TPT logo

Your guide to theme parks in Orlando and beyond

 

Main menu

Disney Had to Close its Scariest Ever Attraction. Here's Why.

Shattering glass. Pitch black darkness. Pulsing heartbeats. A guttural purring growl inches from your ear. Warm, thick drool drips against your neck. Wings beat against the stagnant dusty air thick with breathless horror. Sparks illuminate a twisted, spider-like figure with gnashing fangs and horrible claws. Blood splatters down from the ceiling as you grip your harnesses in terror. This is the end.

Sounds like something out of a nightmare, right? But for eight years, this experience was the norm. Every ten minutes or so, a horrific interstellar alien was set loose on unsuspecting guests at Magic Kingdom Park. With one of the shortest life spans of any attraction to occupy a Disney Park, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (emphasis included) has developed a cult following from those who experienced – and in some cases were devastated by – Disney’s edgiest attraction.

In our new Lost Legends series, we're looking back on forgotten fan favorites to clear the mists of time and immortalize these incredible attractions. In our series, we've chronicled the in-depth, detailed backstories of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Horizons, the Peoplemover, The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorMaelstrom, Journey into Imagination, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, KONGFRONTATION, and many more. Today, we’re going to dive headfirst into the tale of Alien Encounter, discussing the history and lore that surround it. As time marches on, fewer and fewer guests can actually recall what Alien Encounter was like, so we’ll walk you through the harrowing experience from the entrance doors to the exit and then discuss what brought about its demise. Could Alien Encounter have found a new home at Disneyland Resort? What of the original attraction remains today? Let’s look back together.

The leader Disney needed

Michael Eisner

The story of Alien Encounter begins more than a decade before it opened. In 1984, Michael Eisner became the CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Fresh from a stint as the CEO of Paramount Pictures, the young Eisner was smart, and with a résumé that proved his expertise in business and film. He was hands-on, too. Rather than sending a representative, Eisner himself immediately began checking in with Disney Parks Imagineers, eager to learn about their work and their projects.

(Many years later, Eisner’s tenure at Disney would be fraught with the frustration of fans, his legacy tied to cost-cutting, internal tensions, and micromanagement. By 2003, Walt’s nephew, Roy O. Disney would resign from Disney’s board and initiate a campaign to have Eisner and his team ousted. The “Save Disney” campaign he built would vilify Eisner for years of neglecting the company’s theme parks, losing touch with shareholders, and releasing mediocre films at the box office in an effort to make big money with little expense. Eventually, Eisner would retire before his contract expired, even allegedly turning down his contractual right to use Disney’s corporate jet and maintain an executive office at the company headquarters due to his frosty legacy.)

Image: Disney

That’s probably the Michael Eisner you imagine today, but in 1984 Eisner had exactly what Disney needed: a fresh perspective that could re-invigorate the company’s film studio, which had lost its traction and its roots.

Think about it: Eisner’s tenure with Paramount made him keenly aware of the filmmaking side of entertainment, and his foresight and investment in those areas helped re-shape Disney’s flailing film studio. He was able to begin to transition into what we now easily recognize as the "Disney Renaissance." It was under Eisner’s leadership that the company produced hit after hit after hit starting with The Little Mermaid in 1989 through 1999’s Tarzan. As well, Eisner oversaw the acquisition of Miramax Films, ABC, and ESPN to diversify Disney’s offerings, turning it into the international conglomorate it is today.

Cinematic thrills

Turning around the company’s theme parks would be more difficult. Soon after he became CEO, Eisner asked his son Breck to tour Disneyland with him. Breck reportedly said, “That place is lame, dad.” Eisner was rightly horrified and determined to change the perception of Disneyland from a place for kids to a place for the whole family… even teens. That’s when Michael took a tour of Imagineering and began green-lighting projects left and right. In Disneyland, Fantasyland became home to Videopolis, a nightclub-esque theater for teens playing top 40 music videos on oversized screens each night.

Thanks to his studio roots, Eisner recognized the pivotal role that films, pop culture, and beloved characters could play inside Disney Parks. Trouble is, Disney itself wasn't producing much worth seeing at the time. The studio was in an infamous slump pre-Oliver & Company, so Eisner would have to reach elsewhere.

In an effort to infuse more of the film industry into Disney Parks, Eisner brokered an unprecedented deal with George Lucas, the visionary creator of Star Wars. It was Eisner’s assertion that Disney Parks could be a place where guests could ride the movies. What’s more, those movies did not necessarily have to be Disney movies. It was an absolute departure from Disney’s past, but with aging parks that looked increasingly less relevant, it was a worthwhile risk.

Imagineers were given the green-light to develop attractions based on Star Wars, but they would be at least a few years out. Eisner called upon Lucas to create something more immediate that could reverse the parks' aging identities and bring in some pop culture as soon as possible.

Disney and Lucas came together to create what was – at the time – the most expensive film per minute of any on Earth... Part music video, part adventure, with the latest 3D technology combined with in-theatre effects like lasers, strobes, and more. We can only be talking about another Lost Legend: Captain EO, the celebrated 1980s musical extravaganza starring Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston under the direction of legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Disneyland was suddenly a place that teens found something for them. 

The concept of a simulator-based ride was novel, and Eisner’s cinematic résumé spoke up again. While collaborating with George Lucas on EO, Imagineers were working on the biggest element of the Lucas partnership. In January 1987, a new E-Ticket attraction opened in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, inserting Lucas’s cast of Star Wars characters right alongside Disney classics. We chronicled the whole in-depth story of this monumental partnership and how it changed Disney Parks forever in its own Lost Legends: Star Tours entry that's a must-read for Disney Parks fans, but here's what you need to know: the attraction was a must-ride – a little “edgier” than the rest of the park’s fairytale offerings, and just right for teens. It was also the first time that guests at Disneyland could step into a cinematic world not based on a Disney property. It wouldn't be the last.

Just two years later, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened with a stunt show based on Lucas’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Indiana Jones popped up again in his own dark-natured, cinematic ride through the ancient Temple of the Forbidden Eye in Disneyland in 1995. But the groundwork was set – Disney Parks didn’t have to be just for children. Using advancing technology and new partnerships, the more risqué world of PG-13 adventures was open to Imagineering.

In space, no one can hear you scream

Bolstered by the success of Star Tours, Imagineers in 1987 began toying with another external property to infuse into Disney Parks. Particularly, designers were tasked with incorporating 20th Century Fox’s other interstellar franchise.

Alien debuted in theatres in 1979 and, even more than a decade later, was considered a groundbreaking piece of film history. Its tantalizing story, incomparable special effects, and titular Xenomorph alien creature had turned science fiction on its head, introducing a gritty, industrial view of the future that was entirely at odds with the gleaming, flawless visions commonly seen at the time.

Specifically, Imagineers were tasked with creating a dark ride experience that would envelope the audience into the world of Alien. To be called Nostromo, the dark ride would’ve placed guests aboard the spacecraft of the same name from the film. Each guest would’ve been armed with a laser gun and challenged to blast the Alien as it attacked.

Senior Imagineers were apparently horrified by the idea that Disney Parks would bring an R-rated film to life. Just as Jaws had done years before, Alien had traumatized a generation with its gory effects and carnivorous creature. Imagine it: the spider-like Facehugger aliens that implant exterrestrial embryos down the throat of unwilling human hosts; juvenile Xenomorphs bursting out of their host's chest cavity; nudity and sexual undertones; cursing. Alien was just too intense, they said.

Not to mention, Ridley Scott's Alien had purposefully represented a future entirely opposed to Walt's. While Disney's dedication for Tomorrowland has cast it as a "world of wondrous ideas, signifying Man's achievements... and the hope for a peaceful, unified world," Alien did just the opposite: set in a dirty, steaming, industrial space craft with a killer alien species aboard, it was entirely antithetical to Walt's vision, and horrifying to boot.

And if you imagine, those senior designers also balked at the idea of arming guests – especially young ones – with guns and telling them to shoot them during the ride. (This fear, we now see, they managed to get over.)

Those senior Imagineers endured a few heart-to-hearts with Eisner, eventually convincing him that the Alien shooting dark ride was simply not right for Disney Parks. Eisner relented and allowed the project to die.

However, the story doesn't end there... a young group of upstart Imagineers was enthralled by the idea of a dark and sincerely gritty Disney ride. In secret, they began to develop a plan to bring Alien to Disney Parks. And their idea would cast the ride in an even more sinister tone that would make the controversial shooting dark ride look like an elementary school field trip.

Go to page:

Pages

There are 70 comments.

I love the video because it's night vision so you can see how the ride works which would be the same idea for stich!

The story I always heard was that when Eisner first experienced the attraction he complained that it wasn't intense enough and so they modified it to ramp up the scare factor. Is this not true? The article says his complaints were about plot holes and the story being too complex.

This was a very enjoyable read. I look forward to more articles in this series.

I loved Alien Encounter. Stitch was silly, but it was interesting to see how they incorporated many of the same effects. Bring back Alien Encounter.

WORST attraction ever!!!! Should of been rated PG13. No one under 13 yes to be admitted! Was not what I thought the attraction would of been,especially from the pre show! My children were horrified!!!!! Every time we go back brings back bad memories even though my children are older now, we still LOVE DISNEY!

i was seven when I first went on this ride, and yeah I was terrified. However given the warning signs and such my parents and older siblings insisted they check it out first and let me know how bad it was. They had multiple cast members warning everyone with children that this was a scary ride, there were signs saying it wasn't meant for small children, and after the pre show you had a chance to leave. Sorry but if you didn't listen to the warnings it's your own fault for exposing your kids to it.

i totally agree. i also rode it when i was seven i loved it.

You didn't read the signs did you? Or even this article...

Don't blame the ride for your horrible parenting. There were warning signs everywhere.

Of the three attractions in this location, Alien Encounter was by far the best. Mission to Mars was incredibly lame. You just watched a movie on the floor and occasionally the seats shook. Lilo and Stitch is (as this article pointed out) far too juvenile for anyone over eight to enjoy and too scary for very small kids. My only complaint about Alien Encounter was that the "blood" or "saliva" drips were too cold, so they just felt like what they were: water. If they had warmed it first, it would have been perfect. I hope they eventually bring it back, but I am not going to get my hopes up. For now, we just skip it entirely.

Great job on this retrospective for a ride that I and my screaming children will always fondly remember.

Thank you so much for this article. I LOVED this attraction and was so deeply saddened when I experienced the replacement. For me, it gave the Magic Kingdom one much needed thrill. I'm sad every time I walk by that area. Now, it seems as if Tomorrowland is just an extension of Fantasyland's kiddie rides. The only thrilling adventure is Space Mountain. I love Tomorrowland at Disneyland. You have both Space Mt. and Star Tours. . . THEY NEED TO BRING THIS RIDE BACK TO WDW!!!!!! Please start a campaign. . . thanks. . . again, AMAZING ARTICLE.

Kongfrontation
Jaws
Triceratop Encounter
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Dreamflight
Body Wars
Horizons
Kitchen Cabaret/Food Rocks
World of Motion
Sounds Dangerous
Backlot Tour/Catastrophe Canyon
Timekeeper
Legend of the Lion King
Snow White's Scary Adventures
The Living Seas
Journey Into the Imagination
Maelstrom

Earthquake
If You Had Wings
Skyway
Communicores

Many articles on themeparktourist.com leave me wishing the author had done their homework. I find articles telling of things in areas where I worked, giving information that I know to be false.

This article is not any of that. Brian, this is a fantastic article. It has lots of information, it's well written, it's well-researched, the facts that you have here are either in areas that I don't know about or they match up to information I have seen. When I read this article I was able to imagine being back on ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, complete with the snide comments from the one "guest" talking about how that thing in the tube is his mother-in-law.

So often articles will only talk about the positives or the negatives of Eisner, but not both. Thank you for being very fair in the way you described him. While I didn't like a lot of things he did, there would be no Walt Disney World Resort today had it not been for him and his actions... or if it was, the Magic Kingdom would be owned by one company, Epcot someone else, and so on. Thank you for portraying both sides of him.

I'll be reading any article you put out.

I appreciate that tremendously, Bryan. (Good name!) I try. Really hard. Haha! I've got quite a back catalogue of articles to read through, so I hope more of them interest you! But really, I can't thank you enough for saying all of that. Stick around!

I really appreciated this article having thoroughly enjoyed the attraction. I liked that you listed the actors that played the different roles however there was a glaring omission. L C Clench was played by Jeffrey Jones of Ferris Bueller and Beetlejuice fame. But still amazing article look forward to more.

I attempted to see this when it was just a month old in July 95 but it broke during the show. I finally got to see it in 96 and it was worth the wait. I always thought it would have made a great tie in movie. Folks, there were plenty of warnings. If it terrified your kids, it's your own fault.

Having lived in Orlando from Disneyworld's opening day until 2005, I want to thank you for a wonderful walk down memory lane. Somehow I totally missed Alien Encounter and just reading your description gave me the heebeejeebees! But I am the parent of a son (now adult) who never even made it through the Haunted Mansion, so I think he would have had to be institutionalized after AE. LOL My OTHER child, however, would have loved it!
MY favorite ride for thrill factor was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. My heart skips a beat just remembering the thunderous ending! All their roller coasters are good, but surprise just makes things better.
And as to Frozen... although some (mostly adults) are beyond tired of it, there is a huge segment of tweens and below who will come to the park and want to ride nothing but that, over and over and over .....

Great read, thanks for this!

Hey, did the earlier version where XS are the bad guys ever actually make it to show? I could swear I remember seeing that version, then going back a few months later and seeing the final version described in detail here. Or it could be a false memory, I suppose... anyone know for sure? Thanks!

Yes, there sure was! I know the article says AE did soft openings in December, but we were there in November (Thanksgiving week) of that year and we rode it during what we didn't realize was the soft opening. In that, the ending was different and X-S was revealed to be a Resident Evil Umbrella-like corporation that was using batches of people to test this tech and get beamed away to be slaves to the alien race. In the preshow, they let slip that the tour groups before us had gone missing, but we shouldn't be worried because all the kinks had been worked out, then sone body interjected they didnt vanish, they "left out the back". It was over-the-top silly in how it was delivered.

Then in the show/ride itself, they intentionally beamed the alien in to display how tough the material they use in the transport tube was, then it "surprisingly" broke the glass, then came a maintanence worker who came to investigate a "power surge" and "electrical outage" while the X-S staff voice-over told us to be quiet and not tell him what had happened... Then he got eaten. Then it flew around, etc etc etc, and when it landed behind us the X-S voice over said it was going to eat us because we weren't suitable for enslavement in their new world order, shared their plot for earth domination because this aliens home planet had no resources left, and revealed they were in cahoots with this alien race... Then just as we were on the process of almost being eaten, rebels or something who were briefly mentioned in the preshow as protesters invaded the X-S control room, threw on blinding lights and did this deafeningly loud siren-like noise that waved and pulsated around the room and drove the monster to the tube where they beamed something on top of it to mash it, spraying the audience with "blood" as the metal tube came down in a blacked out room. The voice over told us to rush out "before it was too late" because "they'd send another one" to "finish us" because of what we knew. As the restraints came up, you heard noises and screeches from the tube periodically, implying either the creature wasn't totally dead or another one had beamed in and was trying to get you. I want to say that, as the last 1/3 or so of the theater was filing out, you could hear over the open intercom that X-S had control of the control room again and they said that they were sending in the next round of people and we were to say nothing about what we saw because it was all a big joke, though the lines were delivered in a way to clearly imply they were lying to cover it all up and trap and kill the next group coming through. But if we did tell, something like "not that they'd believe you anyway" was said.

We have this version of the ride on our old mini-tape camcoder. My parents got it just for our first Disney trip and it was cutting edge tech for the time. Seeing that the ride was dark, my mom tested the night vision on this ride so she could better film Haunted Mansion. The video quality is awful and poorly focused through the whole thing, but you can hear the dialogue really, really well. It's quite cool!

Another nail in this ride's coffin was it had, more often than not, ghastly long lines because of the numerous preshows (which wete ridiculously long) and low volume, slow load and unloads. That and it broke down constantly. The alien never worked right, especially towards the end of the rides life (in the 8 years it ran, it never closed for refurbishmesnts like the other rides do) and neither did the maintanence worker light from above. The last couple of years or so they had a panic procedure to stop the ride and let out kids/people who were panicked to the point of being a danger which killed the effect of the ride, upset guest who watched said hysterical person be removed, and further reduced the ride turnover. When the mechanically complicated ride, which had practically been abandoned from a maitenence standpoint, finally was in enough of a state of disrepair that they had to do an expensive and prolonged refurb, they had enough motivation to finally kill the ride all together, in favor of the cheaper option of redoing the core show themed to Stitch, installing that more modern, less top heavy, smaller, and largely covered-with-fabric Stitch figure.

It's too bad... I adored that ride, even though it terrified me.

This is so, so cool! If you could post the video you talked about I would be enormously grateful. It sounded like the "beta" version had an amazing, well-thought out story line.

Yes, that is the version I remember! Could you please put your video on youtube? I was a young adult when I first saw Alien Encounter and I loved it. Surprisingly what left a large impression on me was the loby area when you first entered the building, and before the preshow. I remember TV monitors and ads were running for X-S. I recall thinking what a great job they did, and how creepy, yet realistic the ads felt. It really set the mood for me. I wish someone had video taped them. Anyone else remember this part? I wish they would bring AE back. The attraction would be perfect today in Disney Studios ...or what ever they are calling it now. ( PS- I also miss how the Alien use to drop from the ceiling in the great movie ride.)

Great Article. I enjoyed the ride many times. Was always amazed by the people complaining that it was too scary. Only about 15 or so signs telling them that prior to the entrance. I was saddened when it left. Was truly one of a handful that excited me.

Bryan,

This was an excellent article. I thoroughly enjoyed the level of detail and investigation you must have put in to writing this. I greatly look forward to the rest of the retrospective series.

I was fortunate enough to ride AE during the original soft opening in Dec of 1994. I was 9 at the time. I was terrified, and I loved every minute of it. Living in Orlando, I would frequent the parks. I would be sure to go out of my way to ride it on any visit, and did so all the way up to when it closed.

When I was a kid, I had heard rumors of the developments involving the Xenomorph from the Alien series before I got to go on, and was elated that they were making an attraction based on the franchise. I have always been a huge fan of the films, games, and comics. I also had a habit of collecting the actions figures throughout childhood. I became slightly disappointed to see the Xenomorph had been replaced with something original. I had thought that the original rumors were all false. So, I came to appreciate it for what it was (but still wanted an Alien based attraction). I was elated to read in your article about all of the back and forth this attraction had with the Fox franchise in development. It kind of gave me a sense of long awaited closure for that 9 year old who wanted to see a Xenomorph in that tube.

Curious though, would there be a way to find any original script drafts, or concept art for the Alien attractions, the "shooter ride through" or the Alien encounter versions? I would love to see any information on it.

This is a great read, especially for someone like me who never got to experience such an interesting attraction.

For those that want to experience something based on Alien Encounter today look up Nemesis: Sub-terra at Alton Towers. While not executed to the same standards as Disney they have added a dramatic ride element into the mix.

Great article. I was terrified as a child of Alien Encounter but I think I would like it now. Although I like Buzz Lightyear and MILF, I miss the tomorrow land city. I'm surprised you didn't mention the arrest of Jeffrey Jones as a contribution to the closing. It was big news at the time. Even then, I thought that was why they closed it.

LOVE this article!!! So fascinating. Great observation of turning an E-ticket to a C-ticket. Others I'd love to hear you chat about:
Horizons
World of Motion
(Old) Spaceship Earth
America Sings

There's a random spot, Gurgi's Munchies and Crunchies. I don't know if there's much to say about it, but I'm a big fan of The Black Cauldron and it's had so few representations in the park. A quick service stand that ran on busy days that became Mrs. Pott's and is now Friar Tuck's?

I remember lining up for this ride and being super excited! The movie Aliens was always a favorite of mine and I could not wait! An important side note would be that Alien and Alien 3 scared the crap out of me... Anyway... I remember being so excited to see the alien! My dad told me ahead of time that apparently water drips on you during the ride, which is suppose to be the aliens mouth drool I guess... Well once the ride started I started get scared... And the mount the lights when off and the alien appeared I was super scared... And then it broke out... OMG!!! I was terrified... I curled into a tiny ball, fetal position to be more exact, laying side ways on my chair. I was so small when I was younger I could easily escape any harness that came down on me and would have ran out of that ride if I wasn't so scared the alien would get me... So I just ended up laying in the fetal position with my eyes more wide than an owls (O.O) trying to see the alien before it could get me... Aliens can't attack you if you are looking at them... same with the boggyman... And way... The drop of water missed me... but then another one hit me in my arm... It scared me... Part of me wanted to cry... But soon the ride was over... I really wish I could go on it one more time...

This ride was one of the most intense things that I ever did as a child. I grew up in Florida and regularly went to the parks, and I was absolutely terrified of Disney for so many years. Finally working up the nerve to ride Alien Encounter was one of the moments that truly opened up the parks for me, I felt a little braver afterwards and I could handle going on anything. It became the ride that I had to ride early (with the People Mover being first, of course.) in order to get my anxiety out of the way and truly enjoy the atmosphere.

I was in middle school when I last went to Disney World and we were lucky enough to experience Alien Encounter. I remember being shocked and how truly scary and effective it was -- it was legitimately terrifying, and amazing! The point where the creature breathes on your neck felt so realistic I can still remember it. It was so refreshing to see a ride that used such incredible theming, creativity, and emphasis on imagination yet for a more mature, even adult ride. Thanks for this great, well-researched article, complete with insider knowledge about what Disney enthusiasts revere and despise -- I opened so many more tabs while reading this article to look everything up.

One additional minor, but relevant detail: Jeffrey jones (clench) was arrested on child pornography charges in 2003, and disney closed the attraction shortly after his arrest.

There is speculation that his arrest may have been a contributing factor (or perhaps sealed the fate of the attraction as they probably were into discussion at that point).

Since he played a large role and disney is always conscious of their image, it's not unreasonable to assume there might be a connection.

Great article! Rode this when I was 12, scared the pants off me. But it didn't scar me as much as the movie Pinocchio when the boys turn into donkeys.
Another commenter mentioned Mr Toads Wild Ride. I'd love to read a walk-thru of that, because I rode it when I was seven and closed my eyes for the entire "thunderous" ending. (In case you can't tell, I have a very low fear threshold). But it remains a mystery to me to this day. What happened?!

Good article ,while your reviewing closed rides a cover on 20000 leagues under the sea would be nice, loved the ride

I was lucky enough to be able to go on this this ride when I was 9 during our annual summer trip in 2003, its final year of operation. Everyone in my family was taking turns going on a new attraction we had never been on before, and my sister was interested in the idea of coming face-to-face with an alien. Although my parents were aware of how easily I got scared, and of how young I was, despite the warnings, I had to go on as it was only fair. My only memories of the ride were of the darkness and of people screaming their heads off. By the time we got off, my parents were just as traumatized as I was. My sister was pretty much the only one who had a good time. Afterwards, my parents were like, "We're so sorry we made go on that. Let's do something to make it up to you" I think they bought me some souvenirs or an ice cream or something to ease my pain.

Looking back, I am very glad my sister made us go on that ride, as it is now a piece of Disney history that is gone forever. As an adult, I think I would very much enjoy this ride today. I like the idea of the effects being based off of what you cannot see. This was a very great article to read and it brought back so many fond memories of the great times I've had at Disney World. Thanks!

When I was little and visited Disney World for the first time we went to a water park that I seem to recall used water from the lake. I would be interested to read more about the watermark, its history, and what the area is used for now (if anything). This was a great article, very enjoyable read.

Great news! We've done an in-depth write-up on that very park, as well! http://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20150323/30074/abandoned-rise-f...

Thanks for the link!

Nice article! They must have continued tweaking it for a while, because the version I attended seems to post-date the videos linked; during the more intense, scary moments in the darkness, voiceovers masquerading as the voices of fellow guests make whimsical comments, such as a man comparing the alien to his mother-in-law.

I still think SIR was one of the best AAs Disney has ever done. Such fluidity, and animated with such character.

My kids and I loved the Alien Encounter ride. we were just talking about it the other day it is the one ride when they were young that we all loved and still remember.

Gad I loved AE, and I am definitely NOT a fan of horror, or even the Alien franchise. I just loved that fact that Disney finally had an edgy ride that truly scared the bejezus out of people.... While Snow White's witch was scary and It seems to me that the Haunted house used to have more skeletons jumping up in the graveyard that actually screamed like the traditional Haunted houses in other amusement parks, AE was truly scream inducing.

I grew up in Florida and was not, and am still not a fan of horror or anything too suspenseful for that matter. But I LOVEED Alien Encounter. In fact, I have very fond memories of that attraction. But now I hate the Stitch ride. It's just plain bad. I skip it every time I'm in the park.

On a side note. I have very vague memories of a canoe ride that was in the lake at Frontier Land. Groups of people got to paddle large canoes around the lake with a gide. The guides would have races with their respective canoes. It was so much fun. Did I imagine that ride or did it really exist?

Good Memory! Yes, there used to be canoes in Rivers of America. They still have them at Disneyland. There also used to be boats called Keelboats you could go for a ride on.
In the 90's when they still had the canoes, there were races before park hours for cast members. We tried to get a team together to do it from Epcot (World Showcase), but never managed.

I LOVED this attraction and would totally go on it again if they brought it back sometime. I thought it was a nice jolt from the other relatively tame stuff at Magic Kingdom. Thanks for the article (and the video links)! Takes me back!

Thanks for the great read! I remember this ride - I believe I rode it when I was in middle school! It was amazing! I don't remember being scared, I remember being shocked and awed with how great it was done. The special effects, sound, story all was so wonderful! We walked out just amazed with how Disney was so creative to think up such a unique way to tell a story!!! Wish it was still around to enjoy again! Love your articles! Keep them coming!

i loved this. I was 13 when I did this with my family and my friend.
As it started I admit I was a bit scared, but then my friend started screaming something terrible and shouting for her brother so I spent the rest of the show crying with laughter. When the lights came back on she was all twisted and stuck with one arm up through the harness as she tried to escape. I still cry with laughter when I think about it

What I find interesting is that the movie Alien does have a place in a Disney World attraction. There is a part of the Great Movie Ride where it goes through a spaceship and the xenomorph pops down. So, it did get through in a small way. Not sure if I missed that being mentioned in this article, but it is something that I remember because it is something that sticks out as being very different atmospherically from anything else at Disney World. Well, it wasn't as dark as Alien Encounter, just a small moment, but I remember the spaceship really evoking the feel of the movie. I haven't been there in years though and my memory could be wrong.

This is a great read, but I believe it may not have given Michael Eisner the credit he deserves; he was responsible for resurrecting the New Amsterdam theater in New York and turning the Disney brand into a string of hit Broadway musicals.

Great read! I was dragged to Disney World, not much of a fan of these things. My kid was around nine years old, and his 2 cousins, ten and twelve, teased him a lot. A LOT. That kind of teasing that had just a little cruelty under the "good natured" label. The ride was every bit as terrifying as described, but it was leavened slightly with some dark comedy, as well. When the lights went on, I asked my son what he thought. "Awesome!" We looked over at his cousins. One was staring off in space, catatonic. The other was crying, curled up in a fetal position. And he wet himself. BEST RIDE EVER.

I remember riding Alien Encounter when it first opened in 1995. I was 8 years old at the time and it was by far the most terrifying experience of my life. As I grew older and continued to ride it, I found myself appreciating the ride more and more and it soon became one of my favorites. When I found out they were getting rid of it, I was devastated. It was so different than any of the other rides Disney had to offer. It was thrilling, exciting and most importantly terrifying. The children had Peter Pan and Dumbo and the adults had Alien Encounter. The fact that they replaced it with Stitch is an insult to it's predecessor. My hope is that Disney will revive this ride and find a new home for it in one of the many Disney Parks around the world. I think guests would be more open to a truly scary ride now than they were 20 years ago. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Pages

Connect with Theme Park Tourist: