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Disney's "Worst Attraction Ever" is FINALLY Closed. This Is Why it All Went Wrong.

Image: Disney

Welcome, one and all, to the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center. That's a mouthful, but all you need to know is that the Councilwoman of the Galactic Federation – the interstellar governing body from 2002's Lilo and Stitch – has recruited you as a guard for the Galactic Federation. It's in this facility that alien prisoners are teleported and stored to await sentencing, and your job will be to oversee the incoming creatures.

As you move through the queue, you enter into the first pre-show, with guests standing on three tiered walkways and looking out over Sargeant 90210 (a would-be comical redress of the sinister S.I.R. robot from Alien Encounter) who will teach us the basics of prisoner hazard classification levels (ranked Level 1 or Level 2) and the basics procedures of our guard duty. When prisoners are caught, they are teleported into "one of these tubey things," he offers, gesturing at the floor-to-ceiling glass tubes behind him. 

Image: Disney

The tube on the left is already occupied by an adorable, fuzzy, goo-ball of an alien. (Fans will instantly recognize this fella as Skippy, the unwilling participant in the ill-fated, grisly, dark pre-show of Alien Encounter. Remember, that's when X-S Tech would demonstrate its new teleportation technology by simply beaming Skippy across the room into the second tube, where he'd arrive charred, smoking, and in pain.)

The screen above Sergeant lights up as an officer radios in. He's captured another alien, this one caught stealing donuts from a space bakery. Another easy one. Sargeant sighs: "When are you guys gonna send me some Level 2s for a change?" The empty second tube begins to fill with smoke and crackling electricity as the captured cartoon alien on screen readies for teleportation. Indeed, as the smoke clears, the unusual donut-thief is there in the room with us. (Astoundingly, this second alien is actually the "burnt" Skippy animatronic! So totally disfigured was Skippy in his Alien Encounter voyage that the "burnt" version can now stand in as a second, separate alien. For Alien Encounter fans, it has to be odd to see Skippy and his charred self both visible at once.)

Image: Disney

Before our training can continue, red lights and alarms blare and Captain Gantu appears on the overhead screen. To Sergeant's dismay, we're about to recieve a Level 3 prisoner at the facility. That's right... Level 3. Gantu instructs us all to move along to the High Security Teleporation Chamber with extra defenses to keep us safe from "whatever kind of monster they caught out there."

The Teleporation Chamber

Image: Disney

As guests enter the High Security chamber, you'll find that the arrangement hasn't changed at all from the days of Alien Encounter. There are still concentric circles of stadium-style seats arranged around a central tube, enclosed behind a metallic shield. Indeed, whatever they beam into this room, it must be nasty. Once seated, security restraints lower over your shoulders. Like Alien Encounter this is not a ride, and you won't move anywhere. The restraints serve a double purpose: they keep scared youngsters from racing out into the darkness and they provide all the special effects you'll need.

Once guest are seated and secured, the metallic blast shield rises out of the way, revealing a heavily reinforced glass tube. As it readies for teleportation, it fills with fog and flashing lights, as blaring sirens indicate that something serious is about to happen. A countdown begins as the energy builds. "5, 4, 3, 2, 1." A microwave's ding! signals that the device is finished and there, coughing and fanning away the smoke is Stitch, sealed away behind the glass. 

"That's a Level 3?" "Is this some kind of a joke?" 

Even though this blue creature hardly looks like a criminal, Gantu and company decide to "do it by the book" and give him a DNA test anyway. Two roving laser cannons drop from the ceiling and focus on Stitch as the glass tube rises away, leaving fog billowing out from him. "Awe, isn't that cute! He's a cute little fella!" Gantu sing-songs. "Recruits, keep your eye on this little monster while I straighten this out. Heh... Level 3!" Gantu steps away on screen leaving us with Stitch and the two cannons fixated on him. For a moment, Stitch plays with them, laughing as the cannons react to his every move.

Image: Disney

Then, he hocks a loogie and spits on them (and the guests below). The cannons short circuit and send a power surge through the room, filling it with fog and loud crackling electricity. Stitch laughs darkly as lights flicker on and off, revealing that he's inexplicably disappeared from the central pedestal and escaped into the room. 

So far, Stitch's Great Escape has closely followed the storyline of Alien Encounter, albeit in a much more flippant, less atmospheric tone. The rest of the attraction will do the same, as from here on out, almost everything you see, hear, feel, and smell will be tricks of the dark. In pitch-black darkness, 3D sound and special effects built into the over-the-shoulder restraint will make you feel as if Stitch is terrorizing you. And while the former alien might've been a bloodthirsty, indescribable Martian menace, Stitch may be worse.

First, he decides to bound around the room, hopping across people's restraints. What that means is that, in pitch black darkness, pneumatic pistons slam your restraints down against your shoulders to give the impression that Stitch is bouncing across the room. Then, through the magic of 3D sound, Stitch eats a chili dog and burps in your face, with the sickening smell of coney sauce literally blasting you. While it's summarized quickly, know that this process takes place in four or five minutes of literal can't-see-a-hand-in-front-of-your-face darkness.

Finally, the laser cannons power back on as Stitch hides in the crowd, tricking the lasers into firing on guests, with blasts of fog erupting at guests' feet. It's mayhem, and not quite in the fun way. At the last moment, Stitch is recaptured in the center of the room and hastily teleporated away. His destination? "Flor-ee-duh." The screens illuminate again, this time showing Stitch climbing across Cinderella Castle and then leaping toward the screen and licking it. And... that's it!

Afterward

Maybe it occurs to you that Stitch's Great Escape lacks the brilliance, creativity, nuance, or emotional impact and foreboding of Alien Encounter. Despite its efforts (and trust us, it really, really tries), the attraction isn't funny or, really, even fun. If you can imagine, guests just brace themselves for the next horrible thing – being spat on, burped on, or slammed with over the shoulder restraints. It's really not clever or creative. In fact, it's sort of dreadful.

Sure, fans of Stitch would be glad to finally see him "in person," and we happily concede that the Stitch Audio-Animatronic itself is an impressive feat of Imagineering. The Stitch figure even earned a spot on our fantastic countdown of the best Animatronics on Earth, and we don't regret it! But make no mistake: Stitch's Great Escape as a whole is a nightmare.

In fact, about the only thing is succeeds at (and only mildly) is taking as much of Alien Encounter as it could and creating something less outwardly offensive. That said, we'd argue that Stitch's Great Escape really is no more family friendly than the bloodthirsty predecessor. Why? We break down the innumerable problems with Disney's "worst attraction ever" on the last page. Read on...

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There are 25 comments.

As someone who has done both attractions, i think stitch is 100 times better than Alien ever was.

Furthermore, your ascertation that this attraction appeals to no age group is an assumption at best n based on opinion. I see no survey data nor snippets stating unbiased individual opinions of said attraction.
As someone whom has written for established news papers before, a good journalist knows how to write an article without interjecting opinion(which is highly evident throughout the article).
Maybe in thr future actusl numerical compilation can be done to show ridership of an attraction to support basis of claim. Or maybe solicit others opinions n post them to support the basis of an article.

Just my opinion as someone whom has been published in the past.

I don't know that I ever broadcast any entries in this series as entirely, objectively journalistic. In fact, I continuously denote that they're in-depth stories behind beloved-and-lost attractions or disastrous misses! From the start, a series called "Lost Legends" or "Designing Disasters" should hint that the contents are hardly objective! In fact, they're subjective deep-dives that intentionally ask for people to share their memories, experiences, and stories. The point is to look critically and creatively at these attractions and preserve the experiences for future generations through storytelling (mine and yours in the comments), not to save their data or their scientific survey results.

I don't *have* survey data to tell me that the attraction is too juvenile for pre-teens and too scary for anyone younger; frankly, I don't need it! My "ascertation" is shared by many. The attraction's odd tone is a result of its odd history as chronicled here, and that's part of its intriguing origin story that I hope I captured! An overwhelming majority Disney Parks fans agree that Stitch's Great Escape is simply not a good attraction, as evidenced by stories, comments, data, ratings, and anecdotal evidence preserved here and across the internet and parks. While some people appreciate it (and I have absolute respect for those people), it's largely agreed upon that it's a mess.

I maintain that this article – and each entry in the rest of my extensive collection here! – is a thoughtful, well-researched, well-written piece that generates critical thinking, conversation, appreciation for detail, and an idea of the "big picture" that shaped these attractions. The purpose of these Designing Disaster and Lost Legends articles is to spark discussion and bring varying opinions to the table, and I sincerely enjoy that! But as a "good journalist" who's written for established newspapers before, I'm sure you realize the value of storytelling. I don't believe I need "thr future actusl numerical compilation ... to support basis of claim." Instead, I tell the story as I know it and let everyone here fill in the blanks and tell their stories. Thanks for the thoughts though! Hoping I'll be published one day, too. ;P

I'm 0/2 on these stories, this is my favorite Tomorrowland ride...and I loved Under New Management. I guess my Disney taste is just bad...

Takes all kinds...! Maybe we'll end up with an entry that you can agree with. Can you think of any "disastrous" attractions past or present? I've got a few more I'm thinking of...

I liked Under New Management better too!

My guess is Disney only out stitch in place of the alien because they could copy the animatronic put into the Tokyo Disneyland enchanted tiki room when they added stitch there. It's the same basic audio animatronic.

Young kids today haven't been exposed to Lilo & Stitch, and there were far more popular IPs that Miillenials and older folks remember. its time to do something else with the building. Heck, tears it down entirely and mak8ng a wider walkway would be more welcome than what is there now!

I hate this attraction. I loved Alien Encounter and thought it was groundbreaking. Meanwhile, Stich comes along and ruins a lot of good things. I agree, I hate that Tomorrowland has turned into Pixarland and it's gotten away from what it was. I wasn't too thrilled with the redo initially but it grew on me. I'll always have that nostalgic spot in my heart for the gleaming white buildings and straight lines. However, Stich is horrible and needs to be removed. If they want something more risqué, why not put something more in line with exploration gone wrong or something? Like the ship that would take you to Horizons, make that something or make a Time Travel based attraction or something that travels to the Center of the Earth. They could even put in a new ride system like the omnimover and make something there. The options are limitless, just like the imagination.

You hash over again and again how GREAT alien encounter was, but it was awful. It was painful and uncomfortable just like the stitch ride is. That's what makes the ride bad. The design of the ride itself, where you're locked in to uncomfortable restraints and bothered until mercifully the ride ends. The reality is both rides are bad. They should save that stitch animatronic and repurpose him though. He's fabulous.

This ride basically ruined the whole trip for us in 2014. My then 5 year old wanted to go on it, and I took him, not remembering how awful it was.

He was terrified and crying hysterically and refused to go on any other ride in the park. Refused! Wouldn't do Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh, Dumbo. Wouldn't even ride the train.

Even now at 7 he still hesitates getting on dark rides.

Oh, and bonus, he won't watch Lili and Stich.

Okay, hold tight guys,
I just went last month and made sure to ride it A) because I'm a sound guy and wanted to check out the binaural design and B) in tribute to Alien Encounter, which I loved - it blew me away as a kid. But every step of the way through Stitch made me sad and unmagically nostalgic.
Some defense for Alien Encounter's closure: originally (and probably this should continue) Tomorrowland was a hopeful and hope filled place where hard work, technology, and innovation promised guests a great big beautiful tomorrow. Alien Encounter did not fit that hopeful mold (a mold I love), but then again, New Tomorrowland didn't fit it either. New Tomorrowland, with its ageless, sci-fi feel could now house the attitudes of classic films like Alien and Blade Runner, with cautionary tales of the world to come, of corruption, selfishness, greed, etc. And if you're making a sci-fi world, those are fairly consistent themes (from Metropolis to Janelle Monae). And though those themes can prompt thoughtful change, they aren't Walt's optimism. Do we keep them or nay?
Okay, but then what on earth does Stitch have to say about anything? It's not bleak; it's not hopeful. Like the article says, it doesn't fit the New Tomorrowland world - and it sure as heck doesn't fit former iterations either. And honestly, I'd much rather have a dark warning than a narrative nil. It's just kind of bland and there (though the big old canons look pretty cool when they move and shoot, so I guess it's not a total loss).
There are other things at play, too, like the overboard franchising (Guardians of the Galaxy also taking extra flack because it perpetuates a too-long pattern) and the pandering (acting on complaints rather than greater potential). That's a tricky business, too, though, because Disneyland isn't academia, it's entertainment, and if people aren't having fun, in the end, maybe it's wrong and needs to change. And, though I think the Tim Curry pre-show helped some, a lot of people were really upset with Alien Encounter, so that gives a clue that something might need a fix.
In the end, heck yeah, bring it to Disneyland. We would take such good care of it. And our Tomorrowland desperately needs some life. (Rides aside, I couldn't take my eyes off the life of Florida's Tomorrowland, especially at night.) The fans would cheer. Bring it here.

I would have to submit that the attraction in Disney's California Adventure: Superstar Limo was one of the worst disasters. Nicknamed "Stupid Star Lamo", it didn't last long and its replacement "Mike and Sully to the Rescue" was a welcome relief!

Good thought, Mel! I think you'll see a Superstar Limo entry in this series before too long... What a mess.

Great article! Only 1 thing to add. STOP BUYING STITCH PLUSH! The reason this attraction goes on and on is the gift shop. If we all band together and stop buying the cuddly version of Experiment 626 Disney will close down the doors to his Great Escape. Together we can get a new attraction in this spot!

Thank you so much, for making me miss Alien Encounter even more, what a great attraction that was. I LOATHE the Stitch replacement, its always a 'must skip'.

I can't agree with this article enough. Not only was Stitch a woeful replacement for Alien Encounter, I completely agree with the writer's comments about the removal of the overall storyline of Tomorrowland. When riding the Peoplemover, the most recently updated spiel doesn't include us as participants in a space-city of the future; instead, it is a commercial for all of the neat attractions in this area of Magic Kingdom. I don't feel 'transported' anywhere. Disney had a great thing going in Tomorrowland, and I am glad that I am old enough to remember when it was indeed a 'Tomorrowland'. It's sad that so many will never experience that one.

I could not agree more with you about how bad this ride is. I was so disappointed the first time we rode it, as Disney Channel was talking about it often and I was excited for a good Tomorrowland ride. After that we'd go to ride it i'd dread the darn coney dog smell effect. Now you walk into the ride and that is all the room smells like. Not only ruins the effect, but it's also the worst effect that's stuck in the room. I say bad idea imagineers. I will say that I was too young to ride Alien Encounter before it closed, unfortunately, but that doesn't mean those of us who didn't ride it don't know how bad this ride is. Also this article was interesting because it's the first time I have heard any good things about Alien Encounter. I enjoy these articles, especially loved the tiki room one. I have to say about that though, that some 90's kids also hated the new one, not all of us liked it. My family celebrated it's symbolic end and were praying for the return of the original. We even mourned the song cuts in Disneyland.

Yes, and yes! My husband and I rode Alien Encounter on our honeymoon and LOVED it! I do agree that The Magic Kingdom probably wasn't the right place for it, but it was still amazing. We rode it multiple times, and couldn't wait to tell others about it. It was new, innovative and truly scary. When we went back to WDW in 2007 with our kids, it had been replaced by Stitch's Great Escape, and we couldn't have been more disappointed. I can't stand the bodily function humor of that time, and neither can my kids. We had built up this amazing ride, and they were so bummed that it was not only different, but a complete waste of time!

But why is it still there? You didn't tell us!

Agreed! The ride may be pretty bad, but why then is it still operating?
My guess is that it has a lot to do with the small size of the ride. Stitch has the pre-ride room with Sarge and Skippy, the main showroom with Stitch, and... that's all! Fitting a new attraction into the small space would be difficult to do, and expanding the ride would mean removing the souvenir shops or Cosmic Ray's cafe. The building is in the interior of the park, so renovation would be difficult and there's no room to expand the building. There's also the low cost to operate the ride to consider - there's no track system or ride cars, and only a handful of animatronics and screens to maintain.

A rumor just came out this week that Stitch might be replaced with a Wreck-It Ralph attraction. Although I'm not sure how that fits in Tomorrowland....

My family just got back from Disney World and we rode Stitch. It was awful. Even my 5 and 8 year olds hated it. Neither were scared by any of it. My 8 year old said, "she didn't get it." Neither of my kids have ever been lilo and stitch fans. Time to ditch this ride. If Eisner wants to make Magic Kingdom less babyish, he's going the wrong way. It was too babyish for my 8 year old. She liked Epcot much better.

I agree with everything you have to say about the ride itself, but I do object to the implication that Lilo & Stitch has aged poorly. It's true that Disney has run the franchise into the ground with countless ill-advised sequels and a dubious TV spin-off, but the original film, taken by itself, still holds up as one of Disney's strongest features from the early 2000s.

Regarding the rumored replacement: Unfortunately the "sequel coming" is jettisoning the "retro game" thing in favor of the Internet and even calling it "Ralph Breaks the Internet" (read: naming it in reference to a stupid meme we all should have just long forgotten by now). Which answers the comment on how "Wreck-It Ralph" would fit into Tomorrowland, though the Internet being this cool new thing and a "world" unto itself is late-90s-mid-2000s dated territory if you ask me.

I went on this ride in 2009 when I was 16. I was at the age where I can appreciate the work that went into animatronics, themes, and tech that went into each attraction. We did Stitch once. Just once. We did under new management once. Iago was ugly as all hell, Zazu looked much better but I was a huge fan of the Tiki Room in Disneyland and hated the corporate feel to Under New Management. Now Stitch was a weird one. I loved the theme, thought it was downright adorable. Hated the animation used for the ride, felt like the robot was out of place horribly since we see no robots in the Lilo and Stitch franchise at all. Thought the story of the ride was actually horrible. How'd Gantu forget about stitch? This clearly doesn't take place before the movie starts because he calls himself Stitch at the end of the ride right before he's transported to earth. Gantu wouldn't underestimate Stitch in the movie when he's in lockdown at the start after seeing what he did in the holding cell. It fit so horribly. That's my biggest problem with it. At least Star Tours just took place in the same universe and didn't say "Oh yeah and Quigon is driving the ship even though he's dead."

After all of that I wanted to ride it again. Why? Because the tech used in the ride was interesting to look at. I wasn't uncomfortable sitting in the ride, the pressing down of the harness doesn't hurt as much as someone his size actually standing on your shoulders like I've actually done with my young siblings. The jokes were childish but I was like "Oh this is for little kids." But you do make a very good point. The darkness isn't for little kids and my brother at the time still slept with a nightlight on. He didn't like it much and same with the rest of my family. I just wanted to see the Stitch animatronic again. Tokyo Disney did much better with putting Stitch in a pre-existing ride. I really liked what they did with it, there was actual passion that went into redoing Tiki Room with Stitch ruining the ride on purpose, it embraces what people actually liked about Lilo and Stitch and it was the modern Hawaiian culture mixed with a little bit of tradition, then a little bit of Stitch messing around and ruining everything. So I'm not against stitch in any way, I just find what we got versus what other places got is unfair. I was actually upset that other places got amazing technology put into their rides, mystic manor, shanghai pirates, etc, and what we got for our first trackless ride and remaking of pirates was a Ho-down and removing the wenches being sold off and removing my favorite parts of the ride, removing the oldman echoing through the caverns and putting in davy jones and now we don't hear the captain auctioning off the women. I loved those voices. We aren't doing well as far as our rides go in the states, we need the help of the imagineers who worked in the overseas parks.

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