After a relatively thin decade for innovation, the 1970s, The Walt Disney Company reached new heights with the birth of Epcot. A few years later, MGM and Disney teamed up on another park that we now know as Disney's Hollywood Studios. Yes, the competition was fierce during this time. Here are the best nine Disney attractions of the 1980s.
9. World of Motion
I'll start with an honest acknowledgment. Not all Disney decades are created equally. Only two attractions from the 1970s would merit consideration on this list. Other than Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, that decade suffered from a dearth of creativity. Most of the exciting advances weren’t theme park rides.
The 1980s are entirely different. The top six attractions from this decade rival those of any other 10-year period. Ranking them is an almost impossible process, as personal preference plays a significant factor.
Keeping this in mind, I see a clear separation at the top of the list. World of Motion stands out in my memory due to its massive ride carts and upward scrolling movements. Another attraction on this list shares the same behavior, but its motion occurs in the dark. During the earliest days of Epcot, a ride that allowed me to view the other pavilions from World of Motion blew my mind.
In a way, this ride existed as a way for its sponsor, General Motors, to recreate some of the premises of the Ford Magic Skyway at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Even so, this history of transportation is, well, childish and brow-beating in hindsight. The vehicular movements notwithstanding, its innovations were more impressive in the 1960s than the 1980s.
8. Body Wars
The style of this attraction built off the brilliant design of another ride that we’ll discuss in a moment. Body Wars anchored the former Wonders of Life pavilion as a motion simulator that mimicked Fantastic Voyage’s premise.
Guests boarded a vehicle that shrunk them down in size, allowing them to view the human body from the inside. Along the way, the rider aided in a rescue mission for a brave doctor who had gotten trapped inside…someone. Body Wars starred actors you know, Elizabeth Shue and Tim Matheson, and told an interesting if familiar story. It was quite good for the era, and it’d rank much higher on this list if it’d been the first attraction to employ its ride design. I have to dock it since it mirrored another ride that had debuted almost three years before it.
7. Universe of Energy
Ellen’s Energy Adventure played its final round of Jeopardy! in 2017. It wasn’t the first attraction at the Universe of Energy, though. On Epcot’s opening date of October 1st, 1982, Universe of Energy hosted a similar albeit lesser version of the same concept.
The pavilion’s host, ExxonMobil, wanted an attraction that educated guests about the nature of fossil fuels and other forms of energy. Imagineers really stepped up with their design on this attraction, which married a movie with a dark ride.
Just like with Ellen’s Energy Adventure, guests would watch the equivalent of a corporate documentary about energy. Then, they’d enter a theater and see another film. The surprise would come minutes later when the chairs in the theater started moving, transporting guests into the past, a place filled with giant dinosaurs. It was a diorama in motion, with several close encounters of the Jurassic kind.
While Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex Trebek, and Bill Nye injected a much-needed burst of humor into the later version, the original Universe of Energy struggled to find an audience. It was just too dry for most Epcot guests. Still, the combination of two different types of theme park attractions revolutionized the industry and has had ripple effects to this day. To an extent, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! borrows the premise.