The REAL Reason People Get So Upset When Disney Changes Things

I was walking through Epcot with a friend when we passed a display of the Farewell IllumiNations merchandise.

Farewell IllumiNations Shirt

Knowing he was an Epcot enthusiast, I asked him if he had purchased anything from the collection yet. He replied, “I’m still in denial that it’s closing. But yes, I do want to snag a few things.”

“Oh! Are you an IllumiNations person?” I asked.

“Well, yea. The first time I came to Walt Disney World was for the 4th of July. My family decided to watch IllumiNations instead of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. It was amazing — it’s still my all-time favorite nighttime spectacular. IllumiNations was also my (late) grandmother’s favorite show. I guess I just have a lot of memories and nostalgia tied to IllumiNations,” he said.

IllumiNations ©Disney

And that’s when it hit me: the real reason people get so upset when Disney changes things.

It’s not because they are afraid they won’t like the new shows or attractions, or even because they think the old ones haven’t run their course. The real reason people get so upset when Disney changes things is because it messes with their memories.

To further this theory, I reached out to my team members, and asked if they ever felt personally victimized by a Disney ride or show closing. Our team talked about IllumiNations, Wishes, The Studios Backlot Tour, Mickey’s Toontown Fair, and the Main Street Electrical Parade, to name a few.

Mickey’s Toontown Fair

Stories ranged from happy to sad, but almost all of the responses started with “I remember this one time..” or “My favorite memory of Disney was when…”

The Great Movie Ride

One of my favorite stories came from a colleague and friend who fondly remembers The Great Movie Ride:

“I will never get over the changes to MGM, particularly the Great Movie Ride going away. I grew up down the street from my Gramps, and when I went to his house instead of putting on cartoons or ‘kid shows,’  he would show me his favorite movies and introduced me to his favorite actors (Bogart, Stanwyck, Hayworth, Laughton, etc.). So from a super young age I’ve had a connection to Golden Hollywood, the 1940s and the ’50s. I never got to watch these movies in theaters and nobody my age ever knew what I was talking about when I talked about my favorite movies. For me, walking into MGM and seeing a theme park dedicated to the glamour of these movies was absolutely magical. It was where I saw the decades I’m still so attached to replicated in real life. Gramps’ favorite movie (which became mine also) was Casablanca. When we planned a family vacation to take my grandparents with us on our annual Walt Disney World trip, I told everyone that the first thing I wanted to do was take Gramps on Great Movie Ride so he could see his favorite movie come to life. I remember him tearing up during the Casablanca scene. When I asked to ride it again with him we rode it another four times in a row and then went back to ride it again at the end of our day. My Gramps passed away when I was in high school, but I still watch Casablanca every year on his birthday.”

Great Movie Ride Casablanca Scene

(I’m not crying, you’re crying.)

When I asked her if she would be excited about Mickey and Minnie’s Runway Railway if it were going ANYWHERE else, she replied, “One hundred percent! I love Mickey and I think it’s insane he hasn’t had a ride until now. But I just wish they didn’t have to close Great Movie Ride for it.”

This confirmed it — people aren’t MAD about what is coming, they are SAD at what’s gone.

Main Street Electrical Parade

Walt Disney himself once said that we have to “Keep Moving Forward.” He was a true believer in change and innovation. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier when Disney Parks change or take away something that you have such strong emotional ties to.


The best advice I can give, and this is coming from someone who cried every.single.time she saw Wishes, is to try to fondly reminisce on the memories you made, and look forward to making new ones.

Shows may go, and attractions may change, but Disney magic will always remain. All you need is faith and trust… and a little bit of pixie dust.

What attraction or show change do you have the fondest memories of? Let us know in the comments!


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Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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13 Replies to “The REAL Reason People Get So Upset When Disney Changes Things”

  1. It is not just the memories. When my son was 3 years old, he loved Universe of Energy, Horizons, World of Motion, The Great Movie Ride etc. My grandson is now 3 and he cannot go on any of the replacements. WDW is turning into another thrill park and I can find those anywhere. Very disappointed.

  2. I hadn’t thought about it, but I do agree that Disney seems to be trying to bring in non- traditional Disney fans. Except for Toy Story and Beauty and the Beast, Hollywood Studios is now my least favorite park. I miss the Backstage tour with Catastrophe Canyon, and was heartbroken when the Great Movie Ride ended. I too remember those original rides at Epcot, and miss the cuteness of them. I don’t go for the thrill stuff. I DID like the updated version of Universe of Energy with Ellen D. more than the original…..but that is now gone too! As long as they don’t mess too much with Magic Kingdom, I’m good…….but I have to wonder about that too with the changes in Tomorrowland!

  3. This article hit so close to home. We were in WDW last month…my husband, 2 grown daughters, and grandkids. We are very fortunate…we have been able to make the trip at least once a year since our kids were toddlers (they are 27 and 30 now). On the last night of every trip, we went to Illuminations. It was a family tradition – the perfect ending to each trip. Every year my tears would start at the first notes of ‘We Go On’. Last month, we were ALL in tears. Knowing it would be the last time we would share this together made it so bittersweet. I’m sure we had people wondering what was wrong with this crying, hugging family. I know that whatever replaces Illuminations will be spectacular. And maybe we’ll feel the same way as we start new traditions and make memories with our kids and grandkids. We go on.

  4. I agree with most of the other comments. I would add that what has set Disney apart is that it is multi-generational. Grandparents bring their children and grandchildren. Sharing experiences across those generations is important. New attractions are fine. But preservation of historical attractions is important. Disney would be wise to carefully consider how to handle changes to established attractions and traditions.

  5. I just feel like Disney is catering to “everyone else” instead of Disney fans. All the changes seem to be trying to draw people who aren’t already fans. I was a die hard Disney World fanatic but they don’t want me anymore. They want Star Wars people and Marvel people. Don’t get me wrong, I love Marvel and Star Wars but not at my Disney World. I think they forgot who brought them to the dance. In 20 years Disney World will just be more expensive six flags.

    1. Mike, I am right there with you!!! It may sound selfish, but us old time disney diehards are the one’s that helped put WDW on the map and now I feel like they are finished with me and my family. I question if their new business model will work long term. I don’t believe it’s a model Walt himself would have embraced.

  6. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. The main reason people hate it when Disney replaces an original attraction is because they dumb it down. Look at EPCOT. They took World of Motion, an attraction that had everything. The history of transportation from the blistered cave mans feet to space ships; whimsical humor in every scene; education disguised as fun; a catchy tune that you caught yourself singing long after the ride was over. And when the ride was over we all longed to “hit the open road” because after all “it’s fun to be free.” It was the perfect ride to showcase the original philosophy and vision of Disney. And they replaced it with Test Track. A small minded thrill ride about only one minute aspect of transportation.

    And Horizons. Another emotionally inspiring big picture attraction that showcased mans quest to overcome, transform, and flourish in every harsh environment (land, sea, space) through technology, science, and inspiration. And, like Test Track, they replaced it with a small minded ride about only one tiny aspect of exploration.

    The Maelstrom was a look at the history, traditions and culture of the host country, Norway. And they turned it into a cartoon commercial. The same can be said for the Mexico ride.

    People know that the original rides can’t all last forever. And they are ok with progress. But they are insulted by the desecration of the original Walt Disney philosophy. It’s like having the special place you met your spouse torn down and replaced with a crack house.

    This is why Disney (the US parks anyway) is doomed. They don’t even understand (nor care) about the real reason why people don’t want change. It’s not the attraction, it’s the philosophy.

    1. I will agree with you on Maelstrom and the Mexico boat ride. They are making the World Showcase into a tacky carnival experience.

      1. Big John, were you ever able to ride World of Motion or Horizons? Im not that good at describing how great these attractions were to people who have never experienced them. It’s like when my dad tried to describe to me how great a ball game was in old Ebbets Field. I just looked at him and thought “what is this old geezer talking about. What could be any better than the brand new Astrodome?”

        1. I’ve ridden all the original Epcot attractions, including World of Motion and Horizons. My personal fave was Cranium Command inside the Wonders of Life pavilion, but that’s also lost to history. I enjoyed them all, as they were done in a classic Disney style that many old-school diehards have come to appreciate – Audio-Animatronics, mixed-media presentations, lots of humor, etc. While I was disappointed to see them go – especially Wonders of Life because it wasn’t even making room for something new, it was just stopping – I was not unhappy with the attractions that replaced them. I certainly don’t find them “small-minded” as they’re extremely innovative in their own way, and I’d be hard-pressed to find anything like them in another park. Six Flags doesn’t even come close. In that regard, I’ve learned to appreciate the silver linings.

          Meanwhile, I won’t miss Maelstrom at all. While it had some interesting effects, it didn’t teach me anything about Norway. I got all my education on Norway history and culture from the post-ride movie (which most people never bothered to stick around for, anyway) and from whatever was on exhibit inside the stave church (which remains to this day). As for Mexico, I’ll continue to enjoy the fact that, for now, their boat is always a walk-on ride with no wait and an old-fashioned relaxing way to rest my feet in the air-conditioning. In that way, it’s kinda like the “If You Had Wings” of Epcot.

          1. Bob I agree. They could have done a better job showcasing Norwegian history with Maelstrom, but They just said “not even going to try” with Frozen.

            Oh, you might recall a pair of brown or white cargo shorts walking in front of you as you set watching the Norway film. That was me. Actually, the film was good, but One or twice was enough for me.

            And, If You Had Wings. This WAS the perfect ride to just sit back relax and think about our next travel adventure. RIP Eastern Airlines

  7. This article touches on why any decision made by Disney- big or small- will meet some level of opposition. Nostalgia and memories are inherently personal.

    Some examples: While I was happy to hear that Sorcerer’s Hat was being removed from Hollywood Studios, my friend was upset. Why? Simply because he has memories of the hat from his very first visit to WDW.

    Similarly, most guests were thrilled to learn that theme song of The Carousel of Progress returned to “A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from “Now is the Time”. Like my friend’s reaction to the Sorcerer’s Hat, I have fond memories of “Now is the Time” from a cherished visit in 1978.

    It’s impossible for Disney to honor all of our cherished memories. But even when things change physically, no one can ever take memories away from our minds and hearts.

  8. I would say that all too often these days, they replace attractions with others that begin as something with a big wow factor, but then they don’t keep it up. The original Star Tours I rode a number of times where we’d hear Rex, but the animatronic didn’t work properly or at all. Expedition Everest’s Yeti is another example. The ride is good now, but was phenomenal when the Yeti actually worked. I haven’t been there, but the reports I read of the Avatar boat ride suggest that the animatronic in that is kind of hit or miss as to whether it’s working. The other problem is they’ll replace an attraction with a flavor of the day that will eventually languish and fall into disrepair.