We spend a lot of time on this blog waxing nostalgic about EPCOT Center. When reading our 10 Worst Walt Disney World Attraction Replacements, it’s hard not to notice the presence of the original Epcot. And, as we’ve conceded in our Why We Can’t Let EPCOT Go post, even though most of those attractions went extinct nearly two decades ago (or over, in some cases), we still hold out hope that Epcot will be restored to its past greatness.
In reality, those extinct omnimover attractions are never coming back. However, there are some more recent things gone from Walt Disney World that could come back, and that’s what we want to focus on here. Making this a “top” 10 list and simply rehashing the Epcot rides we miss the most would’ve been the easy route. Instead, we’ll focus on 10 things that we really miss, but that could conceivably return in some form, be it direct restorations or ‘spiritual successors’ that embody the same characteristics and quality.
As such, these aren’t necessarily headliners or E-Tickets, and are not the big things everyone else laments. It’s a fairly healthy mix of entertainment, seasonal offerings, and attractions, all that could conceivably be brought back. While this is all idle daydreaming (and the probability of any of these things returning is infinitesimal), Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is just around the corner, and it’s going to be heavily fueled by nostalgia…
10. Pirate & Princess Party – Starting this list out with a hard-ticket event may not instill confidence in this list, but we are guessing 99% of you reading this post never experienced the Pirate & Princess Party. Even though the event occurred at various times from 2007 until 2009, it was so sparsely attended that it was eventually canceled. We attended only once, but loved the Enchanted Adventures Parade, the fireworks, and the moody atmosphere of the event. If Magic Kingdom would run this parade during Disney After Hours, that would be the nudge we need to buy tickets to that event.
Alternatively, we would be open to a return of Summer Nightastic (well, part of it…we could do without Main Street Electrical Parade), the free promotional event that occurred a couple of years later and included the Magic, Music & Mayhem fireworks from the Pirate & Princess Party. Although we still hold some ill-will towards Summer Nightastic for helping bring about the demise of SpectroMagic, we’re ready to forgive and forget.
The Lights of Winter was not a huge-scale offering, but perfectly set the mood for Christmas in Epcot. These archways ran between Future World and World Showcase, and were abruptly “retired” (to put it charitably) one year due to technical issues. For the next few years, many fans hoped their infrastructure would be updated and they’d return, but I think that hope has mostly dissipated. With that said, these could still be rebuilt and restored on short notice, and would give Epcot a shot in the arm during the Christmas season. Perhaps not a bad idea as the park loses attendance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom…
8. Happiest Celebration on Earth – Originally, Year of a Million Dreams made our list here. We really enjoyed that event, and a big part of that was surprise Magical Moments awarded by the Dream Squad. We “won” ears twice and got to ride in Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade during the event. It was a great way to make guests feel special and valued. However, after hearing more and more stories of guest entitlement, I worry that too many people would feel they were owed a Magical Moment, and complain when they didn’t receive one. (A few bad apples…)
Moreover, with Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on the horizon, I wonder if perhaps something akin to the Happiest Celebration on Earth, which ran globally during Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, would be more appropriate. A worldwide event paying tribute to Walt Disney World and celebrating the legacy of the theme parks would be cool. The Happiest Celebration on Earth was really the first time we heard much about the international parks, and it’d be cool for each of the parks to pay tribute to one another with a focus on Walt Disney World’s history and legacy.
7. Extinct Foods – My official vote here is for Figaro Fries, the loaded fries that used to be offered in Fantasyland. There are also several desserts and a sandwich I miss at Sunshine Seasons, and a couple holiday cupcakes I really miss. Bringing any of these back would be easy, and could make sense as part of special 50th Anniversary menus.
6. Timekeeper – This was a huge hit for me as a kid. I loved the time travel components, historical figures, and the animated personality Robin Williams (probably one of the most recognizable actors to any child of the 90s) gave to Timekeeper. What went over my head at the time–that I think I’d appreciate today–was the range of filming locations beyond the Eiffel Tower.
With that said, there’s no chance of Timekeeper returning, and another CircleVision 360 film in Tomorrowland seems unlikely. I just really enjoyed Timekeeper and think Monsters Laugh Floor is already starting to get stale, so I’d like to see that space repurposed again. Something in the same ballpark as Timekeeper would be great, but I’m not holding my breath.
5. Adventurers Club – Another one that’s never coming back, if only because its unique building was gutted for the Edison and many of its props shipped to Hong Kong Disneyland. Nevertheless, I think a concept similar to the Adventurers Club would be well-received and popular among Walt Disney World’s growing adult audience. It was quirky and unique–a better and more polished incarnation of an entertainment style that’s very popular right now.
I’m also still not convinced Adventurers Club was a “failure.” The Pleasure Island business model may not have been sound and there might’ve been too many regulars without drinks, but I think Adventurers Club could be viable without any tweaks to the substance of its shows.
4. Country Bear Christmas – Assuming the costumes and props are still backstage somewhere (a bold assumption, to be sure), Country Bear Christmas could run this year with only a short refurbishment to accomplish the changeover. Tokyo Disneyland still runs this show every holiday season, and it is glorious. Some might say jovial bears singing Christmas carols captures the true spirit of the season.
Despite blogs like this one extolling the virtues of Country Bear Jamboree, the show is not all that popular, and it’s arguable that the investment wouldn’t be worth it to do the Christmas version. Setting aside the fact that popularity is a terrible barometer of quality, I’d argue that Christmas music has more universal appeal. With November and December attendance at Magic Kingdom surging since the show last ran in the mid-aughts, Country Bear Christmas would be a great way to soak up some of those crowds.
3. Alien Encounter – If recent rumors are to be believed, Stitch’s Great Escape will become something else, with competing concepts vying for the space but nothing being greenlit. Although there’s no IP tie-in to feed the almighty Disney synergy beast (yet…perhaps Disney will hire Guillermo del Toro to make an Alien Encounter movie), I think the case could be made to bring back this darker, satirical, and more adult attraction.
First, it’s the easiest option. Stitch’s Great Escape reused a lot of the same infrastructure, props, and effects…just with a far worse execution. Restoring Alien Encounter would be far easier than creating something new from a blank slate. Second, Walt Disney World demographics skew more adult every year, and Tomorrowland in particular will soon be a land that caters towards an older (or at least taller) audience. Finally, Alien Encounter was just flat-out good. It wasn’t just cheap scares, it was a story of corporate greed and contained some great dark humor. This often gets lost in the conversation about it being “too scary” for Magic Kingdom, but there was much more to Alien Encounter than the terrifying extraterrestrial escape. All things considered, I think a redux of this attraction could perform well in Tomorrowland circa 2021.
Nonetheless, I really hope there is a nighttime parade in the cards for Magic Kingdom, and I really hope it’s in the spirit of SpectroMagic. There was something special about that parade, from SpectroMickey’s lavish costume to the beautiful soundtrack. A technically-advanced replacement that borrows notes from the parade–much in the same way Tokyo’s Dreamlights is an homage to Main Street Electrical Parade–would be a huge hit, and something we’d watch on a near-nightly basis on our Walt Disney World trips.
1. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge looks amazing. I’ve said since it was announced that I think it’ll be an excellent addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the closures that were required to gain this land would be an objectively good trade-off. Obviously, due to the closures Star Wars land necessitated, the Osborne Lights can never return in their previous form…but a large scale Christmas light display could be added elsewhere at Walt Disney World.
The jury is still out for us on a personal level as to whether Star Wars land will compensate for the loss of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. There were nights we went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for no other reason than the Osborne Lights, and we’d spend hours just standing back on the Streets of America. Even when it was wall-to-wall people, the Osborne Lights just oozed happiness. For us, it was really something special, as we detail further in our Celebrating the Osborne Lights post. Suffice to say, no other attraction closure has gotten me as choked up as I was on our last viewing of the Osborne Lights.
What things–insignificant or major–do you miss at Walt Disney World? Are there seasonal events, entertainment, or attractions you’d like to see resurrected? 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!