Walt Disney World's most endangered attractions
Some Disney insiders wear glow-in-the-dark hair gel under the black lights of Snow White's Scary Adventures. (Walt Disney World)
Sometimes, Orlando's Walt Disney World proves to be a little too small, after all.
As the Florida resort battles changing entertainment standards, longstanding classic attractions throughout the resort’s four theme parks -- the Skyway aerial trams, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine excursion and the future-predicting Horizons ride to name a few -- are torn down to make way for newer, flashier rides.
The Mickey Mouse Revue, an automated musical tribute to Disney songs that opened with the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World’s flagship theme park, in 1971, was sent to Tokyo's Disneyland in 1980 and was warehoused for good in 2009. Some of the 188 “Audio-Animatronic” figures in Epcot's transportation retrospective World of Motion (1982 to1996) have been re-cast in rides at other Disney theme parks, such as Anaheim's Pirates of the Caribbean and Paris's Phantom Manor.
Despite a fervent fan campaign to save Mr Toad's Wild Ride, the Coney Island-style, runaway car goof was run off the road in 1998 in favour of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As both a nod and an injury to its defenders, a statue of Mr Toad wound up in the pet cemetery at the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion.
Given the furore over the Mr Toad closure, Walt Disney World management holds its planned phase-outs close to the vest. But history shows a pattern: when attractions prove too expensive to maintain, score low on guest approval, lose sponsorship or have difficulty churning through high numbers of visitors, they are likely to meet the wrecking ball. Following that pattern, the following beloved Disney World attractions are, or might be, in the crosshairs. See them before it is too late.
Snow White's Scary Adventures, Magic Kingdom
This attraction, one of the last remaining from the Magic Kingdom’s opening four decades ago, will be demolished to make way for the park's reportedly $425 million expansion of Fantasyland, one of the park’s several themed areas. The indoor electric cart ride told from Snow White's perspective will be replaced with a meet-and-greet area for Disney's current banner brand, the Princesses. A closing date has not been announced, but it is expected in early 2012, so now is the last chance to try an insider's secret pleasure: buying smears of glow-in-the-dark hair gel at Main Street's Harmony Barber Shop that will light up under the black lights of the ride. Disney is not evicting its first princess from the grounds entirely, however. It is building a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster nearby.
Country Bear Jamboree, Magic Kingdom
One of Walt Disney's triumphs was the faithful re-creation of life, first in animated characters and later through "Audio-Animatronic" robotic figures. In 1971, a stage full of 18 robotic bears convincingly singing saloon songs was the cutting edge of amusement technology. Sadly, few of today's computer-reared guests appreciate such true technological prowess and instead, regard the attraction as an opportunity for air-conditioned rest. Citing poor attendance, California's Disneyland shed its version of the attraction in 2001, and with its audiences on the wane, the Orlando version is supported mostly by nostalgia. For the modern Disney, which prefers operating at high capacity, thinning crowds are a sure route to the red-line list.
Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey, Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's rides are known for being among the best in the business, so the opportunity to catch the company slumming is rare indeed. In fact, this Michael Eisner-era misfire has been demoted to that rarest (and most ignoble) attraction status: it operates only on extremely busy days to alleviate crowds. This Hollywood Studios theme park attraction is a vestige of a period of enforced synergy with Disney sister unit, ABC television. The 1999 movie attraction with Drew Carey demonstrates the importance of movie sound effects by shutting off the lights (and needlessly terrifying children) for seven minutes -- convenient for saving a bundle on production costs but patently unimpressive. A Star Wars-themed Jedi Training Academy show squats in its theatre on hot days, and it is reported (but not confirmed) that the Force will evict it full-time at some point.