|Disney's Country Bear Jamboree|
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.
Universe of Energy/Ellen's Energy Adventure, Epcot
The Epcot Center that opened in 1982 purported to explore the sciences in an intelligent way, and this pavilion was a perfect example of that promise. The roof is crowned with a glittering field of solar panels that partly power a dazzling seating system of six, 97-passenger mobile slabs that turn a theatre into a gliding ride. But as the attraction is sponsored by ExxonMobil, it virtually ignores solar and alternative fuels to pump up the merits of the oil industry. The fact it is narrated by 15-year-old filmed segments featuring Ellen DeGeneres (then an ABC star) and the largely forgotten '90s personality Bill Nye the Science Guy makes it even more dated. Waits of a mere five minutes are the norm. These combined deficits predict a gut renovation in the not-so-distant future.
Swiss Family Treehouse, Magic Kingdom
This ingenious concrete-and-steel walk-through castaway camp was built to impress in 1971 for the opening of the Magic Kingdom, with 300,000 hand-attached vinyl leaves and a working waterwheel system that sends fresh water from room to room. But people no longer recall its movie inspiration, a 1960s smash hit. The 14-story Tree of Life that was built for the opening of Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park in 1998 makes the Swiss Family Robinson's home a sapling in comparison and California's Disneyland converted its own Treehouse to a more relevant Tarzan theme in 1999, so the writing may be on the treehouse wall Further undermining its future, the tree requires refurbishment every three to five years and the design flouts modern accessibility codes by requiring the navigation of 116 stairs and catwalks. It may not be long until this charming but cumbersome attraction ceases to exist in its current form.
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, Magic Kingdom
This 20-minute lesson about how appliances will rescue the nuclear family from drudgery is a genuine artefact from a period of consumer optimism in American history, having premiered with General Electric sponsorship at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City. The novel show system places the audience on a ring that rotates past four stationary stages stocked with Audio-Animatronic actors, yet people stay away in droves from this misogynistic chestnut. In 1973, it was booted from California's Disneyland for poor attendance, and now this antique spins in Orlando, where waiting more than five minutes is rare. Such low numbers would doom any other attraction, but since Walt is on record as having adored this one, and because it is billed (in a stretch) as the longest-running theatrical show in the United States, it has been permitted to remain in a forlorn corner of Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland -- for now.
Journey into Imagination with Figment, Epcot
Catch it now, because since Epcot's opening, Imagineers have struggled to make this dark ride click. In this third try, the talent is not to blame. Eric Idle appears as a Dr Nigel Channing, a scientist at "The Imagination Institute" while Figment, a fan-favourite, kid-friendly mascot created for the park, serves as the mischievous spoiler. The fault lies in a delivery deemed so low-budget and uninspired that riders can usually walk on without a moment's queueing. Kodak yanked its 28-year sponsorship of the ride in 2010, and any sponsor-to-be is unlikely to take kindly to this albatross of an attraction, sending it into Disney history in favour of Imagination 4.0.