The Disney parks may be some of the most advanced and fun theme parks in the world, but even the creative minds who dreamed up some of the world’s most beloved rides can’t anticipate and keep track of all the little details that go wrong or suddenly disappear for no reason.
Disneyland, the first Disney theme park, just turned 64 years old. It’s a place that’s highly detailed and always packed with people, so it’s bound to start showing its age. Walt Disney World is a little bit younger at 48, but even little bumps, scrapes and technological breakdowns still happen to anything or anyone in the mid-40s.
Here are the mistakes, errors and technical difficulties that have existed for years at some of the parks and could use the help of one or more service techs.
The Yeti in Animal Kingdom’s “Expedition Everest”
Let’s start by addressing the giant, immobile elephant hanging from the ceiling in the room.
The 25-foot tall Yeti at the end of this thrilling coaster creates an impressive and intimidating presence if it’s moving or standing completely still, the latter of which best describes the animatronic since the ride opened in 2006. The roller coaster alone is a high achievement in mechanical design, creative thrills and theming. It’s an ambitious attempt to change the game for roller coasters with its quiver-producing broken track that stops just a few feet away from a tall drop. The backward roll into complete darkness never stops being a thrill no matter how many times you ride it. The giant 80-foot drop will send even the heartiest soul screaming all the way down at a higher octave than they thought their voices could reach.
Then the coaster glides into a crevice on another side of the mountain and you come face to face with the Yeti, that’s become a legend in the ride’s central story and among Disney park aficionados. You can hear the menacing roar bounce off the massive speakers hidden by the darkness, but its gigantic hand doesn’t lunge at you the way the Imagineers intended. Instead, a strobe light flashes across its once frightful frame. The Yeti looks slightly less like a menacing monster and more like a hairy guy getting his dance groove on at Studio 54 on Halloween. That’s why it’s known in Disney fan circles as the “Disco Yeti.”
Imagineer Joe Rodhe designed the coaster and the giant Yeti. He’s vowed several times that he’ll fix the animatronic before he goes to that great big theme park in the sky. He’s more than capable for the job, but given how long it’s taken so far, I’ll believe when we see it without that annoying strobe.
The Chamber of Destiny in Disneyland’s “Indiana Jones Adventure”
Indiana Jones’ first foray into theme park rides that isn’t just a well decorated mine cart coaster was another very ambitious and unique idea for an interactive dark ride. It’s so good that I can forgive Disney for ruining Super Bowl XXIX with that weird halftime show… sort of.
One of the ride’s most impressive features ran at the very beginning of the out-of-control jeep ride through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. The Chamber of Secrets opened with a stunning, game-changing illusion that made riders think they were driving through one of three doors picked at random by the angry gods. The effect used a moving room that slid the entryway toward the back of the room, while a voice screamed out one of three foreboding phrases about the search for, as Indy himself once put it, “fortune and glory.”
Then about 11 years ago, the room stopped pivoting for some reason and it hasn’t worked since. Park engineers replaced the effect with a projection that doesn’t look or work as impressively as a spinning room.
The Spiked Ceiling in Disneyland’s “Indiana Jones Adventure”
And while we’re complaining about the still impressive and thrilling Adventureland attraction, the queue has several non-operating or malfunctioning interactive features that came straight from Indiana Jones’ cinematic adventures. The one I miss the most is the spiked ceiling room.
Guests who waited in line for the ride’s first runs at Disneyland in 1995 passed through one of the classic booby traps that almost put Indy’s adventures to a horrible end. If guests pulled a bamboo pole that appeared to hold up the massive stone ceiling, the ceiling would slowly start lowering, the bamboo pole would slowly bend and jagged, rusty spikes would stick out as it lowered to turn poor souls into a Swiss Fruit Roll-Up.
It wasn’t long after the ride first opened that the effect occasionally worked or remained broken for noticeable amounts of time. It sounds silly to shut down an entire E-ticket ride for one little queue effect, but it’s one I’d be willing to wait for just so I could see the look on people’s faces who aren’t expecting to be turned into flattened shish kabobs.
The Mermaid in Disney World’s “Pirates of the Caribbean”
The original “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides are some of the most storied and beloved rides in the parks and possibly the world. Even after Disney wedged Jack Sparrow into the storyline, the watery dark ride is still something I think every human must ride before exiting the ride we call “life.”
The ride got an update in 2012 to insert characters and small scenes from the new movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” including a projection of Blackbeard played by “Deadwood” star Ian McShane on the foggy curtain at the start of the ride. The most noticeable and impressive update in my opinion was the addition of a mermaid skeleton shackled to a rotted out boat in the dead pirate cove scene before the boat takes its dark drop. It wasn’t a mechanical addition but it was a nice surprise and a small but modern update to the ride.
Then in 2018, it was gone just as fast as a real-life mermaid encounter (so I’m told). No one knows why the thing was removed. Rumors circulated that it was part of the modernization of the ride’s themes, like the changing of the wench auction, because the remains of the mermaid were shackled to the boat like a piece of property. I just miss the only dead, half human-half fish I’ve ever loved.
Pretty Much All of Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion”
Asking the Walt Disney Company to change even the slightest detail of the original “Haunted Mansion” ride in Disneyland feels like asking the Louvre if they could make the Mona Lisa look she’s having a slightly better time. However, they could fix some of the small and more noticeable broken scenery and effects that a 65-year-old attraction is bound to suffer over time.
Hardcore super fans of the ride have reported tiny details like broken lights in several parts of the ride and the sometimes misaligned ghosts in the hitchhiking room at the end of the ride. Some riders reported more noticeable malfunctions like the stretching room that occasionally breaks down or the individual portraits that get stuck and fail to stretch like the rest as they should. Portraits that don’t stretch in “The Haunted Mansion”? Feels like they should rename the ride to “The Mansion.”
The Pterodactyl at Animal Kingdom’s “Dinosaur”
Everyone who misses the “Alien Encounter” experience in Tomorrowland (which is everyone) knows Disney likes to keep rides family friendly without skimping on the theming and the stories that make them so special. One of the biggest chances they took and have still kept is the “Dinosaur” dark ride in the Animal Kingdom.
The ride was one of the opening attractions with the newly unveiled Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in 1998, originally named “Countdown to Extinction.” If you went on the ride during its heyday and went on it again recently, you might notice that a lot of changes have been implemented, like the tiny, jumping Compsognathus and a lot of jostling from the time-traveling jeeps you ride, which are pretty similar to the ones in Disneyland’s “Indiana Jones Adventure.” One of the scarier moments that could make most people duck for cover happened just after the Compsognathus attack with a giant Pterodactyl swooping down over the riders from what feels like just inches from our tasty human heads.
Then after the “Dinosaur” refurbishment and renaming in 2000 to promote the tepid but profitable “Dinosaur” movie, the Pterodactyl stopped swooping down and just made a screeching noise as your car passed underneath the immobile model. It still kind of looks like it’s flying over your head but it loses the swoop effect.
At least they didn’t just flash a strobe light on it.
Have you noticed these broken or missing attraction elements? Are there any that we’ve missed that you’ve wondered about? Drop us a comment below!
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