Home » Not So Magical: The 5 Most Disastrous Disney Attractions Of All Time

Not So Magical: The 5 Most Disastrous Disney Attractions Of All Time

Discovery River

Disney’s Imagineers have a deserved reputation for creating some of the greatest theme park rides on the planet. When the Imagineers get it right, nobody else comes close: just look at creations such as the magnificent Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or classic dark rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean.

Even Disney, though, can’t get it right everytime. Whether through budget cuts, management interference or simply a concept that doesn’t prove quite as great in reality as it did on paper, Disney has produced a handful of attractions that performed disastrously. Most were short-lived and were soon stripped-out, while others still stand in place, a monument to the bad decisions that led to their creation. Let’s take a look at 5 Disney attractions that didn’t work out the way they were intended to.

5. The Discovery River Boats (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)

Discovery River

The Discovery River is now devoid of “taxis”.
Image: IceNineJon, Flickr

The Discovery River Boats was one of just a handful of actual rides to be featured at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on its opening day. The boats were intended to provide transportation from the Safari Village to Asia, taking in scenery that included animatronic dragons and other props from the mythical Beastly Kingdom. Unfortunately, Beastly Kingdom was never actually built – leaving guests to look at bland riverbanks. Those expecting an experience similar to the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise were very disappointed. After six months, the boats were renamed as the Discovery River Taxis, emphasising that they were intended to provide transportation and nothing else. By 1999 the attraction was once again renamed, this time as the Radio Disney River Cruises, with the boats being repainted in bright colors and Radio Disney music piped in. It proved to be just as unpopular, and the ride was closed for good.

4. The Mickey Mouse Club Circus (Disneyland)

Not long after Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt Disney experimented with an on-site circus show. Tied into the new Mickey Mouse Clubtelevision show, it saw two huge circus tents being set up on the edge of Fantasyland. Two 75-minute performances took place every day, featuring acrobats, aerialists, wild animals and Mouseketeers from the show. Unfortunately, guests hadn’t come to Disneyland to see a circus show, and it proved to be unpopular compared to Disneyland’s other attractions. A series of mishaps – including an incident in which a black panther bit the paw off another animal in front of a live audience – led to the circus being removed after just a few months.

3. Superstar Limo (Disney California Adventure)

Superstar Limo

Disney’s California Adventure was built on a relatively shoestring budget, and lacked attractions when it debuted in 2001. The park suffered from poor attendance levels and negative guest feedback – and one of its headline rides, Superstar Limo, is a perfect example of its struggles. Located in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, it was a dark ride featuring purple “stretch limo” vehicles that carried guests through a cartoon-style recreation of Hollywood. A variety of celebrities appeared in animated form, with the storyline revolving around riders becoming “Hollywood’s newest celebrity”. Superstar Limo was widely panned by guests and media alike, and was shut after less than a year in operations. It was eventually replaced in 2006 by Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue.

2. Journey into Your Imagination (Epcot)

The original version of Journey into Imagination operated at Epcot until 1998, and was one of the most popular attractions at the park. Following its closure, it was overhauled to become Journey into YOUR Imagination. This version of the ride came in for stinging criticism, and only survived for two years before it was itself replaced. It was themed around 3-D movie Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, which was also hosted in the same pavilion, and saw guests passing through numerous areas of the fictitious Imagination Institute.

Journey into Imagination

Fans of the original ride were furious. What had happened to Dreamfinder and Figment, the icons of Epcot? They demanded the characters’ return, and Disney caved. In 2001, the ride was again closed, reopening the following year as Journey into Imagination with Figment, its current incarnation. Figment received a much larger role this time around, appearing in every single show scene. The famous theme tune of the original ride, One Little Spark, was also back. But fans were just as critical of the new version – as can be seen in these reviews from TPT readers.

1. Rocket Rods (Disneyland)

Rocket Rods (2)

Image: Rabit, Wikipedia

In 1998, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland underwent a major overhaul, re-emerging as New Tomorrowland. One of the “casualties” of the project was the former PeopleMover attraction, which had been installed to offer guests an overview of the area. Its moderately-placed vehicles were replaced by the Rocket Rods, a high-speed thrill ride that operated on the same track. After boarding a 5-seat Rocket Rod, riders raced around the circuit at a much faster pace than the only WEDway vehicles. Unfortunately, the new attempt to bolt the new attraction onto the existing PeopleMover infrastructure proved to be catastrophic. The unbanked turns weren’t suited to high speeds, so the Rocket Rods had to slow down to a crawl on each bend. Tires wore out quickly, and the entire attraction was shuttered in September 2000. It’s still standing but not operating today.

What have we missed?

We’re sure you have your own views on which Disney attractions have failed to live up to the company’s high standards. Why not share them in the comments section below?