One of the aspects that I feel truly separates Disney Parks from other theme parks is the presence of “classic” attractions. By classic attractions, I mean those that might not have state of the art technology by today’s standards, or cost the size of a small island, but remain relevant, charming, and downright fun years or even decades later. Attractions like Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are just a few examples of these that come to mind. As brilliant as Disney Imagineers are, there is an occasional attraction misstep from time to time, which is inevitable.
It’s incredibly difficult to determine what’s going to resonate with audiences at any one moment, let alone ten, twenty, or fifty years from now. For a variety of reasons, some attractions just don’t age well and feel outdated rather than classic. Most of the time those attractions are replaced (see most of Disney’s California Adventure) but other times, they remain. Below, I’ve listed some attractions that I believe fit this description. These aren’t outright bad attractions per se, but they are ones that have the potential to be really fantastic with a revamp or retheming.
Without further ado, here are some attractions in need of a “tune up” along with what could be done to make them better and my suggestions for what attractions to go on instead.
Honey I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure
A playground inside a theme park can be a great addition for parents who are looking to let their kids burn off some energy while they relax. Unfortunately, they haven’t made a Honey I Shrunk the Kids movie since 1997. You could argue that the kids don’t care, and you’d probably be right, but that still doesn’t make the attraction feel any less dated. With the rumors of a larger focus on Star Wars for Hollywood Studios, which is also getting a new name by the way, maybe they could do a Star Wars themed playground like Endor, which would still keep the forest vibe. In the meantime, head over to The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom, which offers kids the chance to play around on a better themed playground and dig up “real” dinosaur bones.
All of Dino-Rama
Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama managed to make dinosaurs uncool — and that’s almost impossible. The entire area is themed like a roadside carnival with a dinosaur motif: The ground looks like a cracked parking lot, the carnival games have generic dinosaur prizes, and the rides are extremely forgettable. It all feels cheap and out of place considering the rest of Animal Kingdom is such a beautiful park. Honestly, the whole area looks like it belongs at California Adventure before its revitalization, which is funny because California Adventure today features a much better carnival/midway themed area in Paradise Pier. I’m not going to go so far as to tell you to hop a flight to Anaheim to experience Paradise Pier but if you’re really dead set on a carnival atmosphere, head over to the Boardwalk. If you want similar rides to what’s available in Dino-Rama, try Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom.
Carousel of Progress
Lay down your pitchforks Carousel of Progress diehards! I understand that Carousel of Progress is a pretty divisive Disney attraction. Some people love it because of the history behind it while others think it’s just plain boring. I’m not here to take sides on that argument. My focus is solely on the final scene of the attraction. While the prior scenes of the attraction take place in the early 20th century and showcase technology and living conditions of the time, the final scene is meant to portray a “modern” setting. Unfortunately, it looks like something straight out of an 80’s movie from the clothing to the décor to the “state of the art” flight simulator game the family plays. To Disney’s credit, they at least replaced the television with a flat screen a couple of years ago but the rest is still left extremely dated. I’d like to see Disney regularly update only the final scene to keep it actually feeling modern while preserving the other scenes so as not to completely get rid of the spirit of the attraction. Judge it for yourself though and if you’re looking for another educational attraction with animatronics and a theme of progression, try Spaceship Earth at Epcot.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure
Ellen’s Energy Adventure is a slow moving ride with dinosaurs that also has pre and post show videos with Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye. I actually think it’s a pretty funny attraction mostly because of Ellen, but it pains me to say that this attraction is outdated partly because she’s in it. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with Ellen (she’s great!) but it features her at a time before she had her day time show and arguably changed her entire career. Seeing her in the videos just reminds you that the attraction is old, similar to how you watch an old movie where they’re all using PDAs. That’s the gamble that goes with putting very recognizable real life actors in attractions.
I still think the message of the attraction is extremely relevant today (the search for new energy sources) so that’s not a problem, but at least update the pre-show video. (Side note: Please shorten the ride also. At 45 minutes, it’s a long one.). What attraction do I suggest as an alternative? For a slow moving educational attraction, head across Future World to Living with the Land. For your dinosaur fix, simply go on DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom, which is admittedly more intense but definitely more immersive and interesting. (I swear that the constant mentioning of dinosaurs is just a coincidence.)
While there are undoubtedly more aspects of Disney World that are in need of a refresh, these are the ones that jump out to me the most. Thankfully, Disney didn’t get to be Disney by accident. The company has a history of recognizing theme park missteps and responding accordingly (see the California Adventure revival, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, etc.). Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” With that spirit in mind, let me know what Disney attractions you think need a refresh in the comments below.