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Recent updates and expansions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland have clarified The Walt Disney Company’s current position on their theme parks. No attraction is too sacred to guarantee its existence. If The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror isn’t safe, nothing is. Park planners are casting a critical eye toward the various rides, noting which ones lack the traffic befitting the resources required to maintain their operation. No matter how much you might love a piece of Disney lore, it might not be long for the parks if it’s not selling well enough to justify the cost of upkeep. Here are a few Disney theme park attractions that are possibly at death’s door.  

Tom Sawyer Island

Image: DisneyLet’s start the list with a shocker. By now, you are probably aware that Disneyland has altered their venerable attraction twice since 2007. First, they introduced elements of Pirates of the Caribbean and now they’re performing updates to reduce the size of the land, thereby providing more space to the impending Star Wars Land.

When Disney strategists plan changes like this, something simple drives their decisions: a series of questions. How popular is the attraction? How much does it cost to maintain on a daily, weekly, and annual basis? How large a footprint does it require within the park? If they removed it, would something undeniably better become the replacement?

Image: DisneyTom Sawyer Island at Disneyland has survived two recent evaluations under these conditions. Yes, it lost some space and yes, it required new theming to tie in the more established Pirates of the Caribbean brand. It still survived, though. At Magic Kingdom, the situation isn’t as finite. Since this park didn’t open until 16 years after Disneyland, it doesn’t have the same pressure to maintain opening day classics from the Happiest Place on Earth. We already witnessed this with Snow White’s Scary Adventures, which Disney shuttered during the construction of New Fantasyland.

In recent years, plenty of speculation has involved the current space of Tom Sawyer Island. A boardwalk linking Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to The Haunted Mansion would solve a lot of current congestion problems. And an E Ticket attraction at the current position of Tom Sawyer Island would go a long way toward revitalizing an area that’s just sort of there right now. Such a change makes sense given that Tom Sawyer Island has slipped in popularity. Kids today just don’t care about it the way that they did decades ago. Plus, that whole area is kind of nasty. Disney could turn a blight into a New Frontierland, and this change seems likely over the next few years.

Tomorrowland Speedway

Image: DisneyHave you ever looked at an overhead view of Magic Kingdom?  For that matter, have you ever studied a regular Magic Kingdom map? Tomorrowland Speedway takes up nearly as much land as the Peoplemover, Space Mountain, the Carousel of Progress and the Astro Orbiter, combined

What does Disney get for that space? Well, they offer one of the golden age attractions. Autopia was once so popular at Disneyland that three different versions of it existed at various parts of the park. Walt Disney understood that kids loved the idea of driving, the ultimate symbol of adulthood. He empowered them with innumerable opportunities to do so. To a certain extent, the merchandise appeal of Cars reinforces how prescient Uncle Walt was in evaluating the inner workings of a child’s mind. Clearly, driving simulations have a place in Disney folklore and at theme parks. Is Tomorrowland Speedway the best use of that space, though?

Image via Flickr user danxoneilImage: Flickr (license)

My answer is definitely no. Tomorrowland as a themed land has lost its way a bit in recent years. That’s because the park of tomorrow’s signature attractions hasn’t changed much during the 21st century. Disney needs to add something that will remind guests that its rides are historically always on the cutting edge. The one that springs into my mind from a foreign land is TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland. It’s the perfect example of a quasi-futuristic ride done right.

An attraction like that would fundamentally alter the current perception of Tomorrowland. Currently, it seems trapped at a single moment in time. Adding a Lightcycle attraction will also provide a kind of driving experience to kids, although the difference in height requirements (2’8” versus 4’) would mean they’d have to wait a few more years.

Image: Disney

Finally, if you disagree about the change, consider something else from the Disney park planner’s perspective. The throughput on Tomorrowland Speedway is surprisingly weak. Research suggests that it’s capable of servicing only 6,300 guests during a 14-hour park day. Even Magic Carpets of Aladdin beats that! Many major attractions at Magic Kingdom double it. Tomorrowland Speedway is the blueprint example of taking up too much space AND having a low guest throughput.

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Comments

I agree with closing most of these. However I do like Mission Space, but they could re-theme that with Guardians of the Galaxy and maybe put Tron where Ellens Energy Adventure is. This would leave the Magic Kingdom with room to grow.

1) - Tom Sawyer Island: Unless Disney plans to turn the Magic Kingdom into 'just another concrete paved thrill park' (please DON'T!), it needs some quieter shaded areas for people to cool down and relax a bit. Revise, refresh, clean up as needed, but keep it. Too many kids today don't have space to just run & explore.

2) Tomorrowland Speedway: certainly past its prime as it is, but who wouldn't want to see a Cars Land in DisneyWorld??

3) Mission: Space: probably time to go.

4) Stitch’s Great Escape!: DEFINITELY time to go.

5) Ellen’s Energy Adventure: part the problem here is what does Disney want Epcot overall to be? Do they still want it to be (at least partially) educational? If so, then I think *something* about energy should remain, as meeting our energy needs is one of our greatest challenges. Maybe use the space (in part) as kiosks educating about energy use (how much gas do you consume in your life time driving 1 type of car vs another, etc.....????

I'll have to disagree with you over Guardians of a Galaxy being 'wildly popular'.

The only attraction I like on here is Tom Sawyer Island, and I still wouldn't be too sad to see it go.

The major thing that stuck out at me last time driving on the Tomorrowland Speedway, is that you have these loud, gas-guzzling cars with terrible steering driving around in the supposed future. If they were willing to keep the area, or even make it slightly reduced, I think they should upgrade to computer-controlled electric cars. They would recharge as they come into the station and hopefully upgrade the loading to increase throughput. And then while driving, get rid of the tracks but add a drive-by-wire system with software that limits the car to the track. It would only allow so much turn to an angle before it took over and moved you back in the forward direction, and if you got too close to the edge of the road it would direct you back also. This way it would be less jerky, and the kids would have greater control over the car and actually feel like they are driving, while still being safe enough to keep them on the track and also away from other cars. Heck, if they wanted to allow programmatic passing, they could let one car over take another and while it was happening control the steering so the cars don't crash. I think that would be a rather innovative driving experience.

You forget though that Disney has long insisted in doing things ON THE CHEAP! You can dream all you want about fabulous attractions that would cost about 100-200 million to build each, but, when theyre spending probably half a billion on Pandora and at least that much to add the Star Wars Lands in both parks, theyre not looking to add too many of those expenditures to a complex that is experiencing attendance problems already...the Frozen ride was cheap to retrofit, as was Soarin...You are NOT going to see Tron anytime soon (Chinese money paid for that one) or the Guardians coaster either (again, the DCA ride was a thrifty overlay, not a new ride)

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