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The 5 Biggest Wastes of Space at Walt Disney World (Literally)

Image - jasonpratt, Flickr

When Walt Disney announced his plans for the enigmatic “Florida Project,” one of the things that excited him most was the sheer size of his plot of land in Central Florida. While Disneyland has always been and will always be one of the great theme parks on the planet, its relatively small size will always limit the Imagineers' creativity when designing new and exciting attractions. They often look for ways to improve or replace old attractions in such a way that each one earns its spot in the park – there's no room for a waste of space.

This is not the case in Orlando.

The size of Walt Disney World allows its attractions to be reviewed to a slightly lesser standard. That doesn't mean that Disney World's attractions are worse in any way – it simply means that Imagineers are less aggressive about replacing attractions, because there's less of a premium on real estate.

The result of this is that there are a few attractions at Walt Disney World that, despite taking up a relatively large footprint, simply fail to make good use of it for entertaining and accommodating guests. And, even in this failure, don't seem to be in any imminent danger of being replaced.

Let's take a look at five attractions and locations whose square footage vastly outweigh their true quality.

(Note: You'll notice that not one of Disney's Hollywood Studios' attractions appears on this list. That's not because they're above criticism, but rather, that park is currently in the process of undergoing an overhaul. The attractions that do waste space there are, for the most part, disappearing.)

1. Odyssey Restaurant

I'm listing this first for a few reasons, but most notably, this is the location that Disney could simply tear down tomorrow without anyone really being upset about it.

The Odyssey Restaurant opened in 1982 and technically falls in Future World if you like to get technical about these things. When it was open, it served your usual Disney fast food fare, and even offered a Chuck-E-Cheese-style character meal of sorts in the late '80s and early '90s. There was first aid, restrooms, and other such services on site – all before the restaurant closed in 1994.

And, ever since, it's just kind of … stood there. Occasionally, Disney puts it to use as a location for seminars at one of their festivals or for corporate rentals and things like that, but on the whole, the Odyssey Restaurant has, since 1994, mostly been a big ol' waste of space.

Think about it: That spot between Test Track and Mexico is one of the more highly-trafficked areas in Epcot. It serves as a transition between Future World and the World Showcase, and it provides an awesome storytelling opportunity. Even architecturally, the building remains interesting after all these years – even though its mostly dormant.

Disney could put this spot to use as either a fine dining location or as another attraction, and it would be far less frustrating to see. Or, perhaps, they could have put an Arendelle pavilion there and spared all of the Malestrom angst. But I digress.

2. Tomorrowland Speedway

Tomorrowland Speedway

For such a simple attraction, the idea of Tomorrowland Speedway is kind of hard to wrap your head around. It's not a bad ride, per se, but it isn't the greatest ride – and, notably, the draw of it wears off somewhere around the age of 10. At that point, it simply becomes a confusing site: “We're in the future, and yet the future is powered by gasoline and rubber tires?”

However, for those under the age of 10, the Tomorrowland Speedway offers the rare chance to get behind the wheel of a car and experience a facsimile of the freedom of the road.

And so, perhaps more than any other attraction on this list, the problem with Tomorrowland Speedway isn't so much the attraction itself as it is the amount of space that it takes up. If you eyeball it on Google Maps (a fantastic pastime for any Disney fan), you'll see that it takes up an area only slightly smaller than the New Fantasyland expansion. That's a lot of space – space that could be used for any number of other attractions, giving Disney the ability to expand an otherwise small land.

Yes, there's a grand tradition of these types of rides at Disney's parks, going all the way back to Autopia at Disneyland. However, we're now living in a time where cars like these seem not only anachronistic, but downright destructive to the planet. Disney can do better with that space – especially for an area ostensibly about “Tomorrow.”

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There are 28 comments.

Agree with all but the Speedway. It should stay but with futuristic styled cars running on electricity (with space age sound effects)

Electric cars are harder on the environment over all than gas-powered cars by a wide margin.

no, battery operated vehicles might be harder on the environment and that's arguable, certainly not by a wide margin.

What's more, not all all electrics are battery operated, and, electric systems can be very clean and very efficient., completely blowing away anything you could get out of all those small gas powered engines.

Totally agree, as much as I have hated waiting in line for this; I did because my kids loved it. I get it, when I was a little kid, I couldn't wait to get tall enough to drive at our local amusement parks ride. You are 100 %, the cars need a modern update.

Agree with all but Dinorama. It's SUPPOSED to look tacky that's the joke. The humour and puns are everywhere. It's Disney's poke at the carny and roadside attraction history in the States. All the other sections of AK have restaurants, shops, play areas. It's difficult to do that and keep the theming of the serious Dinosaur institute where the ride takes place. Hence, Dinorama let's them have a bit of fun with the area. Just because you don't like the concept doesn't mean it's a waste of space...... With you on the other 4 though.

You are wrong about all of them as usual

I always thought, that close the cars, put up 2 or 3 attractions, and re-build the cars so they travel on top of the buildings.

I have to agree with Dinoland. We didn't even go in there. It had more of a carnival type atmosphere.

I have a special hatred for The Outpost. What better way to "showcase" the entire continent of Africa through narrowing it down to a hotdog stand.

Get rid of the Speedway? Why not get rid of Small World or the Carousel of Progress while you're at it? If you consider the cars at Autotopia and the Speedway to be destructive to the planet, you have no business driving to WDW. That's hypocritical.

Chester and Hester's theme park is an amazing example of Disney detail. It's a Southern highway theme park that is in the process of disappearing. The cracks and footprints in the faux-asphalt, The Way Back ride, the billboards... Animal Kingdom is a lot of walking and looking. And it is amazing. You turn a corner and you're in an African village or walking a muddy river/road in India. But C&H is a place where kids and parents can stop and just play before they move on an learn something.

Do your honework,TPT.The Odyssey site cannot be built on. It sits on piers over a giant sinkhole too large to fill that was found during the construction of the park.

The backside of the Odessey used to house the Cast Member cafeteria. Not sure if it still does, but that may be another reason why they won't tear it down.

Most corporate sponsors pulled out of EPCOT after 911. Costs, as well as the huge investment in other parks, has not made it feasible...yet... for addional expansion. The Outpost is there because Animal Kingdom made an African pavilion at Epcot redundant, even though that pavilion was quite far along in planning.

Considering that James Earl Jones was showing off a model of the proposed African village on the grand opening video Disney produced for Epcot back in the early 80s, I'd say that redundancy after DAK was opened in 98 was not a major reason.

What James Earl Jones was featuring in that video was to be nothing similar to what The Outpost has become. The Africa pavilion, if it had actually been built, would have been much more like Harambe. It wasn't simply going to be a souvenir stand and a place you can buy Coke products. What we have now with The Outpost I suspect wouldn't be something Mr. Jones would have been enthused about.

I never knew what the Odyssey even was. Just knew that it was a long way around something that just sits there. The SPEEDWAY is ok, but needs some updates of some sort. The last time we visited in October '14, we did not even try to ride it!

While I agree with most of this article,I do not agree with your assessment of the Tomorrowland Speedway. It is still one of the most popular attractions in the Magic Kingdom, often with 60+ minute waits during the peak times. That alone would indicate its popularity. Getting rid of such a popular ride would be devastating, much like the removal of Toontown. I could definitely see an update, but that would be it. Regardless of the space it takes up, it's still fun for ALL ages. (My 10,16, and 20-year-old sons, my 22-year-old daughter, her 25-year-old fiance, and my 47-year-old husband love this ride and it's a MUST DO during every visit! It's not just for ages 10 and under.)

Low capacity should not be confused with high popularity

Now just how are you defining a "waste of space"? How is re-using a large building at EPCOT not an effective strategy if the attraction once housed there is an attraction no more?

And why the hate for Chester & Hester's? Personally, I think Chester & Hester's is a brilliant concept, ESPECIALLY in Florida (and if that makes no sense then I'm guessing you didn't get to the park via road-trip).

If you're talking about colossal wastes of space at Animal Kingdom, how is it that Rafiki's Planet Watch failed to make the list? Any attraction that is so bad that they have to put up a fence between the entrance and exit paths to force you to actually go there instead of simply taking a round trip on the train seems like a good "waste of space" candidate to me!

I'm always amazed at how many people defend Planet Watch. It is horrible. Only a complete Disnoid would like it. Normal folks don't pay $100 entry to take 30 minutes to ride a train, and do a long walk to pet goats. If you are visiting AK for the 20th time, and are trapped on property with a length of stay pass, I guess it beats enjoying the "awesome Harambe" un air conditioned shops for the umpteenth time.

you totally forgot the abandoned island called Discovery Island!

I agree that Speedway does not fit with the Tomorrowland concepts. Its also a very noisy place. Unfortunately, it is popular....couldn't they upgrade it based on the movie "Cars"?

EPCOT needs a new pavillion. Brazil works.

I would like to see a new EPCOT pavillion (with rides) the evolution of life... explore different epochs of time (without being jerked around in rollercoasters).

Personally, I think this whole article is ridiculous because
it's Disneys private property. They can do what they want.

I LIKE Dinorama. It's fun. And I'm 18. I think they could add another dinosaur thing for older people though, but otherwise it's fun.

If they made tommorwlamd speedway more like autiopia at disnyeland

Interesting article. Some points I agree whole heartedly. Other points, not so much. But that’s what makes the world go ‘round.

On the “not so much” point, I don’t have a real problem with The Outpost. I do agree that with Africa now well represented in the Animal Kingdom it does seem redundant. I would dearly love to see new pavilions added to World Showcase. But that’s not soon to happen it seems, sad to say. But if the outpost could maybe be rethemed in some way a lot would be gained. It could be simple fix.

I hate the Speedway well. It doesn’t fit visually with the rest of Tomorrowland. That area has always felt .like they ran out of money when they redressed Tomorrowland in the 1990s. And there is nothing unique about it that isn’t at any number of theme parks across the country. It’s just Nascarland. And the smell of exhaust is awful when you go through that area of the park. At the very least give it a whimsical update similar to what was done with the Disneyland Autopia. There’s just not enough “there” there to make it really a Disney attraction.

The problem for me with Dinorama isn’t that it’s a cheesy carnival. It’s that it’s not enough to it. There’s not enough there to make it feel like an actual roadside carnival. Two or three more redressed off the shelf rides would add a lot to that area. A carousel, a ferris wheel, a tit-a-whirl or any of the simple rides they have in DCAs Bug’s Land area would do wonders to flesh out that area. There’s not enough kinetic energy in the area to make it feel authentic and fun. As it stands there are just too many carnival games (Of which I have no real problems with per se.) that seldom have people playing them and not enough actual attractions to really flesh out the area. It’s a fun idea that has always felt like Phase 2 expansion of the area is in the near future. Again, there is just not enough “there” there.

The point which I agree whole heartedly with the author is with The Odyssey and the Wonders Of Life pavilion. Frankly I have the same fear that Inoventions West is going to suffer the same fate and sit vacant for years. Shuttered areas look tacky. It’s like having an empty house sitting in your neighborhood. No matter how well empty property is maintained it still is empty property and makes the overall neighborhood look bad. With the reopening of the Adventureland Veranda restaurant in Adventureland I’m really hoping that the same thing will happen with The Odyssey. Considering how hard it is to get reservations sometimes another restaurant would be a good thing. And the Wonders of Life pavilion s a huge building just mysteriously sitting there to people. It looks abandoned. Imagine what the Magic Kingdom would feel like is they completely shuttered Liberty Square? It just looks bad. Disney you could do LOTS better with these areas.

I understand that people enjoy this area and I get concept, but I don't care for it as I've always enjoyed how Disney doesn't show pipes holding up their rides and this just comes across as a lame effort on the designers part.
The main reason I detest this area though is the side games. Yes, every theme park in America had those, except Disney. I used to visit Opryland where they had them. But the concept of these games is that you pay to win a prize. One memory for me, early on when it first opened with my family. My step daughter asked me for money to play a game. I have in and watched her run of to compete for a prize. Before her, a lady had just paid for two entries for herself and her young son. My step daughter ended up winning the prize, and watched the disappointed son and his mother walk away from what would have been a guaranteed win had my stepdaughter not joined in. In my vision of Disney and what Walt intended, no attraction should result in disappointment like this.

Kids need to learn that not everyone is a winner in every game. Especially in games of chance, as these carnival games are. If a child expects to automatically win the parent owes the child an enlightening talk before they start to play. If the child is disappointed it's not the fault of the game but the fault of the parent by not preparing the child for the possible outcome.


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