From Thrills to Memories: A Nostalgic Look at Retired Disney Rides
| LAST UPDATE 04/16/2023
Even at the Happiest Place on Earth, some rides aren't up to Mickey's standards. Ready for this roller coaster of emotions? We're looking at Disney attractions that were closed, demolished, or remodeled…
Rainbow Caverns Mine Train
The Rainbow Caverns Mine Train was a trip around Frontierland and the Living Desert. Walt Disney designed the ride himself! It launched in 1956, a year after Disneyland's grand opening. Never heard of it?
That makes total sense. The Rainbow Caverns Mine Train was rebranded in 1960 as the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. The train took its last trip on January 2, 1977, to make room for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. All aboard to see what other Disney rides are no longer operating!
If you were lucky enough to be at the opening of Disney World in Florida, you would have seen buckets filled with people flying high above. The Skyway was a gondola that could transport park guests from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland. Each car could hold up to four people!
It allowed visitors to see the park from a totally different perspective. A real bird's eye view! However, low ridership, high maintenance costs, the expansion of Fantasyland, and the death of a cast member working on the ride led to its eventual closure in 1999. This next ride also offered a different view of the park…
The Submarine Voyage would take guests under the sea! While they didn't encounter Ariel and her friends, they did see wonders underwater. The Submarine Voyage would go through the lagoon, passing by attractions like ancient ruins, mermaids, and a ginormous squid.
Before the Submarine Voyage took over the lagoon, two short-lived boat rides operated in that space. Guests were able to enjoy the Submarine Voyage for almost four decades. Holy moly, that's a long time! Eventually, the ride shut down in 1998, leaving a watery void in guests' hearts.
While walking around the World Showcase Lagoon at the EPCOT Theme Park, the Maelstrom ride was a must-see destination. Located in the Norway pavilion, the indoor boat ride took guests through the history and mythology of the European country. It even sent guests backward, almost falling down a waterfall!
Guests loved the animatronics, from a troll to polar bears, and the retelling of the Viking legends. Also, not to mention the 28-foot plunge they'd go down! It operated for 26 years before fans got the disappointing news that the ride would be reutilized for a Frozen-themed adventure.
This next ride was a fan favorite. The 3-D movie musical attraction starred pop star Michael Jackson as Captain EO. The movie was written by George Lucas, you know of Star Wars fame, and directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola. The story followed Captain EO and his ragtag crew on an out-of-this-world mission.
The attraction used 3-D and in-theater effects to bring the audience into the story. Fun fact: It was one of the first 4-D experiences ever made. The ride closed in 1998 but was revitalized for a 5-year run after fans demanded its return due to Jackson's untimely death. What a thriller!
Journey Into Imagination
Fans are still upset about losing the once magical Journey Into Imagination ride. Located at Future World in Epcot, it opened its doors in 1983. It followed the story of Dreamfinder and his sidekick Figment as they embarked on an adventure of the imagination through exploring art, literature, and technology.
However, the journey was brought to an end. In 1998, the ride was remodeled and made into Journey Into Your Imagination. It could not capture the spirit of the original ride, leaving fans mainly disappointed. In 2002, the ride was revamped again into Journey Into Imagination with Figment, but it differs from the OG a bit.
During the time it operated, Horizons was a classic EPCOT feature. Although it opened one year after EPCOT did, it personified everything the park was about. The 15-minute-long attraction featured what Imagineers believed would be daily life in the 21st century, and they weren't far off!
The ride had a "holographic telephone" where people could see each other during a call and a robot who was vacuuming. At the end of the ride, guests could select from three potential futures. For unknown reasons, although many suspect it's because GM stopped its sponsorship, Horizons was closed in 1999.
Another attraction from a bygone era was Videopolis. According to Syfy, the story goes that when Michael Eisner took over as Disney CEO, his son thought that Disneyland was lame. So, Eisner decided to build attractions that would appeal to teens and young adults. From that came Videopolis - a 5,000-square-foot outdoor arena.
Videopolis had a DJ, a live band, special effects, and 70 video monitors. It was a dedicated dancing space for young people in Fantasyland. It even inspired its own TV show on Disney Channel, which starred a young Mario Lopez. The trendy dance club's short-lived run of four years was memorable.
This ride - an adventure through the inner workings of the body - was the first thrill ride for EPCOT and an initial hit. Guests were lining up to be "shrunk down" and take a ride through the bloodstream. Body Wars was directed by Leonard Nimoy and starred Elisabeth Shue and Tim Matheson.
However, Body Wars had its fair share of problems. The ride was so rough that guests kept getting sick, and they had to cut out parts of the experience. It lost its sponsorship in 2001, and six years later, Disney announced the ride's closing, leading Body Wars to join the club of obsolete Disney attractions.
Indeed, the Adventurers Club was a bar - but it was also much more than that. It was unforgettable experience to all those who could visit during its 19-year-long run. The bar was located on Pleasure Island, an area outside Disney World for adults to hang out. Yet, it still had all the magic of the Magic Kingdom.
The bar was set in the 1930s and was filled with animatronics, live performers, and Disney lore. The backstory was that this bar was the meeting spot of many explorers and the home to a secret society. Ultimately, the fan-favorite was demolished, but the magic lives on.
The Studio Backlot Tour
The Studio Backlot Tour was a one-of-a-kind ride offering a real glimpse into the working lives of television and film productions. The original ride debuted with Walt Disney World's Disney-MGM Studios in 1989 and lasted for hours. However, sometimes, good things have to come to an unfortunate end.
Initially, the Studio Backlot Tour took guests on a fun adventure as they saw how green screens worked, props from their favorite shows, and were stuck in a major catastrophe! However, parts of the ride were eliminated through the years, and it clocked in at 30 minutes. Eventually, the doors were closed on the Backlot Tour.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Walt Disney World is known for being the happiest place on Earth, but guests didn't feel that way about this particular attraction. Located in the Magic Kingdom, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was a thrilling departure from the typical jolly ride in the theme park. But it was precisely that which lead to its eventual closing.
Guests were locked into their seats as an "alien" broke loose. Special effects, a dark room, and moving chairs added to the atmosphere. However, complaints of it being too scary plagued Alien Encounter's 8-year run. Encounter was replaced in 2003 by Stitch's Great Escape!, which repurposed the ride in a more child-friendly way.
Stitch's Great Escape!
Even though Stitch's Great Escape! was a more accessible version of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Escape, it also ended up on the obsolete Disney ride list. It opened its doors in 2004 and sent guests on a mission to help capture Stitch, also known as Experiment 626.
Stitch escapes and finds himself at Walt Disney World. The ride still uses similar thrills and special effects as its predecessor. One effect it became infamous for was the chili hot dog burp. The ride was switched to operate seasonally before it closed permanently in 2018.
The Timekeeper was a charming ride through, well, time! A robot named Timekeeper, who comedian Robin Williams voiced, took guests on a journey through time. While it seemed to have all the right ingredients for success - from a wonderful narrative to technological thrills - it wasn't meant to be.
The ride debuted in 1994, but by 2001, it was already only operating seasonally. A few years later, in 2006, the ride was shuttered and transformed into a different attraction. The Timekeeper became the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, based on the characters from Pixar's Monsters Inc.
Universe of Energy
The Universe of Energy was a ride designed to teach guests about energy and its history. The "traveling theatre cars" took guests through history back to prehistoric times when dinosaurs roamed the planet. The ride opened in 1982 but was closed in 1996. Its slow-moving and slow-paced storyline led to its closure.
However, the ride was refurbished and updated as Ellen's Energy Adventures featuring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. They led guests through a similar storyline up until 2017, when the ride malfunctioned and was closed forever. The space was used for the indoor rollercoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
The Great Movie Ride
When Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney Hollywood Studios) opened initially, The Great Movie Ride was a landmark destination. Located within a replica of the TCL Chinese Theatre, the slow-moving ride took guests through movie history via animatronic replica scenes from famous films, like Singin' in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz.
There was even an interactive part when the cast member narrating the experience would be caught in a tussle with an outlaw or 1930s gangster. The ride was considered a classic, but after 28 years of operation, The Great Movie Ride took its final bow in 2017. The space is now home to a Mickey and Minnie-themed ride.
Primeval Whirl was a fun-filled rollercoaster set in the carnival-themed area of DinoLand U.S.A., within the Animal Kingdom. While there were many carnival games to choose from, Primeval Whirl offered guests a more thrilling experience. However, the ride and its accompanying area never really gained much traction.
During its 18-year run, many complications troubled the coaster. Many guests would experience whiplash and nausea from riding it, and two separate incidents caused the deaths of cast members on the ride. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Disney shut down Primeval Whirl and renovated the space into a stroller parking area.
Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!
The hit movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids got its own Disney spin in this 4-D thrilling adventure. In the film, Rick Moranis returns as Professor Wayne Szalinski, who is about to win an award for his invention. However, things go awry, and the audience is "shrunk"!
The special effects created a hilarious and fun show that guests came back to see again and again. However, all parks operating the attraction eventually shuttered it in 2010. While the thrill of being "licked" by a dog or having "mice" run all over you is no longer available, Disneygoers will never forget those sensations.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure
Honey, another attraction got shut down! Inspired by the movie that also inspired the above attraction, the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure offered guests an opportunity to feel like they were on the movie set of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Everything was larger-than-life in this outdoor play area, from 40-foot-tall bumblebees to huge cans of Play-Doh. It really made parkgoers feel like they were in the beloved comedy and offered parents a place for their kids to run around. Unfortunately for its fans, the outdoor area was demolished in 2016.
The Rocket Rods had a short but wild ride as a Disney attraction. The Imagineers wanted to spice things up in Disneyland's Tomorrowland. So, they used the track originally operated by the PeopleMover and transformed it into the Rocket Rods ride. While it was meant to be a high-speed thrill, it was more of a bust than a blast.
A month into operation, the ride had to be closed for refurbishment. The combination of high-speed vehicles and the old PeopleMover track led to maintenance issues. After being reopened, the ride still had trouble functioning correctly. It went down in 2001 - two years after being opened -and never returned.
Tower of Terror
While it can still be ridden in other parks worldwide, Disneyland's Tower of Terror was officially closed on May 27, 2017. The ride was a fan-favorite based on the famous television series The Twilight Zone. It featured a large drop and became such a hit that they created several versions in Disney parks all over.
The last ride on the Tower of Terror in California was taken on January 2, 2017. Many fans were disappointed by the news that a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride would take over the iconic Disney staple. While the ride is still available in other theme parks, nothing will be the same as Disneyland's Tower of Terror.
Snow White's Adventures
Snow White's Adventures was one of the original Magic Kingdom rides when Disney World opened in 1971. The idea behind the original ride was that the rider was Snow White, and the Evil Queen was chasing you. Terrifying! In 1994, the ride was refurbished to make it less scary like its California counterpart.
Guests enjoyed the new interpretation, but the ride was shut down in 2012. The space was made into a princess meet-and-greet, and a rollercoaster ride featuring Snow White and her seven dwarves was built elsewhere in the park. Snow White's Adventures is still rideable in other parks, but it's forever gone in Disney World.
A Bug's Land
Did you ever want to explore the land of Flik and his friends from the movie A Bug's Life? The life-size play area of A Bug's Land allowed parkgoers to do precisely that in Disneyland's California Adventure! The site was home to the slow-moving ride, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, snack stands, and a play area.
In 2018, Disney announced that a new Avengers-themed campus would be built instead of A Bug's Land. The Chew Chew Train made its last round on September 4, 2018. As superheroes like Iron Man walk around the grounds, guests can still enjoy nods to the former space, like Ant-Man's micro-sized Bug's Land he carries around.
Lights, Motors, Action! The Extreme Stunt Show
The Lights, Motors, Action! The Extreme Stunt Show was one of the most exciting shows that Disney World had to offer. The 35-minute show gave guests an inside look at how action stunts are done in movies. It included pyrotechnics, car chases, jet skis, motorcycle jumps, and more.
While it was running, it was a guaranteed good time. Despite being a fan-favorite, the show was demolished to make way for Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in 2016. The Paris version of the show was closed a few years later in 2020. This high-energy attraction will always hold a special place in guests' hearts.
Streets of America
The Streets of America were almost too good to be true- literally! The walking area was meant to look the way studio backlots do. The buildings and cities were intricate and full of detail, but they were actually facades. There wasn't a ride in the area, but it was a great place for guests to walk around and stop for a photo op.
The Streets of America focused on two cities, New York and San Francisco. Just like Lights, Motors, Action! The Extreme Stunt Show, the Streets of America walking area was demolished for new attractions in 2016. While guests may no longer be able to walk down America's streets, those lucky enough can remember what it was like.
Mickey's Toontown Fair
At Mickey's Toontown Fair, guests were able to walk through Toontown. While there were many things to do, from riding Goofy's Barnstormer rollercoaster to shopping areas, two of the main attractions were Mickey and Minnie's country houses. Guests could tour their favorite character's homes and see how they lived!
The walkthroughs enabled guests to get an inside look and stop for a photo op or two along the way. The Toontown Fair closed in 2011 at Disney World and was replaced by New Fantasyland. Guests can still visit Disneyland's Toontown, but nothing can replace the Disney World version.
American Idol Experience
The American Idol Experience was an interactive experience unlike any other offered at Disney World. According to Insider, guests would audition with park producers at the beginning of the day. Then, they would get their hair and makeup done and practice with a vocal coach. Later on, participants would compete in a live show.
It really was the entire experience! Those lucky enough to be the winners would receive a pass that would help them skip the line at an actual American Idol audition. Although incredibly unique, the experience ended in 2014 for other attractions to take place. That's a no from Disney, dawg.
Discovery River Boats
The Discovery River Boats went on quite a journey during its one-year lifespan. It was renamed twice during its venture to the Discovery River Taxi and then to the Radio Disney River Cruise. However, it seemed that this transportation service was not meant to last.
Located in Disney World's Animal Kingdom, the River Boats traveled around the park. The boats passed a fire-breathing dragon and an Iguanadon, but that wasn't enough to keep this attraction afloat. Poor guest reviews and dissatisfaction with the lack of it being a "ride" led to this becoming yet another obsolete Disney ride.
The Magic of Disney Animation
Despite The Magic of Disney Animation not being as exciting as other rides, it was still a fan-favorite. A relaxing alternative, this attraction provided an interactive experience for visitors of all ages. Guests would learn about the animation process and how a movie is made. They would also see storyboards and original drawings from Disney movies!
Not only that, but guests would learn how to animate and draw their favorite characters from Disney animators themselves. There was even a character meet-and-greet opportunity. It was a classic Disney attraction, but sadly its doors were shut to guests in July 2015.
EPCOT Double-decker Bus
When EPCOT first opened in 1982, there was something available to many parkgoers that no longer is the EPCOT double-decker bus! This transportation system allowed parkgoers to experience the famous World Showcase from the moving vehicle rather than walking around the entire time.
The double-decker didn't go much faster than parkgoers who were strolling around, but it offered another option to get around the park. However, it didn't last long. Sometime in the '90s, the buses were phased out, making them another part of Disney's history.