Theme Park Insider

Five Disney Attractions that Never 'Worked' Quite Right

November 23, 2015, 10:13 AM · 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.

Mission Space

Mission Space

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.

Test Track

Test Track

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

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

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

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.

Replies (36)

November 23, 2015 at 10:16 AM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 10:21 AM · Disco Yeti?
November 23, 2015 at 10:25 AM · I am very surprised that the yeti didn't make the list.

November 23, 2015 at 10:53 AM · No Rocket Rods? There's no way that shouldn't be number one, let alone not on this list at all.
November 23, 2015 at 11:24 AM · I have always enjoyed Test Track and Kali River Rapids. I have never ridden the updated version of Test Track, though.
November 23, 2015 at 11:53 AM · 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.

Test Track - I've never experienced an issue with breakdowns on Test Track. It is a fine attraction.

Alien Encounter - I never got to experience it, but it had to be better than what's in that location now.

Luigi's Flying Tires - A total "swing and a miss." When we visited DCA we actually rode this attraction a second time just to make sure it was as lame as we thought it was the first time.

Kali River Rapids - Simply too short. It would be a fine ride if it was extended. It is especially lame when compared to Grizzly River Rapids at DCA.

I'll third Everest's Yeti - It is the main narrative element on a highly narrative ride, the exclamation point to the story, and it only worked for about two years (thankfully I was able to experience the yeti in all his glory) then the platform upon which it is built broke. Epic fail.

November 23, 2015 at 12:04 PM · 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.

Thanks for the mention of Rocket Rods! I actually rode it on my honeymoon and it stopped EVERYTIME! We had more "return later" tickets thank I care to count. The ride itself was actually pretty fun (could have used some story added) but it was a pretty good ride.

The new Test Track is a disappointment to me. Although the article said it was dated before it opened, I found the story line to be something I cared about rather than this disconnected story it presents. Do I still ride it? Yes!

Kali I only ride if it is blistering hot. Other than that, it holds no interest to me as I don't come to Disney to be chastised about deforestation.

Mission:Space? Bleh...I get sick too easily. There is something missing there... Alien Encounter? I hated that "non-Disney" experience. My husband freaked out- the first time he rode it and the shoulder harnesses came down he looks at me, panicked and asked if it was a ride! As he gets sick on roller coasters, this made him very nervous. Luckily it wasn't and he enjoyed it!

BTW..I had always thought that the beach balls came with the opening of Luigi's. That ride was way too short for the length of the line and too long to learn how to ride it!

I think this list is pretty accurate!

November 23, 2015 at 12:12 PM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 12:15 PM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 12:41 PM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 1:20 PM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 1:30 PM · 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
November 23, 2015 at 1:41 PM · 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.

If this list were expanded, I would definitely nominate Rocket Rods and at least 50% of DCA 1.0's attractions for consideration.

November 23, 2015 at 2:09 PM · 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.

Even my wife, who loves scary movies as well as extreme rides, thought there was something a bit "off" with it.


Meanwhile, loved the concept for the Flying Tires, and always felt if Disney could just tune it to make them move a little faster and steer a bit easier that it would be a great, and very different ride. Sorry to see it go...

November 23, 2015 at 3:36 PM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 4:46 PM · 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.

Now, here are some attractions I also think should be deemed failures:

Rocket Rods-the result of what happens when you try to make a thrill ride using a track that was built for a gentle, family-friendly ride.

Tarzan's Treehouse-I completely understand if Disney wants to change the Swiss Family Robinson IP with Tarzan, but what's the point if it's the same attraction but with statues of Tarzan characters? Don't you think it would be more effective to put in AAs instead?

Superstar Limo-Need I say why?

All of Bug's Land-In DCA, you will find two lands: Cars Land, which teaches you how to properly do a Pixar-themed land, and Bug's Land, which teaches you how not to do a Pixar-themed land.

The Magic Carpets Of Aladdin-There is no excuse why MK, one of the most well-themed parks out there, ahold have three spinners. I can excuse Dumbo for being an all-time classic and being a lot better thanks to the recent update; and I can excuse Astro Orbiter for giving great views of the park; but Magic Carpets? No excuse.

Stitch's Great Escape-Now, I'm in the minority of people who like this show. I think it's one of MK's best and it boils my blood when people trash-talk this ride but praise the horrendous Country Bears Jamboree. Nevertheless, whether you like or hate Stitch, there is no denying that it failed at what it tried to do; which was to reduce the amount of crying kids that Alien Encounter created (speaking of which, I'm kinda surprised to actually see Alien Encounter being criticized for once!)

The 2nd and 3rd incarnations of Journey Into Imagination-Who honestly thought it was a good idea to take a fan-favorite ride and turn into a worthless disgrace to the EPCOT name? IDK, but if Disney's got a grain of logic, he/she probably doesn't work for them anymore.

Toy Story Playland-So, your mission: save the two weak links in the Disney theme park chain. What do you do? Do you, A, bring over some extremely popular rides from other Disney parks; B, create an all-new, very innovative and very fun E-ticket ride; C,refurbrish or renovate a prexisting ride or land to completely fresh and up-to-date; or D, create a small land with three flat rides with beloved Pixar characters slapped onto them? Did you choose D? Congratulations! You're correct! (Facepalm)

November 23, 2015 at 5:34 PM · agreed, pretty much across the board... a ps4 is more fun than mission space and that's pretty sad. PS3 even
November 23, 2015 at 6:26 PM · ^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?).
November 23, 2015 at 6:54 PM · That was very clever Rob. :)
November 23, 2015 at 8:37 PM · James: Thanks much.
November 23, 2015 at 9:25 PM · 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.
November 23, 2015 at 10:00 PM · 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).
November 24, 2015 at 7:45 AM · 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?
DINOSAUR includes loud sounds in the dark and menacing dinosaurs that may be scary for children.

Why is this ride here?

November 24, 2015 at 10:58 AM · 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.
November 27, 2015 at 1:21 AM · 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.
Simlarly, stupid parents dragged their kids on a ride not designed for little kids, and then complained about it! Thank you, now we have Stitch instead of something actually good.
P.S.: I agree with JK above. The Back Lot Tour was a mishmash, and took up an enormous footprint. Some great E Tickets could have been in there, and the park has always needed more rides.

November 24, 2015 at 1:23 PM · 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.
November 24, 2015 at 1:29 PM · Jk and and Sylvian.

Hey! Them's fightin' words! Backlot Tours was one of my favorite rides in the resort! It, along with Great Movie Ride, Indiana Jones Stunt Show, and Lights Motors Action all had a big hand in turning me into the movie geek I am today. Only reason I allowed Disney to close it is because Star Wars!

November 24, 2015 at 2:46 PM · 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.
November 24, 2015 at 2:49 PM · 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.

It's one time the Imagineers basically openly apologized for messing it up and the new version even points that out with Figment saying you can't treat imagination like a science. Still, remember the classic version and the newer one just so lacking.

November 24, 2015 at 3:10 PM · 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.
Luigi's Flying Tires is one I will miss - my husband and I figured them out the 1st time we rode it and we ignored the beach balls, instead we scooted merrily across the platform laughing the entire time.
November 24, 2015 at 4:15 PM · 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.
November 24, 2015 at 5:12 PM · ^It is/was. The force of his big, beefy arm swinging over the track was ripping the animatronic right off his perch.

And it was a WONDERFUL effect plus it was the narrative resolution of the entire ride, beginning with your entry into the queue and ending with a face to face encounter with the star of the story. Without that narrative resolution the ride is massively diminished. Especially to those who were lucky enough to ride the attraction when it actually worked.

November 25, 2015 at 11:45 AM · 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!!
Alien Encounter and Stitch which both originally replaced Mission to Mars were a failure. It seems Disney always seem to replace poor or good rides with, in many cases, not all, poorer rides. Their Imaginative Engineers don't seem to have the same vision for providing rides for all the family as they did when the parks first opened. Walt Disney wanted all the family to enjoy his parks and it seems they now continually venture further away from his vision and go more for the thrill rides which only the very fit and young can ride.
November 25, 2015 at 11:32 AM · 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.
November 25, 2015 at 1:23 PM · Re-Angela

So if Disney is only appealing to the thrill demographic, can you please explain the existence of the Little Mermaid ride at MK, which was built only 3 years ago? Personally, I can't comprehend why anyone would say that about Disney. They have very few thrill rides, and the only ones that are probably too extreme for little kids or anyone who is "young and fit" are Test Track, Mission:Space Orange, Tower of Terror, Rock'n Rollercoaster and Dinosaur.And all of those were built a decade ago. Seriously, go to a Universal, Busch Gardens, Six Flags or Cedar Fair park and you will see how tame Disney really is. And lastly, I go to WDW more often than I wanna admit and on every visit I see many different people from many different demographics having the times of their lives. We took our grandpa to WDW about a year ago. He couldn't go on any thrill rides whatsoever and it was still the most fun he's had in years. So, I'm sorry to burst your Bubble of Negativity, but Walt's dream is still very prominent in WDW.

November 29, 2015 at 6:14 PM · What about Body Wars in the Wonders of life pavilion? What about the OLD Exxon's Universe of Energy?

I actually like the thrilling rides, but I also understand why some family members can't take the thrills. There are plenty of rides to cover the entire family.

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