Top 6 Closed Disney World Attractions
Many of our fondest memories stem from the magical adventures found throughout Disney's theme parks. For me, these journeys always took place at Walt Disney World of Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Every time I venture there, I'm excited to discover new rides and revisit classics—but inevitably, some old favorites will have since closed.
Why do attractions shut down?
Rides cease operation for a variety of reasons. Sometimes newer audiences can't relate to older movies, or upkeep costs run too high. Even beloved and successful attractions are occasionally dismantled simply to make room for fresh features.
Regardless of why they were disassembled, we'll forever yearn for our deceased mechanical friends. Here are six of the most fondly remembered attractions of Walt Disney World!
6. Ellen's Energy Adventure
Park: Epcot (Future World)
Ran from: 1996-2017
Replaced by: An upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy attraction
Ellen's Energy Adventure (named after Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo) updated the preexisting Universe of Energy mini-film, designed to inform viewers of the ways mankind harnesses energy. The update greatly bolstered the attraction's popularity by adding comedy and tossing in recognizable celebrities such as Bill Nye, Alex Trebek, and of course Ellen herself.
The attraction blends videos with a slow-moving platform that takes viewers across a variety of sets. It served as a relaxing break for weary feet that managed to maintain interest with its humor and colorful atmospheres. The dinosaur animatronics in particular excited us, and many still mourn the loss of this unique Epcot ride.
5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage
Park: Magic Kingdom (Fantasyland)
Ran from: 1971-1994
Replaced by: Ariel's Grotto, and later Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
A neat underwater adventure that captivated park guests for more than two decades, this attraction allowed us to glimpse life under the sea. Guests didn't ride in actual submarines, but boats designed to look like them with seating below deck, safely mimicking the underwater effect. As our boats ran along a fixed track and Captain Nemo narrated our surroundings, we were treated to sights of lobsters, eels, sea serpents, and even a giant squid.
Though popular, the ride eventually closed due to heavy maintenance costs and slow-moving lines. The close was intended to be temporary, but Disney eventually revealed they had no plans to reopen the ride, and we've had to rely on Splash Mountain for aquatic thrills ever since.
4. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Park: Magic Kingdom (Fantasyland)
Ran from: 1971-1998
Replaced by: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Unlike many of the slow-paced "dark rides" of Disney, Mr. Toad's expedition was fast and contained several abrupt turns. The constant sensation of speed lent tension and thrills to the experience, making it a popular break from the sun.
Above is the video for Disneyland's version of the Wild Ride, but Disney World's differed in some aspects. A splitting line led to two different tracks, each following its own path, giving more incentive to revisit the attraction. My favorite part was when the carts from each rail were zoomed towards each other—simulating an incoming crash—only to veer to safety at the last second. Good times.
3. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!
Park: Disney's Hollywood Studios
Ran from: 2001-2006
Replaced by: Toy Story Midway Mania
An adapted version of the popular game show, Who Wants to Be a Milllionaire – Play It! allowed guests to watch (and potentially participate in) the classic Millionaire trivia contest. You wouldn't win actual cash, but advancing through the questions earned contestants a variety of neat Disney-related prizes.
Like the actual show, audience members take part in the proceedings as well. Lifelines such as "Ask the Audience" helped guide players through tricky questions and allowed onlookers to contribute. I wasn't lucky enough to sit in the hot seat myself, but some of my most distinct memories from an early 2000s Disney trip are owed to this enjoyable (and air-conditioned!) feature.
2. Snow White's Scary Adventures
Park: Magic Kingdom (Fantasyland)
Ran from: 1971-2012
Replaced by: Princess Fairytale Hall
Just looking at the sizable lifespan for this event demonstrates its popularity. Snow White's Scary Adventures drove guests through the tale of Snow White, the princess who starred in Disney's first animated feature film.
The original version, which operated until 1994, was notably darker and scared many children with its numerous shadows and sudden shrieks. Post-1994, the attraction was tamed to make it more family-friendly, though it still incorporates some tense moments. Even a little boy like me (who would insist he didn't like the princess movies) had fun riding this classic.
Ran from: 1998-2017
Replaced by: An NBA attraction (I'm not kidding)
The most recently-closed of today's entries is also the biggest. DisneyQuest wasn't one attraction but an entire multi-floored indoor park devoted to interactive and virtual games. Many rides had video game-esque qualities, truly immersing guests because they had newfound impact on the attractions.
For example, players cooperated in Ride the Comix to battle comic book-like villains using a laser sword (the closest experience to Star Wars at the time). Also, digitally embarking on Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride and steering through Agrabah remains one of my earliest and best Disney recollections. Non-virtual jaunts included Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters, a fun twist on bumper cards where you could navigate over "asteroids" (foam balls) and fire them at opposing vehicles.
In addition to attractions, DisneyQuest hosted an arcade room filled to the brim with exciting games like Donkey Kong, Star Wars, and Pac-Man. Unlike traditional arcade units, these machines were free-to-play, finally allowing us to progress through without having to pay quarters each time we died.
I understand the reasons Quest is closing (must be expensive to keep the rides current with ever-changing modern technology), but we'll forever mourn the loss of Disney's most interactive park. Whether you were an engrossed young nerd like myself, or just wanted to beat the heat all day indoors, DisneyQuest will be a sorely missed and lovingly remembered component of Disney World.
Which do you most miss?
Legacy of Disney World
They may be gone, but they're certainly not forgotten. These attractions delighted millions of guests and helped make Disney World the enchanting place it is. And though some are forever removed (rest in peace, DisneyQuest), others live on through alternate parks. For instance, Snow White's Scary Adventures still operates in California's, Paris's, and Tokyo's Disneyland.
Nonetheless, never forget to cherish what you can while you can—you never know when a ride (or person) will forever depart your life.
© 2017 Jeremy Gill