Which Closed Disney Attraction Will We Miss the Most?
Change inevitably comes to all Disney theme parks. That’s a direct order from the top, as Walt Disney invented the concept of plussing.
The founder felt strongly that attractions would grow stale unless Imagineers continued to improve them. After his death, cast members have carried on this legacy of modernization.
All Disney rides eventually receive improvements, which means that the current version only exists for a limited time.
Also, park space has grown competitive due to numerous expansions. So, some places eventually leave. Recently, Disney has shuttered several of them, and that makes us wonder.
Which closed Disney attraction will we miss the most?
The Great Movie Ride
Losing a beloved Disney attraction is never easy. Unfortunately, even Disney officials must make some difficult choices.
Sometimes, a ride has grown too dated, and no amount of plussing could fix it. In other instances, an attraction’s popularity has plummeted.
In fact, in a few rare instances, an attraction never garnered enough customer attention.
This list includes examples of all three, but The Great Movie Ride doesn’t categorize easily.
As the signature attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it remained popular for nearly 30 years.
However, in some situations, an Imagineer comes up with an idea for an even better attraction.
When this happens, park planners face an either/or decision, as happened with Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure.
People still loved the ride, but the management team felt strongly that a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction would anchor a Marvel themed land.
At Hollywood Studios, Disney chose to bet on something new with this ride building, even though the current ride still satisfied plenty of guests.
So, Disney closed The Great Movie Ride and replaced it with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
I compared the two in a previous article, but this discussion doesn’t center on which is better.
Instead, I’m simply here to state that The Great Movie Ride’s absence lessens Hollywood Studios for me, at least a bit.
I completely understand why Disney chose this route, but I miss the attraction dearly.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure
EPCOT strategists did something similar to Ellen’s Energy Adventure. This attraction had experienced a sharp downturn in attendance.
So, park managers wanted to do something splashy to increase the excitement for this unpopular part of (the former) Future World.
The change falls somewhere between The Great Movie Ride and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure undoubtedly had some cachet with longtime park guests. Still, it wasn’t on the level of The Great Movie Ride.
Like with the Tower of Terror, Disney could integrate a new Marvel brand here to heighten demand.
The Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster will open next year in its place. I frankly struggle to imagine a more enormous difference in ride style.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure highlighted the history of energy while taking people back to the age of the dinosaurs.
For many, the attraction offered a great chance to take a nap in the middle of a park day. NOBODY will sleep their way through Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
I suspect that most people will agree with Disney about this change, which isn’t nearly as divisive as The Great Move Ride.
DinoLand U.S.A. as we know it isn’t the themed land that Imagineers had intended. This place got savaged by budget cuts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that led to criticism about its carnival vibe.
People assailed the area, believing strongly that Walt Disney would have expected better.
Primeval Whirl certainly qualifies as one of the blueprint examples of these critiques. This attraction employed a Wild Mouse design, the kind that carnival attractions use.
So, Primeval Whirl is arguably a pure carnival ride. Still, the attraction has its supporters. Many relished the unique G-force sensations possible on the roller coaster.
Alas, more guests voted with their time. The lines for Primeval Whirl grew comically small, which makes this closure something of a mercy killing.
While loyal Disney fans will miss the view of guests spinning in place, this attraction simply wasn’t good enough for most.
Rivers of Light
I believe that this nighttime presentation falls into the category of never catching on with fans.
Disney tried several times to build buzz for Rivers of Light, but the entire show seemed cursed.
Park officials once delayed it for the body of a year for technical difficulties. When the show finally debuted, most people didn’t understand it.
I researched the story exhaustively for a piece I was writing. Even after reading the show notes and watching videos, I still didn’t make the connection.
The humans involved with telling the story similarly introduced confusion. So, park officials removed that part of the show, but that didn’t help any.
Rivers of Light received at least two more reboots, both of which were unsuccessful.
The final attempt, Rivers of Light: We Are One, was only about nine months old when the pandemic hit.
Disney used the cover of Coronavirus to perform a mercy killing of Rivers of Light.
I suspect everyone reading this would agree that it was a beautiful show. Still, few people truly relished it compared to Fantasmic! or Happily Ever After.
Perhaps the greatest irony here is that the temporary show hosted in the same space, The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic, proved much more popular.
Stitch’s Great Escape!
As a Lilo & Stitch fan, I always found the implementation of this attraction rather cruel.
Park officials set Stitch up to fail, whether they recognize it or not.
The Stitch attraction replaced ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, a decidedly non-Disney ride with a devoted fanbase.
The sheer audacity of this Tomorrowland attraction won over many fans. It was a terrifying experience only a short walk from Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.
Hey, kids, let’s play an adorable videogame ride. Afterward, I’ll teach you the meaning of fear!
Yes, the incongruity of Alien Encounter caused problems for Disney, which was regrettable since the attraction thrilled people. When everyone acknowledged the obvious, that it wasn’t fit for Disney, any replacement faced an impossible hurdle.
Imagineers must shove another attraction in the same space…preferably cheaply.
This decision victimized Stitch’s Great Escape!, a disposable attraction experience that perennially ranked at the bottom of Magic Kingdom park surveys.
For many, the attraction primarily reminded them that something better had resided in that building before Stitch. Given the amount of money that Disney earns from Stitch merchandise, it’s frustrating that nobody protected the brand better.
While rumors about a new attraction persist, Disney won’t invest in its construction anytime soon. Amusingly, this has led to perhaps the best usage of the ride building, at least as a Stitch tie-in.
Disney sometimes hosts a character greeting here that’s more satisfying than Stitch’s Great Escape ever was.
Voyage of The Little Mermaid
Okay, don’t get excited. This attraction may not be dead yet. I couldn’t decide whether to include it, as rumors persist that it’s done.
Thus far, Disney officials haven’t confirmed its death.
Then again, Disney wouldn’t acknowledge the death of Stitch’s Great Escape even though pictures of its demise were all over social media.
Until now, many shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have remained closed due to a dispute with a cast member actor’s union.
However, Disney just settled those negotiations, meaning that the workers should return soon.
When the cast members come back, we’ll learn the fate of The voyage of The Little Mermaid.
This show, based on the movie, is more than 27 years old, and I happen to adore it. In fact, we watch the performance every time we visit Hollywood Studios.
We’re in the minority, though. It’s one of the least popular shows at the park.
So, I suspect we would miss watching Ariel sing more than most. Still, I remain hopeful that rumors of the show’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
Everyone will look at these attractions and feel varying degrees of remorse.
For me, the loss of The Great Movie Ride stings the most, which I suspect is the consensus opinion.
The attraction that I’ll miss the least is Primeval Whirl, which I actively disliked.
If I were ranking the shows miss the most to miss the least, I think it would go:
- The Great Movie Ride
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid
- Ellen’s Energy Adventure
- Rivers of Light
- Stitch’s Great Escape!
- Primeval Whirl
So, how would you order them? Let us know in the comments!