Many masterpieces of Imagineering age like fine wines, getting better and becoming even more iconic over time. However, there are a lot of rides at Walt Disney World that have not fared so well, instead becoming increasingly outdated or even obsolete. This list covers the attractions–both big and small–that are in need of overhauls or outright replacements.
There are a range of reasons that some attractions at Walt Disney World age better than others. A trio of Magic Kingdom classics–Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Jungle Cruise–all exemplify rides improving with each passing year, becoming beloved by a whole new generation of fans.
It would be easy to attribute that to one commonality, that all have received movie adaptations to keep interest high. While that’s certainly true of the Johnny Depp and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson helmed franchises, it’s not fair to say the same applies to Haunted Mansion. It didn’t enter the cultural zeitgeist thanks to a movie adaptation no one saw that scored 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. But who knows, maybe the upcoming adaptation featuring *checks notes* Jared Leto will be what finally puts Haunted Mansion on the map!
Aging poorly is not necessarily indicative of an attraction’s quality. To the contrary, many rides on this list once were great, and still are in spite of that datedness. The commonality isn’t that they’re bad, but rather, that time has passed them by. This usually means technology has made them obsolete. There are plenty of examples of older attractions receiving redos that inject then-current technology, and incongruity appears between the original and updated components over time.
In other cases, attractions take a very contemporary approach to technology that simply does not hold up years later. We might call this “The Mummy Returns Effect.” That 2001 film leaned very much into bleeding edge (at the time) CGI, and the result is Dwayne Johnson’s Scorpion King now looking like it was rendered by a Sega Dreamcast. Meanwhile, older films like Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and other old films still hold up because they didn’t get carried away.
It’s a similar story with some of the attractions on this list. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Instead, we’ll dig into the list of 10 attractions at Walt Disney World that have aged poorly and are urgently overdue for an overhaul or at least some updates…
Spaceship Earth — This slow-moving dark ride through Audio Animatronics-heavy scenes showcasing the advancement of communication feels like it’s stuck in the past. Spaceship Earth was scheduled for a reimagining a few years ago, which was desperately needed. The track is in rough shape and the descent gives off abandoned mall vibes, with random black light triangles (rad!) and a sea of curtains cordoning off unused areas.
For an attraction highlighting how human communications have evolved, the way in which the ride communicates to guests–especially in the finale–likewise feels antiquated. One might argue that aspects of the attraction, ironically enough, fail to connect with guests with storytelling that’s clunky and a conclusion that fails to inspire. Humanity’s shared story is a compelling one and the ride’s location inside Epcot’s iconic geodesic sphere is really cool, but Spaceship Earth squanders so much of its potential.
Purists might cringe at these criticisms, themselves (understandably) not wanting to rock the boat and lose the last of Epcot’s Audio Animatronics-heavy attractions. However, the current state of the second-half of the attraction is embarrassing, the script is tired, and the cheesy screen-based ending is atrocious. Spaceship Earth deserves better, and diehard fans shouldn’t have to fear a refurbishment because the end result might, somehow, be even worse.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – We probably could save a decent amount of time and keystrokes with one entry for all of Tomorrowland. I want to love Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. I love the idea of it as a shooter ride that actually uses physical show scenes to make it engaging for guests who want to enjoy the attraction passively. Some of the staging, props, and Audio Animatronics are really cool. The interactivity is fun, and Walt Disney World could use more attractions like this.
With that said, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is essentially proof of concept…that did prove the concept. As other interactive shooters have followed in its footsteps, this tired dark ride hasn’t been modernized in over two decades. It’s still a reimagined ride of another reimagined ride (with some remnants of its predecessors, Delta Dreamflight and If You Had Wings, still in place). The parks in Anaheim, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai have all since iterated upon and improved the Buzz Lightyear shooter ride, and it’s long past time for Magic Kingdom to follow suit.
Tomorrowland Speedway – Plenty of Walt Disney World fans will argue that Tomorrowland Speedway should be demolished and replaced, as it takes up too much prime real estate in Magic Kingdom. That perspective contends that the concept is outdated, and that the ride is noisy, stinky, and simplistic.
They’re right and wrong. Like Dumbo and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Tomorrowland Speedway is a rite of passage attraction that is deserving of its place in Magic Kingdom. For kids, sitting in the driver’s seat and steering through a car course is really cool. However, children do not author blogs like this one (despite what the writing quality, or lack thereof, might suggest) so that perspective isn’t often voiced.
Nevertheless, if Tomorrowland Speedway is deemed ‘culturally significant’ (or whatever) and worthy of so much space in Magic Kingdom, it needs to be differentiate itself from dime-a-dozen go-cart rides. Replacing the fleet with modern vehicles having striking design styles and show scenes with personality would be a start. Make the cars fun for all ages, and the scenery worthy of a Sunday drive.
Journey into Imagination with Figment — If you’re visiting EPCOT for the first time today, it’s impossible to understand how what appears to be a Spyro knock-off and his underwhelming attraction have such a fan following. You might just chalk it up to Disney Adult idiosyncrasies, much like I assume people like Dunkin’ Donuts because they’ve never had any other doughnuts or coffee. In both cases, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Figment is popular not for the existing attraction in its current sorry state, but for the original Journey into Imagination. If anything, the fact that the ride and its star character still have a powerful hold on adults of a certain age decades after they disappeared speaks volumes about the indelible impression they left on the youth of the 1980s and 1990s.
The original Journey into Imagination was mesmerizing. Above all else, it was imaginative, as cliche as that might sound. As a young child, I was spellbound by the original, its characters, and the evocative scenes they inhabited. I remember it in vivid detail not because my family rode it over and over (although we did!), but because it was a timeless attraction that captivated guests, sparked their imaginations, and forged lifelong Walt Disney World fans.
The replacement, Journey into Imagination with Figment, seems like it strives to annoy rather than inspire. Ironically enough, it showcases the power of imagination…with the least imaginative and obnoxious attraction possible. What was once an okay band-aid between the Figment-less Journey into Your Imagination and a new attraction has now outlived the original, and is looking really worse for wear. Everything about it is outdated, the the first three-quarters of the ride-through feels like something is missing. What’s missing is imagination.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh — I’m going to say what everyone is thinking: Winnie the Pooh is a baller. No, you weren’t thinking that? Well, only because the Walt Disney Company has absolutely squandered the potential of Winnie the Pooh, sidelining he and his posse’s potential for pranks and tomfoolery.
In a just world, it would be Winnie the Pooh and not Paddington who is beloved by generations. Think about it, what does Paddington possess that Winnie the Pooh does not? Preserved jam sandwiches? Give me a break. Winnie the Pooh is a straight-up honey fiend, risking life and limb for a taste of the sweet stuff. Pooh is just as laid back, chill, generous, and deferential as Paddington. On top of that, Pooh rolls deep, with a crew more pure of heart than AFC Richmond.
But I digress. The point is not to disparage Paddington, himself an international treasure, but to question why Winnie the Pooh does not receive more love among Americans? This ride, that is why. It is rudimentary and dated (despite not being that old), failing to showcase the heart and charm of these beloved characters. An attraction based on Winnie the Pooh should be timeless, filled with childlike wonder, and more popular than Peter Pan’s Flight. We know a Pooh-centric attraction can reach these heights because there is an older one that is exactly all of these things…but it’s at Tokyo Disneyland.
Peter Pan’s Flight – Speaking of which, this is bound to be a controversial pick. That’s especially true given the enduring popularity of Peter Pan’s Flight and the fact that it commands some of the longest wait times in all of Walt Disney World. It’s also bound to be controversial because Peter Pan hasn’t exactly aged well as judged against contemporary cultural and social standards. But that’s not why Peter Pan’s Flight makes this list–although I do think there’s one easily-updatable scene that’s overdue for replacement.
Rather, Peter Pan’s Flight makes the list despite its popularity. As good as the attraction premise is and as special as it is to fly over the streets of London and Neverland, it still has unrealized potential. Plussing the ride to integrate projection mapping or other lighting effects–as has been done in Anaheim, Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo–could be a gamechanger. Overhauling the ride system so the flight is less jerky and more smooth would help with suspension of disbelief.
Imagineering got it right with Peter Pan’s Flight decades ago, and it is a truly timeless attraction that will be enjoyed by generations of guests to come. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t little ways to enhance the attraction to keep the icon fresh. Imagineering has done exactly that with Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean over the last several years. It’s about time Peter Pan’s Flight left its datedness in the dust and got a chance to soar higher.
Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage — This stage show retelling Beauty and the Beast in condensed form is literally as old as the animated movie itself. It’s enjoyable, doing an adequate job with choreography, performances, and dramatic styling. And in fairness, not every theatrical production needs to be edgy or envelope-pushing to grab guests’ attention. Sometimes simple-but-good is more than enough.
Those are fair points, but this just feels old. I can’t quite articulate why or how, but pretty much everything about it just gives off 1990s vibes. In isolation, it’s difficult to point to any specific element that gives the show away as being dated. It’s the totality of it all, and how it contrasts with newer adaptations of animated movies that gives it away. So many more modern productions have come and gone at Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line that could be plugged into DHS and would be a breath of fresh air, comparatively speaking.
Space Mountain — I’ve long defended Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain, which remains my favorite even compared to the newer versions at Disneyland and beyond. Although it lacks audio…and a smooth ride…it makes up for that with more personality in the queue, post-show, and the ride itself. However, I’m very cognizant of the fact that this is the nostalgic in me speaking.
The datedness of this dark roller coaster is going to be thrown into even starker relief once TRON Lightcycle Run opens directly next door to it. I don’t know what the solution is, and I’d hate to lose Space Mountain and all of its history and iconic qualities, but having two in-the-dark roller coasters right next to one another was always going to result in side-by-side guest comparisons, and the circa-1975 Space Mountain is woefully outdated as compared to the circa-2016 TRON Lightcycle Run.
Dinosaur — Dinosaurs deserve better. Scientifically speaking, they are the awesomest animal of all-time (edging out hammerhead sharks, which are basically aquatic dinosaur reboots). It’s honestly hard to believe that creatures so cool ever roamed the earth. I can see why dinosaur deniers are a thing, because it’s easier to live in a world where they never existed than one where we never got to see their glory and grandeur IRL.
Imagineering had the opportunity to rectify that, bringing dinosaurs to life in a way that would inspire, educate, and possibly result in world peace. There are dozens of slam dunk ideas involving dinosaurs in theme parks, and pretty much anything that causes suspension of disbelief in guests would’ve been wondrous to behold.
Instead, they gave us a crappy carnival and a knock-off of Indiana Jones Adventure, but with 75% of the ride in darkness. What a joke. Technically, this hasn’t just aged poorly–it was always a matter of hugely squandered potential. (But the CGI from 2000’s Dinosaur definitely does not hold up!)
Soarin’ Around the World — Another pick that’ll undoubtedly be polarizing given the popularity of this hang-glider simulator ride. I’m not particularly averse to Soarin’ Around the World, but the CGI, cheesy animals, and distortion has worn on me over time. With each passing year, either it looks worse or I get grumpier. Probably both, but stick with me here.
You know how someone looks younger right after they’ve had a facelift (or whatever cosmetic surgery is in fashion these days), but over time, their skin starts looking fake and plastic-like? Meanwhile, the person who embraced their laugh lines and crow’s feet appears to age gracefully? It’s the same idea with Soarin.
I had the chance to catch both versions days apart earlier this year, and felt that Soarin’ Over California has aged far better. To be sure, it doesn’t look brand new and there are little clues that it was shot in the late 1990s. However, OG Soarin’ benefits from its footage being real film, whereas CGI Soarin’ already looks dated as compared to newer visual effects.
Do any attractions at Walt Disney World strike you as particularly outdated or obsolete? Think there are any newer rides that have aged poorly by virtue of leaning too heavily into evolving technologies? Anything you think our list “snubbed” that belongs among WDW’s outdated rides? Do you agree or disagree with our list? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!