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7 Times When Imagineers REALLY Blew It

2. Luigi’s Flying Tires

Image: DisneyThe only thing worse than Imagineers making a mistake is Imagineers repeating the same error. This happened with Luigi's Flying Tires. It needs some backstory, though.

During the 1960s, Walt Disney and his team completed an attraction known as Flying Saucers. It was intended as a simulation of those silly flying disc alien spaceships shown in movies and television series. The premise was that Disney would build these cyclical crafts and employ technology to make them hover. The closest comparison is an air hockey table, only guests would be the pucks on the largest such table ever built.

The problem had flaws from the beginning, as some riders were too small to control the craft. The girth of others prevented the Flying Saucers from moving. After a few years, Disneyland scrapped the ride and left it in mothballs. Imagineers despise failure, though.

After 46 years, the concept returned on Luigi’s Flying Tires. This Cars-based attraction at Disney California Adventure (DCA) shared the same underlying mechanics as Flying Saucers. Imagineers felt confident that they’d mastered the technology enough to construct the ride that Uncle Walt had wanted, the one that his team couldn’t perfect.

When Luigi's Flying Tires opened, park officials realized almost immediately that history was repeating itself. The new version had many of the same design flaws as the original. Even worse, it just wasn't any fun. Disney executives famously freaked out when they tried the ride, quickly noticing that the new tire-style ride cart had less maneuverability than the one from the 1960s.

During the first two months of the highly anticipated attraction, the best solution Disney had was to throw beach balls at other riders. And that proved super-dangerous. Several guests suffered injuries and sued the company. After less than three years, Disney gave up on this ride and repurposed it as Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. Remarkably, this wasn’t the quickest closure in the history of DCA. That dishonor belongs to…

1. Superstar Limo

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

In terms of worst Imagineering misfires, there can be only one. And the worst of the worst is unquestionably Superstar Limo, the ride that almost singlehandedly sunk the early days of Disney California Adventure.

By now, you’ve almost certainly heard about this attraction, even if you never rode it. The notoriety of Superstar Limo’s failure has taken on a life of its own. Critics rightfully wonder what everyone involved in the project was thinking.

This dark ride attempted to convince guests that they'd just arrived at Los Angeles International Airport and were now touring Hollywood. Since many Disneyland visitors had done precisely this, the thought process was recursive in theory. Again, it failed entirely in execution.

For starters, the “celebrities” on this ride are the kind that you’ll find on Celebrity Family Feud, not people you want to see. Some of the celebrity encounters were Joan Rivers, Regis Philbin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Antonio Banderas. When your biggest star is Tim Allen, you’re in trouble.

Even worse, the ride was painfully cheesy. The narration seemed written by a high school sophomore…and a C student at that. The agent was such a cliché that all attempts at immersion were doomed to fail. So was the ride. Disney shut it down after only 11 months!

While all of the attractions here represent the worst of Imagineering, Superstar Limo is something different. It’s a total failure on a scale that Disney had never experienced before and hopefully will not suffer again.

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