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8 "What Were They Thinking?" Disney Parks Mistakes We're Happy to Forget

There are plenty of fan-favorite attractions that have come and gone from Disney Parks. In fact, our Lost Legends series was compiled just for super-fans to dig into the histories of beloved closed classics... But sometimes, even Imagineering can make a mistake... a big one. No, we're not talking about regrettable rides like Stitch's Great Escape, Superstar Limo, or Journey into YOUR Imagination.

We're talking about giant eyesores, sorry icons, and big bad decisions that we just can't believe happened to begin with. Check out these eight massive features that we're glad to have seen removed in our lifetime.

1. The Sorcerer's Hat

Image: Disney

Park: Hollywood Studios
Lifetime: 2001 - 2015 (14 years)

When you step into Disney's Hollywood Studios, you find yourself transported to another place and time: the historic Golden Age of Hollywood, looking down a streetscape of neon signs and elegant art deco towers, populated by the classic cars and madcap characters who might've called Tinseltown home. With all the magic Disney can muster, you've truly stepped back to the heyday of Hollywood. And residing at the end of this idealized and lived-in Hollywood Blvd. is... a 120-foot tall, giant, blue, pointed sorcerer's hat and stylized mouse ears being held up in a tilt by a giant Mickey hand. 

The Sorcerer's Hat (based on Fantasia's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment) was built in 2001, centralizing Disney's celebration of "100 Years of Magic" – the year's promotion around what would've been Walt Disney's 100th birthday. Stepping under the hat's brim, though, you'd just find yourself in an open-air pin-trading shop. Paired with the Epcot "Icon Tower" built the year before, it means that 2000 and 2001 were an odd time when two of Disney World's four park icons were briefly overshadowed by giant Mickey hands and accessories! And like the "Icon Tower," the Hat way outlived the "celebration" it was meant to promote.

Image: Disney

Most curious of all, though, is that the hat was built directly in front of a camera-ready park icon: a recreation of Hollywood's legendary Chinese Theater, which had stodd at the end of Hollywood Blvd. since the park's 1989 opening, housing the Lost Legend: The Great Movie Ride!

What happened: The Sorcerer's Hat was removed in early 2015, restoring Hollywood Blvd.'s view toward the Chinese Theater.

2. The Sun Wheel

Image: Theme Park Tourist

Park: Disney California Adventure
Lifetime: 2001 - 2009 (7 years)

When Disneyland's second gate opened in 2001, early word from visiting guests was that the new gate wasn't worth spending a day at. We explored why in our in-depth Declassified Disaster: Disney California Adventure feature, but one of the biggest offenders? The park's ride collection. Woefully short on things to do, most of the park's modest ride count was relegated to Paradise Pier – a land meant to recreate California's seaside boardwalks (the very ones Walt designed Disneyland as an alternative to... Oops!). Even then, fans were quick to point out that those rides were "off-the-shelf" carnival rides (like yo-yo swings, a drop tower, a parachute tower, and a launched steel roller coaster), not "Disney-quality" attractions.

Looming over them all was the Sun Wheel, a 160-foot Ferris wheel with a brass, '70s-inspired smiling sunshine at its center. The Sun Wheel was symptomatic of the issues with Paradise Pier and all of California Adventure. Set in no particular time and place, but looking like a decades-old ride in a modern boardwalk, the off-the-shelf ride lacked character... literally.

Image: Disney

What happened: As part of the park's billion-dollar redesign, Paradise Pier's timeline was reset to the 1910s, with classic, pie-eyed versions of Disney characters scattered about. The Sun Wheel became Mickey's Fun Wheel, complete with a new lighting package to complement the World of Color nighttime show taking place in the lagoon at its base.

But Mickey's Fun Wheel is gone, too. Well... kind of. In 2018, the a second round of facelifts swept through the land, renaming it Pixar Pier. Mickey's Fun Wheel became the Pixar Pal-a-Round with each gondola adorned with vinyl stickers of a famous Pixar pair. However, pie-eyed Mickey still remains on the front of the wheel. 

3. The Epcot "Icon Tower"

Image: Disney

Park: Epcot
Lifetime: 1999 - 2007 (8 years)

When Disney set out to build their own, permanent World's Fair, they made sure it included a visual icon – a role filled in real World's Fairs of yesteryear by the Eiffel Tower, Unisphere, and Space Needle to name just a few. The glowing, white, elegantly symmetrical geodesic sphere of Spaceship Earth isn't just the central landmark of Epcot; it's one of the most instantly-recognizable architectural features in the country. Chances are, most Americans could identify the "golf ball" as belonging to Epcot, even if they've never experienced the spectacular dark ride it contains.

But eager to reenergize the park on the doorstep of the 21st century, Disney christened Epcot as Disney World's resident festival park, and home to the Millennium Celebration. A 257-foot tall tower was affixed to the 180-foot tall sphere with Mickey's outstretched arm, a giant magic wand emitting a glittering "2000" high above, and "pixie dust" settled onto the sphere. It's not that anything was particularly awful about the tower in isolation – but affixed to an iconic, classic, and elegant architectural marvel?

What happened: After the Millennium Celebration, the "2000" was replaced with the word "Epcot" – something akin to a neon sign over Cinderella Castle reading "Magic Kingdom." Mercifully, the awkward sign was gone by Epcot's 25th anniversary celebration in 2007.

4. Golden Space Mountain

Image: Alan Huffman, via yesterland.com

Park: Disneyland
Lifetime: 1998 - 2003 (5 years)

Imagine if you stepped into Disneyland or Magic Kingdom tomorrow only to find that the castle had been repainted yellow. That's the approximate experience that befell guests to Disneyland when, in 1998, the Modern Marvel: Space Mountain briefly swapped paint jobs with C-3PO. 

The truth is that by the mid-90s, it was well past time for Disneyland to recieve a "New Tomorrowland." Half of the land's attractions had shuttered, and the rest were looking woefully outdated. (The land hadn't recieved a facelift since 1967.) But the timing was all wrong. The recent opening of Disneyland Paris had sunk Disney's finances, and then-CEO Michael Eisner grew wary of large-scale, high-budget projects. Enter our in-depth Declassified Disaster: Rocket Rods and New Tomorrowland '98 feature that traces what happened in detail.

In short, a vastly reduced budget forced Imagineers to borrow the European-influenced "fantasy" future they'd devised for Disneyland Paris and import it to Anaheim. Maybe that would've worked if Disneyland got the Jules Verne inspired Lost Legend: Space Mountain – De la Terre a la Lune. But with practically no money to do it right, Disneyland's Space Age Tomorrowland was simply repainted in dull coppers and golds, giving a vaguely "natural," retro-future look on the outside, but with its attractions all still sci-fi on the inside.

What happened: Tomorrowland was gradually returned to white, blue, and silver beginning in 2005 as a commemoration of Disneyland's 50th anniversary.

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