The Best Disney Attractions That Are No Longer Around
You may have never experienced these classics, or perhaps simply forgot about them, but some of Disney parks’ most-loved rides are now only memories. Some heartbreaking shutters—like Walt Disney World’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or Disneyland’s PeopleMover—still appear in opposite park, but these one-and-done attractions are, for the most part, gone forever and remembered in the cult circles of fans who lovingly adore them. Not quite sure what was in Tomorrowland before all those movie-themed rides or why Epcot seems so empty? Read on and learn.
Opened in 1983, this Epcot dark ride took guests on a slow-paced journey throughout the future. Displaying visions of technology across history and time—as well as predicting innovations like hydroponic planters and video conferencing—the journey culminated in a trip to colonized space, wherein guests could choose from three different paths back to present day. Famous for its multiple endings and a cult favorite among Disneyphiles, the reasoning behind its closure is still debated between structural issues with nearby sinkholes and the loss of corporate sponsor GE. Curiosity was only fueled when Horizons shuttered in 1994, but re-opened exactly one year later while neighboring attractions were being remodeled, lasting until early 1999. Mission: Space—a spaceship flight simulator—now stands in its place, but the futuristic exit of Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom now serves as a thoughtful homage to Horizons.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Horror, murder, an infamous featured actor—it’s hard to believe this short-lived ride even existed. The interplanetary adventure, which was intended to be tied to the blockbuster film Alien but ultimately wasn’t, goes down in history for being the only Disney attraction likely to close for being too frightening. Even a pre-show with a lovable alien being burnt to a crisp couldn’t prepare guests for the horrors to come via harnesses rigged with sensory capabilities, retrofitted to Mission to Mars’ theatre-in-the-round seats. The special effects delivered in that pitch black room—the breath and saliva of a massive alien on the loose felt on the back of guests’ necks, blood splattering from the ride’s narrator being eaten alive—were so realistic that many young guests left traumatized. The thriller closed just eight years after it opened and was replaced by the much-lauded Stitch’s Great Escape. If rumors are true, ExtraTERRORestrial may soon have a new legacy as the home of the first-ever Wreck-It Ralph attraction.
Beginning in 1956 at California’s Disneyland and 1971 at Florida’s Magic Kingdom, these sky gondolas took passengers across the park in delightful colorful buckets overlooking bustling crowds below. When Disneyland opened the Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1959, passageways were even erected to allow the Skyway to fly straight through the new mountain. Though more transportation than ride, the Skyway between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland was a nostalgic gem that closed somewhat surprisingly in California in 1994, and five years later in Florida. The remnants of Disneyland’s Skyway were demolished earlier this year to make room for Star Wars Land, but at the Magic Kingdom, an impressive Tangled-themed restroom area has replaced the abandoned Fantasyland chateau.
These bouncy bumper cars, one of famed Imagineer Bob Gurr’s early creations, played like individual spaceships that bopped into each other in early Tomorrowland from 1961 to 1966. They’re said to have closed due to constant maintenance and necessary upkeep for the unique air pressure system, but its innovative design was worth remembering on more than one occasion. In 2012, the Cars-themed Luigi’s Flying Tires in Disney’s California Adventure was inspired by the classic ride system, but shuttered after only three years, leaving both in the memory books.
Adventure Thru Inner Space
In this Disneyland classic, guests traveled through a “Mighty Microscope” to be shrunken to the size of a snowflake, a trick so effective children often thought they were truly miniaturized. While most likely don’t miss the post-ride displays of Monsanto-created materials, the chemistry-centric dark ride, which was the first to use the Omnimover system most famously found in the Haunted Mansion, is still a favorite among many who experienced it between 1967 and 1985. It was eventually replaced by Star Tours, which still features a small nod to the beloved ride—a glimpse of the original attraction’s microscope within the Death Star.
Journey Into Imagination
Of all the shuttered Disney World rides, this innovative Epcot favorite still resonates strongly with park guests who passed through the four realms of imagination with its guide, Dreamfinder, and his purple dragon Figment in the 1980’s. It became a cult classic for its forward-thinking ride systems, whimsical effects and spectacular splashes of color, but was never the same after re-opening in 1999 following a major rehaul—mostly due to budget constraints with a Kodak sponsorship. A shell of the former ride still exists today under a similar name, but fans of the original still hope for a full restoration, a goal made less lofty by an increase in Figment merchandise, plush toys, and clothing sold at Epcot in recent years.
In this Norway Pavilion dark ride at Epcot, guests would board a makeshift Viking boat traveling through whimsical lands inhabited by three-headed trolls and polar bears before being led into an auditorium to watch a more realistic film about modern-day Norway. While the documentary wasn’t a show-stopper, one of the big highlights was Maelstrom’s ride system — a log flume with backwards capabilities—which remained integral to the attraction since it reopened as Frozen Ever After earlier this year.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Much to the dismay of obsessive locals, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure will be shutting its doors in early 2017 to become a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed attraction. With favorite familiar characters and classic jams from Star-Lord’s mixtape playing throughout, it’s bound to be unique, but as Disney’s first Marvel attraction, Mission: BREAKOUT! has indeed become a beacon of the hotly debated changing face of the parks. It may be going away, but Tower of Terror is not gone forever—the debatably superior version still stands at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.