karen. Stupid bitch…
Ok, now that I’m done ranting about Stitch and Horizons, I invite your hatred in the comments section. I’d also like to know which of these Bygone Attractions you’d start a GoFundMe page and pay for to come back. Not on Disney’s dime at all, I want to know what you’d actually pay for.
-The Disney Cynic
“I’m all beers!”