What's left of the opening day attractions at Orlando's theme parks?
With this weekend's closing of The Great Movie Ride, Disney's Hollywood Studios will become the first theme park in Orlando no longer to have any of its opening-day attractions. In fact, Disney's Hollywood Studios no longer has its opening-day name, as the park opened at the Walt Disney World Resort in May 1989 under the name Disney-MGM Studios.
Disney rushed to open its studio theme park before rival Universal Studios could open its Orlando park, which followed a year later, in June 1990. Initially conceived as an entertainment industry pavilion within Epcot's Future World, what became Disney-MGM got promoted to a full gate when then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner ordered Walt Disney World to prepare a preemptive strike against Universal's entry into the Orlando market.
It's hard to believe now, but back in the 1980s Disney didn't have the line-up of A-list live-action movie IP that it has today. Disney was known as an animation studio that also produced a few B-list family movies. (Heck, to this day, Disney remains the only major studio never to win the Academy Award for Best Picture for a film released under its name.) So Disney partnered with MGM to bulk up the park's IP, most notably with the inclusion of several MGM classics (such as The Wizard of Oz) in The Great Movie Ride.
But the highlight of the park was the Backstage Studio Tour, a two-hour-plus guided view of Hollywood movie and TV production that included a tram and a walking tour. Disney-MGM Studios was intended to serve as a working movie and television studio, so that visitors could see actual shows in production. Disney assigned a crew of animators to work in the Magic of Disney Animation Tour building, and the Orlando crew helped produce several Disney animated pictures, including Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear before Disney closed it in 2004. But for live action production, Disney didn't have much to show opening-season crowds, eventually sticking the Disney All-American College Orchestra to rehearse in one of the sound stages, simply to give guests something to see in it.
Let's look at the opening day line-ups at each of the Orlando area theme parks... and what's still left open of them at each park today.
Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios)
The Great Movie Ride
Backstage Studio Tour
Magic of Disney Animation Tour
The Monster Sound Show
Universal Studios Florida
Disney's rival doesn't have much left from its opening day, either, though a cynic might note that USF didn't actually have much open on its opening date at all.
Renamed and with new scripts:
The Phantom of the Opera Horror Make-up Show (now the Universal Horror Make-up Show)
Animal Actors Stage (now Animal Actors on Location)
Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies
The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera
Murder, She Wrote Post Production
Production Studio Tour
Earthquake: The Big One
This one's tough for me to track, as I couldn't find a definite list of its opening day attractions. I know that the Sky Tower was there on opening day in 1973, and that the original Shamu Stadium (officially, the Whale and Dolphin Stadium) is now the Dolphin Theater, so the park has not had a Disney-MGM-level turnover. Of course, shows change every few years at the park, and shows vary from performance to performance, as is to be expected when animals are involved. I will update if anyone can provide more detailed information.
Update: From reader Michael G.: "The sea lion stadium was there when the park opened. Its name was 'Seal and Penguin Stadium.' The dolphin nursery was there and was called 'Dolphin Feeding Pool.' Seaport Theater was also there but was called 'Fountain Fantasy Theatre.'"
Let's continue with the other parks...
Disney's Animal Kingdom
It's Tough to Be a Bug!
Countdown to Extinction (now Dinosaur)
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (now Pangani Forest Exploration Trail)
Wildlife Express to Conservation Station (now Rafiki’s Planet Watch)
Flights of Wonder
Festival of the Lion King
Journey into Jungle Book
Pocohontas and Her Forest Friends
The American Adventure
Impressions de France
New narrators and revised scripts:
Listen to the Land
Closed films, but their theaters remains open:
Wonders of China
El Rio del Tiempo (now Gran Fiesta Tour)
Universe of Energy
World of Motion
Walt Disney World Railroad
Swiss Family Treehouse
Mad Tea Party
It's a Small World
Renamed, but the same ride:
Cinderella's Golden Carrousel (now Prince Charming Regal Carrousel)
Grand Prix Raceway (now Tomorrowland Speedway)
Slightly revised, but still going:
Hall of Presidents
Country Bear Jamboree
Tropical Serenade (now Enchanted Tiki Room)
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mike Fink Keel Boats
Diamond Horseshoe Review
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
Mickey Mouse Review
Snow White's Adventures
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Universal's Islands of Adventure
...which brings us to the park that remains most like its opening day self, though it has seen at least one substantial addition over the years.
Doctor Doom's Fearfall
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Popeye & Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges
Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
Jurassic Park River Adventure
Eighth Voyage of Sindbad
If I Ran the Zoo
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
The Cat in the Hat
Rebuilt, but the same ride:
Incredible Hulk Coaster
Renamed, but soon to be closed:
Dueling Dragons (now Dragon Challenge)
Island Skipper Tours
What's your favorite "opening day" Orlando theme park attraction? And which retired one do you miss most?
Snow White's Scary Adventures is still open in Walt Disney World? I thought that was closed up, long before the mine train.
Beat me to it, Goodwin. Snow White shut down to make way for Seven Drawfs Mine Train and the rest of New Fantasy Land over five years ago.
Wouldn't the American Adventure go under "revised" due to the changes in its finale?
20,000 leagues wasn't an opening day attraction?
Hall of Presidents has been closed for the better part of a year with no reopening date in sight. While it can't be said to be gone for good just yet, it certainly shouldn't be listed as "slightly revised, but still going", either.
Sorry, Disneyland on the brain with Snow White. Fixed.
Life & Health pavilion
I was going to argue Indiana Jones stunt show but then checked and saw it opened a few months after the rest of the park.
What about 20,000 league under the seas? That was closed in 1994
Yes! Body wars at Epcot was awesome!
What about Horizens in EPCOT
Carousel of Progress is still open although updated.
If they kept it up to date and made it the Great Disney Movie Ride with Snow White and Mr Toads, it will still be popular. It was quite painful to see the old movie references that I haven't seen for decades. Budsy Berkeley was innovative 80 years ago. It's embarrassing now.
I can only hope they never get rid of E.T., purely for how insane the latter half of that ride is
My family were there in that 1st year for the park we still call 'MGM'.
@TH: Wonders of Life didn't open until 1989.
Ahhh yes ... right.
Just minor corrections, at Animal Kingdom Gorilla Falls trail was renamed back to Gorilla Falls trail last year. It was changed for several years but is now back to its original glory. Also technically the building at Rafikis Planet Watch is still called Conservation Station. Just the whole land was given a name later on to Rafikis Planet Watch.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is my favorite opening day attraction, the one I miss is Jaws... although I never got to experience the opening day version of it.
Haunted Mansion & JAWS.
FWIW, Journey Into Imagination didn't open until 1983.
Peter Pan is still open and the Que was improved. The Walt Disney Story is gone. They probably burned all the copies since Walt said that at least 50% of the property would remain in it's natural state. They have to be close if they already haven't exceeded that.
Spidey and haunted are my two fav opening day rides. I do miss jaws though and I l will miss the great movie ride dearly. It's getting rid of its original Charm had but I'm excited for the new ride. Great topic and idea loved it !
I would say Jungle Cruise and Small Word fall under "revised" as each has undergone changes over the years.
If anything from what I can gather from this article, and from results of the new Universal Orlando ride lineup, the old studio park theme just doesn't work anymore at all. It boring to the general public. Time for Disney to catch up to Universal with its now ex studio park (except for Indiana Jones stunt show, but give that about two years from now), and convert it into an immersive live in the movies theme park experience.
Doh! Saw the Imagination Pavilion opened in 1982 and assumed Journey opened with it.
Dolphin Nursery at SeaWorld has gone through two extensive remodels since opening day. The most recent remodels just opened this year, but this site doesn't really cover new SeaWorld attractions. The updated Nursery is beautiful, and gives guests a closer than ever look at adorable baby dolphins via a large underwater viewing panel, and three 'bubble' windows.
I miss Horizons and World of Motion at Epcot. Also miss having a night time parade at MK and afternoon parades at Hollywood Studios and AK :(
Well, IOA is the last park to open out of the group (and the only one in the 2000s). I think that park had the advantage of learning everybody else's mistakes.
Islands of Adventure opened in May 1999.
Um, I think EPCOT has undergone major changes like World of Motion to Test Track. Universe of Energy, Spaceship Earth, Land and IMagination have all undergone major changes too.
IOA is still kind of the baby park. It will be very interesting to see it develop over the next 10 years. I would guess that Toon Lagoon is set to be replaced or upgraded, though I really enjoy the water rides in that area!
I'm with Anthony here, though with one notable exception. I think both Disney and Universal have discovered that there's no demand for a theme park based around a working TV/movie studio. The original concepts surrounding USF and DHS are essentially dead, and those parks are being forced to forge completely new identities. As Anthony noted, IOA is the newest of the bunch, and was carefully planned to incorporate all of what was learned from previous theme parks. However, IOA is likely to go through major changes in the next decade as the land-locked park seeks additional space to improve/expand.
To those wondering about Disney preserving part of the resort, keep in mind Disney has donated land to offset the cointinued development of Disney World.
As a classic film buff, I really miss "Alfred Hitchcock: The art of making movies" at Universal. I liked its interactive nature of being selected to participate in a green screen special effect (hanging from the Statue of Liberty's torch from "Saboteur", crawling under the merry ground from "Strangers on a Train"), watching neighbors through binoculars across the courtyard to see "Rear Window's" characters just as Jimmy Stewart did, and running up the stairs in the mission just as Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak did in "Vertigo". If you loved those films, it was a way to feel like you were in them!
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