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

6. "This might be a little too lofty for us..."

Image: Disney

CASE STUDY: Spaceship Earth

Before the 1982 opening of EPCOT Center, a trip to "Disney" meant princesses, pirates, castles, and cartoon characters. But EPCOT Center was meant to be something more. Purposefully devoid of Disney characters, the park was intellectual and educational, focused on the realities of American industry and the optimism of what the 21st century could hold. Future World's pavilions – each dedicated to an area of science and industry – featured at least one headlining dark ride through human history.

Of them all, Spaceship Earth is one of the only ones to remain. A timeless exploration of communication from the stone age to the digital age, the ride is a masterwork of Imagineering. But that doesn't mean Disney would build it from scratch today... As a matter of fact, Epcot's new direction (a mix of cutting edge thrill rides, character invasions, and outdated leftovers) seems to show that Disney isn't quite sure what this park should be at all. But one direction they aren't going in? Lengthy, epic, educational dark rides through human history.

Image: Disney

That's not to say that the age of outstanding Disney dark rides is over. Just that, in rethinking Epcot, Disney seems to have decided that guests come to Disney World to forget reality, not be reminded of it. Pop culture labeled Epcot as the park kids dreaded "wasting" a day at... and Disney likely isn't eager to return the park to that state any time soon, for better or worse.

OTHER EXAMPLES: It's nearly impossible to imagine rides like World of Motion, The Living Seas, or Horizons today. Lofty, ambitious, educational, and historic, these slow-moving dark rides inspired a generation, but were quickly abandoned as Epcot reoriented. Would Disney ever be interested in a 40-minute dark ride through the origin of fossil fuels? Unlikely... 

7. "Kids don't know who this is..."

Image: Disney

CASE STUDY: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

For all fans complain about the influx of intellectual property in Disney Parks, the truth is that it's been happening since Disneyland's opening day! Not only did the park host 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Lone Ranger, Davy Crockett, and Tom Sawyer (all iconic heroes in the day), it also hosted the original dark rides of Fantasyland, themed to Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the unlikely Mr. Toad from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Now, make no mistake – Walt didn't choose Mr. Toad simply because there was no one else to feature. Even in 1955, Disney had already released such classics as BambiCinderellaPinocchio, and Alice in Wonderland. Yet, Mr. Toad was selected over them all to receive a dark ride! 

Image: Disney

In the U.S. parks today, the only thing less likely than Disney approving a ride based on original characters is Disney approving a ride based on little known characters. While allusions to Oswald, Humphrey the Bear, and Clarabelle are scattered around as Easter eggs, it seems highly unlikely that Mr. Toad would ever have been given real estate in Fantasyland today.

OTHER EXAMPLES: But then, if Fantasyland were being built for the first time today, do you really think Peter Pan would've made the cut? Snow White? Even Winnie the Pooh! Built from scratch, the land would probably look like Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland, with Tangled and Frozen added in. 

8. "I don't think there's a great way to market this.... Is it what people visit for?"

Image: Disney

CASE STUDY: The Enchanted Tiki Room

Now, granted, the Modern Marvel: Enchanted Tiki Room was an E-Ticket when it opened in 1963, dazzling audiences of the era with its incredible technology and the exceptional songwriting of the Sherman Brothers. While it remains one of the most integral and sensational attractions at Disneyland, it's... well... difficult to imagine that Disney would bother adding it today.

It's not just that the era of singalong Audio-Animatroncis shows is over, or that the attraction relies on the careful character work of Imagineer Marc Davis... it's that the Enchanted Tiki Room isn't marketable. Why? Well... all of the reasons above. There's no tie-in to a blockbuster hit; no built-in allegiance from kids; it's got no Disney characters, too many animatronics, and its too simple to match the draw of modern thrills.

OTHER EXAMPLES: As beloved as they may be, it would be hard to convince fans that today's Disney would bring Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, or Journey into Imagination to life... While each is absolutely essential in the role it plays (or played), they just wouldn't be seen as marketable new additions today. 

But maybe that's the takeaway – left only to today's devices, Disney Parks would probably be very different places... and inarguably, that version of any Disney Park wouldn't be as well-rounded, as full, or as friendly. When you look to more modern-built parks, they're seemingly stocked only with IP-influenced E-Tickets and lacking family asides, hidden gems, and the original experiences that bring Disney Parks to life. Part of Disney's strength is in the 60+ year history of their parks, allowing rides that probably wouldn't be approved today to nonetheless exist! And that balance is something we should truly appreciate.
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