Alright, it’s time for the second installment in our “Replacements Attractions at Walt Disney World” series, with this being the follow-up to our Top 10 Attraction Replacements at Walt Disney World post. This list offers an EPCOT Center and Magic Kingdom-heavy list of the worst of the many attractions that have come and gone at Walt Disney World, as the parks have evolved.
Evolution is an interesting word, isn’t it? It connotes improvement. As someone who has been critical of a lot of changes to the parks over the years, common responses have included a slew of Walt Disney quotes about moving forward, progress, and Disneyland never being complete. This is fallacious reasoning (if one-liner quotes can be called “reasoning”) that presupposes change is always good.
My belief is that many people conflate change for progress. The latter is undoubtedly good, but the same cannot be said of change. Change for the sake of itself is not necessarily good; it can be a positive, negative, or lateral move. A replacement can be inferior, in which case it most certainly was not “progress.” For me, this is borne out in the decline of EPCOT Center into today’s Epcot.
As with the last list, we’re comparing current attractions with their immediate predecessors. This prevents the sins of the father from being laid upon the son, and keeps things cleaner. This actually saved a few attractions (such as SuperStar Television at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) because there have been multiple replacements since the “good” attraction.
T10. Legend of the Lion King -> PhilharMagic – This list is going to begin with a whimper. On the one hand, Legend of the Lion King (a show similar to Voyage of the Little Mermaid) had a good run and was probably due for a replacement. On the other hand, the puppetry was great and even when PhilharMagic was added, it seems like people were sort of “over” 3D shows. I really enjoy PhilharMagic so I really can’t complain too much here, but I think an updated Legend of the Lion King would still be popular today. Just listen to how crazy guests go for the Lion King scene in Disneyland Forever (audible cheers are louder than they are for the Frozen scene–children of the 90s represent!)
T10. Snow White’s Adventures -> Princess Fairytale Hall – I get the thinking here: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train made Snow White’s Adventures a redundant Fantasyland attraction. However, replacing a ride with a simple meet & greet leaves a bad taste. This would’ve been a prime opportunity to introduce a refreshed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, or build another charming C-Ticket Fantasyland dark ride. Meet & greets certainly have their place–and I really like what was done with Enchanted Tales with Belle–but that place is not at the expense of actual attractions.
9. The Timekeeper -> Monsters Laugh Floor – Unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoy Monsters Laugh Floor. A lot, actually. Still, it makes the list because The Timekeeper was better, and thematically appropriate. The Timekeeper was a visual feast with a clever “something has gone wrong” mix up involving Jules Verne. Between its quirky spins in history (that’s right, back in my day, Disney made guests learn even outside of Epcot!) and infusions of humor, The Timekeeper was a real gem. Monsters Laugh Floor can have humor (if you get a good audience), but it’s not on the same level as The Timekeeper.
8. Wonders of Life -> Nothing – This list could easily be titled “Top 10 Ways Disney Screwed Up EPCOT Center” but I want to avoid fixating on that carnage, so I’m going to limit my EPCOT Center selections. With that said, near the top of the list would be the decision to simply shutter and forget about the Wonders of Life pavilion. Admittedly, the last original-era attractions to EPCOT Center aged the worst, but in a time when childhood obesity is at “epidemic” levels with over a third of children obese or overweight, never has a conversation about health and wellness been so important. Offering guests an entertaining and educational perspective on these topics could help make a profound difference.
7. SpectroMagic -> Main Street Electrical Parade – SpectroMagic replaced Main Street Electrical Parade, and then it was replaced by Main Street Electrical Parade. SpectroMagic had a good run, so this isn’t about it, so much as it is the incredibly tired Main Street Electrical Parade. Light parades capture the imagination and captivate guests, so it’s really a shame Walt Disney World phones it in with the Main Street Electrical Parade, which is a parade that debuted at Disneyland in 1972. Paint the Night demonstrates just how much these night parades can benefit from new technology (and Dreamlights demonstrates how to pay homage to MSEP without running the same tired parade), and it’s really a shame that Magic Kingdom is stuck with a 40+ year old relic.
6. World of Motion -> Test Track – I get why EPCOT Center changed. Future World had too many elaborate, lengthy, and slow-moving Audio Animatronics-based dark rides. Management and guests(?) wanted attraction diversity…and more thrills. That doesn’t mean I have to like the change. Test Track, especially the much-improved 2.0 incarnation, is a solid attraction that fits Future World, but it is visually-sparse as compared to World of Motion. World of Motion was funny and educational, presenting rich and detailed vignettes as it progressed through the history of transportation. (If you missed World of Motion, be sure to check out our World of Motion Tribute post for photos and more.)
5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride -> the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – This doesn’t make the list because I think Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is an iconic attraction the replacement of which is tantamount to “Disney treason.” In fact, had I been active online during the “Save Toad” campaign, I probably would’ve been indifferent. After all, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was dated, simple, and had a good run. The Imagineers were capable of doing far better. Unfortunately, “better” didn’t happen. Unlike the revolutionary Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, built a year later at Tokyo Disneyland (which was undoubtedly in development at the same time as this version), the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was a lateral technical move, and a squandered opportunity. The ride itself also lacked the charm and whimsy of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, making the change a net loss.
4. The Magic of Disney Animation -> Star Wars Launch Bay – None of this would exist without Disney animation. I guess in a way, it’s fitting irony that what Disney used to be all about has been replaced with what Disney is now all about. Since the Magic of Disney Animation has been a shell of its former self since actual animators left the building over a decade ago, it’s a little easier to swallow. Still, I remember this being such an exciting and inspiring attraction when I was a kid, and it left me drawing and dreaming long after our trips. I can only imagine how many kids grew up to be animators because of it. Launch Bay is so half-hearted that it isn’t inspiring anyone to do anything (except maybe buy merchandise?), which is probably for the better, because we don’t need a new generation of kids to become Stormtroopers.
3. Horizons -> Mission Space – I’ll be honest: I don’t really remember Horizons. My family visited numerous times while it was operating, but for some reason, it didn’t stick with me (that, or we didn’t do it much). Although I have watched ride through videos of it numerous times (you can see video and photos in our Horizons Tribute post), I don’t have the same emotional attachment to Horizons as many fans. As much as I think Horizons was a brilliant dark ride with an optimistic and inspiring view of the future, I view Mission Space as a story of squandered potential. This was to be the Space pavilion. Few things are more inspiring than humankind’s exploration of space. How do you not fully convey that?! Were Mission Space actually a thought and emotion-provoking attraction offering a glimpse into the promise of space exploration, and not merely an entertaining simulator, I think the loss of Horizons wouldn’t sting nearly as much.
2. Alien Encounter for Stitch’s Great Escape – I experienced Alien Encounter for the first at just the right time in my life, when I was 10 years old, shortly after it opened. I was at an age where I could grasp some of the dark humor in the pre-show, but not so old that the attraction didn’t scare me a tad. It had everything that made an attraction awesome to me: an interesting story, an entertaining wait in line, and original characters with personality. Sure, it scared children–but there were plenty of warnings, and Stitch’s Great Escape also scares children–but it was satirical, well-written, and thrilling. It was a thoughtful attraction disguised under the hype of “aliens,” whereas its replacement is mindless and clumsy.
1. Journey into Imagination -> Journey into Imagination with Figment – Some Disney attractions are so captivating and entertaining that they are timeless. Despite utilizing technology from the 1800s, I doubt anyone’s reaction to Haunted Mansion is that it feels dated. The same holds true for the original Journey into Imagination (if you missed it, check out our Journey into Imagination Tribute post for photos and more). The original was, in a word, mesmerizing. In another word–as cliche as this sounds–it was imaginative. As a young child, I was spellbound by this attraction, its characters, and the scenes they inhabited. I remember it in vivid detail not because we rode it over and over (although we did), but because it was a timeless attraction that captured the attention of guests, sparked their imaginations, and left an indelible impression. The replacement, Journey into Imagination with Figment (I’m not even acknowledging the insipid and short-lived Journey into Your Imagination) seems like it strives to annoy rather than inspire.
Yeah…so I have to admit that writing this list bummed me out a bit. I’d like to think of myself as a realist, albeit one who is largely optimistic (maybe to a fault) about the parks, but a few of these really sting. In some cases, like Journey into Imagination and Alien Encounter, it’s a personal thing. In other instances, it seems like Disney, renowned for the “Disney Difference” just isn’t trying. I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about in terms of the parks’ future, but a place as financially successful and with as high of standards as Walt Disney World should and can do better than some of what’s on this list…
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Do you agree or disagree with my list? Do you miss any of these attractions, or do you think the replacements are true progress? Which extinct attraction do you miss most? Share any questions or additional thoughts you have in the comments!