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6 of Disney's WORST Attempts to "Plus" A Ride (That Really Turned Into A "Minus")

3. The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management

Location: Magic Kingdom

The Enchanted Tiki Room opened at Disneyland in 1963 as the first ever use of Disney’s patented Audio Animatronic creatures. The effect was so mesmerizing to people of the day that a single “barker bird” positioned outside the attraction proved popular enough to dazzle crowds and clog the pathway day and night! Because of its popularity, the ride was duplicated for Florida’s Magic Kingdom and was there for opening day in 1971. There, it was called Tropical Serenade, but the show remained the same.

That is, until 1997. In their perpetual pursuit to reinvigorate aging attractions, Disney designed a new show for the Tiki Room in Florida. Subtitled “Under New Management,” the show added Iago (from Aladdin) and Zazu (From The Lion King) as new co-owners of the Polynesian oasis. The birds themselves sang a lot less, replaced instead by the two new stars bantering and singing punny versions of the songs from their respective films. Was it modern? Yes. Edgy? Sure. Fun? Well… So dreadful was the reworked '90s version, it earned its own in-depth entry – Disaster Files: The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management – that chronicles the whole story.

As “luck” would have it, the attraction caught on fire in January 2011. While the fire was small and contained to the attic, Disney took the opportunity to re-examine the “plussed” attraction yet again. This time, they wisely decided to return it to the original show, borrowing Disneyland’s original name: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Iago and Zazu disappeared, and one of the most frustrating “plusses” in modern park history disappeared along with them. Phew!

2. 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 its own. The Imagination pavilion contained the charming dark ride Journey Into Imagination where guests rode along with the musical Dreamfinder – a kindly, dreamy inventor – and his parrot-sized purple dragon, Figment.

The ride was as charming as can be, following the pair and their musical adventure through the arts, literature, entertainment, and music. “One Little Spark,” the famous Sherman Brothers’ song featured throughout the ride, was a fitting thesis: just a little inspiration could create an entire world of imagination. So beloved and wonderful was this opening day dark ride, we meticulously told its tale (from design through closure) in its own feature – Lost Legends: Journey into Imagination. Unable to leave well enough alone, Disney decided to unite the entire Imagination pavilion in one theme. In this case, they chose to re-theme the dark ride to match the film in the pavilion’s 3D theatre: Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.

The charming Journey Into Imagination was renamed Journey Into YOUR Imagination. Figment made a single cameo, hidden in a constellation on the ceiling, while the ride became a cold and “quirky” tour of the Imagination Institute’s Sense Labs. Apart from the uninviting theme and story, the ride’s track was literally cut in half, reducing the ride time from 12 minutes to 6. It’s probably for the best, since the “plussed’ ride just plain old stunk. “One Little Spark” was gone in more ways than one, and the ride failed to inspire or excite anyone. The full story of the botched "upgrade" is forever immortalized in Disaster Files: Journey into YOUR Imagination, the definitive entry on Epcot's most hated ride ever.

After barely a year of operation, it closed again. Today, it limps along as Journey Into Imagination With Figment, re-inserting the mischievous dragon into the Sensory Labs storyline but still without any charm or… you guessed it… imagination.

1. Stitch’s Great Escape

Location: Magic Kingdom

Michael Eisner was a brilliant businessman who saw that films could play a huge part in Disney Parks. It was Eisner who first contacted George Lucas and initiated a relationship that would lead to Caption EO, Star Tours, and Indiana Jones Adventure, and others. But perhaps the most unusual attraction that the partnership birthed was the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.

Re-using the circular theaters of Magic Kingdom’s Mission to Mars, the attraction placed guests in shoulder restraints staring down a massive teleportation tube.  Of course, something goes wrong and a bloodthirsty carnivorous alien (a cross between a grasshopper, spider, and dragon) was teleported into the tube. With a flash of strobe lighting, the creature appeared to break out of the tube. From then on, the experience was in total darkness as 3D sound and tactile effects saw the audience splattered with “blood” and terrorized by the menacing alien as it drooled down their necks. Remembered as one of the most unique rides ever to grace a Disney park, Alien Encounter was regarded highly enough to warrant its own look back in our Lost Legends: Alien Encounter feature.

The experience was intense, and Eisner’s constant call for revisions (first to make it less scary, then to make it more scary) saw the opening delayed by months. When it finally did open, parents were horrified. Apparently ignoring the ride’s name and the many warnings throughout the queue (including a pre-show where a fuzzy alien creature gets burned and disfigured by a malfunctioning teleporter), the ride was consistently hounded on for being too intense for the otherwise G-rated Magic Kingdom. Plans to export Alien Encounter to other Tomorrowlands were quickly halted.

Then the ride was closed altogether. While that would’ve been a tragically heroic end for the cult classic, Disney decided to “plus” the experience by adding everyone’s favorite family-friendly alien. The attraction became Stitch’s Great Escape, keeping the general premise but using Stitch instead. He “escapes” into the audience where he spits on you, burps chili dogs in your face, and bounces on your shoulders. Frankly, it’s miserable enough to have its own story told via our Disaster Files: Stitch's Great Escape write-up.

Plus, the “plussed” ride appeals to approximately no one. It’s much too intense for young kids thanks to the pitch-black darkness, but much too juvenile for everyone else. We maintain that Alien Encounter could have worked, especially in Tokyo or California, where the castle park has much more in the way of “PG-13” material like Star Tours and Indiana Jones Adventure. Oh well. While we probably won’t see another Alien Encounter, at least we also won’t see another Stitch’s Great Escape anytime soon.

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There are 4 comments.

Rockin' Space Mountain was so awful that it didn't last six months.

For me, the "plussing" of EPCOT's Test Track is a fail also. What was once a unique look at what goes behind the scenes of the automotive industry has turned into a muddled, somewhat generic Tron ripoff.

As for Alien encounter it is not totally gone there is still a semi attraction still located on property based on the original attraction located inside Disney Quest. It is called Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.

It seems to me that the biggest complaint with Stitch's Great Escape is just that it's not the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. When I finally got a chance to see it, it wasn't nearly as bad as everyone was making out, and it certainly didn't lack for a crowd. Forced to choose between that and Tokyo Disneyland's version of the Enchanted Tiki Room with Stitch, I'd take Stitch's Great Escape.

The loss of Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon was so painfully needless. It wasn't even an unpopular attraction. They just felt like messing with it for the sake of doing so, and in so doing took away what made it charming and distinct. I'm really hoping that they bring back the original Vernian elements in the refurb.


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