The removal and replacement of attractions has been part of Disney Parks pretty much since the very beginning. Seriously, things were changing at Disneyland as early as 1956. Over the years, that has led to some beloved attractions closing their doors, much to the chagrin of many fans and Disney Imagineers alike.
However, while the former group can only mourn, the latter have been able to sneak some references to these dearly departed attractions into their replacements as Easter eggs.
Here are eight of the most notable homages to former Disney Parks attractions hidden in their replacements.
Mr. Toad Sold Out to Winnie the Pooh
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was an opening day attraction at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. However, while the Anaheim version is still going strong, the Orlando ride controversially closed in 1998 – despite literal protests from fans – to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
While hardcore Toad fans have never quite forgiven Disney for the closure, they did find a small acknowledgment of their favorite attraction when Pooh opened in 2000. Namely, in Owl’s House, there’s a photograph of J. Thaddeus Toad himself handing a deed of Toad Hall over to Owl. In addition, there’s another photo of Winnie the Pooh greeting Moley, a friend of Toad’s from The Wind in the Willows.
Out West, Pooh Evicted the Country Bears, Too
While Disneyland’s Mr. Toad was safe from Pooh, the same can’t be said for the California’s Country Bear Jamboree. In 2001, the Disneyland version of the animatronic show – which had never been as popular on the west coast as it was in Orlando – was closed to make room for a clone of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Like its Magic Kingdom counterpart, the Disneyland Pooh attraction features a direct homage to the show it replaced. The animatronic heads of Melvin the Moose, Buff the Buffalo, and Max the Moose are mounted on a wall in Pooh’s show building, visible in the Heffalumps and Woozles scene (though you’ll need to turn around to see them).
Captain Nemo Still Drops Anchor in New Fantasyland
For the first 23 years of the Magic Kingdom’s existence, the park’s Fantasyland was anchored by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a version of Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage themed to the Disney film version of Jules Verne’s iconic novel. Despite its popularity, the attraction closed in 1994, likely as a cost-cutting measure. The attraction’s lagoon remained filled for several years as part of a Little Mermaid meet and greet area before being filled in and used as a Pooh playground.
The large plot of land that formerly served as 20,000 Leagues made up the backbone of the New Fantasyland expansion that opened in Magic Kingdom in 2014, and there are several homages to the attraction throughout the land. These include a weathervane in the shape of the ride’s giant squid on top of a building and a large piece of rock work in the Ariel’s Undersea Adventure queue shaped like the ride’s iconic Nautilus ride vehicle.
Snow White’s Storybook Ending
New Fantasyland also features several homages to Snow White’s Scary Adventures, the opening day dark ride which closed to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall in terms of location and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in terms of theme.
The former features a giant Snow White story book as part of its queue, reminding guests that while many Disney Princesses can be found in the Hall, the space originally belonged to the company’s first animated princess. The latter coaster features several animatronics from Scary Adventures, including several of the Dwarfs and two menacing crows.
Buzz Lightyear’s Chicken Wings
When Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin opened at the Magic Kingdom in 1998, the Toy Story-based attraction replaced Delta Dreamflight. The long-running Tomorrowland attraction (which was originally known as If You Had Wings) had shown the history of air travel, often through the lens of whatever airline was the Resort’s “official” one at the time.
In addition to retaining the same ride system and layout, Space Ranger Spin features several nods to If You Had Wings/Dreamflight, including the iconic the speed tunnel element and some cardboard chickens that are visible in current ride’s volcano room.
A Tribute to Horizons
As we’ve discussed at length in the past, Horizons remains one of the most beloved attractions in Disney history, despite closing over two decades ago. As we’ve also discussed, its replacement Mission Space has been met with a lukewarm reception by many, especially Horizons fans.
However, there is at least one part of Mission Space that said fans enjoy: the large “gravity wheel” set piece in the attractions queue features the Horizons logo front and center as a tribute.
Test Track in Motion
Staying in EPCOT’s future world, the attraction right next to Mission Space also features several nods to its former occupant. General Motors was one of the first corporate sponsors to sign on for the EPCOT Center project, and the animatronic-filled World of Motion attraction they funded became an early favorite of fans. However in the early 1990s, GM wanted a more thrilling attraction that showed off their latest products, as opposed to a general history of transportation. This led to the development of Test Track, which has been one of the park’s most popular attractions since it opened in 1999.
The latest version of Test Track, which opened in 2012, features several homages to World of Motion in the form of signs labelled “Motion Drive”, “General Motor Way” and “Chevy Lane” (all of which were featured in the previous attraction) as well as a poster with the lyrics “It’s Fun to be Free” which was the World of Motion’s theme song.
Captain Rex’s Adventure Continues
When Star Tours first opened in 1987, the attraction changed the game for Disney theme parks. It was thrilling, technologically advanced, and introduced outside intellectual property in the form of Star Wars in to the parks for the first time. A highlight of the ride for many was the character of Captain Rex, a young droid voiced by Paul Reubens who was in over his head as a rookie Starspeeder pilot. Star Tours went on to be one of the most popular Disney attractions of the 1980s and 90s.
While still immensely popular, as the decades wore on many fans wondered when Star Tours would be updated to represent the newer Star Wars prequels. These fans got their wish in 2010 when the original versions of the ride at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios closed to be refurbished. They reopened the next year as Star Tours — The Adventure Continues, a new version of the attraction set in the period between the prequel films and the original trilogy. While Rex was replaced with C-3PO as your pilot, the original Rex animatronic makes a cameo appearance in the queue as a “defective” droid who needs repairs. Of course, these days, Rex is also present as a DJ at Oga’s Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge, but that’s another story for another time.
Have you ever noticed these homages to past attractions before? Are there any major ones you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.