When Walt was working on Disneyland, he said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is Imagination left in the world.” This has continued to be true in all of his parks whether he had a hand in building them or they were inspired by his legacy.
Disney World has undergone several renovations since it opened nearly 50 years ago, and some well loved attractions have closed to make way for new, more modern, and sometimes more appropriate attractions.
In fact, many casualties have taken place recently when Magic Kingdom received the largest expansion ever with New Fantasyland construction starting in 2012, between 2014 and 2015 when Disney’s Animal Kingdom added Pandora – The Land of Avatar, and the current projects at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which should be completed in 2018 and 2019. A massive Epcot overhaul is promised in the near future as well.
Let’s take a look at attractions that have been replaced over the years!
1. Disney’s ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Disney’s Tomorrowland has proven to be a challenge over the years because it’s hard to keep up with not only modern but futuristic theming. One safe bet when it comes to the future is aliens.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened in 1995 after Mission to Mars closed in 1994. This attraction was more of a show in the round. However, it was pretty scary for kids and deemed unsuitable for kids under age 12 by most guests. It wasn’t originally as scary, but the Imagineers were instructed to make it more intense, and they did. The theater employed total darkness, lasers, and an animatronic monster who exploded at the end of the attraction – but only after he sprayed an unidentifiable mist on guests who were locked in their seats.
Late in 2004, Stitch replaced the super scary monster, and the attraction became known as Stitch’s Great Escape. Not much else about the attraction changed, but it was still pretty intense for many young guests and even adults who weren’t fond of tight spaces.
In recent years, Stitch’s Great Escape has only been operating seasonally, and it even became a watered down meet and greet at one point. Rumor has it that this attraction could be replaced once more with Wreck It Ralph.
2. The Living Seas
The Living Seas, sponsored by United Technologies from 1986-1998, was located in Epcot’s Future World area. It started with a movie that showed guests how the Earth became covered in oceans. After the movie, guests would board hydrolators then seacabs to arrive at SeaBase Alpha where they would find coral reefs, dolphins, manatees, and divers.
Shen Finding Nemo came out in 2004, Disney found a way to breathe new life into the Living Seas. With some new paint and new décor, the pavilion was revived, and more attractions were added later on featuring Bruce the shark and Crush the turtle, both from the movies.
Today, the pavilion still has the live marine animal portion; I could stand there and watch the manatees all day!
3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a very popular ride in early Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It was based on the movie of the same name, and the ride took guests on an exciting undersea adventure aboard submarines resembling the Nautilus from the movie.
While I never would have believed it as a kid riding the attraction, the subs never actually submerged all the way, but the seating was below water level. When you looked out of the porthole next to you, you could see various sea creatures like eels, crabs, clams, and fish. Then, a tropical storm came and the captain ordered the sub to go deeper to avoid destruction. As you entered the show building, you saw The Graveyard of Lost Ships and shipwrecks. Next up was the Abyss where very strange creatures lingered. The last discovery was the ruins of Atlantis with gold and treasure scattered about.
The ride ended with an attack by a giant squid, a rising back up to the surface, and a return to the dock. As you can see, this attraction was very involved, and the maintenance costs got to be too much; plus, the capacity was pretty low, so it wasn’t worth the expense.
This attraction opened shortly after the park did (within a couple weeks) and remained operational until 1994 when it was replaced by Ariel’s Grotto in 1995 then again by Pooh’s Playful Spot, both meet and greets, in 2005.
In 2014, after a couple years of construction, New Fantasyland opened to the public, and the premier attraction was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which stands on the land formerly occupied by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. To this day, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train remains one of the most popular attractions in Magic Kingdom, and it’s often one of the first FastPass attractions to run out of reservations. Wait times for the Mine Train can reach well over an hour and often much longer even on typically slower days.
4. Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Before Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Snow White’s Scary Adventures represented the classic Disney movie that Walt himself worked very hard on.
To this day, people still tell me stories about how terrified they were riding this attraction. The witch at the end was so realistic that it brought kids to tears. Disney determined that it was, indeed, too scary, and the attraction was toned down a bit. The tamer version of this opening day attraction began in 1994 and ran until 2012 when it closed to make way for New Fantasyland.
Some of the animatronics were moved to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train- most notably, the witch. Watch for her at the very end of the ride as you’re returning to the loading area. She’s knocking on Snow White’s door to offer her a delicious looking apple.
The rest of the attraction was demolished to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall where fans can meet and greet their favorite Disney Princesses including Cinderella, Elena, Rapunzel, and Tiana. This important addition made room for the Princesses to be in one place and indoors so guests wouldn’t suffer in long lines and heat while they waited to meet these iconic Disney characters.
5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was another opening day attraction in Magic Kingdoms Fantasyland. The ride was based on a character (Mr. Toad) from The Wind in the Willows (1908) and chronicled his life throughout the animated cartoon.
The ride itself took guests on a wild ride through the London countryside in a 1930s miniature motorcar. Along the way, you encountered calamities including Mr. Toad’s fateful crash with a locomotive. The ride was originally supposed to be a roller coaster, but Walt wanted attractions that were appropriate for all ages. The final product was not a thrill ride, but it wasn’t as slow as other dark rides. The vehicles would speed up towards obstacles and make sudden turns, but it was a favorite among guests because it was like being inside a cartoon.
There were two tracks that took guests through completely different scenes. You never knew which track you would go on, so the attraction never became redundant.
In 1998, Disney closed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and the closure became a hotly contested subject. There were even protests in the park. Regardless, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh replaced Mr. Toad just one year later. The new attraction used more modern intellectual property and appealed to younger guests more so than did Mr. Toad. Nevertheless, there are tributes to Mr. Toad inside the current show building as well as a statue of Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery outside of the Haunted Mansion.
6. Mickey’s Toontown Fair
Mickey’s Toontown might have been the smallest land in Magic Kingdom, but it became very popular. It was built to be temporary, but guests loved it so much that Disney completed an extensive renovation to make it more permanent, and it delighted guests from 1988 to 2011. It opened as Mickey’s Birthdayland, was renamed Mickey’s Toyland in 1995, and renamed again in 1996 as Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Part of the land held Mickey and Minnie’s homes where they met guests for quite some time, but Mickey’s Toontown Fair was another casualty of the New Fantasyland expansion.
Specifically, Storybook Circus stands in the footprint of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. The whole area has a definite circus theme, and there are several attractions within the area including the Casey Jr. Soak ‘n’ Splash Station, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and the Barnstormer. There’s also a merchandise location, a snack stop, and a character meet at greet called Pete’s Silly Sideshow where you can meet four of the Fab Five in their circus attire.
7. World of Motion
The pavilion that currently houses Test Track in Epcot’s Future World held World of Motion, then sponsored by General Motors. The pavilion was part of the park’s opening day lineup and fulfilled one of the goals of the park to honor transportation throughout history from the invention of the wheel to present day technology and the future of transportation putting guests into futuristic vehicles using a Pepper’s Ghost illusion. Guests were dropped into an interactive post-show complete with new GM products.
The attraction closed in 1996 to make way for its successor.
At this point, the future of the pavilion was hanging in the balance. GM was facing financial concerns, and they told Disney that they wouldn’t continue to sponsor the pavilion unless they could use it as a sales opportunity.
Disney and GM came to an agreement to use GM’s Chevrolet division to sponsor the new pavilion, which would place Chevy vehicles in the post show along with representatives on hand to answer any questions. The attraction itself continues to use six-passenger vehicles, and Test Track remains a very popular ride in Epcot and a top tier FastPass option.
Horizons was another pavilion in Epcot, and this one was sponsored by General Electric.
Inside was a dark ride omnimover that featured all of the elements of Epcot’s mission including communication, community, energy, transportation, anatomy, physiology, sea, land, air, and space. It opened exactly one year after opening day. Riders would see realistic scenes with visions of the future of all of these elements including the possible future of life in various biospheres like cities, deserts, under the sea, and in space. At the end of the attraction, guests were given the option to choose their own pathway back to Futureport. Guests were shown a short video depicting the path they chose. It also fulfilled the goal of being both educational and entertaining at the same time. Horizons closed in 1999 after years without a sponsor.
Finally, Horizons was destroyed in 2000 marking the first time in Disney history that an entire building was demolished to make way for a new attraction but not before some mementos were removed and preserved for future displays.
Mission: SPACE opened in 2003 and was evaluated by NASA astronauts to be the most realistic space launch they ever experienced aside from the real thing. In fact, there are two options for the ride; one side spins and launches into space, and the other side doesn’t spin and stays closer to the earth.
9. Camp Minnie Mickey
Camp Minnie Mickey replaced the planned land of Beastly Kingdom before construction even began. Imagineers realized that Asia was far behind schedule, and Beastly Kingdom would be too much for them to take on. Instead, the Imagineers recruited Disney’s Entertainment Office to create Camp Minnie Mickey at the last minute. The area was built similarly to Mickey’s Birthdayland in Magic Kingdom, which was completed in just 90 days – an incredible timeline. At the center of the land was a low-budget stage show and character meet and greet trails. Festival of the Lion King was also part of the land but was relocated, appropriately, to Africa. Camp Minnie Mickey closed in 2014 to make way for a massive expansion of Pandora in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
In 2016, Pandora – The Land of Avatar and Rivers of Light came to life. Animal Kingdom is now open into the evening and even has a special nighttime show for guests to enjoy.
Maelstrom was one of the few rides in World Showcase, but it became controversial because the Norwegians said that it didn’t accurately represent Norway‘s current condition. This dark boat ride cruised through a troll-inhabited swamp, past Nordic polar bears, by the oil refineries, and through present day Norway ending in a short film depicting Norway’s contributions to technology.
When Frozen fever took over Disney, Elsa and her sister Anna needed a place to meet and greet their thousands of fans. Since the movie took place in Norway, it made sense to put them there. Maelstrom closed in 2014, and Frozen Ever After opened in 2016.
Some people expressed concern that this would change World Showcase forever, but that didn’t stop people from coming in droves. The ride and subsequent meet and greet was so popular that Disney had to open Norway earlier than the rest of World Showcase. The pavilion just next door, Mexico, also opened early to slow crowds from running straight to Norway.
11. Wonders of Life
The Wonders of Life pavilion sits back in a corner of Future World, near the former Universe of Energy building. Originally, the pavilion housed attractions showcasing life.
Body Wars was a simulator that shrunk guests down to miniature size and allowed them to see the human body from the inside. The Making of Me was a 15-minute film hosted by Martin Short who traveled back in time to witness his own conception. If that sounds weird, you’re right. There was even a warning that the film wasn’t appropriate for some children. The pavilion closed in 2007 and has been underused since then.
For the last several years, Wonders of Life has served as the Festival Center for The Food and Wine Festival, the Flower and Garden Festival, and most recently the Festival of the Arts. News has come out recently that Wonders of Life is out as the Festival Center and The Odyssey is in.
12. Studio Backlot Tour
The Studio Backlot Tour represented all that Disney’s Hollywood Studios was supposed to be: a functioning Hollywood of the East. The walk through attraction was one of two originals for the park. Guests walked by Hollywood memorabilia then into a movie set where actors performed right in front of you and directors called out staging directions. After this, guests saw how other special effects were created.
After years of scaling back this attraction including the miscellaneous use of Soundstages 1, 2, and 3, the entire area closed. This marked a significant change in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and removed all hope of a functioning production facility.
The attraction finally closed in 2014 and will be replaced by Toy Story Land. The attraction has been completely demolished. Construction on Toy Story Land began in 2016 and will be completed by summer 2018 in time for a mid-summer opening.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which at one time was said to be getting a new name but that rumor has been dispelled, is now more focused on intellectual property than a true Hollywood East.
Which now-closed attraction do you miss in Disney World?