Sometimes maintenance of an attraction is too costly to keep it going (20K Leagues Under The Sea); sometimes something huge and exciting is slated to take its place (we’re looking at you, Diagon Alley!); and sometimes the people in charge just think an update is in order (we’re so sorry, Figment!). Whatever the reason, change is often good. Except when it’s not.
Here are six “lost moments” guests miss the most:
6) Discovery Island: Yes, there is still a “Discovery Island,” but no, it isn’t the original. Before Animal Kingdom
stole repurposed the name for the area around the Tree of Life, Discovery Island was a real island, situated in the middle of Bay Lake. It had both wild and tame birds, a cute little critter show, and in the heat of summer it smelled like the depths of hell. It’s still there, of course (what with being an island and all), and you’ve probably seen it a billion times if you’ve ever been on or near the waterway between the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness. It’s all but abandoned now, its animal enclosures empty and, while its past is, shall we say, a bit chequered, there has never been a more tranquil escape from the theme park madness, and those guests who used the free entry perk on their Around The World, Super Duper, Passport, or Park Hopper pass still remember it fondly. Except for the smell.
5) Horizons: Give us a moment to compose ourselves. (*sigh*) Okay, so Horizons was hokey. But its “omnimover” cars were quick-loading, and if you remember that scene from Jurassic Park where the ride vehicle faces sideways to the track and looks straight at the cloning lab, it was that sort of configuration, which is just cool. Riders were “cleared for departure to the twenty-first century,” and flashing lights made it obvious you’d arrived. The future had robots and hydroponic plants and freakish things called “micro-processors,” but the best part came near the end of the ride, where time travellers could choose their final mission (or a video of it, anyway): life in the desert, underwater, or in outer space. It was too hard to choose, so the repeat-ride factor was high.
4) Kongfrontation: Kong, how we miss you! It’s not that Skull Island: Reign of Kong isn’t a great ride, it’s just…well…in Kongfrontation you were Kongfronted. The big ape came after you, and not in a good way. From the realistic New York subway to the fiery explosions, there was something much more visceral about a “real” ape coming at you with mayhem in mind. But the ride will forever be known by two words that sum up its most memorable moment: “Banana breath.”
3) Residential Street: It was a kinder, gentler time. A time when a series of wooden façades became homes from the movies Splash Too and Earnest Saves Christmas, and the television shows Empty Nest and Golden Girls. Most of the year this area of the former Backlot Tour was charming and convincing. At Christmas, it was magical.
2) Tapestry of Nations parade at Epcot: This stunning parade that wound its way through World Showcase lasted well beyond the Millennium, the celebration it was intended for, with its final run in 2001. It featured giant, colourful puppets, charming “reverse marionettes”, an enormous rotating drum clock, and a soundtrack that could make you weep, all led by The Sage of Time with an over-riding theme of unity and world peace. It transitioned into the Tapestry of Dreams parade from 2001 to 2003, lost some of its iconic elements, and its theme changed to honouring human dreams and endeavours. All we have left of it now is the Millennium’s night time finale, IllumiNations. If you weren’t among the incredibly lucky Disney visitors who saw the parade in person, check it out on YouTube. And have tissue on hand.
1) No list of mourned attraction moments would be complete without the granddaddy of them all. You know it, you loved it, you got it right… it’s Jaws! It wasn’t the greatest ride on the planet. It wasn’t the most creative or engaging or even all that interesting, although that shark’s persistence certainly kept your attention. But some things are die-hard classics, and this was one of them. It scared the pants off young children, it ended with a char-broiled sea creature, and, if you were a Jaws skipper, you earned life-long admiration from your peers and a place in the annals of Universal Studios history. The first time that shark came lunging at your boatful of happy Amity visitors is one you’ll never forget, so say it with me: “We’re going to need a bigger boat!”
And now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to make some new memories in the theme parks, but we’ll be doing it knowing no amount of Butterbeer and no quantity of Mickey Bars will ease our grief over the finest lost attraction moments.
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