Three Disney Attractions We Liked Better Before They Were “Improved”

Everybody likes things that are “New and Improved!”, right? Wrong! How many times have we bought our favorite deodorant, shampoo, furniture polish, candy bar, insert-a-product-here, only to find that they’ve changed the scent, the color, the flavor or some other aspect that decidedly does NOT make it better?

The same thing has happened again and again at Disney, when the Imagineers have tinkered with a beloved attraction to “reimagine” it, leaving us to cry, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Epcot’s Imagination! Pavilion

Here are three times when we wish they’d left well enough alone!

Journey into Imagination

If you’re a Disney World fan, you knew that Journey into Imagination was going to be number one on the list, didn’t you?

This attraction opened in March 1983, a few months after Epcot’s October 1, 1982, debut. The 13-minute show featured this marvelous little purple dragon, Figment, and his keeper, the Dreamfinder. It had a fantastic theme song written by the Sherman Brothers called “One Little Spark,” and it just charmed the pants off everyone.

Dreamfinder and Figment from the original Imagination! pavilion

And then it fell victim to “reimagining”… and on October 1, 1999, we ended up with Journey into YOUR Imagination, which featured only a glimpse of Figment, no Dreamfinder, and lots of Eric Idle as Dr. Nigel Channing.

By all accounts, literally everyone was unhappy with this change. In one of the few times when the public outcry actually was too great for Disney to ignore, the Imagineers closed the attraction in October 2001 to “fix” it.

A walk-around Figment character poses for photos

When it reopened in June 2002, a new, improved Journey into Imagination with Figment debuted.  This six-minute ride is better than its precursor, but is still not as great as the original.

Figment and Dreamfinder fans everywhere are still mourning.

Pirates of the Caribbean

A Disney mainstay, the Pirates of the Caribbean has undergone a number of changes since the attraction opened in Disneyland in 1967 and in Walt Disney World in 1973.

Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World

One of the biggest changes came after the success of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films — Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow character and the villainous Barbossa as played by Geoffrey Rush were inserted into the attraction’s storyline.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow animatronic in Pirates of the Caribbean

While we may not have needed that “synergy” to tie-in to the films, at least the audio-animatronics were exceptionally well-done and not intrusive at all.

Many of the other alternations to the attraction over the years were made to make it more “politically correct” as the social climate has changed. Most recently, the famous “auction” scene was altered to include “Redd,” a female buccaneer, in place of “The Redhead” who was up for sale.

We like Redd a lot, and wish that she made meet-and-greet appearances at Disney World as she did at Disneyland. But…

Buccaneer “Redd” now runs the auction at the Pirates of the Caribbean

Even though it’s great that Disney has tried to keep up with the times, we have to admit we have a little bit of nostalgia for the old version of Pirates. And don’t hate us for saying this, but sometimes we even miss shouting along: “We wants the redhead! We wants the redhead!”

The Redhead!

Soarin’

OK, I have to say that I love Soarin’ around the World, absolutely love it! This is the version that premiered in Epcot and Disney California Adventure in 2016.

I love the feeling of gliding high above the scenes below me, I love the multi-sensory experience. I think it is, as I have heard so many other guests exclaim, “AWESOME!”

Soarin’ Around the World in Epcot

Maybe the original film did need to be updated, and its scope broadened. It’s very cool to see places from all over the globe, many of which I’ve been lucky to visit in person — the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the Sydney Opera House, and even Epcot! And I’m sure lots of other visitors, especially children, enjoy seeing iconic locations from around the world that they can easily identify.

But I feel like this new film relies a little too heavily on the shock value of having things fly in our faces as it transitions to the next scene. Maybe once works, but using the device in every scene takes a little something away from the whole “show” for me.

Yep, I think I actually prefer the original version of the attraction, with its scenes from around the great state of California, and its rousing score — which is still in heavy rotation on my iTunes!

At least they kept the Patrick Warburton safety spiel!

Patrick Warburton in the Soarin’ Around the World pre-show video

These are three attractions that we think could have been left alone — they were awesome the way they were! What do you think? Are there “improved” attractions that you liked better the “old” way? Let us know with a comment below!

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Debra Martin Koma wrote about food, travel and lifestyle issues for a number of local and national publications before she fell in love with Walt Disney World on her first visit — when she was 34! She's returned to her Laughing Place more times than she can count in the ensuing years, and enthusiastically shares her passion with readers of AllEars.Net and AllEars®. Deb also co-authored (along with Deb Wills) PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, a travel guide designed for all travelers to Walt Disney World who may require special attention, from special diets to mobility issues.

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20 Replies to “Three Disney Attractions We Liked Better Before They Were “Improved””

  1. totally agree with figment but also have to say i do not like the three cabieros (sp) in Mexico. I loved the heritage and history of mexico and this just ruined the ride for me, jmi

  2. Finally road Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland and loved much more than the abbreviated version in the Magic Kingdom.

  3. Test Track was much more enjoyable before the recent “improvement”….I believe the new update makes the ride not as exciting

  4. The real way to improve Soarin is to give it the Star Tours treatment. Create lots of different versions so that the ride is seldom the same. It’s all digital and automated. The only cost would be to produce the different versions up front.

  5. What about Maelstrom? I think Disney has enough different versions of It’s a Small World. Frozen and Navi are nothing more than a different version of it. It’s about time for Hollywood Studios to get a lame boat ride.

    1. The thing is that Frozen Ever After is a completely different ride from Maelstrom — they weren’t trying to improve it, they just got rid of it. (I miss it!) I was trying to think of rides that are still essentially the same that were allegedly “improved.” I definitely could have included Test Track, though!

  6. Pirates of the Caribbean seems quite empty of scenes to me. There were a lot of empty areas where there used to be a display. Very disappointed.

  7. I agree with your list! My daughter is in her 40’s and has loved Figment since she was little! It broke her heart when the attraction was updated! Sometimes change is not for the better. Disney has just never learned this!

  8. Tower of Terror! I used to love it when you got a 13-story drop. I liked it even better when you got two 13-story drops in the same ride. Unfortunately I had to quit riding it when they started just bouncing you up & down like a yo-yo without any big drop.

  9. Mission Space was so much better before. We miss “Lt. Dan” and the trip just doesn’t feel as immersive. I also agree about Soarin, but thought I was in the minority with that opinion!

  10. I agree on all counts, especially Soarin! It relies too much on the height factor rather than the beauty of the scenery, and the distortion is terrible.

    1. I definitely agree on Test Track, Jenn, but I actually prefer Gina Torres over “Scary Gary,” as we called him!

      1. I like the new Trst Track queue but hate what they did to the ride. It is so generic now. Loved the old “test” version, not testing the car you made which isn’t really that obvious as you ride. BAD “improvement”!