Just For FunWalt Disney World (FL)

Disney World Experiences Kids Today Will Never Understand

Share This!

Editor’s Note: In this flashback from January 9, 2017, it is interesting to see how some of the things that were on the list then will be things that kids of the future will not understand — FastPass+? MagicBands? Will the next generation of Disney fans view those like the kids of today view things like Walt Disney World with a working animation studio or a cake castle?

The Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its 45th anniversary; and while a number of attractions and experiences from the resort’s early days are still be enjoyed all these years later, the resort has been no stranger to change. When I think back on my childhood visits to Walt Disney World, a few things come to mind that kids today will never experience… or even believe! Like what? Well, let’s take a look at just a few Disney World Experiences Kids Today Will Never Understand, shall we?

Cinderella Castle Was Once a Cake

Walt Disney World rarely gives their icons makeovers nowadays. For this year’s 45th Anniversary, a banner appeared on Cinderella Castle for like five minutes and then vanished. Disney even forgoes the popular holiday layovers that some Disneyland Park attractions are given each year.

This is why Cinderella Castle’s sugary pink makeover for the resort’s 25th Anniversary is a little hard to swallow in retrospect.

Yes, on October 1, 1996, Cinderella Castle was transformed into a pink and white cake decked with an assortment of candies! My seven year self loved it, but let’s just say others did not…

Regal Cinderella Castle remained a cake for 15 months, and that is just one of the Disney World experiences kids today will never understand or experience!

PUSH in Tomorrowland (photo credit Scott Sanders – Disney Cruise Line Blog)

The Best Character Meet was PUSH the Talking Trash Can

For many years, the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was home to a mobile, interactive trash can appropriately called PUSH. Now I know what you’re thinking, kids. But trust me, PUSH was a rock star. PUSH would talk and tease guests and treat any trash you disposed in him as a tasty snack.

Sadly, PUSH can no longer be found at Walt Disney World these days, but he is one Disney World experience I hope may return one day.

Mulan Was Drawn at a Disney Park

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, originally known as Disney-MGM Studios, was intended to be a theme park and a functioning production studio.

The studio element of the park eventually disappeared; but back in the day, live action and animation both took place at the park. In fact, park guests were once able to watch Disney animators working on films like Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, and Brother Bear at the Magic of Disney Animation pavilion.

Ahhhh, the good old days!

Days at the Parks With No FASTPASS or FastPass+

One of the Disney World experiences kids today will never understand is the struggle of a Disney World Vacation before FASTPASS. Not until 1999 was the original FASTPASS paper ticket system introduced to Walt Disney World, offering relief from lengthy wait times and non-interactive queues in the pre-smartphone years.

Today, Walt Disney World guests enjoy FastPass+ where guests can book their FastPass+ reservation online or through the MyDisneyExperience app. This second generation system guarantees a short wait for a favorite headlining attraction, even before a guest arrives on property. It’s a luxury my childhood self never could have imagined!

With MagicBands and pre-purchased park tickets, you may not need to stop at your resort first.

There Were No Bag Check Tables or Metal Detectors

It’s been a while since bag check tables, and now metal detectors, weren’t the first thing a guest encountered when entering a Walt Disney World Park. But once upon a time, security was the last thing on my mind when approaching a park entrance.

Unfortunately, kids today don’t understand that kind of mindset and I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

In the meantime, it’s important for us and our kids to note that while we wish for better times, the lines for bag check and metal detectors are the most important lines we will wait in all day.


A Day at the Parks Pre-MagicBand

MagicBands are soft, flexible bracelets containing a chip which stores guests’ park tickets, dining reservations, Disney Resort room keys, PhotoPass identifiers,  FastPass+ reservations, Magical Express reservations, and even their credit cards!

Now with MagicBand 2 being introduced, kids and Disney World Newbies will never know the stress of trying to juggle the family’s FASTPASSES, park tickets, and PhotoPass cards which guests once endured in years prior.

Discovery Island is the island between Fort Wilderness & the Contemporary

The First Animal Kingdom Was an Island

Between Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and Disney’s Contemporary Resort is an island that was once home to Walt Disney World’s first version of the Animal Kingdom Park.

Discovery Island was a small zoological park that guests visited by boat and explored via nature trails, all a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom Resorts.

Discovery Island closed in 1999 due to the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. However, guests can still view the island from afar aboard Disney’s boat transportation. It’s also worth noting that Animal Kingdom’s Discovery Island was most likely named after Walt Disney World’s first Animal Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom Attractions Were Terrifying

The Magic Kingdom has always been synonymous with childhood, fantasy, and loveable characters. Well… For the most part, that is.

Two of the park’s original opening day attractions, the Magic Kingdom’s Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, were seriously scary! Snow White’s Scary Adventures lived up to its name due to its dark tone and the Evil Queen’s frequent appearances. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was more lighthearted, but it ended with a spin through hell.

Yes, you read that right.

Stitch’s Great Escape occupies the Alien Encounter theater which closed in 2003.

Perhaps the scariest Magic Kingdom attraction of yore was Tomorrowland’s ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. This attraction seated guests in a circular theater, but with shoulder restraints. The story was that a massive, terrifying alien was accidently teleported into the theater during a presentation and escaped into the audience!

The rest of the show took place primarily in the dark. It also used non-visual effects to simulate the alien’s movements, the death of a maintenance worker, and the alien’s breath and drool on guests! Oh, and the alien explodes at the end.

So yeah, a trip through Hades, a scary princess ride, and alien drool are all Disney World experiences kids today will never understand or even believe!

Epcot’s Frozen Ever After at the Norway Pavilion

Epcot Before the Infiltration of Disney Characters

Epcot, formerly EPCOT Center, has gone through a strange evolution of sorts since it first opened in 1981 and looks to be undergoing more changes in the near future.

One significant change Epcot has made since its opening is the integration of Disney characters into the park.

You see, in Epcot’s early years, there were no World Showcase Disney Princess meet and greets or Frozen Ever After and The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion was just The Living Seas.

Whether this synergy is good or bad is an especially controversial topic among Disney Park Diehards!

What past Disney World experiences do you remember? What do you miss? What do you think of Epcot adding characters, MagicBands, or the Magic Kingdom’s former scary attractions? Let me know!

You May Also Like...

Savannah Sanders

Savannah has been visiting Disney World since she was a year old and has gone back almost every year since. In the real world, she teaches high school history and government and enjoys writing about all things Disney. Savannah can be reached on Twitter @DisneyParkSavvy.

42 thoughts on “Disney World Experiences Kids Today Will Never Understand

  • EPCOT used to be a very serious, rather formal place. The concept of education was very high in planner’s minds and almost all the pavilions were very earnest and sober in tone (with a few exceptions: “World of Motion” and “Jouney into Imagination” got pretty zany). But the seriousness of the place was palpable. One felt one had to tuck in one’s shirt and slouch less while visiting the park.

    There was a pretty interesting little attraction at the base of “Spaceship Earth” in which groups would sit and listen to both sides of a topic and then enter their opinions using buttons in their seats. The presenters were able to show the audiences’ data at the end of the show breaking it down by what people from different areas thought, and what people of different ages thought. At the time, this was pretty darned cool stuff! But again–it was very serious in nature. Generally it dealt with questions of global concern.

  • EPCOT used to be a very serious, rather formal place. The concept of education was very high in planner’s minds and almost all the pavilions were very earnest and sober in tone (with a few exceptions: “World of Motion” and “Jouney into Imagination” got pretty fun). One felt one had to tuck in one’s shirt and slouch less while visiting the park.

    There was a pretty interesting little attraction at the base of “Spaceship Earth” in which groups would sit and listen to both sides of a topic and then enter their opinions using buttons in their seats. The presenters were able to show the audiences’ data at the end of the show breaking it down by what people from different areas thought, and what people of different ages thought. At the time, this was pretty darned cool stuff! But again–it was very serious in nature. Generally it dealt with questions of global concern.

  • I remember visiting in the early 1990s with my Kodak Disc camera, taking pics all day (and only one picture of each thing, since we couldn’t see how it turned out and there was only 15 frames on a disc). When I filled a disc, I could turn it in at the Camera Center at a park, and they would develop the pictures and deliver to my Disney Resort Hotel by the end of the day. Then my family and I could see all the pictures we took THAT SAME DAY!!!! No more waiting for a few days after we get home from our trip to look through our vacation photos. It was like living in the future.

  • This article really jogged my memory! We used to love the penny arcade in the back of the Main Street magic shop! The Imagination play area after the ride with the rainbow tunnel and pin table, Horizions and the Wonders of Life pavilion were favorites. I remember eating at the Odyssey restaurant as a kid. Most of all, I remember going during cool weather or other off times and having no crowds at all. That’s when we had the most fun.

  • I enjoyed the package delivery that took them to our rooms. When we got back at night it was like a little Christmas!
    We could decide Tuesday morning which park we wanted to be in on Wednesday, pick up a phone and make reservations. I’m sure that’s a crowd issue, but it was nice, anyway.

  • Guests can no longer enjoy the equilibrium challenge the original Mission: Space at Epcot offered.
    The combo of that ride and a flight the next day sent me into vertigo making a trip to the ER necessary. Never had vertigo before or since. We didn’t alert WDW, but the G-force was lowered after many bad outcomes. Somehow, i still wax nostalgic ^.^

  • There was a magic shop on main street that sold jokes, magic tricks and people demonstrating magic.

  • Epcot used to have a teacher resource center where teachers could get lesson plans and project plans based on Future world attractions. The Seas, Energy, Land, Transportation…etc.
    I guess they could create ‘homework’ with those plans for kids visiting Disney.

  • I really appreciated and loved this article, as well as everything everyone posted in the follow up.

    However, I have to nitpick. Even in this MagicBand day and age, we’ve had the experience of having to juggle our kids’ ticket media, getting them out of pockets and distributing them before the FP tapstiles and then putting them back after. How can this be so? We stay off site, as do many others.

  • All of the memories listed are so vivid in my mind. I miss River Country, a lot of the old shows or experiences from the past. Remember the tickets

  • The one experience that I got to do that I wish was still offered was riding in the Front of the Monorail with the conductor. I understand the reason it’s no longer available but to go into the Contemporary in the front is a experience that I can’t describe enough.

    • I remember all of the memories everyone has mentioned. I miss River Country, Discovery Island, riding once in the front if the Monorail. Remember the E-Tickets?? Yes it was crowded, but wish they’d bring back some of the old, wonderful Magical Disney Fun …

  • I think that kids today would be shocked and horrified to know that there was a time when the four WDW parks weren’t blanketed with wifi. (Yes, I know that this is still true at DLR.)

  • The old test track concept. I know it’s supposed to be taking place in a computer but the fun is gone. I don’t feel like I am going through tests anymore. Thank goodness for the high speed lope.

  • Cranium command and Body wars at Epcot with a stop off at The Land for some underwhelming food options…..pretty sure the latter hasn’t changed.

    • LOVED cranium command- and I do wish my sons could see that and I would totally do the video of how a baby was made in there too with them (forget the name??)- then I could check that off my to-do list!

  • stitch was still going in 2013,terrified my 6 year old neice

  • Probably just nostalgia (as I don’t remember the show being anything great), but I sometimes wish I could go and see the old Kitchen Cabaret in Epcot again.

  • Wayyy back I remember going into “Communicore” East with all the TVs to check the afternoon weather. (We didn’t have instant access to radar and forecasts back then, kids.) Oh – and remember the video calls to make dining reservations?

    Completely agree w the Imagination sentiment, Brian. I wish they would refurb and bring back the original.

  • I know Cali better than Florida and I do wish that Florida had snow white and Mr toad. They are really fun. Also when did they start the package pick up. I remember having to actually carry all my purchases all day or wait till the end of the day to buy what I wanted.

  • I never did Mr. Toad at WDW, so I was excited to do it on my first trip to Disneyland — and then I was like, “um, did we just go to Hell?” Cracked me up…

  • Push or his twin is alive and well at EPCOT within the Electric Umbrella Restaurant near the restrooms. I try to visit whenever I am at EPCOT.

  • Other noteworthy items that the darned kids of today wouldn’t grasp. Back in the day:
    -There wasn’t any kind of schedule for character meet & greets, you just happened upon characters at random (which, of course, still happens in Anaheim).
    -If you wanted to know how long the line for a ride was, you had to actually walk over to it and see for yourself.
    -There weren’t any single rider lines.
    -The major gift shops sold EVERY size/type of camera film you could imagine (this one requires explaining what camera film is).
    -There were banks of payphones all over the parks.
    -There were zero Cast Members whose sole job was to take your picture.
    -You purchased individual tickets for attractions (duh).
    -There was no Disney-provided means of getting to the World from the airport.
    -You could just buy a simple “do whatever you want for X days” ticket that granted admission to everything.
    -There were no designated areas for stroller parking.

    • Great list and so true! Thanks for sharing!

  • I meant honey I shrunk the kids……oops

  • The pin table, which I remember being enormous, so big you could put your entire body on it and honey I steering the kids play area!!!!!! Tragic that they’ve all gone :'(

    • I loved the pin table too! That whole area was awesome as a kid in the 80s/early 90s. As for the ride, my husband never experienced the original and therefore can not come close to comprehending my love of Figment. I wish my young girls could experience many of these things on the list! The other thing I miss is being able to get same day dining at popular restaurants! I hate the stress of getting up at 6am and making ADRs (if the website works) 6 months before my vacation!

  • The original figment land by far is the saddest thing to go! Mr dreamfinder, the piano keys you could jump on,

  • I’m not normally a sentimental person, but the brilliant insanity that was the original Journey into Imagination still tugs at my tiny heart’s strings

  • I grew up in so Cal, so my memories are of Disneyland. Before California Adventure was built, that area was a parking lot, and you could get dropped off at the front gate and there was a tram, but most people just walked because it was less than 5 min walk unless it was really crowded or you got there late. Also, Disneyland for $20! (Probably about 20-25 years ago?) And when it rained, you could walk on any ride. The first time I ever went to Disneyland I was 8, we were just moving to southern California, and it was raining. We did every ride like 2-3 times, ate at Blue Bayou with no reservations and the park was deserted. There’s still reduced attendance from local annual pass holders if it rains, but nothing like it used to be!

    • How about walk up phone service for making dining reservations in Epcot

      • Or WorldKey stations for reservations at EPCOT Center?

  • We stayed in Ft. Wilderness several times and River Country was great. Also swimming in the lake and, yes, Discovery Island.

  • The Backlot Tour, with many old movie props, the house used for exterior shots on The Golden Girls, and the shops being used to make costumes and scenery.

    • I remember that too! There was so much more to see on the Backlot Tour during the park’s early days. Thanks for sharing!

      • We were there when Aladdin was being made.

  • I was actually trying to explain PUSH to my seven-year-old daughter the other day. My girls would get a kick out PUSH if it still existed. In terms of the pre-FastPass days, I actually have fond memories of those trips. The lines might be a little longer, but they always moved and were generally consistent. We walked on a lot more rides in the ’80s and ’90s. Of course, attendance has risen, so that’s a lot of it.

    • I would spend much of my time at Tomorrowland trying to catch Push back in the day. Now I just chill out with Sonny Eclipse.
      And yes, pre-Fastpass lines moved much more consistently because there was only 1 line and rides were intended to be high volume and continuous loading if possible. Disney “solved” a capacity problem as crowds grew with expectation management instead of adding capacity. Unfortunately, high volume omnimover attractions don’t cut it with guests anymore, so look for more virtual queues and paid access in the future.

  • In Animal Kingdom’s Conservation Station, there is a small room where you put on headphones and listen to the sounds of the jungle. The lights used to go completely out, and so you sat in the dark listening to breathing and bug sounds supposedly right at your ear. FAR more memorable than now, when the lights just dim.

  • I remember actually having to show the bus drivers your resort ID in the early 90s in order to ride the buses.

    • I remember when the bus drivers spoke English. They were as much entertainers as anyone on stage.

      • This is easily one of the most glaring differences I see.
        It’s amazing how different the experience is with the current drivers vs what it used to be. Probably indicates a lot of the way Disney does business now vs then…. And the reason for many drops in quality.
        Riding around fort wilderness will never be the same.

Comments are closed.