Disney theme parks are perpetually being updated and upgraded over time. This means that the park has something new and exciting nearly everytime you visit. However, creating something cutting edge also often means eliminating a ride that is past its prime. This means there are many rides that have existed over the decades that many of us have never even seen, to say nothing on the ones we’ll never go on again.
While I’m generally in favor of the progressive attitude that is always looking toward the Horizon (that’s a joke, it’ll make sense in a minute if it doesn’t already), that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish all the classic Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions could still be here. Here are several that we still miss.
Journey Into Imagination
Technically, this ride still exists, but actually, it doesn’t. Journey into Imagination didn’t quite make opening day at Epcot, but it arrived shortly thereafter. This was an omnimover attraction that introduced two brand new characters to Disney history: The Dreamfinder and Figment. Dreamfinder was a bearded man and Figment was his dragon sidekick, created by Dreamfinder from his own imagination. The ride was light and fun and had an incredibly catchy theme song. “One Little Spark” written by the Sherman Brothers who wrote so many of Disney’s classic songs.
The ride was replaced with Journey into Your Imagination in 1999. It was shortened and Dreamfinder and Figment were gone, replaced, randomly, by Monty Python’s Eric Idle. The ride was so poorly received that it closed after only two years. It was replaced by Journey into Your Imagination, with Figment. That at least brought back the popular dragon, but it’s still not the same ride it once was.
ExtraTERRORestrial: Alien Encounter
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was a ride that was originally actually going to be designed using the Aliens property before it was decided an R-rated movie brand wouldn’t fit in a Disney theme park. Still, the ride was designed to be scary, as it was mainly supposed to attract an older audience, which Disney Parks had trouble getting in the gates in the mid-’90s. It consisted of a circular theater where the audience sat, viewing a terrifying alien in the center. The alien would “escape” and cut the power, putting guests in the dark. The attraction then used sounds, smells, and tactile feedback to give the audience the impression the alien was all around them.
The attraction opened at Walt Disney World in 1995, but was gone by 2003. Disneyland was in line to get its own version, but EuroDisney related cost-cutting scrapped that. The loss of this one is especially hard because Stitch’s Great Escape, which replaced it, really sucks.
Epcot’s World Showcase wasn’t designed with all that many rides, and especially not of the thrill ride variety. This made Maelstrom, part of the Norway Pavillion, especially fun. It took you through Norway’s history, both real and mythological, in a Viking longboat ride that was a traditional long flume design. It wasn’t a super exciting ride, but as a way to get a taste of Scandinavian culture in a theme park setting, it was great. Besides, who doesn’t want to ride a Viking longboat?
The basic ride structure still exists, but Maelstrom has been replaced by Frozen Ever After, a more Fantasyland like storybook dark ride. I like Frozen, so I don’t hate the replacement entirely, but it was more than a little frustrating that we had to lose Maelstrom in order to get it.
The Great Movie Ride
The Great Movie Ride is the most recent loss on this list, having only shut down a little over a year ago, but the hole it left is already felt in our hearts. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was originally a working film studio, and the rides that were there celebrated the industry, not simply the creations of that industry. The Great Movie Ride took you through animatronic-based vignettes of some of the great classic movies of all time. Sure there were Disney productions like Mary Poppins, but also non-Disney features like The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain.
Once the Studio Tour stopped running, The Great Movie Ride was the centerpiece of what made Disney’s Hollywood Studio justify its name. Now it’s hard to understand why they don’t just change the name, again.
Main Street Electrical Parade
One of the most frequent things to change at Disney Parks is the parades. They often run once or twice a day, every day, for months at a time. And they’re big, so you’re going to see them, whether you like it or not. That doesn’t mean every parade gets replaced quickly. The Main Street Electrical Parade started at Disneyland in 1972 and ran until 1996. A similar parade started at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 1977 and ran until 1991. The parade has been on again and off again at many Disney parks over the years, but a return engagement of the Walt Disney World version over at Disneyland wrapped in August of 2017, and the parade has been gone since then.
Personally, I am a huge fan of the Paint the Night parade, which was the spiritual successor the Main Street Electrical Parade, but it just ended a run at Disney’s California Adventure and it’s unclear if we’ll see it again either. Regardless, there’s nothing quite like the original, and that incredible theme song is unforgettable.
The Skyway at Disneyland was one part ride and one part transportation. It picked you at Fantasyland and took you to Tomorrowland, or vice versa if you were so inclined. Along the way, it gave you a bird’s eye view of Disneyland and even passed inside the Matterhorn mountain.
The Skyway wasn’t thrilling or even remarkable, save for the view it gave you. That’s what’s really missed. The massive majesty of Disneyland is hard to really take into account except from that unique angle. Disneyland is designed in such a way that when you stand in each land, it feels like the rest of the park doesn’t exist. With the Skyway, you could really see just what Disneyland as a complete place was really like, and with the new and upcoming expansions, the view would be even more amazing now.
Horizons was located in Epcot’s Future World and was an omnimover attraction that took the guests through different visions of the future of humanity. It’s often viewed as a sequel to the Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom. However, as Horizons was much newer, it was also much more interactive, including giving guests the ability to choose their own ending to the ride, something which is still unique among most theme park experiences today. The ride opened in 1983 and closed for good in 1999.
The closing of Horizons is an odd case because the generally accepted reason for closing such a fan favorite attraction has been attributed to a sinkhole that was growing beneath the building. To continue on, Horizons would have needed a major overhaul, and there was no sponsor around to pay for such a change. Instead, Disney demolished the entire thing and rebuilt a new building that now houses Mission: Space.
Circle-Vision 360 – The Timekeeper
Circle-Vision movies are 360-degree movies that came from an idea devised by Walt Disney himself. Many different films have been created in the Circle-Vision format over the years and a couple still run at the China and Canada Pavilions at Epcot, but one of the most fun is gone. The Timekeeper was a Circle-Vision film that saw The eponymous character take the viewer through time, sending the Circle-Vision camera Nine-Eyes into the past via time travel, showing off a number of different eras in 360-degree glory.
The Timekeeper was special for a couple of reasons. First, it was one of the few Circle-Vision films that had a story and wasn’t simply a bunch of pretty landscapes. Second, The Timekeeper was voiced by Robin Williams, and even if we got a totally sweet Aladdin ride in the future, it wouldn’t have Robin and that’s more than a little sad.
While not every Disney Parks attraction needs to be a thrill ride, nothing is quite so far on the opposite end of the spectrum as the PeopleMover. Devised as a futuristic mode of transportation, which thus far hasn’t come close to being adopted, the PeopleMover went all over Tomorrowland, inside some attractions, and also some places you couldn’t see any other way. It was slow and methodical, but it was also a long ride, making it a great way to rest your feet during a long day at the park.
This ride is only sort of gone, as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is still in operation at Walt Disney World, but the ride has been defunct at Disneyland since 1995. It was replaced with a new ride, Rocket Rods, which were poorly thought, damaged the PeopleMover track and then was removed after only a few years. Now the PeopleMover track just sort of sits there reminding us of what used to be.
Rocket to the Moon/Mission to Mars
Rocket to the Moon was an opening day attraction at Disneyland that became Mission to Mars in the 1970s after man had been to the moon, but it only closed for good in the early 1990s. It put guests on board a spacecraft, with screens on the floor and ceiling of the attraction to show guests what was happening outside the ship. Seats would simulate ship impacts and G-Forces along the way.
By today’s standards Mission to Mars really doesn’t do anything all that special. Other rides, like Star Tours create a much better experience of a similar idea with much more modern tech. Still, this attraction is a classic, and it would be nice to be able to ride it again if only to see how far things have come.
While many of the previously mentioned rides have been closed for a long time, depending on your age and your frequency of visiting Disneyland and/or Walt Disney World, you very likely rode on a few of them. However, one attraction it’s unlikely any of you ever experienced was the Tomorrowland Boats at Disneyland, which was there when the park opened in 1955 and was gone a year later.
The boats could be found in the Tomorrowland lagoon where Nemo’s Submarine Voyage is now located. What made the boats unique was that they were real motorboats, and guests had complete control over them. There was no track like Autopia, you just got to drive a boat by yourself in the lagoon. As you might guess, this didn’t really work. The boats had a tendency to overheat release a lot of unpleasant smoke. Eventually, control was given over to a Disney cast member, but even then the boats were nothing but trouble. The attraction was renamed the Phantom Boats later on, but the attraction closed after 13 months, the shortest-lived attraction in Disneyland history.