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
Let’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?
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.
up nearly as much land as the Peoplemover, Space Mountain, the Carousel of Progress and the Astro Orbiter, combined.Have 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
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?
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.
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.