Time Traveling: Stitch’s Great Escape
I’m always looking for new perspectives and information to bring you from Disney World, but sometimes an idea falls right into my lap. This happened last week when strolling through Tomorrowland with my hubby. He innocently turned to me perplexed and wondered aloud, “Why do you think everyone hates Stitch’s Great Escape so much? It really isn’t that bad.” Of course, I was horrified by this sacrilege. Any respectable member of the Disney community knows Stitch’s Great Escape is an abomination second only to, perhaps, Captain EO. I immediately asked him how he could say that after experiencing ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter? His response was just a blank stare. It was then I realized that he didn’t grow up on Disney like I did and didn’t remember anything other than what was there today. It made me wonder what it must be like to walk through the parks without remembering Dreamflight, World of Motion, or even Doug Live! So today I thought we’d do a little time traveling at the site of Stitch’s Great Escape for those who weren’t able to experience it through the years for themselves.
If you hopped into the Wayback Machine and set it for little over ten years ago, when you emerged you’d find a very different attraction in this location. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened when I was a teenager, and perhaps that is a big part of the reason I remember it as the coolest attraction ever! The setup as far as the queue, pre-show, and main seating area have always been the same, but, wow, was the experience different! The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter queue had televisions setup with a welcome greeting from an alien company, X-S Tech. During this announcement the aliens informed us that one lucky person from the audience would be teleported to the alien planet to demonstrate their technology! With this exciting information in mind, the crowd proceeded to the pre-show area to see how it worked on a cute, little alien name Skippy. (Spoiler: it didn’t work too hot.) Next we moved on to the main show where at the last minute the aliens choose to send one of them to us instead of the other way around. The change in trajectory in such a hurry meant that they accidentally routed through another planet, sending a carnivorous, winged alien to our chamber instead. The fun began when beast broke out, and everyone spent the next ten minutes in pitch black darkness! The harnesses that fit over your shoulders were used to puff hot breath on your neck, hiss, and play bone crunching sounds. Of course, at the end they were able to get the beast under control, but only after it had eaten a few people! If you never had a chance to experience this in person, it is certainly worth some YouTube time! It was a very unique attraction for Disney!
Going back another ten years you’d find a very different and more educational experience, Mission to Mars. I wasn’t quite a teenager when this one closed,so my memories are vague. I remember it wasn’t a ride we did often, and I had to beg my Mom to take me because she said it was boring! 🙂 From online research it looks like the pre-show area was interesting with an audio animatronic interacting with a live cast member. It seems like I would remember something like that, but I don’t! I do remember the main show area where a large, round screen in the floor and on the ceiling made it feel like you were blasting into space while your seats rumbled. Once you’d made it to “Mars,” real images of the red planet would be displayed and facts read about what NASA had discovered. This attraction was created with assistance from NASA, and I remember thinking what I was seeing was amazing! (Of course, this was long before the days of getting photos of Mars on your smart phone!) The ride ended abruptly with an emergency landing back on Earth and an offer to fly again any time. Mission to Mars has also been documented on YouTube, and as an adult I admit it is a little boring but worth looking up for historical purposes!
While Mission to Mars proudly held this space for twenty years, there is a barely documented attraction that resided here for a few years prior, Flight to the Moon. The major flaw with this attraction was that it opened two years after man had actually landed on the moon! Understandably a fictitious moon landing was not a great draw after seeing the real thing. From everything I’ve read, the script of this attraction sounds similar to Mission to Mars, and the building setup was identical. Sadly, I’ve never found any video footage of this long extinct attraction. Tragically, it was closed before I was even born! If anyone remembers this attraction, I’d love to hear about your experience.
And with that our tour comes to an end. I hope you had fun time traveling with me. Do you have fond (or not so fond) memories of these past attractions? Did you read about something here today that you were never able to see in person? Is there another spot at Disney you’d like to know a little more history about? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts in the comments below! And, as always, thanks for reading!
25 thoughts on “Time Traveling: Stitch’s Great Escape”
I took my 5 year old daughter to Disney for the first time and this out of EVERYTHING was her hands down favorite. We rode every ride, every character meet and great and meal, even had breakfast with the princesses in the castle and this ride was her favorite. She begged me to take her on it during Wishes(for the fifth time)! The cast member at the ride was like “you’re going on THIS instead of watching the fireworks?!”, lol. It has made me (forgive me) love this ride and hope that they never remove it. I know this is her big Disney memory that she will cherish as she grows up kind of like us with the older attractions.
Hi Sarah – I’m so glad she liked it! If I’m being honest I sometimes wonder into this attraction all by myself. 🙂 If you don’t hold onto the baggage of what used to be there it really is a good use of the space. I don’t love it but I sure don’t hate it either! Thanks for reading!
This is a great idea for an entire series of posts! There are several spots around the parks which have gone through multiple changes
(for example: Mickey Mouse Revue ->Magic Journeys->Lion King->Philharmagic)
My personal dislike of Stitch’s Great Escape is because of the animated segment at the end in which he escapes into the park and climbs Cinderella’s castle. It’s not that the concept is bad, it’s the execution and terrible dialogue which are like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. Last year I allowed the readers at the blog I contribute to to vote me into a few park experiences which I did not want to take part in, and of course Stitch’s Great Escape ended up being one of them.
I was hoping someone would like a series! I never got to see Mickey Mouse Review but I watch it pretty often on Youtube. I think that location will be next!
I can sum up what I don’t like about Stitch’s Great Escape really easily: chili cheese dogs. Ewww! 😉
There’s an excellent description of the Flight to the Moon and Mission to Mars attractions here.
Thanks, Helen! 🙂
You don’t like Captain EO!!?!??!!
Haha, I feel like the world doesn’t like Captain EO. Personally… I have a Fuzzball plush and that is all I’ll say. 😉
Oh my god, I loved Captain EO! I was so excited when I found out they were bringing this attraction back, because I’ve been telling my fiance about this bizarre film for years, and now I finally get to take him to see it! It got retired when I was about 12, so we’ll see how weirdly it holds up for an adult, but I’m pretty excited.
I have been to Disney World twice (UK fan), once as a 9 year old kid in 2001 and once as a 20 year old kid in 2013 (returning next year too!!). So I was lucky enough to experience ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and Stitch’s Great Escape. I remember being utterly terrified in 2001 but thoroughly enjoying the ride (I still have the cap), and when I returned earlier this year I had no clue it had been changed. I wasn’t disappointed, I was just reminded of what it was like years ago and Stitch’s Great Escape was so much fun too! I remember for years just referring to ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter as ‘the Alien ride’. It was amazing how memories came flooding back after being gone for so long.
Hi Ollie! Thanks for sharing your memories. Being that I go all the time my experiences tend to blend together. It is neat to hear from your POV.
I remember Alien Encounter as the scariest attraction I have ever been on.
Stich really isn’t THAT bad. After reading all the comments on the internet, I expected worse. It wasn’t scary at all, and if you knew to hold your breath during the chili dog moment, it was just boring… nothing more.
Hi Sarah – you know that is how I explain it to people. It really isn’t that bad… it isn’t “good” but it isn’t that bad. It is worth a try. Some folks really do love it.
I went into it the first time a few years ago with no idea, what the ride even was and I had never rode the other alien ride (I hate scary movies, particularly aliens). I am in my 30s and was with my mom who is in her 50s. My prior trips had been with a friend who is a Florida AP holder so she did most the planning and picked out what we did and thought me all the tricks to touring, as one of my best friends she never led me astray (AKA – no scary alien ride)! So seeing Stitch and knowing he was a friendly alien, decided to try it. I went through the preshow, got on the ride and the harnesses came down and I waited for something to happen and expected us to move (Why else would we need harasses). I had a cold at the time – so smelt nothing. At the end – it was “That is it???” and along with Captain EO – we both voted to never visit either attraction again and we have not.
Hi Crystal – yep that is what most people say. It isn’t bad.. just “meh”. I think we’re on the same page.. except I always end up going back on everything!
We rode Mission to Mars when I was a kid in the ’80s, and I remember liking it but also finding it pretty hokey. It’s also frustrating to never actually get to stay at Mars! I really liked Alien Encounter, and I realized it even more when I rode a messed-up version with Stitch. They need to do something better with that space!
Hi Dan! What is most frustrating is that I think they could so a better version in that building. They have that amazing animatronic that spends 75% of the time hidden. It seems like if they stopped trying to use the old Alien Encounter experience then they could really have something. Now it just feels recycled but not quite…
My son is the BIGGEST Stitch fan that I know, he absolutely loves him and we always have to go when we visit. I get how people can see this “ride” as lame but the hatred of it I don’t get. I can still smell the chili dog burp just thinking of it 🙂
Hi Dave! I love that this article is still getting comments. It just goes to show that while the Disney online folks slam this attraction that lots of folks out there love it!
Disney definitely has a dark side. Some parents naively think that just because it’s at Disney, it’s suitable for “kids of all ages”. Do you know Disney has raised the height limit 2 or 3 times in an effort to keep parents from bringing little kids into the ride? Well, it doesn’t seem to have worked. So a minute or so into the show, the screaming begins as all the little munchkins become terrified by Stitch and/or the special effects in the seats. If the little ones really go ballistic, we’ve seen them led from the theater. At this point the wife looks at me and says “thank god ours are grown and that is not us”. I know it sounds horrible to take pleasure in hearing and seeing these kids go nuts in fear of Stitch. But just as Disney has a dark side, I guess all of us do too. If you enjoy this sort of warped humor, It’s Tough To Be a Bug and Mikey’s Philharmagic can lead to some of the same reactions.
Hi Lee – every time I go on this ride I notice that CMs are ready to let screaming kids off the ride. They are really clear that it will be dark, loud, ect. I’m amazed that little kids still end up there! I don’t have kids but if I did the sign alone would be enough for me to skip it.
Thanks so much for posting this! I too was a teenager when Alien Encounter first came out, and I remember loving it and being really disappointed when they replaced it (I never rode Stitch in protest, so I wouldn’t be able to compare). I really appreciated the other rides you mentioned that people had to experience back then to understand some of what Disney has changed from. And it’s hard to convey how much I used to love these rides to my fiance, who never went to Disney growing up and doesn’t get my nerdy fascination with rides that were retired after the 90’s. I’d add Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the list, which was significantly darker than Winnie the Pooh, its replacement.
Hi Stefanie – I can so relate! I built toad up so much to my hubby that when we road it at Disneyland he was expecting WAY more. I think you have to be a Disney nerd to get it! 🙂
I remember the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter very well. It was my second visit to Disney World (I am from Germany) in 1996 (the first time was 1993) when I went into the attraction. In 1999 with my best friend I went again. This is one of my favorite all-time attractions. Later on I have been at Stitch’s Great Escape. Nice, but in no way comparable. This is an attraction more suitable for children while the Alien Encounter was more for older Teens and Adults. Really scary!!! ;)) I am still sad they changed it.