Tropical America

Listen... part of being a theme park fan is getting used to change. There's plenty of it to go around! Especially given the current push for immersive, larger-than-life "Living Lands" that recreate the often expansive worlds seen in movies, it's no surprise that before the new can move in, the old has to move out.

Today, we've collected six landmark lands and the attractions they displaced. So you tell us - how many of these E-Ticket lands are actually better than the spaces they replaced? Are there any of these lands that you'd give up to have their old self back? Let us know in the comments below!

1. Camp Minnie-Mickey or Pandora?

Image: Werner Weiss, Yesterland

When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, one of its lands was quite unlike the others. Though Africa, Asia, Discovery Island, and even Dinoland were rich, textured, thoughtful lands, Camp Minnie-Mickey was not. The land contained just two hastily-constructed theaters and character meet-and-greet huts. As the story goes, that's because designers expected that Camp Minnie-Mickey would quickly fall, making way for the park's inevitable "Phase II" expansion – potentially, a land of dragons, unicorns, and sea monsters. But... it didn't happen, and Camp Minnie-Mickey remained for an astounding 16 years.

In 2011, Disney announced that it had collaborated with filmmaker James Cameron to license the exclusive, global theme park rights to use 20th Century Fox's Avatar, and that the first product of the collaboration would be a new immersive land at Disney's Animal Kingdom. There was little question about where it would go... but for years, there's were questions about if it would happen at all. It wasn't until 2014 that Camp Minnie-Mickey finally closed.

Image: Disney

Pandora: The World of Avatar finally opened in summer 2017. Set years after the 2009 film, Pandora instead casts us as eco-tourists traveling to the distant alien moon. There, remnants of humanity's assault on the planet are now part of the Pandora Conservation Initiative's protected "Valley of Mo'ara," where humans are committed to righting their ancestors' wrongs. Our job is to marvel at Pandora's wonders, research its flora and fauna, learn from its indigenous Na'vi people's culture and cuisine, and return to Earth having learned the not-so-subtle lesson that our planet deserves the same reverence. It's an astounding land... but was it worth the loss of Camp Minnie-Mickey?

2. Amity or Diagon Alley?

Image: Werner Weiss, Yesterland.com

Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990 with a number of camera-ready "lands" recreating famous cities from around the globe: New York, San Francisco, Hollywood... One, however, wasn't a real world location, but a fictional one. Amity resembled an East Coast, Martha's Vineyard-style fishing village celebrating a perpetual 4th of July, decked out in Independence Day banners, carnival games, and wharf-side dining. On one hand, Amity lived up to its name (meaning friendliness). On the other, it had a very, very big problem – it was a recreation of the fictional town seen on screen in Jaws, as evidenced by the strung up, photo-ready shark in the town's central plaza.

Even when Universal's other classic attractions shuttered one-by-one, it seems that the park's Jaws ride – a sort of demented analog to Disney's Jungle Cruise – would live on. But after the success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the neighboring Islands of Adventure, the large real estate offered by Jaws and Amity were too valuable to be left untouched. A second "half" of the Wizarding World – Diagon Alley – took shape there, where the iconic Hogwarts Express inter-park transit could connect the two lands seamlessly through backstage facilities. 

Image: Universal / Warner Bros.

Diagon Alley is often regarded as a top contender in the current era of immersive, cinematic "Living Lands" recreating places plucked from the screen. Even more, it's considered by many to be among the best themed lands on Earth, period. But was it worth the loss of Amity? We'll let you be the judge. In any case, it's fascinating just how much Diagon Alley manages to squeeze into the Amity footprint. And more to the point, that Universal Studios Florida finally traded its land based on a fictional place for a real, global city to stand alongside New York, Hollywood, and San Francisco – London.

3. "a bug's land" or Avengers Campus?

As any theme park aficionado can tell you, Disneyland's second gate – Disney California Adventure – hasn't had it easy. When it opened in 2001, the park was widely criticized for being "too much California, not enough Disney." The park had practically no rides, practically no Disney characters, and practically nothing for families. Like magic, its first expansion – 2002's "a bug's life" – checked every box.

Image: Disney

A Bug's Land actually embraced and expanded upon the park's existing "It's Tough To Be a Bug" (a copy of the 3D film from Animal Kingdom) and added "Flik's Fun Fair" – a cozy little grove that contained four family flat rides (bumper cars, a swings ride, a spinner, and Heimlich's adorable "Chew-Chew Train") plus a splash pad, all in a shaded area reigned over by bamboo blades of grass, firefly street lamps, and giant clovers. Arguably, "a bug's land" did the whole "family land that shrinks you" gimmick more successfully that the now de-facto Toy Story Land. It remained a gentle but functional part of the park for 16 years.

Image: Disney / Marvel

In 2018, it was squashed in favor of a much, much, much bigger IP: Avengers Campus. Themed to Disney's ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise (with a record $24 billion haul as of the land's opening), Avengers Campus transforms the green, forested mini-land into a glass and steel campus of hero training facilities layered atop an old, red brick Stark Motors facility. Technically, the transition saw the park lose four rides from its ride count and only gain one in their place.

But interestingly, that ride – Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure – means that the old "It's Tough To be a Bug" theater is still bug-themed! Speaking of interest parallels between old and new, our list continues on the next page...


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