Five Disney Attractions that Never 'Worked' Quite Right
A lot can go wrong with the process of designing and implementing of a new Disney attraction — issues with tone or message, scare-factor, emerging (largely untested) technologies, learning curve and level of intensity. Regardless of the money spent to make them or fix them, some attractions just seem doomed from the get-go. Even though Disney will never admit that sometimes they just can’t get it right, you have to give it to them, they really do give it their all to fix a problem before throwing in the towel.
Here are five examples of Disney attractions that no doubt gave (or continue to give) Imagineers headaches.
Cloaked in secrecy and developed in tandem with NASA, Mission: Space was poised to change the way we experience theme park attractions. It all sounded awesome on paper. Give our guests an experience similar to what an actual astronaut might go through on a trip through space (or at least training camp). When Disney was finally ready to open the doors on its second big-time thrill ride in Epoct (following Test Track), anticipation (as well as expectations) were out of this world.
So did Disney do it? Well that depends on you…
No doubt it’s a killer ride. It’s unlike anything else out there and the experience is completely immersive... but then the barf bags came. Guest complained that the attraction was simply too intense. Additionally, guests were experiencing motion sickness (which can happen when taking your eyes off the screen in-front of you even for a split second) significantly decreasing the number of guests willing to give it a shot.
Three years after Mission: Space opened, in 2006 Disney chose to tone down the attraction by allowing guest to choose their level of intensity while riding. Orange Team is the full-intensity experience, while Green Team stops the centrifuge technology from spinning, thus eliminating the intense G-forces.
Did that fix work? Well, I guess. Unfortunately Mission Space fails to attract the crowd levels of next door neighbor Test Track or across the park Soarin’. Add to that intermittent issues with the main set piece of an otherwise unremarkable queue keeps it from making the ‘best of’ Disney lists and did not spawn any clones other Disney parks.
Of all attractions on this list, we had to wait the longest for Test Track. The first attraction to bring real thrills to Epcot sure lived up to its name. Taunting guests for the better part of two years in ‘test’ mode, the technological intricacies of the attraction were giving Imagineers collective ulcers. When it was finally ready to go, the issues got worse. Significant levels of down time, coupled with a less than adequate riders per hour rate, were testing the patience of guests and cast members alike.
Let be honest though, when it worked, man did it work. A one-of-a-kind ride on a ride system that was a first for the industry and thrills not normally associated with Disney Parks gave guests new reasons to explore Epcot.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well all that often for all that long. Technical glitches continue to plague the ride. And in 2012, a reskin and new theme were added, updating the original theme that felt dated way before Disney probably anticipated.
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
I’ll be honest... I’m still heartbroken over the demise of Alien Encounter. I’m that guy that still watches grainy, pitch-black You Tube videos of the attraction holding on to a sliver of hope that Disney may bring it back. I loved it.
Then CEO Michael Eisner was convinced that Disney could be more than just fairy tales and pixie dust. The story goes that Eisner was talking to his then teen son about Disney. The bottom line: Disney is cool, but where are the thrill rides? So Eisner decided to pump up the volume and interject more thrills into Disney Parks. Tower of Terror, Test Track, Dinosaur, all results of Eisner’s direction to ramp up the thrills in Disney Parks. Also on the list? The ill-fated Alien Encounter.
I won’t go into a dissertation on the ride’s history or person’s involved (even though I could), but let’s just say, the Alien Encounter that opened on Day 1, was not what was originally planned. That being said, I found it to be thrilling, scary, fun, exciting and technologically amazing. Immersive 4D effects never before seen made their debut at Tomorrowland’s Interplanetary Convention Center.
Unfortunately, not everyone shared my same sentiment. Many felt that the complicated story line, bevy of preshows and multiple characters were confusing. Some also felt that the attraction shifted wildly in tone from funny to terrifying to downright gross.
But ultimately, it was crying children who shut down The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Despite many explicit warnings on the extremeness of the attraction and height restrictions, oblivious parents dragged terrified kids into an attraction that was scary even for some adults. Ask Disney and they’ll say that the attraction was retired due to it not fitting in with the optimistic theme of Tomorrowland and the whimsical nature of the Magic Kingdom. Insiders however, know that a steady stream of verbal, written and in-person complaints to Disney Guest Relations over the years finally closed down Alien Encounter. RIP
Luigi's Flying Tires
A recent addition to the Disney chopping block, is the confusing and boring tale of Luigi’s Flying Tires. Once again, on paper this looked like fun. Giant tires floating on what was essentially a super-sized air-hockey table, zoom around and bump into one another.
Unfortunately, poor flying tires was doomed from the start. First off, the tires did not zoom, in-fact, they barely moved. Add to that, load/unload time was painfully long. Finally, most guests found the tire controls to be extremely confusing, and only toward the end of (what was) a very short ride were they just getting the hang of it.
Disney’s fix? Add some big beach balls, that will amp up the fun! It didn’t. Luigi’s Flying Tires was retired last year to make way for a more traditional flat ride for the kiddies.
Kali River Rapids
While the other attractions on this list look good on paper, I’m still baffled by this one. Nothing is more of a buzzkill on what should have been a rollicking white water rapids ride then a message about deforestation. But hey, at least there is something to think about when you spend half the ride slowly careening through calm and tranquil waters... yep, those ‘rapids’, they aren’t there.
Worst of all, even the small amount of ride effects like fog, mist and fire/smoke broke almost instantly and even today only work on B-mode (or even C). While Disney did better on their next try (the vastly improved Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure), this stinker of an attraction lives on at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I will never forgive Disney for replacing Horizons with Mission: Space. I know that Horizons was getting long in the tooth, but it was such an immersive, hopeful, and wonderful ride.
I am very surprised that the yeti didn't make the list.
No Rocket Rods? There's no way that shouldn't be number one, let alone not on this list at all.
I have always enjoyed Test Track and Kali River Rapids. I have never ridden the updated version of Test Track, though.
I love the spinning version of Mission Space. It is one of my favorite theme park attractions. But I can't disagree with your write up - for some reason it just doesn't work for a lot of folks.
The Yeti didn't make it because the ride is still good without it. Yes, it makes the theme better and it is a lame excuse of a "non-fixed effect" but the ride was still conceived well.
I actually enjoyed the new version of Test Track. I didn't care for the previous version since it always made me feel like I was in a dirty auto shop waiting for a car repair.But this new Tron like TT was a lot of fun. Since the lines are so long, and the fastpass tier system at Epcot almost useless, we did the usual 25 minute single rider line and rode it about half a dozen times on our recent vacation. And I agree with James on Kali River Rapids. It's biggest fault, similar to 7 Dwarfs, is that it's definitely too short.
I agree with some choices. I was also pretty disappointed with Kali River Rapids, as it had no Rapids. I also wasn't a big Luigi fan. However, I love Mission: Space and Test Track. I found both attractions to be thrilling and magical.
How many days since attraction opening has Seven Dwarfs made it from open to close without at least one breakdown? For the purposes of this list, t's #1 with a bullet for me.
How about Stitch? That was supposed to get kids in that area of Tomorrowland to stop crying their eyes out, but ends up still happening.
James: With Stitch, now it's the adults who are crying. They wasted valuable vacation time standing in a line for an attraction that really doesn't do anything. LOL
I haven't been on any of the Florida attraction so I won't comment on those, but I will say that Luigi's Flying Tires was one of the biggest fails I've ever seen. They tested the ride and determined people were going too fast, so they added beach balls as a deterrent. However, this led to people not flying the tires and instead just bobbing there and chucking beach balls at each other. Of course, people got hurt, so they removed the beach balls and, since nobody could fly the tires, the ride became almost as boring as Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies (aka the bumpless bumper cars). Not at all sad to see that one gone.
Alien Encounter was one of the first attractions I tried in WDW as an adult in 2000 after not having been since I was a little kid. I didn't know what to expect, and it legitimately scared the living daylights out of me. Some of the 4d effects were amazing, but -- not having done any real 4d stuff before -- it was extreme, especially since it was pitch black and you felt locked into your seat and couldn't really move. And I was in my 30s -- there were kids and other adults screaming much of the show, and many crying after.
I wrapped up a 10-day Orlando vacation Saturday and Kali was so disappointing after riding the Popeye ride at Universal a few days earlier. Kali needs some oomph and more splashes.
So sad to see Mission:Space and Test Track on this list. They're two of the most unique thrill rides ever and two of my most favorite Disney rides. And Kali does need to be a lot longer. If it was longer, it would most definitely be an awesome ride to rival Bilge Rat Barges at IOA. But I disagree with everyone else on the deforestation message. If you go to a park called Disney's ANIMAL Kingdom and not expect an environmental message, that's your fault, not Disney's.
agreed, pretty much across the board... a ps4 is more fun than mission space and that's pretty sad. PS3 even
^When they add a centrifugal motion simulator to my PS4, I'll agree with you. Until then, I'd much rather experience a simulated launch to Mars than play Destiny (although I do like Destiny - speaking of which, why doesn't it have a theme park land/attraction?).
That was very clever Rob. :)
James: Thanks much.
I'm going to disagree about Luigi's Flying Tires. I'm very much in the minority on this, but Luigi's Flying Tires was a great attraction. It's flaw - it was an attraction for Disneyland Annual Passholders who could return time and time again to perfect their piloting skills.
Test Track was fine before and even better now. It was fixed. Some rides that never felt right were more prevalent at WDW since they seem like filler. Spaceship Earth (how many revisions?), Imagination (ruined), Maelstrom (short and forgettable), Energy (even worse with unupdated Ellen), Dinosaur (just remake as Indiana Jones), Kili Safari (poaching stuff), Laugh Factory (filler replacement). DCA's Tower of Terror (shortened like WDW's Pirates). Grizzly Rapids (need bears). Disneyland's Submarine (Nemo adaptation works at Living Seas, but not here).
I would include Dinosaur. Let's take something kids love, Dinosaurs, and then make it so scary we have to add a disclaimer. From Disney's own website: Too Scary for Kids?
I agree with all of the above but I think you could add the back lot tour at Hollywood studios in Orlando, I for one was glad to see it close, it was an outdated attraction a long time ago and the space it took up was too big, for me you could have fitted two or three new attractions in that area a long time ago. Did not get the theme of it at all, one minute your looking at the back stage of how things are done in Disney and the next your on a exploding tanker attraction or a underground train simulator, never could work out the idea, seemed very mix and match.
Mission Space is my favorite ride at Epcot, so I wouldn't include it on this list. Also, I am fairly sensitive to excessive spinning, but I've never felt sick after doing the Orange mission. You just have to follow the simple rules: always look straight ahead, don't close your eyes. Stupid guests can't seem to do that.
Rode Mission Space Orange a few years ago. The queue was moving pretty fast right up to the point we were to board. There we were inexplicably delayed. Finally a cast member let us know why: the centrifuge was in need of a "clean-up". Kudos to the crew, though, as I found no evidence of blown chunks in the area.
Jk and and Sylvian.
I know folks are talking the Yeti but I rode on Everest just after it opened in 2006 and it really was a cool effect. The issue was that the Imagineers underestimated how much the Florida weather would effect a mostly outdoor Audio-Animiatronic to lead to its breakdowns. It actually was pretty great to see in the early going, just got hurt by the long-term effects of weather.
How about the redo of Journey Into Imagination in 1999? Removing Figment totally, the "effects" that didn't work right and trying to do scientific explanations for something like imagination which went against the attraction.
As stated above the Rocket Rods were a definite miss - the ONLY good ride I got on it was the one time I was in the front Rod (they were dispatched in groups of 3s) and it didn't pause or stop until it got back to the station.
I thought the Yeti problem was related to an unstable/stressed concrete base due to more stress from the Yeti's movements than the engineers anticipated.
^It is/was. The force of his big, beefy arm swinging over the track was ripping the animatronic right off his perch.
Getting rid of the Dreamfinder in the Journey of Imagination was wrong and was replaced by a poor unimaginative ride featuring Figment. Why, oh why!!
The replacement of Horizons with Mission Space was a travesty. I loved Horizons and although it was tired, it was a great ride, of which, many of its future predictions have come true. The concept of the ride was brilliant and it appealed to all the family, from young to old. However, Misiion Space, whichever ride you undertake is really only for the fit and able. Young and old cannot safely undertake this ride.
What about Body Wars in the Wonders of life pavilion? What about the OLD Exxon's Universe of Energy?
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