What Has Closed at Walt Disney World Recently?
Sometimes, Disney updates its theme parks by closing some older, less popular attractions.
How often does this happen? Recently, the average has been roughly twice per year, and I can prove it.
Here are eight things Disney has closed over the past five years.
Did you know that Arcade 1Up machines weigh 104 pounds? I do for…various reasons.
Obviously, I’m a gamer who loves old arcade machines. That’s why I often visited DisneyQuest, the former arcade at Disney Springs.
For a time, Disney dreamt of a new empire of hangout spots akin to Chuck E. Cheese or Dave & Buster’s. It wanted a place where kids could spend the day playing video games.
Executives envisioned a series of these locations around the country. The first place opened at Disney Springs.
Then, another debuted in Chicago, and Disney purchased the land for a third in Philadelphia. But unfortunately, the Chicago arcade bombed so badly that Disney never even opened the one in Philadelphia.
Two other planned franchisees at Disneyland Resort and Toronto never got out of the planning stage.
I say all of this to point out that it’s oddly impressive how long DisneyQuest lasted at Disney Springs.
The Chicago outlet closed in 2001. DisneyQuest remained in business until July of 2017.
I visited a few weeks before that place closed for good. Suffice to say that attendance was poor.
Since then, arcades have made a comeback, especially as home electronics/décor. But it was far too late to save DisneyQuest.
The Great Movie Ride
I can hear you booing at this reminder. I’m sorry to bring back the salty feelings, but it’s the nature of the beast with this topic.
In 2017, only five weeks after DisneyQuest, Walt Disney World closed a MUCH more popular attraction.
The beloved anchor attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios shut down for good. Disney planned a new Mickey Mouse ride, the first of its kind in theme park history.
Sadly, the only place where this attraction made sense was one currently occupied by The Great Movie Ride.
So, something died so that another great thing could live. Disney did this three times recently.
At Disney California Adventure, California Screamin’ turned into The Incredicoaster, while Twilight Zone Tower of Terror switched to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
Those changes, while frustrating, were understandable. However, with The Great Movie Ride, many of us still wonder why Disney couldn’t save it.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is undeniably incredible, but couldn’t Disney have simply built a new building instead?
Apparently, the answer was no, but it still breaks my and many other hearts.
A recurring theme here is that Disney often closes something to replace it with a better thing.
For example, Mouse Gear reigned for years as the best store at EPCOT and arguably all the Orlando theme parks. You could find anything here.
Alas, park officials believed that the store had lost some of its luster. So, Disney closed and built a new shop in its place.
For a time, EPCOT operated a modified Mouse Gear store in a different location. However, it wasn’t the real thing and was always a placeholder.
In 2021, the ultimate replacement, Creations Shop, opened. It’s undeniably stylish:
I think most people like the new place more, but I get nostalgic about Mouse Gear. It’s an excellent name for a store and one I hope Disney recycles down the road.
History quickly repeated itself with the NBA Experience, which opened in the previous DisneyQuest building at Disney Springs.
When Disney announced plans for the project, the universal question was, “Why?” Nobody really wanted this, but Disney had an agreement with the NBA.
This interactive gaming outlet and merchandise store provided an opportunity to strengthen that relationship.
Alas, the place bombed. NBA Experience operated for less than eight months before the pandemic’s start.
Even before COVID-19 concerns, few people showed up. Here’s a video of what it looked like during the brief time it was open:
Undeterred, Disney is currently trying a third offering at this (apparently jinxed) building. You can play an augmented reality version of ILMxLAB’s Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge right now.
This free gaming experience lasts through July 21st. After that, Disney owns an empty building once again. My vote is for a DisneyQuest reboot!
Some of the attractions we’ve lost hurt me more than others. But, honestly, a couple of the remaining ones lasted longer than they probably should have.
Primeval Whirl is Exhibit A in this category. It was a “Wild Mouse” roller coaster that tried to combine Mad Tea Party elements with a quick thrill ride.
Primeval Whirl looked like this:
We all expect more from Disney than this, and park officials do, too. That’s why they happily demolished Primeval Whirl last year.
The next person I meet who misses the ride will be the first. Even Disney nostalgia only goes so far when a ride’s this underwhelming.
Rivers of Light
You cannot say Disney gave up too quickly on this one.
When Rivers of Light debuted at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017, it became the first nighttime presentation in the park’s history.
For this reason, Disney really wanted it to work. Sadly, the gorgeous show’s story proved too inscrutable for viewers.
Seriously, I wrote multiple explanatory articles about what was happening. Each time, a slew of readers replied that they had no idea about any of it.
Disney simply couldn’t relay the message the way it needed. So, it took out the human roles in the performance, which…didn’t help at all.
Eventually, the show rebooted as Rivers of Light: We Are One on Memorial Day Weekend 2019. That version lasted only 10 months.
The pandemic was partially to blame for the closure, but the outcome appeared inevitable anyway.
Rivers of Light, while beautiful, just never grabbed viewers the way that the best Disney nighttime presentations do.
I should add that history is repeating itself a bit right now.
Disney KiteTails started with plenty of hoopla, but it appears likely to receive an overhaul in a few weeks.
Animal Kingdom’s grandiose presentations appear cursed.
Spirit of Aloha
Okay, this one hurts me a great deal. I’ve made no secret of my love for this dinner show at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
My family loves to stay at this resort. But, even when we don’t, we often eat our meals at the Polynesian, which has our favorite overall batch of restaurants.
Spirit of Aloha delighted us on countless occasions with its combination of ‘Ohana foods, Kona Café bread and butter, and a mesmerizing live show.
Sure, the first part of Spirit of Aloha always felt kinda cheesy, but I dug it anyway. The fire dancers were always remarkable, though.
Disney has chosen to close Luau Cove and Spirit of Aloha to build a tower expansion here.
I understand the why of it, but the Polynesian won’t feel the same without the Spirit of Aloha.
Stitch’s Great Escape
Here’s the other ride that not many people miss. And I’m saying that as someone who has 50 Stitch stuffed animals in my home.
My wife loves Stitch more than any other Disney character. Even she couldn’t love Stitch’s Great Escape, though.
Disney re-themed the former ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. The former terrifying monster turned into the adorable Stitch.
On paper, this change sounded perfect. In practice, the show simply didn’t work as well without a real sense of danger.
Rumors abound that Disney will re-theme again with a Wreck-It Ralph interactive experience, probably one using augmented reality.
However, Disney hasn’t confirmed those plans and may not for some time. So, the best you’ll get here is the occasional Stitch character greeting.
Elvis Stitch is pretty great, though.