Home » The 5 WORST Rides at Walt Disney World

    The 5 WORST Rides at Walt Disney World

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    Walt Disney World is the de facto capital of the amusement park industry. Last year alone, the four Disney parks in Orlando, Florida, finished among the top eight theme parks in the world in terms of attendance. Between Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, 51.5 million visitors walked through the turnstiles at Walt Disney World. Obviously, none of this would happen without Disney’s storied Imagineers, arguably the finest theme park attraction designers in the world. Still, the maxim that nobody’s perfect applies here. Even the Most Magical Place on Earth has a few clunkers. Here is a list of the five worst attractions at World Disney World.

    Editor’s Note: David’s opinions in no way reflect those of Theme Park Tourist or its staff. 

    5. Mission: Space

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    Perhaps no attraction at Walt Disney World is in more desperate need of an update than Mission: Space. That’s amazing considering that it was only added in 2003. While I won’t regurgitate all the issues with the early struggles of the ride, the truth is that Disney badly misjudged the goal for a stylized space travel simulation. At heart, people continue to find excitement in the idea of exploring strange new worlds yet there’s something missing from the ride that offers just that.

    Mission: Space is oddly paint by numbers for a Disney offering. Basically, you strap into a motion simulator dressed as the console of a spaceship. Then, you lower a safety harness and wait until it’s your turn to push a button. If you’re especially lucky, you get to push it twice!

    Okay, the above is a bit unfair, as the intent of Mission: Space is to mirror the experience of planetary physics with regards to inertia, escape velocity, and gravity. The first time you ride, all of these sensations are exhilarating. That may even continue a couple of times afterward. Once you’ve ridden it more than four times, however, the novelty is completely gone. Unlike, say, Star Tours, there’s no variation to the experience, an unforgivable mistake for an attraction promising such otherworldly majesty as a voyage to Mars. Mission: Space is Exhibit A as to why people view Epcot as consisting of Soarin’ and Test Track and everything else. Then again, Test Track leveled up in 2012, so maybe Disney will address Mission: Space with a long overdue renovation.

    4. Astro Orbiter

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    How little do I enjoy this ride? The crowded elevator trips up and down from the attraction provide about as much entertainment value. The fact that only a few people can stand in line at the top floor adds to the aggravation. Standing in line at the bottom for the opportunity to ride an elevator then stand in line a floor above isn’t especially magical. All of that would be forgivable were the ride better.

    In execution, Astro Orbiter is similar to the other circular rides at Walt Disney World such as the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The difference is that in order to offer the style of a spaceship, designers created smaller ride carts. Whereas large people don’t have much problem with Aladdin or Dumbo, the narrow space in an Astro Orbiter cart makes the entire ride uncomfortable. If you’re part of a two-person combo, it’s that much worse. Rather than delivering an enjoyable theme park experience, Astro Orbiter instead provides the oddly claustrophobic experience of laundry during a spin cycle, and your knees get mashed the entire time for good measure. The frustrating part is that simply by adding another 20 percent to each ride cart, Astro Orbiter would become a relatively pleasant distraction akin to Aladdin and Dumbo.

    3. Primeval Whirl

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    I’m not one of the people who hates the DinoLand U.S.A. portion of Animal Kingdom. I understand that a lot of people feel it sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to the themes of the rest of the park, but it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I quite like the Dinosaur attraction to the point that even though I’m an Indiana Jones fanatic, I feel that the Walt Disney World version tethered to a failed, long forgotten movie from 2000 surpasses Temple of the Forbidden Eye. That’s…not the consensus opinion, but it shows that I’m not predisposed to hate DinoLand attractions.

    Having said that all, I HATE Primeval Whirl. Disney’s Imagineers like the structure of the ride so much that they mimicked and improved it with the somehow vastly superior Goofy’s Ski School at Disneyland, which opened nine years after Primeval Whirl. The charm and the silliness of the “instructional” signs on the Goofy version provide enough distraction that you don’t focus on the ride itself, which is a blessing.

    NASA refers to their space training facility as a vomit comet. Oddly, that definition applies better to Primeval Whirl than to Mission: Space listed above. Some mad scientist at the Disney labs thought, “What if we took the Mad Tea Party tea cups and put them on roller coaster tracks?” It’s an idea that makes sense after eight cups of coffee but one that fails in execution. The problem is that other than ride cart spinning a little, there is virtually nothing of note about the coaster ride. In fact, it feels like a mid-tier carnival ride experience rather than something from the wizards at Disney Imagineering. Primeval Whirl is the worst combination of boring and nauseating.

    2. Journey into Imagination with Figment

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    Let’s address the pink elephant in the living room. Some people love Figment. Merchandising sales for the character have remained steady for years now. The explanation is simple. He’s a cute, colorful dragon that makes learning fun for kids. There’s just one problem. His ride is closer to a nightmare rather than a journey of the imagination.

    Figment’s popularity is easily explainable. In the 1980s when Epcot was fresh and new, kids discovered the joys of Disney’s latest mascot in the same way they fell in love with Ewoks back in the day. Fast forward to now, and parents have the ability to share that joy with their own kids. The best way to do it is by showing them an adorable stuffed animal rather than taking them on the ride, though.

    Journey into Imagination attempts to demonstrate the five senses through a series of scenes involving the most annoying member of Monty Python, Eric Idle. The target audience for the ride is children, which means that it’s a bit cruel for an adult to pick at such a juvenile offering. Then again, those who loved Ewoks back in the day now loathe Jar Jar Binks, and Figment is very much the Jar Jar Binks of Walt Disney World. His ride, Journey into Imagination, does something quite rare for Disney. It assumes the worst of kids, even throwing in a fart joke at one point, rather than offering an intellectually stimulating storytelling venture instead. Disney is on their third iteration of the Figment ride, and they still haven’t gotten it right yet. On the plus side, like virtually everything else listed here, it’s overdue for an overhaul as well.

    1. Stitch’s Great Escape

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    As I’ve previously mentioned, Stitch is my wife’s and my favorite Disney character, which is what makes the abject failure of the ride that much more frustrating. The Great Escape referenced occurs at a time before Stitch has experienced his personal growth. This is the version of the character that espouses super-swears that causes a robot to throw up all his nuts and bolts during the opening of the movie. As such, it negates all the Ugly Duckling storytelling that has caused Stitch to become one of the most beloved characters in the 2000s Disney library.

    Still, I could get past the structure if the attraction were entertaining in some way. It’s not. Guests are shepherded into an in-the-round seating area that used to host ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Generally, when Disney replaces an existing attraction with a themed one relating to a popular film, they buff it up to appeal to fans of the character. In the case of Stitch, a half-hearted attempt is made to fit a square peg into a round hole by re-enacting the ideas of Alien Encounter with Project 626 as the mercurial mayhem-maker.

    Image © Disney

    The overall effect is that Stitch’s Great Escape is a show more than a ride. There are audio-animatronic characters on the center stage, with a few animated sequences introduced to add a bit more of a Stitch feel. About a third of the way through the show, Stitch appears, spouts his favorite insult, and then apparently creates chaos for his would-be incarcerators. The entire stage goes dark and the room gets bumpy thanks to the safety seating that offers the sensation of Stitch climbing on you and tickling you.  This is a good time to add that the harnesses are miserably uncomfortable, offering little give around your shoulders.

    Stitch’s Great Escape is basically 10 minutes of nothing of interest occurring, and most Disney fans agree that the Alien Encounter version of the ride is better. It’s maddening, because Stitch is so popular that he’s literally on the front of the gigantic company store at Downtown Disney, the mothership of Walt Disney World commerce. Why, then, is his ride almost an afterthought? The worst condemnation I can offer about it is that despite our being Stitch fanatics, we spent 11 days at Walt Disney World during our most recent trip yet we never once rode Stitch’s Great Escape. It’s not even a ride capable of preaching to the choir.