Tomorrowland is by far my favorite land in the Magic Kingdom for several reasons- beautiful architecture, the home of Space Mountain, futuristic palm trees, and the beautiful lighting at night. However, one of my favorite things about Tomorrowland unfortunately no longer exists.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was a psychological thriller of an attraction that resided where Stitch’s Great Escape is currently located. It replaced the Mission to Mars attraction which in turn replaced the Flight to the Moon attraction. Talk about a busy attraction location! The concept Alien Encounter was focused on creating an experience where the guests’ minds and imaginations would take over in creating the suspense and thrill of the attraction in the place of visual cues. When the attraction first opened in December 1994 for previews, former CEO Michael Eisner was displeased as it found the experience to not be intense enough. Thus the attraction closed again for a few months and officially opened June 20, 1995 as part of the New Tomorrowland.
The thrilling attraction began with guests entering into the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center, whose name also used to be announced on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority as you passed overhead. As you entered into the convention center, you were greeted by Clench the head of X-S, the company presenting the day’s demonstration to you. The company’s name was meant to be a play on “excess” and to demonstrate just how awry things can go when done to excess. Clench was portrayed by Jeffrey Jones and proclaimed that “if something can’t be done with X-S, then it shouldn’t be done at all!”
As you move into the second room of the pre-show, you meet two of the well-remembered characters of the extinct attraction- S.I.R. and Skippy. S.I.R. stood for Simulated Intelligence Robotics and was a robot voiced by Tim Curry. Skippy was an adorable and fuzzy alien who unfortunately became the subject of today’s demonstration. S.I.R. displayed to the audience how X-S had developed the technology to transport living things molecularly through space to another destination. Skippy was then transported from one tube across the room to another and he emerged looking a little worse for the wear. But don’t worry; as S.I.R. assured the audience, the process was “practically painless.”
You then move into the main show room which was a theater in the round featuring chairs for guests which included shoulder restraints. These guaranteed that once things went awry, guests were stuck in the middle of everything, like it or not. All of these seats were situated around a central tube placed to demonstrate teleporting. Once situated, guests were greeted again by Clench and introduced to other characters working for X-S who were portrayed by Kathy Najimi, Tyra Banks, and Kevin Pollak. Clench then proclaims that he has been overcome with inspiration that he should be personally teleported to the room to personally address his audience. Since this was not the original plan, when trying to coordinate Clench’s teleportation, something else gets stuck in the transit and ends up in the room instead…something big. Then chaos erupts.
The lights go out leaving the audience in pitch blackness, but not before affording a glimpse of an immense winged beast that proceeds to break out of the tube and be exposed to the audience. The moments of chaos are hard to describe, as each person is affected by them differently depending on how much they buy into the situation and imaginary aspects of it. Throughout the darkness, an unfortunate maintenance worker could be heard above coming face to face with the alien. Guests then felt a mist of something spray onto their faces- the aftermath of the worker’s death or the breath of the alien itself? Guests then would proceed to feel their shoulder restraints press down as if the beast was either walking or standing on top of them. Shortly after guests would also experience a blowing sensation on the backs of their necks, likely triggering the fear that the alien was directly behind them. Eventually the alien is coaxed back into the tube and teleported out of the room, leaving everyone safe once again.
The attraction was designed to be disorienting in order to create a more thrilling experience and to allow guests’ imaginations to fill in the blanks of what they were seeing. I can remember being terrified the first time I experienced the attraction, but then immediately wanting to get back on line for it again. While Alien Encounter had loyal fans and remained popular over the years, it was viewed by many to be too intense and thus inappropriate for children under twelve. Eventually, the attraction closed on October 12, 2003 to make way for Stitch.
I still greatly miss this attraction as it was truly a one of a kind experience. I love psychological thrillers and Alien Encounter delivered time and time again. It would be nice to see something similar to the attraction come to a Disney park in the future, but I find that wish unlikely to be filled. Despite missing it, I can still get my fix of visiting Skippy through experiencing Stitch’s Great Escape. Plus, I can always look to the future with X-S!
Did you love ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter? Did you think it was too intense or just right? Would you like to see something similar come to the parks in the future? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.