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11 Infamously Flubbed and Failed Theme Park Attractions

9. TOMB RAIDER: The Ride / The Crypt

Image © Paramount

Location: Kings Island (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Cost: $20 million
Lifetime: 2002 – 2007 (TOMB RAIDER: The Ride); 2008 – 2012 (The Crypt)
Video Evidence: Point-of-view video and Travel Channel special
Full Story: Lost Legends: TOMB RAIDER – The Ride

The Story: Unusual among seasonally operating parks (usually strictly limited in their budget and reach), Paramount’s Kings Island near Cincinnati, Ohio set out to do something extraordinary with their 2002 addition: TOMB RAIDER: The Ride. Based on the action film starring Angelina Jolie, the ride cost $20 million and gave the park a themed attraction unlike anything its competitors could match. The ride’s queue – filled with relics from the films – passed through dark corridors, sliding walls, rolling doorways, and special effects, keeping the ride itself entirely hidden from view – even when riders were sat and strapped in!

Once the lights dimmed and a synchronized musical score kicked on, the massive 77-person, three-rowed vehicle (which looked and felt like a theatre until the ride started moving) would slowly creep forward and up, lifting to the eyeline of the 80-foot tall Hindu goddess Durga carved on the temple's wall. As ancient crystals carved into fire and ice began to glow in her hands, the gondola would swing downward and flip through an upside down arc, rocket to the ceiling, stop inches from razor-sharp icy stalagtites, then flip downward and hold riders face-first over a pit of boiling lava. The three minute, dizzying flipping dark ride was on par with a Universal or Disney attraction, from story and setting to synchronized score and special effects. The experience was unlike anything else, and certainly far and above expectations for a seasonal theme park in Ohio. 

Why It Failed: Ingeniously, TOMB RAIDER: The Ride was really just a humungous version (twice as tall and holding twice as many people) of very typical carnival ride – a HUSS Top Spin – housed in a giant chamber with synchronized music, special effects, theatrical lighting, "lava" pool fountains, an 80-foot tall goddess, and a 60-foot volcano stretching up the back wall. After Cedar Fair (owners of Cedar Point) purchased all five Paramount Parks in 2007, the ride’s music, pre-show, and special effects were removed and it was re-named The Crypt. A third of the ride’s capacity was removed to allow for a more typical, nauseating Top Spin ride program, set in almost complete darkness to the sounds of jungle animals or techno music, depending on the day.

One season at a time, The Crypt got worse and worse until it closed forever in 2012. The details of Tomb Raider deserve a read, and we've got its entire life story recorded as part of our in-depth series looking at favorite lost attractions. To learn more about the secrets that awaited within one of the best themed rides ever (much less outside of Disney and Universal's mega-parks), check out the complete in-depth story in Lost Legends: TOMB RAIDER – The Ride.

8. Tomorrowland 1998

Image: Disney

Location: Disneyland Park (Anaheim, California)
Lifetime: Roughly, 1998 – 2005 with some remnants today (7 years)

The Story: Each Disneyland-style park on Earth has a Tomorrowland, and all suffered from an unfortunate given: “tomorrow” always becomes “today.” In the 1990s, each park set off to correct for this error. Tired of predicting a future that always comes true, Tomorrowlands across the globe diverged to find more timeless styles. In Florida, Tomorrowland became a gleaming silver and white spaceport of alien languages, starships, neon signs, and mechanical palm trees. In California, the original Disneyland Park tried just the opposite: it left behind the sterile, metallic future of Florida in favor of a European, organic future: the entire land was painted in shades of gold, copper, and sea foam green. Iron-rich red rocks jutted from densely-planted hillsides, and a decidedly Da Vinci-style Astro Orbitor took its place at the front of the land, surrounded in rocks and wind sail towers.

Why It Failed: Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland 1998 tried very hard to emulate the beautiful, organic future developed for Disneyland Paris’s Discoveryland in 1992. The difference was that the new European overlay for Disneyland made little sense with its inhabitants: a new 3D “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” a tired re-hash of Epcot’s Innoventions, and Star Tours. What’s more, a generation who had grown up at Disneyland was speechless at seeing their beloved Space Mountain painted in dreary copper and rusted bronze.

In 2005, a new park president set out to replace all of the gold in Tomorrowland with the original whites and blues – a process that is almost entirely finished (except for the now out-of-place Astro Orbitor) and refresh the dated attractions once more. Rumors still swirl that a proper, complete, head-to-toe redo is in the works to completely revitalize Tomorrowland as 1998’s renovation attempted.

7. Superstar Limo

Image: Lyle Scott Photography, Flickr - All rights reserved, used with permission

Location: Disney California Adventure (Anaheim, California)
Lifetime: February 2001 – January 2002 (11 months)
Full Story: Disaster Files: Superstar Limo

The Story: When Disney’s California Adventure opened in 2001, guests were less than amused by its comic tone, exaggerated architecture, and thoughtless, irreverent style. While the whole park was decidedly lacking on the careful, thoughtful, celebratory style of Disneyland Park next door, one particular dark ride was singled out for its sarcastic tone and horrendous quality. Located in the themed-to-modern-day-Hollywood-yet-45-minutes-from-the-real-Hollywood Hollywood Pictures Backlot, Superstar Limo was a dark ride (the park’s only) based on a limo ride through the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Built in the expectedly 1990s style of miserable cardboard backdrops, the ride was populated by Small World style dolls of C-list celebrities and ABC “stars” narrating your journey through Hollywood.

Why It Failed: Superstar Limo exemplified everything that was wrong with the original Disney’s California Adventure. Instead of transporting guests to an idealized place and time like Disneyland, the park and ride took you on a “zany” “edgy” journey through modern California past 2D, comic-book style locales. It looked cheap, it felt cheap, and it was cheap. It hardly lived up to the classic dark rides at Disneyland Park just a few hundred feet away!

It closed less than a year after the park opened, even with no immediate plans to replace it. The park was simply stronger without it! In 2006, a dark ride based on Disney & Pixar’s Monsters Inc. opened in its place, and in 2012, the land was given a much-needed 1940s overlay and renamed Hollywoodland as part of Disney California Adventure’s grand re-opening. We chronicled the in-depth tale in a standalone feature, Disaster Files: Superstar Limo

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There are 25 comments.

I think you forgot the expensive failure of Buzz Saw Falls at Silver Dollar City in Branson Mo!

Islands of Adventure's Poseidon's Fury was a fantastic experience when it originally opened, with a breath-taking surprise ending that left you wondering, "How in the world did they DO that?!" Subsequent re-writes and theme changes left us with a neutered, unsurprising show stripped of a lot of its initial wow-factor. Too bad...

Thank you...I was the senior production designer on Poseidon's Fury. We rented the giant dirigible hangar at El Toro Marine Base to mock up the transition finale. It was a fun project...and there were some very innovative effects, from the "water tunnel" to the bronze "Poseidon Time Lock" and, of course, the seamless transition from the Temple scene back to the first scene. My concern was how long our live actors could keep their characters fresh and on point. I haven't seen the show in years and I heard it had been through some changes. We had a great team on Poseidon's Fury and I enjoyed working on it.

So cool! It's incredibly odd now... You walk from the second chamber, through the water tunnel and... back into the second chamber? Makes for a cool transition when the lights go out and the giant temple appears around you, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Poseidon's Fury was one of my favorite "adventure" at IOA when it opened. In fact for my very first time, I was so mesmerized by the Time Lock that I thought the water tunnel was some type of projection and not real. And in addition to the cool transition at the end, it was impressive you could feel the blast of heat from the Fire Balls. I'm an architect and was just amazed how quick and soundless the transition occurred. Big Kudos for creating something that took my breath away!

Avalanche Run/Disaster Transport at Cedar Point. Avalanche Run's big gimmick was that it was a bobsled. It was a coaster with no track! So as you flew around curves and such it would feel more dangerous. Only, to make sure it wasn't dangerous it was slow. Very slow. And sometimes it would come to a full halt. I remember getting in the ride so excited and almost immediately realizing it was bad. And this was after the excruciatingly long "new ride" line. Go back to the park another season and Avalanch Run is "gone", replaced by Disater Transport. DP was fully enclosed inside a giant building and promised to take you on a dangerous sci-fi ride. So I was expecting an indoor coaster in the dark with maybe some filmed or mechanical dramatic "boo" moments. Wait in a huge long line which featured an okay animatronic setup of the ride's story. Get to the end of the line, get on and immediately realize, hey, this is that godawful Avalanch Run coaster. They just built a building over it so it would be in the dark and added some flashing lights and such. It was still horrible just horrible in the dark with strobe lights. It still sucked. I spent THAT whole ride bored and angry as hell I had been tricked into waiting in line and then riding that piece of garbage a second time when I swore I'd never set foot on it again.

it's a shame what they did the alien encounter... A crying shame!! The ride clearly had intensity warnings throughout,although ridiculous overbearing parents had to spoil yet another great staple in the World of Disney! "Parents just don't understand"!!

it's a shame what they did the alien encounter... A crying shame!! The ride clearly had intensity warnings throughout,although ridiculous overbearing parents had to spoil yet another great staple in the World of Disney! "Parents just don't understand"!!

you didn't mention Britannia park in the uk ,

If Alien Encounter would have opened at Disney Hollywood Studios instead of the Magic Kingdom, it probably would still be here today in its original format. I realize that they re-incorporated the Mission to Mars theaters and that is why it was built at the MK, but the concept was much too "mature" for the family friendly Magic Kingdom crowd.

Windjammer Surf Racers at Knott's Berry Farm.

I have to laugh at mention of the alien ride. My dad forced me on it when I was 7, nearly 8. I'm not sure if it was he that wanted to go or my older brother. But he thought it was riskier to leave me in the park alone than to drag me onto the ride.

That was one of the most terrifying moments in my life. I vaguely remember the warning signs, but dear dad didn't seem to take them seriously. That warm breath on my neck nearly gave me nightmares for months.

As far as I recall, I was not the only kid crying after that ride, which is obviously why it became a problem. Several parents seemed to be consoling their kids. I really think they should've had more of an age limit. The warning signs couldn't really explain how and why it was terrifying without spoiling the ride. It came across as simply "Ooo this will be terrifying!" like you see before a cheesy haunted house.

Very interesting read. Thanks!

I'm surprised Dollywood's Timber Tower was not listed. That ride was a mess. It was shut down more than it ran and riders were stuck on the ride, high up in the air frequently. Even when it was working properly (which was a rarity) it wasn't thrilling at all. Now, where the ride once sat, is a patio with picnic tables.

I remember ExtraTERRORestrial and I do miss it but I am a HUGE Stitch fan. Though a newly created dark ride would have fit him better I am glad he has an attraction at Disney. I enjoy it regardless.

You can't forget the epic fail that was Deja Vu at Six Flags Great America.

For sure! I only saw it open once but was too afraid to ride it because it was always broke down.

I've often thought that if stitch had been the original attraction like that, it would do better. The problem is it is a near replication of the previous attraction minus one compnent with nothing new or different. Taking out the scary component and not really replacing it with something new is what ruins it for many. But like I said, most everyone I know that experienced stitch for the first time and didn't know about alien encounter actually loved it.

I enjoy it and make sure to go on it everytime I go to Walt Disney World. I have taken 2 Disney newbies on it and both loved it as well.

Does anyone remember that terrible Stitch's Superstupid--err--- "Supersonic" Celebration stage show at the Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland that lasted a whopping TWO MONTHS? Where that ugly "Tomorrowland Stage" is now?

Yep. Didn't think so.

Oh my Gosh, I remember Skippy! I forgot completely that I had ever been on this ride. It must have been so traumatic I blocked it out the past 15 years. X_X

I don't know why you guys hate on Stitch so much. I think Stitch's escape is a fine replacement for ExtraTERRORestial. The original wasn't even around that long and replaced an unknown alien for a beloved Disney character. I agree it feels shoehorned in but worst update ever? Certainly not. That definitely belongs to Journey into YOUR imagination. To totally gut such a beloved and iconic ride into a half a ride filled with cheap optical illusions was an absolute disaster. It's ironic how it is named Journey into Your imagination as the imagineers put absolutely no imagination into the update. I don't even know how this ride was greenlit.

"The Bat" @ kings Island. It was suppose to be the greatest coaster ever. It lasted one year.

I rode or experienced all of these. I still hold out hope for Walt Disney Studios Paris. As it is, I think of it as an add-on to Disneyland Paris.

What about Hard Rock Park and Celebration City? Both were short-lived parks with lots of potential.

No mention of Vertigo at Walibi Belgium? It was intended to open in 2006, but was delayed for a year. In 2007 it ran from mid-June to late July, so troubled by technical problems that it was closed more often than not. At the end of July, it was closed for overhauls for the entire rest of the season. In 2008, Vertigo once again opened to great fanfare on May 5 - and closed forever on May 19, as the technical problems were back with a vengeance. It was torn down in December 2008, and Walibi Belgium has not built a proper coaster ever since. 3.8 million Euros down the drain, the ride was experienced by a couple thousand riders at the highest estimate.

I think The Bat should be on here instead of Tomb Raider/The Crypt. They both failed, but The Bat was so much more of a ride that I feel it deserved a mention (and I never even got to ride it, since it was built a year before I was born and only lasted one year, I believe).
I rode Son of Beast twice and swore off it after that. We expected a wooden coaster to be rough, but this was ridiculous. The loop was the only smooth thing about it, and it left me with massive headaches that no amount of ibuprofen could touch. If it had been smooth and built differently, I think it would have made for an amazing ride.


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