Things You Forgot Were at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World has undergone many changes since its grand opening in 1971.
Now that we’re roughly years past that date, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at several seemingly unforgettable sights from a park visit that we’ve, well, mostly forgotten.
Here are ten things that you forgot were at Walt Disney World.
You haven’t thought about this thing in a while, have you?
Yes, when Hollywood Studios opened in 1989, it included an odd landmark. It’s not even one that park guests remember fondly.
The Earffel Tower was a water tower that wasn’t what you thought it was. No, it didn’t really hold water.
Instead, Disney modeled this monstrosity after an existing facility at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
All the fake water tower did was ruin the line of sight at the park, one that would have made for a fantastic photograph. Disney didn’t think that one through.
Amusingly, Disneyland Paris still has its Earffel Tower, which sounds about right.
Magic Kingdom Gondolas
Speaking of strange, ill-fitting sights, Disney once employed a cheap-looking gondola system within its parks.
No, I’m not referring to the Disney Skyliner. I mean the one that doubled as an attraction for nearly 30 years.
When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, it featured twin attractions called Skyway to Tomorrowland and Skyway to Fantasyland.
These gondolas seem very unsafe with the benefit of hindsight, but they operated without incident until 1999.
The Disney Skyliner has proven superior in every way, though.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure
In a way, this themed playground area served as the precursor for Pym Test Kitchen and the more local Toy Story Land.
Disney played with scale here as kids entered a giant-sized adventure. The premise involved them shrinking down to Lilliputian size.
So, everything at this Hollywood Studios area seemed larger than life. Even the can of Play-Doh was twice your size!
Also, you could sit on a giant ant and take a picture, which means that you could play Ant-Man years before most people knew who that was!
ImageWorks Rainbow Tunnel
During the early days of the Imagination! pavilion, two things caught the attention of kids.
One was obviously Journey into Imagination, the ride that has grown even more famous now that it’s gone.
The other part counted more as a visual. Guests walking through this pavilion would enter the ImageWorks area via the Rainbow Tunnel.
The pathway looked like this:
The neon tricks in play here aren’t that special, certainly not by Imagineering standards.
However, the sheer beauty of this visual has stood the test of time for many.
Michael Jackson photographed by Lynn Goldsmith at the Rainbow Tunnel at Disney's Imagination Pavillion. 1984. pic.twitter.com/98onGGnC3v
— WEIRDLAND TV (@WeirdlandTales) October 11, 2019
Plenty of Disney fans don’t remember where this tunnel existed, but they do recall its splendor.
Lights! Motor! Action! Stunt show set
For almost 20 years, Hollywood Studios operated a stunt attraction that had nothing to do with Indiana Jones.
In fact, Indy’s version came first and lasted longer. Still, the other show stood on its own merits.
Each Lights! Motor! Action! performance starred a bunch of stunt drivers able to do some amazing things behind the wheel.
They could drive at reckless speeds while maintaining a distance of less than a car length…and I’m talking six or eight cars here!
The show also featured a highlight where vehicles jumped from the top of one tractor-trailer to another. There were even some motorcycle stunts!
Alas, this show took up a massive amount of space, which Hollywood Studios needed for its recent expansions over the past few years. So, it had to go.
Mickey’s Toontown Fair
At the heart of the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? craze, Disney doubled down on people’s renewed love of animation.
Both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland opened themed lands within a few years of the movie’s release.
The Magic Kingdom one came first in 1988, and its main appeal stemmed from the ability to enter Mickey Mouse’s house!
Yes, guests could discover where their favorite mouse lived and even hang out there for a while.
Alas, Disney never fully committed to this area, leaving it as more of a children’s playground than a fully developed idea.
By 2011, nobody was visiting. So, Disney repurposed part of the area as Storybook Circus. The rest got demolished and has since become part of New Fantasyland.
Park officials did manage to save Goofy’s Barnstormer with a modified theme, though.
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Once upon a time, all the way back in 2015, guests could watch the most magical Christmas celebration of all.
After losing a contentious court battle, Arkansas resident Jennings Osborne sold his holiday decorations to Disney.
This may not seem like a big deal until you realize that we’re talking about literally millions of lights.
The Spectacle of Dancing Lights became a way of life at Hollywood Studios, a struggling park for most of its existence.
During the holidays, this multi-street presentation provided justification for families to visit Walt Disney World.
Many owe family traditions that remain today to the glory of the Osborne family’s lights.
Believe it or not, Disney attempted a second landmark at Hollywood Studios.
In 2001, the park added the thematically fitting Sorcerer’s Hat from Fantasia.
This wasn’t just any hat, though. It stood 122 feet tall and provided a lovely blue backdrop for photo ops.
For whatever reason, this more visually pleasing landmark never caught on any more than the Earffel Tower did.
So, after less than 15 years, Disney tore down the Sorcerer’s Hat, too.
After all this time, park officials finally realized that the Hollywood Tower Hotel is the real landmark at the park. Anything else is just playing for second place.
Studio Backlot Tour/Catastrophe Canyon
Ah, the trams!
Longtime Disney fans remember them fondly as part of the Studio Backlot Tour, Disney’s least original ride ever.
Imagineers rarely rip off other theme park premises, but this one irrefutably came from somewhere else.
Universal Studios existed as a studio tour before it added rides and shows. So when Hollywood Studios opened, it mimicked the premise with its own tour.
Of course, Disney’s Studio Backlot Tour came with its own highlight, one that lorded over everything at Universal Studios.
The aptly named Catastrophe Canyon faced disaster several times a day. A gasoline tanker exploded during each show, forcing a cascade of water to douse it.
This show thrilled observers, but it faced the same issue as Lights! Motor! Action! It took up too much room, and Disney needed that space for expansion.
So, one of the most integral parts of Hollywood Studios, its Studio Backlot Tour, had to end.
Imagineers designed EPCOT on the premise that it would teach as well as inform.
Perhaps no pavilion demonstrated this concept in action more effectively than Innoventions.
Disney paired Innoventions on each side of Spaceship Earth, and the buildings included a revolving set of unique attractions.
Guests could learn about computers, weather, and even paint during a visit here. Yes, the paint attraction stemmed from a sponsorship.
Disney leaned on those to finance EPCOT over the years. Perhaps the ill-fitting nature of those exhibitions contributed to the downfall of Innoventions.
In 2015, Disney ended Innoventions West as a standalone facility. Four years later, Innoventions East died as well.
In their place, the Moana water feature, Journey of Water, will entertain future guests. It’s still hard to watch the Innoventions brand die, though.
Which – if any – of these former Walt Disney World attractions do you miss the most? Let us know in the comments!
Feature Image: Disney