Poor Skippy… A look back at the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
by Brian Vasil
Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center Officially Opens: June 20, 1995
X-S Files for Chapter 11: October 12, 2003
“If something can’t be done with X-S, then it shouldn’t be done at all!” – LC Clench
“Stitch’s Great Escape was NOT done with X-S” – B Vasil
I’m never lucky at Walt Disney World. If there’s a giveaway… I am there the day after it. Soft opening? I’m there a week early… Celebrity visiting Hollywood Studios? I’m in Animal Kingdom. But that would all change in 1994.
My wife and I were walking by the ominous windows of what would become Alien Encounter, when an Imagineer with a clipboard asked us to come inside and try out the new ride. We were ecstatic! I remember it was a slightly different show than what it would eventually become. Sure, the harnesses came down and the Alien breathed on our necks… but the show seemed tame and uneventful. As we exited the ride, the same Imagineer asked our detailed opinion of everything from the atmosphere, to the fit of the restraints, to the way we felt at the end. I remembered giving it a resounding “meh” and we thanked him for the ride.
Oh boy did it change.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who felt this way. When the ride officially opened in June of 1995, it was scarier, more intense, darker, and oh so much better! I really liked this ride… and rather than give a run down of every detail that made it special to me… here’s a quick bullet point list of what I thought made this experience unique and amazing:
- Pre-Show: Phil Hartman and Tim Curry involved in the same attraction? I’m in.
- Pre-Show: Anytime I hear the phrase “practically painless” I think of Skippy. Poor, poor Skippy…
- Main Show: One of the scariest parts was waiting for the restraints to come down. I always hoped my head was properly lined up with each side. I know… I worry too much.
- Main Show: The special effects… blood splatter (ok…Alien saliva…but I always thought it was the bi-product of the cast member with the flashlight above). Breathing on my neck? Freaked me out. The “mother-in-law” joke in binaural audio… the flashes of light… the empty tube… All of the chaos happening in pitch black darkness while I’m held down to my seat by my speaker/harness.
I was sad to see it go. It was unlike anything else in Tomorrowland… and arguably the entire Magic Kingdom. Sure, I can still see Skippy in the pre-show of Stitch’s Great Escape… and it’s great to visit my old friend from time to time. However, it’s my hope that somewhere X-S is perfecting the teleportation technology and will beam out the great Skippy… Sparing him from the current underwhelming experience that stand’s in AE’s place.
What are your memories of Alien Encounter? What was your favorite special effect? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time Mouseketeers!
Brian Vasil has been Disney-obsessed since his first visit to WDW in 1971 (he was only 3 months old…and has visited 100+ times since then). He’s been known for leaving hidden Mickeys in the place settings at his wedding, always choosing the “Desert” ending at Horizons, and weeping at the end of “Wishes” (it gets dusty…). He lives in Ft. Lauderdale with his wife Mindy and daughter Brianna.