It’s been a brutal year at Walt Disney World, with the removal of no fewer than five major attractions from the resort’s theme parks.
With the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland expansion having been completed earlier this year with the debut of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, all three of Walt Disney World’s other parks are set for big changes. In fact, the attraction closures that have been made in 2014 point towards radical changes in the nature of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Let’s take a look at what’s been removed, and what it might mean for the parks that hosted the attractions.
5. Camp Minnie-Mickey (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
The infamous Camp Minnie-Mickey was thrown together late in the development of Disney's Animal Kingdom, following the decision to push back the construction of Beastly Kingdom (which never actually went ahead) and the realisation that work on the Asia area was behind schedule.
According to Jim Hill, then-CEO Michael Eisner decided to install a temporary land similar in style to the former Mickey's Birthdayland area at the Magic Kingdom (which had been designed and built in just 90 days). Rather than Imagineering, Walt Disney World's entertainment office was brought in to create the land, built around a low-budget stage show and character meet-and-greet "trails".
Although Festival of the Lion King ultimately proved to be a popular show and will now be relocated, the rest of Camp Minnie-Mickey is no more. It was closed in January 2014, making room for the Pandora - The World of Avatar expansion.
The Avatar expansion is not the only change coming to Animal Kingdom. The addition of a night-time spectacular, Rivers of Light, and an evening version of Kilimanjaro Safaris will see the park staying open until late for the first time. Disney is finally seeking to banish Animal Kingdom's reputation as being a "half day park".
4. American Idol Experience (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
The American Idol Experience began entertaining guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios in February 2009. Based on the hit talent show of the same name, it offered budding singers the chance to perform on stage in one of the park's enormous soundstages. Guests could audition throughout the day, and a select few were then given their chance in front of a live studio audience. At the end of the day, one lucky contestant was awarded a coveted "Golden Ticket" to jump the line when the American Idol auditions hit their home town.
After five years of showcasing Orlando's latest musical talents, The American Idol Experience hung up its microphone for good on August 30, 2014 (several months earlier than originally announced).
The American Idol Experience harkened back to the old days of Disney-MGM Studios, when TV shows really were produced at the park. Those days are gone, and Disney has decided to move on.
3. Maelstrom (Epcot)
The decision to close Maelstrom, the headline attraction in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, is surely the most controversial one on this list – but that has little to do with the ride itself, which was moderately popular but not one of Epcot’s star attractions. Instead, it has everything to do with the ride’s replacement – a Frozen-themed boat ride that will reuse its ride system.
This forward/backward flume ride took guests in Norse viking ships on a cruise through a troll-inhabited swamp, past Nordic polar bears, and into the oil refinement industry of present-day Norway before culminating in a short film on the region's contributions to technology.
Given that Frozen is not set in Norway, and is entirely fictional, some Disney fans have suggested that the World Showcase will be changed forever by the introduction of the attraction. We’ll have to wait and see whether this marks a long-term trend, or is simply an opportunistic move by Disney to get an attraction based on the smash-hit movie up-and-running anywhere in Walt Disney World as quickly as possible.