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DIRTY DISNEY: 6 Rides That Look WORSE After Refurbishments!

4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Image: Disney

Though the Haunted Mansion may have been the first Disney attraction designed for dirt, it wasn't the last. The spectacular Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 1994. Considered by some to be the best attraction Imagineers have ever designed, the ride tells the story of the historically haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel – a "beacon for the showbusiness elite" back in the Hollywood's heyday that was quickly abandoned when a supernatural storm in 1939 caused a wing of the hotel to flicker out of existence and evaporated an elevator with five passengers inside.

Image: Disney

Unlike the Haunted Mansion, the Hollywood Tower Hotel itself tells us quite a bit about what happened: the looming, neo-classical hotel of twisted turrets and pointed spires is scary enough, to say nothing of its flickering neon sign and the lightning-scarred exterior with half of the hotel crumbled away into the ether. Inside the lobby, dusty remnants of the last guests' final moments inside are still there, locked in dust. The hotel's eerie library leads to a steaming boiler room, humming with effort, but caked in a layer of coal dust. 

Like the Haunted Mansion, the Hollywood Tower Hotel looks a little different than other Disney rides. The more cobwebs, the more creeps the ride gives, and when the ride is refurbished, it comes out the other side looking older, spookier, and eerier than before.

5) Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

Image: Disney

In 2017, Disney made the surprising and arguably somewhat short-sighted decision to close the Lost Legend: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that had seemed a perfect fit for Disney California Adventure park, its Hollywood Land, and the billion-dollars Disney spent to get rid of the park's modern styling and create a historic California. The uniquely art-deco stylized version of the hotel (looking quite different from its Floridian sister) was... well... changed. Even fervent fans of the super hero themed ride tend to agree that the transformation time between the two was a little too short, mostly amounting to the still-art-deco, still-hotel-shaped building being painted in warning stripes with satellite dishes and massive metal tubes being bolted haphazardly to the exterior. 

It neither looks like the Collector's fortress we saw in the films, nor does it make sense in the context of the park... but if you ask the Imagineer responsible, Joe Rohde (otherwise known for the masterfully-designed and thoughtfully-curated Animal Kingdom), it's all part of the fun – matching the irreverent and outrageous Guardians of the Galaxy characters.

Image: Disney / Marvel

While we'd be willing to debate that, one element of the former Hollywood Tower Hotel that remains is its cluttered interior. Imagineers literally stripped the theming from the hotel leaving the industrial steel that was holding it all up, then painted it black. They removed the 1930s memorobilia and replaced it with cages containing intergalactic creatures, cases of Marvel Cinematic Universe artifacts, and tons of "Easter eggs" for Disney Parks fans, including props from the Lost Legends: Country Bear Jamboree, Journey into Imagination, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, and more that have somehow made it into the archives of the enigmatic "Collector" character who oversees this "warehouse prison powerplant."

Image: Disney

In fact, each time the attraction is closed for a refurbishment, it tends to re-open with new aliens and artifacts in its collection, which gives guests a reason to return. But if you really want to see Disney get it dirty, watch what happens at Halloween. Ride during the day and, as usual, you'll help Rocket break his friends out by powering down the tower's energy systems and – oops – releasing all the trapped creatures. Come back at night and things are... well... messy. The ride is changed to Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark literally taking place "after dark" inside the tower with the monsters all loose thanks to your daytime ride. The entire experience is completely re-designed to add incredible chaos to the queue and ride, including blood-spattered Cast Member costumes you (not to mention Walt) probably never thought you'd see at a Disney Park.

6) Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run

Image: Disney

For guests lucky enough to have stepped into Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the new, massive land at Disneyland (and soon, Disney's Hollywood Studios) has become a topic worthy of a dissertation. One thing Californian visitors can't seem to shake? It feels weird to have the massive Star Wars land against the park's much smaller, much leaner, and much simpler lands of old. The reason seems to be that Galaxy's Edge is... well... less polished.

Galaxy's Edge takes place in a remote trading village on the planet of Batuu. According to the story, Black Spire Outpost was once a bustling intergalactic port on the edge of wild space, but has long since been passed over thanks to lightspeed travel. (Sound familiar?) As a result, the land is a sort of dusty, outdated, crumbling village nestled in the shadows of the mammoth petrified tree spires that dot the planet. It feels ancient and neglected... Somewhat like if Cars Land was set before the blacktop and neon signs were fixed. In fact, Batuu feels like it could be a World Showcase pavilion – a hyper-realistic north African marketplace – if it weren't for the space ships. And it's wonderful! But it's also very different from the park's other lands, which are all diminuitive, charming, broadly pop-cultural / literary, and passed through a rosy lens of fantasy.

Image: Disney

In any case, the aesthetic naturally follows to the land's supporting ride, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run. The gaming-simulator puts guests behind the controls of the "fasted hunk of junk in the galaxy" while it's docked on Batuu undergoing repairs. Guests tour through the queue of the repair shop run by Hondo Onaka, seeing scrap parts and broken down ships all around – part of Star Wars' signature aesthetic. Even during the ride, the Falcon is beaten senseless (by you! Oops!) slamming into spires, ships, and other obstacles. If you perform poorly enough (which most guests do) you not only get yelled at by Hondo and potentially threatened by a Black Spire bounty hunter out in the land, but you also get to exit the Falcon by way of a sparking tunnel of flickering lights thanks to the damage you caused.

Some people love Smuggler's Run, while others don't seem to buy into the gaming-engine-based ride, its reliance on strangers to determine your experience (sure to be made even more difficult at Walt Disney World, which has significantly more visitors from non-English-speaking countries), and the ability to essentially "lose." Whether you like the ride's (and land's) less polished, grittier style or not, the land's anchor E-Ticket – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – will take place off of Batuu and largely be wrapped in the sharper, cleaner, and less "dirty" aesthetic of the First Order.

Disney dirt

Image: Disney

This list barely scratches the surface of attractions at Disney Parks that actually benefit from looking old, ragged, run-down, or lived-in.

Next time you step into the lived-in villages of Africa and Asia at Disney's Animal Kingdom, consider the centuries of storytelling backed into those environments that make them feel like real places; think of how nature is overtaking the former military facilities on Pandora; the gritty, dip-splattered streets of Toontown we explore on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin; the elegant, Victorian, steampunk brass paradise of Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland; the rusted mines of Big Thunder Mountain...

While Disney is renowed for its cleanliness, order, and perfectly maintained environments, sometimes a little mess is part of those environments. Which means that not only does no one keep a park clean like Disney; no one makes a mess like Disney, either!

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