The theme park industry is constantly evolving as trends and technology continue to develop over time. It’s safe to say that your next ride on any given Walt Disney World attraction may just be your last. Disney is full of magic and that magic often involves a few things vanishing… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Especially with a few new competing wizards next door who have really given Disney a true run for their money in the past few years alone. So, without further ado, let’s reminisce for a few moments, shall we? Disney addict or not, these should spark a few memories for some of us. Others, well, we’ll just have to imagine with the help of a trifle bit of pixie dust. And possibly a little bit of YouTube too.
1. An Aerial Gondola Lift Between Lands
While this is a ride that lacks theming and any sort of originality (I have one of these at my local amusement park here in Tennessee), the WDW “Skyway” is something that I’ll always wish I had gotten the opportunity to experience. I love the one at The San Diego Zoo and even the somewhat similar Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover at Disney World (the Disneyland PeopleMover closed forever in 1995) and can only wish I could have tried it out for myself. The former WDW Segway took guests between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland on a Swiss-designed aerial ropeway. The attraction was closed in 1999 but the towers weren’t removed from the park until 10 years later in 2009 during the renovation of Fantasyland. Rumor has it that the ride was closed for safety reasons after a park employee suffered a fatal fall during maintenance, but the company maintains they had plans to close before the unfortunate incident and the Skyways at Disneyland and Tokyo Disney had already been closed in 1994 and 1998 respectively. What a bummer.
2. Mickey and Minnie’s Homes
Who knew that somewhat as famous as Mickey Mouse could be evicted from his home sweet home? Yeah, it gets the best of us. While it’s never been cleared up whether Mickey and Minnie Mouse are officially married, until 2012 they maintained separate but equally cartoonish country houses at Magic Kingdom in the since-closed Mickey’s ToonTown Fair area. While they were a little lame and sort of empty looking, it was rather cool to see the homes of America’s favorite mice. Maybe the house of mouse will come to their senses one day and decide to rebuild them as mansions!
3. Riding in front of the monorail
They say that all good things have to come to an end, but I just didn’t think this should be one of them. While you used to be able to ask the monorail pilot if you could sit up front with them, that sadly is no longer the case. Not only was it fun and a great view but guests were presented with a co-pilot’s license at the end.
4. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Based on the book (and Disney cartoons), “The Wind in the Willows,” it was not 3-D or even animatronic as Pooh is now, but it did have a twist. When the rider chose the right or left line in which to stand to wait their turn, they also chose their adventure, as there were two tracks and two experiences. However, no matter which track was chosen the adventure always ended the same: a head-on collision with an on-coming train! Plenty of fans were quite upset when the announcement was made to replace Mr. Toad with Pooh. They staged green shirt sit-ins and wrote letters of protest. The decision was made, however, and Pooh moved in. But, if you look closely as you’re riding through The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, you’ll see a picture hanging on the wall of Owl’s house in which Mr. Toad is handing over a “deed” to Owl. And, if you’d like to see and touch a part of Disney history that is no more, you can find one of the original roadsters from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in the Exposition Hall on Main Street.
5. The Adventurer’s Club
This is one that really hit hard with the hardcore Disney buffs, many of who look forward to its periodic reopening for the day, which Disney has held a few of. So what makes the place so cool? The Adventurer’s Club was located in the Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney, but it closed in September 2008. It was really unique and such a fun atmosphere so it’s super disappointing that it’s gone. Other things that recently closed in Pleasure Island in September 2008: Mannequins Dance Palace, BET Sound-Stage Club, Motion and The Comedy Warehouse (i.e., all the fun stuff). As sad as those closings may be, many are looking forward to the reopening and re-theming of the land to Disney Springs, which was announced in March 2013 and is set to double the island in size upon completion in 2016.
6. Divers with personalized messages
Epcot’s Coral Reef Restaurant is much like the Aquarium Restaurant chain in the sense that they allow you to dine while watching over 4,000 sea creatures swim all around you, including sharks, turtles, rays and school of colorful fish. But what made this place even cooler was way back in the day when you could impress your party member with a diver holding a personalized message just for them. Plus, it was free of charge! Wouldn’t that have been a cool birthday gift. Or how about a “Will You Marry Me?” sign, I wonder if they ever got any of those from a few shy guys out there who were afraid to get down on the knee and do it the old fashioned way!
7. Yellow Panchos Galore
Aaahhh. Way back when, many of us remember seeing the parks crowded with bright yellow everywhere when it came time for a little rain. The crowds would be covered in those overpriced plastic bags known as ponchos. The bright yellow ones with the giant Mickey on the back are a thing of the past — the company switched to clear ponchos in 2003. At least with the clear ones, it is somewhat easier to spot your loved ones in a blustery storm. Those yellow things were just plum confusing in my book.
8. Individual Ride Tickets, a Time of Affordability at WDW
When WDW opened in 1971, each ride required a separate ticket, which was not included in the price of admission ($3.75 at the time, which, adjusted for inflation, would be $21.66 today). Each ride was categorized as a letter from A–E depending on the level of excitement. The Carousel was A, Space Mountain was E. Disney’s more thrill-based rides are still referred to by those in the know as “E-Ticket” rides. The ticket prices ranged from 10–90 cents (50 cents–$5 today). That means for the price of buying one adult ticket in 2014 ($99) you could get admission and 15 tickets to ride Space Mountain. Or 154 rides on Cinderella’s Carousel. I still can’t believe that a quick fast forward later (just a few decades) it costs $99 per person to visit the Magic Kingdom! A family of four is $400, plus parking and all the other overpriced add ons. I’m in the wrong business! But with that said, there are actually quite a few free things to do for those looking to get in on the magical fun without paying the hefty prices:
Show that to anyone passing by the Disney gates because of the high prices and I guarantee they’ll lay wheels on Disney property. Guaranteed. 😉
9. “The Making of Me,” a Live-Action Video About Sex and Birth
Memories of Disney’s kinky days, who could forget them. In this 15-minute video shown in the Wonders of Life pavilion at EPCOT, host Martin Short pulls a Marty McFly, going back in time to witness his own conception using actual footage from his birth. The pavilion has been closed since 2007, but you can still watch the whole thing on YouTube here. This was the coolest thing to ever to come to Disney if you ask me! Time to #reopen it!
10. Powdered Pink Soap!
Until 2001, all bathrooms at Walt Disney World used powdered pink Borax soap instead of liquid hand soap, which was easier to clean up off the floor. The light pink soap had to be removed after the 9/11-era Anthrax scare. I guess they also felt the need to step into the 21st century too, perhaps.
11. A Semi-Submerged Submarine Ride
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a pioneering passenger ride at Magic Kingdom that used underwater animatronics, forced perspective, and bubble machines to make guests believe they were “diving” under the ocean. The “Nautilis” boats had guests sitting below water level looking through portholes at real and mythical aquatic life, including eels, turtles, mermaids, and the lost city of Atlantis. Despite being popular, the ride was closed in 1994 due to high maintenance costs and low capacity.
12. A 200-Foot Mickey Hand Over Spaceship Earth
We all know that 18-story geodesic sphere called “Spaceship Earth” that Epcot is best known for. It opened in 1982 as one of Epcot’s signature attractions. But the iconic tower at EPCOT was temporarily altered for the Millennium Celebration when a large 25-story “magic wand” held by a representation of Mickey Mouse’s hand was built next to the sphere, reading “2000,” though it was changed the next year to simply read “Epcot.” Weighing 500,000 pounds and standing over 257 feet high, it was the tallest structure at the Walt Disney World Resort until it was taken down in 2007.
13. An Island Filled with Lemurs, Galapagos Tortoises and Exotic Birds
Discovery Island, located in Bay Lake near the Magic Kingdom resorts, was a zoological park accessible to guests by boat. When it closed in 1999, the animals were moved to sanctuaries at Animal Kingdom. There was a plan at one point to join with the creators of the video game Myst to turn the island into an interactive themed experience, but the idea never went past concept.
14. Push The Talking Trash Can
Push was adorable and a huge kid among the wee ones. After their contract ran out with the Orlando-based robotics company that made this animatronic trash can, this beloved 19-year-old character will no longer roam Tomorrow-land. The good news is that you’ll never have to walk more than 30 steps to throw your trash away. Those who never got to see Push in person can relive his antics via this cute YouTube video.
15. Minnie Moo
Minnie Moo was a Holstein cow from Minnesota with a distinct Mickey-shaped spot. She was brought to Magic Kingdom, where she lived at Grandma’s Duck Barn until she died in 2000. If Disney can’t find another one, I say just die the fur on a new cow, in the shape of a mickey head. They should totally do that and with a herd of cows and bring them to Animal Kingdom. Forget pandas, they are too expensive. And besides, I’m pretty sure this black and white, Mickey-themed animal would create the most buzz!
16. Cinderella’s Castle Used To Be A Pink Candy-Covered Birthday Cake
For the 25th anniversary of Magic Kingdom in 1996, Cinderella’s Castle was transformed into a giant birthday cake. It took over 400 gallons of pink paint to transform the 18-story structure, which included 20-foot candles, 5-foot gummy bears, 5-foot gumdrops, 6-foot Life Savers, 3-foot lollipops, and 2-foot gum balls. The icing was inflatable, and it covered more than 1,000 feet until 1998, when the castle was restored to normal. If they did all this for the 25th Anniversary, I can’t wait to see what happens for the grandiose 50th anniversary in 2021. Stay tuned by following us on Facebook. I’ll keep ya posted 😉
17. Toilet Paper Covered Castle
Who could forget the time a few rambunctious teens hid out in the restrooms on Grad Nite and spent the night (well part of it anyway) clogged up by the toilets. But no, just kidding! While it may look as if that happened, believe it or not, Disney was behind the plot the entire time. On Nov. 16, 2004, Cinderella’s Castle was covered in toilet paper and graffiti for the grand opening of Stitch’s Great Escape.
18. Double-decker Bus Service
Ah, yes. Another fun feature from the San Diego Zoo and of course, Europe. While they were rather fun, I suppose they seemed to be a little too “amusement park” oriented, much like the gondola lift mentioned in #1. At EPCOT, these buses served as transportation between the World Showcase and Future world. They stopped carrying guests in the mid-1990s, but the special decorated red bus on the right still takes characters around for a mini-parade.
19. Ryan Gosling and Britney Spears Filming the All New Mickey Mouse Club
The 1990s reboot of the once popular Mickey Mouse Club was filmed at Walt Disney Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mousketeers included Britney Spears, Chrsitina Aguilera, Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, and JC Chasez. The show was canceled because merchandise wasn’t selling and the producers felt the cast wasn’t talented enough to carry the show. Bring ’em back today and let’s see what happens. Or better yet, replace this with that lame American Idol show. Who still watches that show anyway?!
20. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
Speaking of American Idol, who could forget it’s great predecessor, the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I was sad when this show closed on both coasts. It’s pretty rare (and exciting) in a Disney park when an average guest can actually win something more than a pin. I think that’s why the Year of a Million Dreams generated so much excitement. You could spend a lot of money to go to Disneyland and have an incredible time, and as an added bonus, there was a miniscule chance you could win something cool! I think it just adds an air of extra excitement to your day.
21. Disney’s Third Water Park – The Now Abandoned River Country
Who could forget Disney’s third water park, which was open from 1976 – 2001, when it was permanently shut down for having some sort of deadly brain eating disease in its waters, or what not. It and the Discovery Island Park mentioned above are Disney’s only two parks to close permanently, both of which were dimly abandoned instead of being demolished, as much of their remains can be seen to this day for tresspassers. What made this water park so unique from the other two was that it actually used somewhat filtered water from the adjacent lake and featured a sandy bottom pool. Blizzard Beach is actually four times the size of this park. Though it may have lacked in size, it will always hold a special place in the hearts of those “Disneyatics” who remember coming here as a child. 😉
What do you miss most about the “old school” Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments section below!