We deal with change as it happens in many aspects of our daily lives, but somehow we find it more unsettling when it occurs in our favorite theme park attractions.
As the years have gone on, we’ve seen a lot of old-time classic Walt Disney World attractions go by the wayside as newer, glitzier technology and themes have become popular. Here are some of the attractions that we miss the most. See if our list matches yours!
This 1992 Circle-Vision 360° film combined different technologies and Disney magic like never before. You would enter the Metropolis Science Center in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland to start your journey. After a short pre-show, you entered the theater, where you were greeted by the somewhat scatterbrained Timekeeper (voiced by the late, great Robin Williams). You then traveled through time and space with the help of Timekeeper’s assistant robot, 9-Eye (voiced by actress Rhea Perlman).
The Jurassic Period, Medieval Times, the Renaissance, and even a performance by young Mozart all passed before your eyes, surrounding you as you stood, leaning against the railings. Finally, you ended up in Paris circa 1900 where you bumped into H. G. Wells (actor Jeremy Irons) and Jules Verne (French actor Michel Piccoli).
As Timekeeper tried to bring 9-Eye back from the past, Verne inadvertently tagged along and came into the present day. He was then sent on a journey to experience today’s events and modes of transportation. Eventually he was returned to his rightful place, just in time to give a speech. You got a quick view of the future before the conclusion of this attraction. You then were dismissed with a number of hilarious send-offs from Timekeeper, in Williams’ trademark flippant style. Our favorite: “All feet are the same!” (Auf weidersehen!) This show ran from 1994 to 2006, when it closed to make way for the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage
Who didn’t love this underwater sea adventure?
For this attraction, you boarded a vessel made to resemble the Nautilus from the classic Disney film that starred James Mason and Kirk Douglas. These were not actual submarines, but they created the illusion of an underwater view by seating passengers below the waterline.
In this journey under the ocean, Captain Nemo (Peter Renaday) narrated as you traveled past sea turtles, giant clams, eels, and kelp harvesters. This happy excursion took a turn into an ominous sunken ship graveyard and sharks before traveling to the polar ice caps, where you saw a vivid aurora borealis.
After this, you found yourself surrounded by ruins from the lost city of Atlantis. Sea serpents and mermaids filled the path to an underwater volcano. A red alert sounded as you found yourself face-to-face with a recreation of the most exciting scene from the movie: the giant squid! Luckily, it attacked another vessel and left yours alone, so you could safely return to the dock.
This ride lasted from 1971 to 1994, when it underwent maintenance that it never returned from. Deemed a permanent closure in 1996, the attraction’s area is now home to Ariel’s Grotto, Under the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Horizons, located in Epcot’s Future World, was arguably the embodiment of everything that theme park strived to be. It included themes tied to air, land, sea, and space while featuring advanced technology of the day in communication, energy, physiology and transportation… and more.
Horizons opened in October 1983 as part of Epcot’s second phase. The attraction echoed the Magic Kingdom’s Carousel of Progress in some ways, giving us a glimpse into the future through the eyes of a fictional family. In several scenes that depicted what we thought back then video chat would be like, it tied several futuristic scenes together. Even the family dog was front and center. Funnily enough, many of the attraction’s predictions have come to fruition.
Many things led to the permanent closing of Horizons in January 1999. There were rumors of roofing problems and major structural damages, but probably the most damning factor was the loss of sponsor GE. The entire building was eventually demolished for the construction of Mission: SPACE.
Horizons is missed by many fans to this day, especially those of us who fondly recall that lovely orange scent at the end of ride.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride has been delighting park-goers since 1955 when Disneyland first opened its gates. It was originally intended to be a rollercoaster, but Walt Disney wanted the ride to be enjoyed by all ages. It was created as a dark ride to do just that. This attraction was also available in Magic Kingdom for its opening day in 1971.
The ride was based loosely on the children’s stories, The Wind in the Willows and the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. In the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction, guests climb aboard early 1900s motor cars named after characters from the animated movie. These characters are depicted throughout the ride as well. Guest traveled down either a left or right track at random.
The left track headed through the trophy room, kitchen, a gypsy camp, Winky’s tavern, and Ratty’s house before entering the Shireland scene. The right track traveled through the library, barnyard, courtroom, and jail before heading into the Shireland scene. Both tracks mirrored each other from that point through the Inferno Room before coming back out to the ride entrance.
Many felt the ride, with its depictions of hell and devils, was not appropriate for Fantasyland’s target demographic, young children. (We discussed this controversy recently in a previous post.)
The ride was set for the chopping block in 1998, when it was announced that it would close to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
This attraction had such a large following that some fans protested the closing. They held a series of “Toad-Ins” in the hopes that they would earn the ride a reprieve.
Alas, the protests were to no avail and Mr. Toad went the way of the dodo bird — at least in Walt Disney World. The attraction still flourishes in Disneyland, for those who want to merrily, merrily continue on their way to “nowhere in particular,” as the ride’s theme proclaims.
That’s our short list of attractions at Walt Disney World that we really miss the most. Of course, we could go on — we’re still pining for The Hunchback of Notre Dame show in Hollywood Studios and the Tarzan show in Animal Kingdom, not to mention the more recent losses of Maelstrom and The Great Movie Ride.
How does our list compare to yours? Which attractions do you miss the most? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re really feeling nostalgic, watch our video tribute to Horizons below.