Home » 6 of Disney’s WORST Attempts to “Plus” A Ride (That Really Turned Into A “Minus”)

6 of Disney’s WORST Attempts to “Plus” A Ride (That Really Turned Into A “Minus”)

Walt Disney was a firm believer that his parks would never be completed; that they would continue to change and grow and evolve for the rest of their lives. But that didn’t just mean building new attractions and closing old ones. Walt spoke of “plussing” rides in his park – making simple (or not-so-simple) changes that would go a long way to improve the overall experience.

Since we already counted down the top 10 best examples of  “plussing” in Disney Parks attractions, we got to dig into how Walt’s idea of a continually refreshed experience has benefitted some rides tremendously. But in their haste to keep aging rides “hip,” Disney has made a few foibles. Here, we’ve collected six examples of rides that Disney set out to “plus,” but might really have “minused.” And worse, a botched “plus” on a classic ride is a double slap: a bad “new” ride, and a lost old one.

Throughout our countdown, you’ll find links to our Lost Legends and Declassified Disasters features that will give you the full story of forgotten favorites and – in some unfortunately cases – their failed follow-ups. Jump to those in-depth features to get the before-during-and-after of some of the world’s most well-known rides.

6. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Location: Disneyland

There’s not too much about the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage that challenges the status quo. Maybe that’s the problem. Walt Disney proudly introduced the Submarine Voyage attraction in 1959 as one of the first ever “E-ticket” designated rides. It thrilled guests for years in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, and even inspired a Jules Verne themed fantasy spinoff in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland – the Lost Legends: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

However, in the 1990s, the two submarine rides in California and Florida both closed. They were expensive to operate, had a low hourly capacity, and were victims of a cost-cutting era in the Parks’ history. At Magic Kingdom, the former submarine lagoon sat empty for years before being filled in, eventually housing 2012’s New Fantasyland expansion. In Disneyland, the ride’s fate seemed sealed… until a nostalgic park president fought for its return in honor of the park’s 50th Anniversary.

Ultimately, the Submarine Voyage did return, albeit as a signature ride in the “Pixarification” of Disney Parks. The addition of the high-earning Finding Nemo intellectual property was probably the only chance Imagineers had to save the submarine ride that Walt himself so loved… but it also meant to end of many of its physical sets in favor of underwater projections of Nemo & friends. At least such a classic and awe-inspiring ride system is saved… Admittedly, any subs are a “plus” over no subs.

Anyway, is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage a bad ride? Not at all. But there’s no denying that many fans would prefer the return of the character-free version, with its mermaids, sea serpents, ancient ruins, coral reefs, and shipwreck graveyards in tact.

5. The Peoplemover -> The Rocket Rods


Location: Disneyland

When Disneyland’s “New Tomorrowland” debuted in 1967, it represented a vision of tomorrow that still resonates today: a sleek, mid-century modern future of swirling rockets and Space Age spires. That Tomorrowland was Walt’s “World on the Move” – a showcase of real solutions Walt and his designers envisioned for the Atomic Age and the ensuing Space Race. Chief among its icons was the Lost Legend: The Peoplemover – a tranquil demonstration of real mass transit solutions of the future.

The Peoplemover was a gentle, functional, and spectacular attraction appropriate for all ages, with a massive hourly capacity that added kinetic energy and life to the second story of Tomorrowland – and in fact, Magic Kingdom continues to host a version of the fan-favorite ride to this day! But in the ’90s, plans for New New Tomorrowlands developed, intentionally meant to flatten the simplicity of the Space Age in favor of the grittier, darker, more dystopian futures of the era’s pop culture.

The “simple” idea was to replace the slow-moving Peoplemover with a new headlining thrill ride. The subject of its own in-depth analysis, the Declassified Disaster: Rocket Rods weren’t just a poor replacement for the Peoplemover; they flat out didn’t work. The abysmal attempt at a thrill ride had some fundamental flaws, lasting only two years on and off before closing forever. To this day, the abandoned tracks of the Peoplemover still criss-cross through Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, overgrown with weeds. It’s a sad reminder of a major “minus” that Imagineers will never live down.

4. Space Mountain: De la Terre a la Lune -> Hyperspace Mountain

Location: Disneyland Paris

Have you ever heard the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Apparently, Disney executives haven’t. After all, when Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, the park offered some brave departures from what Disney had done in the past. For example, the park had no Tomorrowland at all, swapping it for the literary, fantasy, retro-future of a Jules Verne-inspired Discoveryland – a much better fit for European audiences than a land predicated on the Space Age.

Opening in 1995, the Lost Legend: Space Mountain – De la Terre à la Lune instantly became the park’s signature attraction. On this one-of-a-kind, steampunk take on the Space Mountain concept, guests became interstellar voyagers based on the Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon, wherein members of the Baltimore Gun Club were launched to the moon from the golden Columbiad Cannon. And indeed, this Space Mountain was a launched coaster, blasting guests out of the cannon and into the peak where an amazing orchestral score, three inversions, and allusions to the Georges Méliès film adaptation created a fantasy journey to the stars.

But nothing good can last. In 2005, the ride became Space Mountain: Mission 2, intentionally importing the “sci-fi” style of the American Space Mountains, including a high-energy electronic score and the replacement of Jules Verne references with exploding stars and galaxies. What’s worse, in 2017 the ride became Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain: Rebel Mission, a permanent overlay that now sees guests blasts out of a golden cannon and into a “galaxy far, far away.” Fans plead for the return of the original Space Mountain, but in today’s IP-focused world, this “minus” seems likely to stick around.

But on the next page, we’ll get to our top three worst attraction “plusses” ever – three “updates” that make fans nauseous to even think about… Read on…

3. The Enchanted Tiki Room -> Under New Management


Location: Magic Kingdom


When the Modern Marvel: The Enchanted Tiki Room opened in 1963, it was one of the most astounding attractions Imagineering had ever devised thanks to its cast of singing birds, flowers, idols, and Tiki totems. Brought to life by the then-unthinkable technology of Audio-Animatronics and the timeless songwriting of preeminant Disney Parks musicians the Sherman Brothers, the musical serenade was a celebration of the “Tiki Craze” spreading across the United States.

Absolutely evergreen, historic, and beloved by fans of all ages, the “magical” Tiki Room seemed poised to sing on into eternity as an untouchable Disney classic. In fact, it’s one of just two attractions around today to be honored with the prefix “Walt Disney’s” in its title.

In 1997, Magic Kingdom’s copy of the attraction (there called Tropical Serenade) underwent a change in management. In fact, the parrot Iago from Aladdin and hornbill Zazu from The Lion King were unceremoniously welcomed into the Tiki Room, squashing the original songs and instead making fun of the tired, old birds and how out-of-touch they were with modern music and culture. 

Again earning its own in-depth Declassified Disaster: The Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management felt straight out of the direct-to-video era Disney was embroiled in in the late ’90s, happy to stick to self-referential jokes and obnoxious humor. “Luckily,” the attraction literally caught on fire in 2011, and rather than restore the over-the-top cartoon version, the Enchanted Tiki Room was restored to its former glory with Iago and Zazu thankfully absent. That makes this a temporary “minus” at least.

2. Journey Into Imagination -> Journey Into Your Imagination

Location: Epcot

When Epcot opened, it was a brave and unusual idea: a Disney Park that did not dabble in fairytales, dwell in immersive lands, or bring Disney characters to life. Instead of incorporating already known and loved animated characters from Disney’s library, Epcot invented a pair of its own, in a pavilion quite different from the “hard” sciences offered elsewhere in Future World – the Imagination pavilion’s charming and lovely Lost Legend: Journey Into Imagination.

On board, guests flew through “flights of fancy” with the enigmatic, red-bearded Dreamfinder and his playful proxy, the purple dragon Figment (not for nothing, two of the most incredible “original characters” ever designed for Disney Parks). The musical journey set to the tune of the Sherman Brothers’ “One Little Spark” carried guests through realms of art, music, performing arts, and science collecting “sparks” of imagination.

As the New Millennium neared, Imagineers (and the pavilions sponsor, Kodak) readied for a renovation. With practically no budget, the end result was a ride so abysmal, it’s often called the worst ride Disney ever created: the Declassified Disaster: Journey into YOUR Imagination. Halving the ride time (from 12 minutes to 6) and axing Dreamfinder, Figment, and “One Little Spark” entirely, the ride was recast from a dreamy, otherworldly, musical journey through inspiration to a tour of the Imagination Institute alongisde Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) to view optical illusions and sensory special effects.

Journey into YOUR Imagination lasted less than two years before blistering backlash forced Disney to go back to the drawing board. The best they could come up with on a tight budget is the current ride – Journey Into Imagination With Figment – which retains the Imagination Institute setting and Eric Idle’s character, but at least reinserts Figment… even if it’s a very annoying and unlikable version of the formerly-beloved icon.

While Journey Into Imagination With Figment is indeed a “plus” compared to its short-lived predecessor, both are monumental “minuses” compared to the original version. In fact, the most surprising thing about the new version of the ride might be that it’s already lasted longer than the beloved original was around to begin with.

1. Alien Encounter -> Stitch’s Great Escape

Location: Magic Kingdom

When Magic Kingdom debuted its New Tomorrowland in 1994, it represented an early attempt to craft an entirely immersive themed land with an overarching frame story connecting all of the rides, shows, and attractions within – nearly two decades before the Wizarding World would make it standard! In fact, that New Tomorrowland was meant to be a pulpy, sci-fi, comic book city of mechanical palm trees, landed alien ships, and the “real” features of a living city, like public transportation (the Peoplemover), a science center (the Lost Legend: Timekeeper) and an alien night club (Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe).

But without a doubt, the most talked-about feature of the land was what took place inside the city’s “real” convention center, where Martian technology conglomerate X-S Tech was demonstrating its interstellar teleportation technology for guests. Cleverly re-using existing theater-in-the-round show rooms retrofitted with embedded special effects, this multi-sensory experience was, of course, the Lost Legend: The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.

Over its relatively short life, Alien Encounter seemingly traumatized a generation of ’90s kids, letting a primal, insectoid, ravenous alien loose in a pitch black theater to fly across the room, breathe down guests’ necks, lick their ears, and splatter them with blood from a doomed employee. A sci-fi horror fest, the attraction caused immeasurable complaints from parents for its terrifying nature. 

For better or worse, Disney saw the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. In 2004, the attraction closed for months, re-opening with the playful Experiment 626 from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch replacing the horrific alien. In this “plussed” show, some of the same special effects would now allow Stitch to hock loogies on guests, bounce on their shoulders, and burp chili dog in their faces. Yes, the Declassified Disaster: Stitch’s Great Escape was born of the same era that produced the “improved” Tiki Room – and saw Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. flood into Tomorrowland.

In any case, Stitch’s Great Escape ended up being one of Disney’s worst ideas ever. The attraction was still too intense for kids under 10; now it was just too lame for anyone older. It managed to both kill Alien Encounter (which has since been elevated to “cult classic” status) and force Stitch into Magic Kingdom just as the character’s popularity tanked – a lose-lose-lose-lose situation all the way around. Mercifully, Stitch’s Great Escape was closed forever in 2018 after internal polling allegedly showed that guests tended to rate the entire Magic Kingdom park higher on days when it wasn’t operating.

Plus / minus

And therein lies the tough spot Disney Imagineers need to live within… Walt called on his parks to be constantly “plussed,” and boy have they. By nature of this countdown, the six misguided “upgrades” we listed here are relatively major… and pretty agreeably bad. 

But sometimes the line between “plus” and “minus” isn’t so clear; sometimes, fans disagree on whether an “improvement” really… well… improved things! Think of the introduction of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean; the addition of Disney characters to “it’s a small world”; the 2018 rewrites to Disneyland’s Fantasmic; the all-too-common replacement of physical effects with digital projection effects… In other words, it’s not always easy to anticipate what will actually improve a ride… and what fans will outright reject. So as controversial “plusses” that just might be “minuses” continue to pop up, we’ll be on the lookout… In the meantime, use the comments below to share your least favorite misguided “updates.”