While there are plenty of new attractions to love at Walt Disney World, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some closed rides of the past that we still miss!
As part of our ongoing series on Disney History, here are nine defunct Disney attractions we still miss to this day.
Horizons was the thesis statement of Epcot and one of the most innovative attractions Disney ever built. Even modern day wonders like Flight of Passage and Runaway Railway lack the sheer polish and detail that went into this classic ride.
Considered by many to be the successor to the Carousel of Progress, Horizons took guests on a trip into the future on a suspended Omnimover-like vehicle that soared over elaborate sets and immersive projections. At the ride’s climax, you would vote for one of three trips to the future, witnessing space colonization, desert agriculture, or ocean colonization. It was one of the most innovative rides of its time, and the choose-your-own-ending portion was revolutionary.
So what happened? Several things. GE, the ride’s sponsor, pulled funding in 1993. Around the same time, Disneyland Paris (then called Euro Disneyland) hit the world with a wet flop and caused Disney to hemorrhage money. Structural problems with the building (allegedly due to sinkholes) meant that Disney either had to find someone to pay for extensive repairs to the aging attraction or replace it with something more exciting. They chose the latter. The result was Mission: SPACE, which… also didn’t live up to expectations, but that’s an entirely different story. For now, we’ll have to look longingly at the past to see a vision of a future that never was.
Staying in Epcot, we travel to the now defunct Wonders of Life Pavilion.
We miss this entire pavilion, but there’s one ride that really stood out as something special. BODY WARS.
Built on the same system as Star Tours, this ride took guests on a fantastic voyage through the human body. You’d enter the HQ of Miniaturized Exploration Technologies, a futuristic (yet still realistic) science lab. You’d witness white blood cells fighting against disease in an epic flight-simulator attraction. Your routine tour of a splinter soon goes wild as your scientist guide gets sucked toward the heart. To escape, you’ll need a power boost from the brain!
Now, the ride wasn’t entirely scientifically accurate, and it had the production value of a SyFi Original Movie, but it was charming and one of the few thrill rides Epcot had for a long time. In fact, for many years after its closure in 2007, the ride was still there, just inoperable. Unfortunately, with Wonders of Life being converted to the PLAY! Pavilion, it’s likely this beloved attraction is gone for good… though it would be neat to see them repurpose that old flight simulator.
The Magic Eye Theater
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “They didn’t close the Magic Eye Theater!” And you’re correct; it’s still there, but it’s a shadow of its former self. Currently, it’s home to the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival, a cute and charming attraction that shows off a trio of animated shorts with some minor added effects. These shorts are fantastic, but the entire experience is a lot weaker than it’s earlier incarnations.
Captain Eo, the collaboration between George Lucas and Michael Jackson was a musical phenomenon, so popular that it was brought back for an encore in 2010.
However, as a child of the 90s, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. One of the most iconic 4D films, this adaptation of the wildly popular franchise brought insane special effects to the theater. Mice running by your feet! A snake in your face! It was the most immersive theatrical attraction of its time, and only It’s Tough To Be a Bug has been able to compare with the sheer spectacle.
Journey into Imagination
Have you noticed how these have all come from Epcot? What happened, Epcot? You’ve changed so much. Anyway, one of the most iconic attractions at the park was the original Journey into Imagination.
Starring the Dreamfinder and Figment, the ride featured a tour through the world of imagination, providing an insanely complex ride experience. Not to mention one of the most iconic songs in Disney history. Unfortunately, the complexity of the ride system and the loss of a critical sponsor meant the ride was gutted into its current incarnation. Alas, poor Dreamfinder… we miss you.
Before there was Frozen Ever After, there was Maelstrom: a wild water ride through the waters of Norway where you’d encounter some malevolent trolls.
After sailing past vikings and seafarers, you’d encounter a three-headed troll that would send you flying back through polar bear infested tundra, before plummeting safely into a modern Norwegian port. The ride system hasn’t changed at all, but the conversion to a Frozen ride means the iconic thrill where your boat dangerously teeters over the edge of a waterfall has been removed.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure
Older fans remember this attraction back when it was Universe of Energy, but as a child of the 90s, I remember the more recent version starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. Set in the famous comedian’s nightmare, this ride began with a hilarious Jeopardy parody before guests boarded the famous moving theaters.
You’d take a ride through the famous Primeval diorama. This diorama was the star of the show. In fact, many guests would hope for the ride to be evacuated for a chance to stroll through the breathtaking vistas of this display. Some people think they even stopped the ride on purpose during its last run so guests could take one last stroll through the past.
The Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Coaster is sure to be fun, but we’ll miss walking with the dinosaurs with Ellen.
Of all the Epcot attractions we’ve lost over the years, this is one of the ones we miss the most. Epcot was always built around the concept of futurism, and no place represented this quite like the old CommuniCore. Like the coolest museum ever, it expanded upon all the concepts of each pavilion. You could talk to a robot, see the computer that ran the park, and even design your own roller coaster. There were even plans for a PeopleMover on the second floor!
Unfortunately, in 1994, the CommuniCore was reduced in scope to the more corporate driven Innoventions… not that it was any less cool. This place was the closest thing a kid like me could get to going to the Consumer Electronics Expo. You could tour a house of tomorrow… not a kitschy one like you’d see in Tomorrowland but one using real working technologies! I remember seeing things like robotic lawnmowers and internet-connected health monitors at Epcot long before they hit the market… though stuff at Innoventions was always a bit more ambitious than what most people got.
They even added a KUKA Arm-operated roller coaster to the pavilion!
Unfortunately, being beholden to corporate sponsorship meant that when the sponsorships dried up, the attraction atrophied away until it eventually closed. Good night, sweet prince.
The Great Movie Ride
Leaving Epcot for Hollywood Studios, we’ve got a ride that was, um, actually originally intended for Epcot. JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE ESCAPED, EPCOT PULLs YOU BACK IN!
Enter the Chinese Theater for a tour through cinema history, seeing classics like The Wizard of Oz, Fantasia, Singin’ In The Rain, and Alien up close! Your guided tour will quickly go awry as a movie villain hijacks your vehicle, sending you through the darker side of cinema… but don’t worry! This movie always has a happy ending!
The Great Movie Ride was iconic and showed off the world of cinema in a way only Disney could. In fact, it was designed before Hollywood Studios was even a concept, as part of a planned Cinema Pavilion at Epcot. When the concept was spun into a whole park, this was the centerpiece. Well… one of them.
The Backlot Tram Tour
The dream of Disney-MGM Studios was to be a real movie studio, where Disney could produce films. In fact, it was a working studio for many years, where films like Ernest Saves Christmas as well as series like The Golden Girls were shot. Animated films like Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear were also made at the park! When the park first opened, you could see all the magic by taking the Backlot Tram Tour.
When the park first opened, this was the experience. It took up most of your day, taking you on a tour of elaborate sets, and culminating with a pass through Catastrophe Canyon, a simulated disaster set!
Unfortunately, the dream of an East Coast Hollywood petered out shortly after the park opened, and the tour shrunk down until it was little more than a quick drive through the backlot with a stop at the Canyon. The ride never quite stood up to the spectacle of the Universal Hollywood Tram Tour, which had the advantage of being set in a working film studio. Still, it was a beloved fixture of the park that would be sorely missed.
That’s our selection of the Disney attractions we miss the most. Was there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Get more Disney history at the links below.
- Six Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Icon Mary Blair
- Walt Disney World Through the Decades: the Unexpected History of the Most Magical Place On Earth
- Disney’s Most Controversial Attractions
- Why Disney World Will Never Get Its Own Avengers Campus
- 18 Things You Didn’t Know About Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle
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