5 of Our Favorite Attractions From Yesteryear
This fall, Walt Disney World will begin celebrating its 50th anniversary. From the sounds of it, the parks will be putting on quite a shindig to celebrate the fifty years of wonder, magic, and that the parks have created. Looking back at all that history has inspired us to reminisce about some of our favorite attractions from yesteryear. Here is Part One of our list of ten extinct attractions that give our heart a warm and fuzzy feeling when we remember them.
Mr Toad’s Wild Ride
An opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride brought Guests into the world of Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel “The Wind and the Willows,” which was turned into the 1949 animated Disney classic “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.” Guests joined Toad on his automotive adventures. Unlike its Disneyland counterpart, the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction had two separate tracks, which meant Guests could have two different experiences depending on where they were boarded. The attraction closed in September of 1998, but you can still find reference to it in the attraction which replaced it, “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” Inside the Winnie The Pooh attraction, you can see a painting of Mr. Toad giving Owl the deed to the building. You can also spot a painting of Winnie the Pooh with Moley from the Mr. Toad. Over at the Haunted Mansion, you can find a bust of Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery, tuck way in the back on the left. Poor Mr. Toad, you will always live on in our hearts!
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opened a few weeks after the opening of Walt Disney World, allowing Guests to step aboard Captain Nemo’s Nautilus and go on a voyage (wait for it…) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was a thrilling expedition, exposing travelers to the secrets and dangers of the deep. Bubbles outside of the windows made it appear the submarine was actually diving under water, and during the journey Guests would see objects ranging from coral and fish to mermaids, Sea Serpents, and the lost civilization of Atlantis. The final thrill came in the form of a giant squid attacking the Nautilus before Nemo brought Guests safely back to the surface.
After a decade of abandonment, the lagoon was filled in and became a play area known as Pooh’s Playful Spot in 2005. As for the submarines themselves, they were scattered about and experienced a variety of different fates. A portion of one Nautilus was used, for a time, as set dressing in the water effects tank portion of the Studio Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, known at the time as Disney-MGM Studios. Another pair of submersibles was scuttled off the coast of Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, to create a reef habitat for sea creatures (though as of last report, only one remains).
The Timekeeper was a 360 Circle Vision film located in Tomorrowland. Opening in April of 1992, the film took Guests around the world, through history, and into the future. Along the way, Guests encountered dinosaurs, Mozart, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jules Verne, and others. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the attraction was the Audio Animatronic host, the titular Timekeeper. The voice of the Timekeeper was performed by Disney Legend Robin Williams, while the voice of Nine-Eye (the Circumvisual PhotoDroid assistant whose nine eyes would capture images projected onto the nine screens in theater) was provided by Rhea Perlman, best know for her role as Carla on “Cheers.” The film also featured other noted actors such as Jeremy Irons, Nathalie Baye, and Gérard Depardieu.
Stitch’s Great Escape!
Replacing the decidedly more intense ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Stitch’s Great Escape utilized much of the same technology as Alien Encounter, but in a much more family-friendly setting. Inspired by Disney’s Lilo and Stitch, the attraction took Guests inside the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center. During the pre-show, a demonstration is given to explain how the prisoner transport tubes in the facility function. This portion of the show featured an alien named Skippy, who was a throwback to Alien Encounter. Guests then entered the main chamber, a theater in the round of sorts, where they encountered Stitch, who wreaked havoc by spitting water, burping in Guests faces (ew!), causing explosions, and even giving Guests a little surprise tickle. At the end, Stitch escaped the facility and a video showed him heading for the Magic Kingdom (and climbing Cinderella Castle, which he famously toilet-papered on November 16, 2004, to ‘celebrate’ the opening of his attraction!). The attraction closed in 2018, but sources say Stitch is still loose in Florida. Who knows where he might turn up next?
The Great Movie Ride
For fans of movie magic, there may have been no greater attraction than The Great Movie Ride. Located in the heart of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the dark ride attraction literally took Guests inside their favorite films. Built inside a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the attraction began with a queue that wound through museum-like displays featuring artifacts from cinema history. After boarding the ride vehicles, Guests were taken through elaborate sets from classic movies like Singin’ In The Rain, Mary Poppins, Alien, and more. Making the attraction even more engaging, the tour featured a live tour guide. Part way through your journey, a gangster hijacked the vehicle, taking over for the tour guide. Fortunately, the guide would reappear later during the Raiders of the Lost Ark scene. Here, the gangster would attempt to steal the Jewel of Anubis, which was watched over by a cloaked guard. The guard warned the gangster not to disturb the jewel, a warning which was ignored. A blast of smoke exploded around the altar of the jewel and the cloaked guard was revealed to be…the original tour guide! When the smoke cleared, nothing remained of the gangster but a skeleton. (Curiously, when the attraction was busy, the role of the villain was sometimes played by a bank robber in the Western scene.) The tour then moved on to films like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, before ending in front of an enormous movie screen where a montage of film clips are played. From the stunning exterior to the gorgeous sets and Audio-Animatronics, it was a one of a kind experience that served as a love letter to the silver screen.
Next week we’ll take a look at five more attractions from days gone by that we still love. There have been so many brilliant attractions and moments over Walt Disney World’s 50 years that fitting all into one or even a series of articles would be impossible! You’d practically need a book! Fortunately, we’ve has done just that with “50 Years of Walt Disney World Magic.” For more information, check out https://celebrationspress.com/product/celebrations-50-year-book/.