Theme Park Insider

Should theme parks try more 'do-overs'?

August 12, 2014, 10:25 PM · This week's tragic loss of comedian Robin Williams has provoked many Disney fans to call upon the company to do something to honor the Disney Legend in the company's theme parks. Given that Williams once featured in two Walt Disney World attractions, perhaps an appropriate response might be to bring back one or both of those attractions for a limited run, as Disney did with "Captain EO" at Disneyland and Epcot following the death of Michael Jackson?

Back to Neverland
Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite in "Back to Neverland." Image courtesy BRC Imagination Arts.

That raises a broader question, though: Why should it take the death of a celebrity to convince Disney, or any other theme park company, to bring back attractions that retain loyal followings? Might there by other instances where parks would do better to return an attraction location to its previous inhabitant?

Obviously, logistical challenges would make some attraction returns impossible. Sorry, no manager's going to get far inside Disney proposing to tear down Mission: Space to rebuild the Horizons pavilion. Or to rip out the New Fantasyland to bring back 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Smaller-scale difficulties probably would prevent the return of either of Robin Williams' old Disney shows, at least in their original locations.

(This paragraph has been updated, since my spatial memory of the old Feature Animation pavilion is scrambled.) "Back to Neverland" (which we linked yesterday) served as the set-up for a walking tour through what is now The Magic of Disney Animation building but was then a working animation studio. So bringing this show back to the park isn't as simple as running it again in its old theater. That facility just doesn't exist anymore in that form.

There's a similar issue with "The Timekeeper," which played in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland. Disney's converted the old CircleVision theater into the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. Swapping that show for its predecessor would require substantial capital work, much more than the film swap and seat re-programming that Disney had to do to bring back "Captain EO" to its old theater to replace "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" after Michael Jackson's death. If either Robin Williams show is to return to WDW, a venue change likely will be required.

But once we move beyond these type of tributes, some "do-overs" wouldn't be that hard. What about bringing back the Country Bear Christmas Special or Vacation Hoedown to the Magic Kingdom's Grizzly Hall? Or returning the Swiss Family Robinson to their Disneyland tree? Could Ghostbusters return to Universal Studios Florida's Twister theater? Who'd like to see the old Diamond Horseshoe show again? Or see Alien Encounter take out Stitch?

I'm sure that some fans would love to see Back to the Future evict The Simpsons Ride, but let's not forget that Universal's invested big bucks in very lucrative Simpsons-themed restaurants around that area, plus, the "future" in "Back to the Future" was 2015, so it ain't gonna be the future for much longer. :^)

So, it's a balance. The new attractions replaced the old for a reason — parks thought that they'd be an improvement. But even the world's most popular theme parks make mistakes now and then. Is there a reasonable replacement of new for old that you'd like to see happen at a specific theme park? Please tell us about it, in the comments.

Replies (17)

August 12, 2014 at 11:04 PM · Interesting thought, but I think the evidence is there. They're not going to be able to really capitalize on Robin Williams like they did with Michael Jackson.

Having said that, I don't see why Back to the Future can't co-exist with The Simpsons or, better yet, I don't see why Back to the Future can't come back at all in its own way.

Though I'd imagine Christopher Lloyd getting on in years is a huge obstacle.

August 13, 2014 at 12:34 AM · Key word- reasonable... Not much is coming to mind, how about Wild,Wild,Wild West for Fear Factor in Orlando?

I always thought it wasn't tooo far-fetched to have both Back to the Future and the Simpsons co-exist. There are two domes, have one for each attraction. Re-work the queue/theming and you "add" another ride to the line-up. Plus some clever voice acting and editing can change the future date from 2015 to 2050 :)

...I miss Back to the Future the Ride.

August 13, 2014 at 12:34 AM · Key word- reasonable... Not much is coming to mind, how about Wild,Wild,Wild West for Fear Factor in Orlando?

I always thought it wasn't tooo far-fetched to have both Back to the Future and the Simpsons co-exist. There are two domes, have one for each attraction. Re-work the queue/theming and you "add" another ride to the line-up. Plus some clever voice acting and editing can change the future date from 2015 to 2050 :)

...I miss Back to the Future the Ride.

August 13, 2014 at 1:08 AM · Walt once said "this park will never be finished" and I think Walt was a very smart man. Sure you can keep rides relevant to add technological innovations like Disney did with Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder in DL but all other rides they changed are a huge travesty (incl Pirates).
Something that left (especialy at WDW) is old and tired and needs a complete overhaul. To capitalise on some stars death is also very distasteful.
August 13, 2014 at 1:15 AM · I'd love to see the Imagination ride return to it's original predecessor. Not some cut up version of it on a shorter track, but the full ride. You can update the scenes with modern technology as long as you keep the simple essence the same. No beating us over the head with some trite storyline.
I'm hoping the new comic will lead to some kind of do over anyway.
They could somehow use Robin Williams' voice (a la Rod Sterling in TOT) in the preshow or main show to whatever eventually replaces Captain Eo. I don't think anyone has a bigger imagination than Robin Williams did, so if they could use him anywhere, the Imagination pavilion gets my vote.
August 13, 2014 at 1:20 AM · I'd love to see the Imagination ride return to it's original predecessor. Not some cut up version of it on a shorter track, but the full ride. You can update the scenes with modern technology as long as you keep the simple essence the same. No beating us over the head with some trite storyline.
I'm hoping the new comic book was the first step to some kind of do over.

They could somehow use Robin Williams' voice (a la Rod Sterling in TOT) in the preshow or main show to whatever eventually replaces Captain Eo. I don't think anyone has a bigger imagination than Robin Williams did, so if they could use him anywhere, the Imagination pavilion gets my vote.
August 13, 2014 at 4:09 AM · I'd like to see Extra-terrorestrial return. Perhaps a hybrid where the old, cool, alien eats Stitch. I know what my first Fastpass+ appointment choice would be.
August 13, 2014 at 6:30 AM · People seem to forget that often old attractions are removed or replaced because they simply aren't popular anymore, or simply aren't worth the effort to keep current. Captain EO was an unusual circumstance where the preceding attraction was replaced with a similar attraction that was waning in popularity. With an easy conversion and renewed interest in the work of Michael Jackson, it was a no-brainer to bring Captain EO back. Another instance I can think of would be Busch Gardens Williamsburg and their switching back and forth of the movies in the Globe Theater before this year's addition of London Rocks. The park installed a couple of new movies (Sesame Street and RL Stine's Haunted Lighthouse) over the past decade or so, only to return back to Pirates 4D and occasionally showing Haunts of the Olde Country. Again, the new attractions were not getting much traction, so the park went back to old favorites.

The bottom line is that there might be some peripheral interest in some retired attractions, but the interest is certainly minimal, and probably not enough to warrant eliminating existing attractions that still have some popularity. It would be cool if Disney could use some currently vacant space in the parks to use as a rotating attraction celebrating the past (the sound stage next to Toy Story Mania in DHS which has been used for Narnia and Jack Sparrow exhibits would be one spot while there are probably dozens of locations in EPCOT that would work). However, any attraction that has complicated motion systems would need to be whittled down to just the movie portion. As much as the Blue Sky Studios in DCA gives guests a look into the future, it would be cool if Disney set up an attraction that looked back into the past.

August 13, 2014 at 6:46 AM · I have to agree with Michael Smith here, The original Joirney into Imagination wae by far the best. And the most popular. That would definitely be my pick.
August 13, 2014 at 6:56 AM · What I'd love to see is sort of a hybrid of an older ride with new elements. With Imagination, while my nostalgic side would love the incredible original ride, it also might be fun to see something new on a similar scale. You could have Dreamfinder and Figment, but incorporate new technologies to give a different experience.

Horizons is favorite ride of all time, so that might be an exception. While I know it will never happen, I would love to see a Future World attraction with a similar tone that incorporates some parts as nods to fans but also does something new given the 30 years that have passed since it opened.

August 13, 2014 at 6:59 AM · It might be too soon for anyone else here to care, but I want Snow White's Scary Adventures back!
August 13, 2014 at 7:43 AM · I would love to see Alien Encounter come back b/c for one, I never got to experience that attraction. #2 a lot of people really hate Stitch or at least really rate it low. I understand that one of the reasons it closed was b/c it was too scary for young children due to guest complaints(according to what I have heard). I really feel tho Magic Kingdom could use some type of tense ride/attraction but place warnings for those attractions. All of Magic Kingdom attractions dont have to be intense/slightly scary but its good to have at least one attraction in the park of that caliber. Children are not the only ones who enjoy Disney parks, adults enjoy them as well. You can still cater to adults/teens in the park. However, from what I hear, many who rode said it wasnt that scary and the darkness was what a lot of children got scared of and that happens now on Stitch. Disney, bring back Alien Encounter PLEASE!!!!! I can put in my request when I go down in October, although it may not go no further than a cast member, its worth a shot.
August 13, 2014 at 9:08 AM · myself, I would like to see Disney bring back and update the old Wonders of Life attraction along with a renewed Body Wars ride. It would give Disney a chance, using interactive stations to get kids, and some parents, to get a better understanding of proper eating habits and exercise. Also Body Wars had to be one of my favorite simulator rides.
August 13, 2014 at 9:11 AM · I see no reason to bring back Robin Williams. There is no appropriate attraction to bring back. I do think his presence exists in Aladdin, the stage musicial at California Adventure. A tribute to Robin Williams can be announced before the performance and in the poster art. Disney World can also bring Aladdin to the right park. They can consider bringing it to Epcot, which seems to lack stage shows.
August 13, 2014 at 9:31 AM · I'm all for bringing back Dreamfinder and Figment. Imagination is timeless and that ride was darn near perfect in my opinion. I still have the original EPCOT soundtrack and the imagination song is on my iPod playlist. It makes me smile everytime I hear it :-)
August 13, 2014 at 9:41 AM · Other than filmed attractions such as motion simulators or 4D theaters, has an attraction ever been brought back? I can't name any off the top of my head...

Should theme parks have "do-overs" though. I think not just do to the fact the rides were replaced for a specific reason. Popularity waned, poor reliability, and/or too many incidents occurred. There might be a few exceptions to this, such as the old Imagination Pavilion which I remember as always being popular and having a line unlike it currently has now.

August 16, 2014 at 2:27 PM · Since the performances were filmed - put them out on Blue-Ray and (for us Luddites) DVD - with the proceeds to go to charities of the Williams family's choosing.

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