10 Extinct Things We Miss That Disney World Should Bring Back

Every Walt Disney World fan has extinct attractions that they miss, and would give anything to see one last time. This post takes a look at some of our favorite long-gone offerings from Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios, but with a twist: everything on this list actually could return. (Updated March 17, 2024.)

While we spend a lot of time on this blog waxing nostalgic about EPCOT Center (our 10 Worst Walt Disney World Attraction Replacements is very EPCOT-heavy), the reality is that extinct omnimover attractions are never coming back. Sadly, it’s unlikely that any ride is coming back, no matter much we might want it–and how good of an idea it might be. The best we can hope for on that front are sequels (of sorts), like the elusive Journey into Imagination reboot so many fans hope to see coming sometime this decade.

However, there are some 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.

Not only that, but it seems like the time is right for daydreaming about what Walt Disney World might do to recapture some of the magic. For one thing, CEO Bob Iger and Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro have been trying to assuage Cast Members and fans that trying trying to right the ship and undo damage done during the Chapek era. To the chagrin of many fans, that will not take the form of price decreases, but efforts have already been made to fix lost goodwill. Playing the nostalgia card is another good way to accomplish that, and lure back disillusioned fans.

Part of this is the current team wanting to improve guest goodwill, but another is, admittedly, necessary to entice back fans following the exhaustion of pent-up demand at Walt Disney World. When “revenge travel” was running hot, management could get away with whatever and people were still visiting in droves. Even with the bounceback that we’ve dumbly dumbed re-revenge travel in 2024, it’s simply not the same dynamic. Walt Disney World is only seeing these numbers as a result of increased discounting and making fan-favorable policy changes. Again, the nostalgia card is another “lever” that the company can pull to incentivize fans to return to Walt Disney World.

Finally, there’s the simple reality that Walt Disney World doesn’t have much on the horizon after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in Summer 2024. There are minor things like more new restaurants and Disney Vacation Club expansion–but nothing around which marketing campaigns can be crafted or that’ll prompt people to book vacations. When it comes to 2025, it’s looking increasing like no new attractions will debut–unless Disney announces a major ride reimagining soon and starts working ASAP. All despite Universal’s Epic Universe opening then!

Walt Disney World’s turnaround time on new attractions is painfully slow. Even if Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom started tomorrow (and it won’t), it wouldn’t debut until Summer 2026 at the absolute earliest. Test Track 3.0 and other potential ride reimaginings could conceivably debut in 2025, but with each passing month where nothing happens, that seems less and less likely. Walt Disney World might have no new or redone rides in 2025.

Fortunately, there are things that the company can do expeditiously to incentivize trips and win back weary former fans. Here’s our list of what Walt Disney World should bring back in the next few years…

10. Year of a Million Dreams – We really enjoyed this celebration, and a big part of that was surprise Magical Moments awarded by the Dream Squad. We won several times during that two-year celebration, the highlight of which was getting to ride in Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade during the event.

Year of a Million Dreams was a great way to make guests feel special and valued. It might’ve even convinced us to take more trips, wanting to win bigger. (That’s us above in Summer 2008, sporting baby faces and Mickey Mouse ears we won while lining up for Journey into Imagination–one of several successes during the Year of a Million Dreams! If I could trade everything added to Walt Disney World since to revisit then, I would do it in an instant.)

I do have some skepticism about Walt Disney World’s ability to pull off the Year of a Million Dreams now. The world has changed, social media has exploded, and there are more and more stories of guest entitlement. Too many people might feel they are owed a Magical Moment and would complain when they didn’t receive one. Or, someone on TikTok would post a way to “hack” the Year of a Million Dreams and win every day.

Regardless of what it’s called or the form it takes, a worldwide event paying tribute to Walt Disney World and celebrating the legacy of the theme parks would be cool. Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary was a complete bust, so this could be a nice mulligan for that. The Happiest Celebration on Earth was really the first time we heard much about the international parks, and it’d be fun for each of the parks to pay tribute to one another with a focus on Walt Disney World’s history and legacy.

9. Lights of Winter and Dreamlights – Fair Warning: there is a lot of Christmas on this list. Part of that is because it’s fresh in our minds. This past holiday season, Walt Disney World did just not feel nearly as festive as it used to be. There are a bunch of little things that are still missing, even as the parks are mostly back to normal.

Then there’s the one very big thing: the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, which we fear may never return. Walt Disney World bringing that display back for Christmas 2024 is the bare minimum. That’s doubly true after cutting out virtually every other major wow-inducing light display in the years prior to that.

To that point, the other “easiest” holiday light display to restore is in EPCOT, and could coincide with the new front of the park (hopefully) being finished by next Christmas. We miss the Lights of Winter so much that we made the trek to Kobe, Japan to see its Luminarie lighting, which bears an incredibly strong resemblance to the Lights of Winter.

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 is a veritable unfinished construction site.

8. 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–if there was one thing Walt Disney World did well during the 50th, it was this. Menus like those would be the perfect accompaniment to a 90s nostalgia (or something like that) summer-time celebration at Walt Disney World in 2025.

Unofficially, I’m all for BeaverTails returning to Canada. This is an unofficial one because I don’t recall ever having them in the Canada pavilion at Epcot, but I have had BeaverTails in Canada (the real country) a few times, and they are spectacularAfter a fake-out last year for the Food & Wine Festival, it’s time to bring these back for real.

7. Timekeeper or Alien Encounter – These are the only two attractions on the list, both because Tomorrowland ’94 was a huge hit for me as a kid and they would be fairly easy to bring back with retrofits to existing venues that could be accomplished in under 6 months (less than the time it took to create Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!)

Let’s start with Alien Encounter. First, 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.

As for Timekeeper, 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. Bringing back this CircleVision 360 film wouldn’t be that tough.

6. Adventurers Club – Another one that’s never coming back–at least, not in its former home or original form. 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.

The potential for Adventurers Club to return is aided by the fact that its original Cast Members still reunite for private events on a regular basis–we’ve attended multiple (one held outside at Beach Club is pictured above). With plenty of unused venues at Walt Disney World, it’d be easy enough to bring Adventurers Club back on a “limited time magic” basis.

In fact, we think this would be one of the best uses of the now-empty restaurant venue at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn or even the also vacant DisneyQuest space at Disney Springs. Adventurers Club would be a huge hit in either location.

5. Pirate & Princess Party – Modern Walt Disney World may be reluctant to offer free special events when a hard-ticket event is a possibility. In the case of the Pirate & Princess Party, we’d be willing to pay. We are guessing 99% of you reading this post never experienced the Pirate & Princess Party; the event occurred at various times for a couple of summers around the Great Recession, but was so sparsely attended that it was canceled.

We attended only once, and loved the Enchanted Adventures Parade, fireworks, and 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. In fact, “Disney Adventures After Hours” has a certain ring to it, and is a sufficiently open-ended concept that it could incorporate elements from Pirate & Princess Party and characters from the 90s, when Disney Adventures magazine was a huge hit with kids.

4. IllumiNations – It’s hard to believe this is actually a realistic suggestion, and yet, it is. Only a few years ago, we were watching as the Harmonious infrastructure was installed in World Showcase Lagoon. Given the scale and cost of that (rumored) $100 million production, it seemed like Harmonious would be around for the long haul.

Fast-forward to 2024 and there’s another new nighttime spectacular: Luminous The Symphony of Us. This is a huge upgrade over Harmonious, despite being arguably less ambition. Most notably, Luminous has more flexible infrastructure that, itself, feels like a flexible canvas for future new nighttime spectaculars. It also offers a number of nods to IllumiNations. Together, those two things make us wonder whether a modified version of IllumiNations could headline an EPCOT summertime event.

A seasonal reprisal of IllumiNations after a long hiatus would definitely draw locals and long-time fans back. To be sure, it would not be the original show nor would it be permanent, but it’s something that probably could be pulled off with the Luminous infrastructure without a ton of physical work. Frankly, that’s a compromise I’ll happily take if it means getting to see IllumiNations again for a few months!

3. Country Bear Christmas – Assuming the costumes and props are still backstage somewhere (a bold assumption, to be sure), Country Bear Christmas could run again next year with only a short refurbishment to accomplish the changeover. Aside from the past few years (due to scaled back operations), Tokyo Disneyland typically does Jingle Bell Jamboree, and it is glorious. Some might say jovial bears singing Christmas carols captures the true spirit of the season.

We’ve suggested this in the past, but think it’s actually more plausible now with the reimagining of the show into Country Bear Musical Jamboree. With a little bit of foresight, Disney Live Entertainment and Imagineering could also make the Country Bears more of a flexible offering that can accommodate seasonal shows.

Crucially, they also could’ve recorded a Christmas version at the same time as the new show–or quickly head back to the studio if Country Bear Musical Jamboree turns out to be a huge hit. Christmas music has universal appeal–just like Disney tunes. 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.

2. SpectroMagic or Paint the Night – I’ve come to terms with the fact that SpectroMagic is never coming back. What I fear is that nighttime parade will never return to Walt Disney World, period. With each year that passes without a night parade, the possibility of no long-term replacement grows.

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.

Failing that, Paint the Night has been sitting in a California warehouse, unused, for several years now. Disneyland seems satisfied bringing back Main Street Electrical Parade every couple of years, so perhaps it’s time to unload their unused night parade and send it to Florida.

1. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is amazing. Rise of the Resistance is mind-blowing–the #1 attraction at Walt Disney World. However, in our Star Wars Land vs. Osborne Lights post, there was no place at Walt Disney World we loved being in more than the Osborne Lights. It brought smiles and awe to the faces of other guests was really a sight to behold—it was the embodiment of “holiday cheer.”

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. 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. There are a ton of Osborne Lights fans out there like us. Bringing it back somewhere even in a more limited form would give a big boost to attendance in November and December.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

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!

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