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8 Classic Disney Rides That Would NEVER Be Built Today... and Why.

3. "Could we use Guardians of the Galaxy instead?"

Image: Disney

CASE STUDY: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The insinuation here may be a little too on-the-nose for fans of Disney California Adventure, that park’s billion-dollar re-do, and the Lost Legend: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror toppled shortly thereafter… but the truth of the matter is that The Walt Disney Company has spent a spectacular sum of money on acquisitions in the last 30 years. Sure, in CEO Michael Eisner's time, Disney gobbled up ABC, ESPN, and The Muppets, diversifying into a true international media company... Even still, “Disney” was a tarnished brand in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which is why Eisner had to lean on MGM to co-brand his Orlando movie park, Fox and Paramount to license Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and CBS to gain rights to The Twilight Zone.

Image: Disney

In the decades since his departure, his successor – Bob Iger – has spent a hundred billion dollars gathering up Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and 20th Century Fox to create one of the world’s largest media companies and strongest brands ever. Executives here would raise a great point: surely, somewhere in Disney’s original and acquired IP, there must be a fit.

Honestly, the guts of Tower of Terror seems like something Disney would and could build today – a staggering, E-Ticket thrill ride loosely based on an existing intellectual property… It’s just unlikely they’d even consider looking at an outside property if the ride was being built today.

OTHER EXAMPLES: Disney has an incredibly rich history of characters created just for the parks. We'd argue that many of those characters wouldn't exist if the attractions were being built today. Why create Journey into Imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment when the cast of Inside Out will do? Who needs The Timekeeper when you've got Mike and Sully? And why create the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter from scratch when you have Stitch? Which brings us to... 

4. "I think we can do better than this..."

Image: Lyle Scott Photography, Flickr - All rights reserved, used with permission

CASE STUDY: Superstar Limo

For all that fans may complain about today’s management in the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products division, at least we can be sure that some mistakes of the past would be unlikely to be repeated today. Take the Declassified Disaster: Superstar Limo, said by many to be the worst dark ride Disney has ever designed. The day-glo trip through comic book Los Angeles neighborhoods was packed with in-jokes and populated by ABC’s C-list “stars” of the day like Drew Carey, Jackie Chan, and Joan Rivers, all brought to life via horrific marionette-style dolls.

Image: FigmentJedi, Flickr - All rights reserved, used with permission

Today’s Disney may be obsessed with cramming flavor-of-the-week properties into the park to get the most bang for their bucks. But even in their frustrating pursuit of pulsing Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars into the parks in some short-sighted ways, Disney does tend to at least have a better long-term vision than they used to. Scaled up, it’s unlikely that Westcot would be built, even today… but it’s equally unlikely that we would’ve gotten California Adventure in its original form, either. Whether the park that did open would be better or worse probably depends on your opinion of Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.

OTHER EXAMPLES: Hopefully, Disney's recent surge in the scope and quality of projects would've stopped Stitch’s Great Escape, Journey into YOUR Imagination, Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, or the Rocket Rods before they even started. But projects like Pixar Pier and Toy Story Land serve as a reminder that even for Disney, "good" is sometimes "good enough." 

5. "Maybe we shouldn't tie our attraction to a real, living celebrity..."

Image: Disney

CASE STUDY: Captain EO

When the Lost Legend: Captain EO opened in 1986, it was the kick-off to Michael Eisner’s brave, ambitious new plan for Disney Parks: that they should feature the characters, stories, and stars that mattered to audiences of the day, even if they weren’t Disney characters. And in a post-Thriller world, no one mattered more to young people than Michael Jackson, who starred in the George Lucas / Francis Ford Coppola short film – the first Disney-Lucas team-up of many.

It goes without saying that the Captain EO we know would never be filmed today (even if Jackson were alive – he died in 2009) thanks to recently-reignited allegations about his private conduct… but we’ll take it one step further and say that Disney wouldn’t even bring the film back as a tribute today like they did from 2010 - 2015 – a move they probably regret in retrospect given what was already alleged at that time.

Image: Disney

Perhaps more importantly, though, we expect that Disney learned a valuable lesson about basing attractions on the stardom of real people… Like in the Lost Legend: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, having real public figures star in a permanent installation automatically ages the attraction, and inextricably ties your ride to that star’s rise – and sometimes, fall. But then again, has Disney learned this lesson? What would happen if heinous allegations were raised about Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy? And when Chris Pratt is 20 years older, will that make the two rides featuring his filmed character look 20 years old?

OTHER EXAMPLES: Thankfully, neither Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye, or Alex Trebek ever had a major scandal to their names... but if they had, it might've spelled the end for Ellen's Energy Adventure. Of course, maybe it's worse that they didn't. After all, it kept the '90s overlay to Epcot's Energy pavilion playing for decades, even as the real life celebrities who starred in it got older, forever aging the ride.

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