I love Disney! (That probably goes without saying, right?) I love Disney movies, and Disney games, and even Disney books…but the Parks….the Parks are where my passion truly lies. I’ve been going to Walt Disney World since I was two years old, back in 1987. Epcot was still relatively new and Hollywood Studios wouldn’t be a thing for another two years. The Animal Kingdom wasn’t yet even a thought in the minds of the general public. Disney and I have history. I have seen some amazing changes, witnessed truly groundbreaking technology and experienced some heartbreaking closures. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Disney of today- Magicbands are the greatest thing since sliced bread and I am over the moon excited to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! However, there’s a certain something about the Disney of yesteryear that makes me nostalgic for the past. Recently, I asked YOU what your favorite extinct ride was and here they are. Let’s take a look at some the rides and attractions that still tug on our heartstrings:
Of all of them, this is the one that I miss most. Arguably one of the most heartbreaking closures in Disney history, Horizons closed not just once but TWICE! After it’s initial 1994 closure, it reopened in 1995 only to close again, this time forever, in 1999. While I love the ride that took its place (Mission: Space is perhaps my favorite ride currently in operation), I just wish they would have let me have my cake and eat it too. Horizons brings back fond memories of Epcot and more than that it was truly an ingenious centerpiece for Future World! It is, after all, the ride that first told us “if we can dream it then we can do it!” (Fun fact, Walt never said that. It was written specifically for this ride by Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald).
Why We Miss It:
- This ride was unique and featured some of the most amazing animatronics to date, but it was more than that. If the ride felt like a sequel to Carousel of Progress, there’s a good reason. The same concept is featured in the ride, chronicling a families adventures through the years- this time through the 21st century! You could even hear “A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” playing in the background of the shows opening scene.
- Horizons featured one of best things to ever occur on a theme park attraction: you got to choose your own ending. I still remember how excited I always was about that! At the end of the ride, a touch screen (pretty nifty in the 80s) allowed you to choose between an undersea, space or dessert future. A screen appeared which essentially turned your ride vehicle into a simulator and your path back to “future port” was completed in either a submarine, hovercraft or spaceship.
- It smelled like oranges, but not just any oranges- orange lollipops! It’s no secret that Disney uses our sense of smell to evoke emotions or provide realism through its park and Horizons was no different. To this day I cannot smell an orange lollipop without thinking of Epcot and smiling.
- Horizons also held a special place in Epcot history- it served as Future Worlds mission statement. Every pavilion in Future World featured a distinct theme- communication, agriculture and nutrition, imagination, motion, health, and energy. Horizons combined them all.
If You Had Wings/ Delta Dream Flight
This ride was one of Tomorrowland’s crown jewels before the focus on the land changed from real attempts at envisioning tomorrow to a science fiction viewpoint. Originally sponsored by Eastern Airlines and then by Delta before dropping sponsorship all together this ride delighted guests of all ages as it took them in a history of flight. Essentially this is two rides as the refurbishment changing the ride from If you Had Wings to Delta Dream Flight was a drastic one, ever the less the concept remains the same so we count it as one.
Why We miss it:
- We loved the exotic locations we got to experience on the projection based If You Had Wings
- The pop-up book style of Delta Dream Flight was simple, yet featured sets rich with color and detail.
- This ride was one of the first omnimovers at Walt Disney World and used the same system as the Haunted Mansion.
- Orson Wells voiced part of it…need we say more?
- The speed tunnel in both version of the ride thrilling. The ride only traveled 2 feet per second It gave the illusion of a high-speed takeoff which never failed to excite guests. Fun Fact: the speed tunnel still exists! You know it as the space tunnel on Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin.
Journey Into Imagination
The original Journey into Imagination sparked a cult following that still exists to this day (#proudmember). The new incarnation of the ride? …Well, let’s just say no one is starting any fan clubs. The original attraction is where we first met Figment, the lovable, if not responsible, purple dragon and he has stolen hearts since his 1983 debut! Dreamfinder, the rides other main character, teaches figment how to use his Imagination and encouraged a whole generation of dreamers and creators (in fact, I may not have been here writing this article today had Dreamfinder not encouraged me to create)!
Why we miss it:
- pardon me for stating the obvious here but the sheer imagination of it all. The original was truly a testament to Imagineering at its finest
- One Little Spark the rides original song is a fan favorite and was written by the Sherman Brothers, the same computer responsible for the Mary Poppins soundtrack amongst other classic Disney tunes
- This is the ride that introduced the world to Figment. During the rides first, redesign he was removed completely resulting in an outcry from Disney fans everywhere that grew up with the purple dragon! Disney quickly revamped the ride again and gave Figment a prominent role where he remains today.
- Like Figment, Dreamfinder was a lovable fan favorite. Unlike Figment he is no longer present in the parks. The 80s/early 90s meet and greet with Dreamfnder was so fun! The original rides main character, however, has not been completely forgotten not long ago Marvel released a graphics novel based on Dreamfinder! Never the less we miss his zany optimistic imagination at Epcot.
Great Movie Ride
Oh man, this one still hurts. In 2016 if you were to ask me what my favorite Disney ride was I would have unquestionably said The Great Movie Ride! The romanticized “Hollywood that never was” theme, the music, the over the top but still fun live-action plot- it all added up to one incredible ride! The ride lets us relive some of our favorite classic films like Singing in the Rain and Casablanca! This ride was more than the sum of its parts though, it was about how it made us feel! The energy and nostalgia of this ride permeated it and was infectious!
Why we miss it:
- Can we get away with simply saying “all of it”? Because really…all of it. This ride was the whole package. A delight for the eyes, ears, and imagination!
- The ride was originally intended for Epcot. I know!!! We were surprised when we learned that too!!! When the ride was first pitched, it was pitched as a new pavilion at Epcot based on Show Business. Imagineers decided the idea would be a better fit as a stand-alone concept and so the concept of Disney/MGM Studios was born. A whole Park was built for this ride, so the fact that it’s gone stings a bit.
- The live action component of the ride made it truly a unique experience. Is it a dark ride? Is it a show? We like to settle on both. This kind of hybrid ride was popular for a time but lost favor and we really hope it makes a come back.
- The ride introduced at least two generations to classic films. I consider myself a movie buff and many of my favorites are movies I was inspired to see because of the Great Movie Ride. I was excited to find I was not alone in this!
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
This was one of the most innovative rides of its time. It was incredibly popular like so many of the others on this list, remained popular until the day it closed. The ride, based on the Disney live car in film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which was, itself based on Jules Vern’s novel of the same name), took guests on an undersea adventure…you guessed it 20,000 leagues under the sea. Throughout the ride, guests could marvel at exotic coral, sea life, and even an animatronic diver or two. The ride culminated in an encounter with a great squid as it did in the movie/ Novel. Ultimately the ride proved too expensive to operate and after failing to secure a sponsor to offset costs, was closed.
Why we miss it:
- Until it’s closure in 1994, t was hard to imagine a time without 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Opening at Disneyland in 1959, just 4 years after the park itself opened it was already beloved by Disney Parks fans when Disney World opened in 197,20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opened with it (well 2 weeks later but who’s counting?). It was a staple.
- The ride featured some amazing technology that amazed fans for nearly 50 years. If you think about how much technology changed between 1959 and 1994, that is an incredible feat of Imagineering! As a 90’s tween, I was difficult to impress. Grunge was all the rage and we were all “like, whatever!” but this ride… I was impressed. It truly was a marvel to experience.
- The ride did what Disney does best: it gave us an opportunity experience something most of us will never get to experience in the real world and it did so in a way that our suspension of disbelief allowed us to imagine we were actually in a submarine exploring the depths of the ocean. While rides like Flight of Passage and Mission: Space have perfected this style of ride, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea did it first and did it extremely well!
Honorable Mention: Mr. Toads Wild Rid. can’t count this one as an extinct ride. Though it is indeed extinct at Walt Disney World, it is alive and well over at Disneyland. I miss it terribly and many of you do too, but it just couldn’t get a spot on this list for that reason.
While these (and many others) are sorely missed, we love what’s NEW at Disney World too and are excited for the coming year! Walt himself said “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world”. Had he been around for Walt Disney Worlds opening l, we are sure he would have made a similar statement. Change is inevitable, but we can still look back fondly and remember our nostalgic favorites. your favorite extinct ride make the cut? Let us know in the comments what you long to experience one more time!
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