/ Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

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

Famous Quote:

“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

Favorite Memories:

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.

Good times.

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.



8 thoughts on “EXTINCT ATTRACTIONS: Alien Encounter”

  1. Gary z says:

    Miss this attraction so much. One of my favorites. It fit into Tommorowland so well. The music was awesome. Things change, and there is nothing that can be done, but to seize the moment with xs!!

  2. Sanford says:

    AE was a great attraction that never should have gone away. There was something about the theming that I loved; a great example of the queue area with the convention events, and the pre-show area with SIR and Skippy, really complementing the story of the main attraction.

    AE also had some great comedic lines:

    -It’s my mother-in-law,

    -I’ve been seized./ Something you ate sir?

    -You’re not burned Skippy, you’ve just got a healthy glow.

    Every time I pass Stitch, I shed a tear for what was there before.

  3. A.S. Freeman says:

    During my first trip to the world, I had yet to discover the joy of being scared in an attraction, and so I bypassed alien encounter (I was 12). Unfortunately for me, the ride was gone by the time I was able to get back to WDW. I did ride Stitch, but from what I’ve heard, Stitch pales in comparison to what Alien Encounter was.

    While I understand why Disney needed to move towards an attraction like Stitch, I do often wish that they would bring back Alien Encounter for at least a little while so I might experience what sounds like an awesome attraction. It’s second on my list behind 20,000 leagues of extinct attractions that I would love to see come back so that I might be able to experience them.

  4. Chuck Munson says:

    “If something can’t be done with X-S, then it shouldn’t be done at all!” Did anyone else want to see that on a T-shirt or ball cap? If Disney World marketing did it, then I definitely never saw it. That tagline had me chuckling every time I heard it.

  5. CriesDuringWishes says:

    I was genuinely scared by this- but liked it, even though I hesitated going back each time. It was memorable and unique and that simple restraint accounted for so much of the effect.

    I miss how well it fit into the themeing of the new Tomorrowland.

    I can’t bring myself to see Stitch- I know I will be disappointed.

  6. I love and miss this attraction. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon it. I still remember my first time. My dad had gone out to the car, and my brother, sister and I were closing down the park. It was closing time and I could not find this attraction to save my life. As we were heading for the gate through tomorrowland, a Cast Member hollers to us to come catch the final show. I have no idea for what, but sure. We couldn’t stop talking about it the whole way out. Totally awesome.

  7. I only rode this attraction once. I was 8. I remember seeing a preview of it on a Disney Vacation Planning Video before we went in 1996 and they showed a big alien hand (or at least that’s what I imagined it to be), flying down at the crowd out of the ceiling. The whole time I was on it I was expecting that to happen, but it never did. Although, maybe I just didn’t see it happen since my eyes were closed the whole time anyway.

  8. Tony E says:

    Since my first trip to WDW wasn’t until 2009, I never got to experience the Alien Encounter but I really wish I had.