First things first, and we have to get the unpleasantenss out of the way... You might not know exactly what DisneyQuest is, but to find out, you'll need to pay. (Disney would end up tinkering throughout the attraction's life to find out exactly what it was worth to the average vacationer, at times trying pay-per-experience [with reloadable cards] or one-price ticketing, alternatively combining DisneyQuest access with the "Water Park & More" ticketing add-on [with DisneyQuest being the "More"], then including it with Annual Passes as well.)
Already, the ticketing lobby gives a certain impression of the attraction's style. There's no denying, it's a product of the 1990s... the comical styling, exaggerated proportions, plastic textures, and faux golden busts of modern Disney characters look just right for Downtown Disney's West Side, 1998. In other words, so far so good for you and I as we visit in the opening years. (Two decades later? Meh... we'll get there soon...)
Now we get to the fun part.
DisneyQuest is five floors of interactive fun, but just as Magic Kingdom's "hub and spokes" layout pulses all guests to the park's center to radiate out into themed lands, DisneyQuest is comprised of four interactive Zones all connected to the Ventureport. And the only way to this Ventureport? Straight up in one of DisneyQuest's Cybrolators.
These elevators are built to shuttle guests from the outside world into the heart of DisneyQuest, located on the third floor of the building. Once on-board, the electricity shortcircuits as projections turn our elevator into a skyward ride with the Genie from Aladdin (voiced again by Robin Williams). As the elevator slows, LED stars flash inside the cabin and the doors part, opening into Ventureport.
It's a sight to behold, with the enormous chamber multiple stories tall, ringed with balconies and excited guests journeying through DisneyQuest's areas: Create Zone, Explore Zone, Replay Zone, and Score Zone. Bridges called Gateways branch off of Ventureport leading to each of the four Zones. From there, guests will scale up and down through the levels, exploring each Zone's share of DisneyQuest's 100,000 square feet and 5 stories.
1. Replay Zone
Standing beneath the cartoon observatory of Ventureport, a Gateway bridge connects to the Replay Zone, with a set of spiral stairs leading down into the realm. While two stories of the Replay Zone are filled with classic, throwback arcade consoles, the Replay Zone's most noteworthy attraction is a "ride" you won't find in any other Disney Park.
Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters is an unusual attraction, a bit like a clunky bumper car mixed with a game of dodge ball, with two guests seated in plexiglass-enclosed vehicles that can bump and ricochet across a bumper car course littered with silver balls. Driving over a ball picks it up and arms an on-board Asteroid Blaster so that the passenger can shoot the ball at other vehicles. Hitting targets causes the vehicles to lose control, spinning as their interior lights flash. Perhaps a video is the best way of seeing the ride in action.
2. Score Zone
The Score Zone is ostensibly themed to a superhero city with bright, action-packed decor. Of course, you'll have to remember that Disney doesn't have the rights to any of those big-name super heroes. DC's heroes (like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman) are owned by Time Warner and thus licensed exclusively to their Six Flags parks; Marvel, meanwhile, just signed a huge contract with Disney's competitor, Universal, giving them exclusive rights to the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, and Spider-Man east of the Mississippi River, all to power their new park and its headlining Modern Marvel: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
As a result, DisneyQuest's heroes for the Score Zone were all designed in-house, though they're believable enough to make you imagine they could have their own comic book series.
One of the Zone's highlights has to be Ride the Comix, a truly cutting-edge Virtual Reality (VR) experience where we get to put on unimaginable VR headsets to find ourselves suddenly looking into a digital superhero world. Armed with a laser sword, this unthinkable experience is stunning and unbelievable. Who could've ever thought that this technology would exist, much less that you could hold it in your own hands and try it!
“The idea at DisneyQuest was to use absolutely cutting-edge technology and hide it as deeply as possible,” said Larry Gertz, the executive show producer for DisneyQuest. In other words, Disney's attempt was to mask the cutting-edge technology powering DisneyQuest's experiences.
The other headliner might seem an odd fit, but Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam is still fun to watch. In this live-action game, players standing on pucks lean and manipulate their tiltable platform to move a corresponding "pinball" on a digital screen, aiming to earn points and bounce fellow "pinballs" around the board. Admittedly fairly unintelligible, the game is perhaps best understood by seeing a video, here.
On the very top floor of the Score Zone is also where you'll find INVASION!: An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.
Another immersive attraction casts us as defenders, rescuing colonists from the threat of a bloodthirsy alien race. The digital animation that powers this attraction looks a few steps ahead of the graphics we're using to on our PlayStations at home, and that's impressive enough! For Disney fans, though, the real draw to this attraction is its connection to a fan-favorite Lost Legend: The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. In that in-depth feature, we chronicled the full story and experience of Disney's scariest attraction ever. (While INVASION! doesn't quite meet its predecessor, it did outlive it.)
3. Create Zone
While the Score and Replay Zones both have a signature attraction or two, they ultimately amount to nothing more than arcades. But returning to the Ventureport and crossing the Gateway into the Create Zone, you'll begin to find more of the cutting edge, interactive, creativity DisneyQuest would like to be known for.
The Create Zone was developed at just the right time to merge creativity and technology, with surprising digital displays that are absolutely astounding. Sure, you can follow along with a Disney animator and sketch your own favorite Disney character over at the Disney-MGM Studios, but only at DisneyQuest's Animation Academy can you do it all on digital screens! The touch-activated screens look and feel like something out of Carousel of Progress' finale, and for just a few dollars more DisneyQuest's Cast Members will print off your digital drawing to take home!
The Radio Disney SongMaker similarly allows us to assemble audio tracks by sampling instruments, voices, sounds, special effects, and riffs from thousands of popular songs. Who could ever foresee a day when the ability to easily and intuitively edit audio tracks could be within our reach? And yet, billions of potential combinations await. Naturally, you'll want to purchase an audio CD of your creation to take home.
If you sympathized with Sid in Disney - Pixar's new Toy Story and how he maniacally combined toy parts to create monstrosities, you can try it yourself with Sid's Create-a-Toy, digitally clicking and dragging parts to create your own Franken-figure. Again, a picture of your design is available for an additional fee. The same is true with Living Easels and Magic Mirrors where digital effects can bring your reflection to life.
But by far the Create Zone's anchor is the fabled Cyberspace Mountain. This one-of-a-kind attraction is truly a marvel. Set at a design studio computer, we're able to design our own digital roller coaster by combining and simulating digital track pieces on a screen. All the fun of a first-person Roller Coaster Tycoon free-for-all, designing is only half the fun. As perhaps DisneyQuest's signature attraction, we can then bring our digital design along with us to a ride simulator.
These real motion-based simulator pods (not unlike a mini version of MGM's Lost Legend: STAR TOURS) really do weave, roll, and twist (even through real inversions!) as they bring your roller coaster to stunning life. You can see an on-ride video here, and what the simulator pod is actually doing here.
Now, on the next page, let's tackle the final of DisneyQuest's realms – the Explore Zone – and start to unravel why this unusual and creative concept began to disintegrate before our very eyes...