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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 as surround-sound audio gives 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!

Aftermath

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.

Image: Disney

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 must-read 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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Comments

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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