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TOPIC: Join me as we take a trip aboard my Wayback Machine and visit one of Walt Disney World’s scariest attractions, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter in Tomorrowland. This theater-in-the-round attraction lasted less than a decade, but made an impact due to its fear factor, celebrity cast and sophisticated plot line. We’ll explore the history of the attraction and go through it scene by scene, then discuss its changes, tributes and ultimate demise.

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Sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s episode of the WDW Radio show. Thanks for listening! Be sure to tune in next week!

– Lou Mongello

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26 thoughts on “WDW Radio Show #363 – DSI: Disney Scene Investigation of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter”

  1. Doc says:

    It was one of the best attractions ever. Couldn’t wait to go in every time I was at WDW , then it was gone, replaced with Stitch. Basically the same, but no scare or excitement just disappointment!

  2. dxwwf3 says:

    This is my all time favorite theme park attraction. I was 11 years old when it opened and it was the attraction that showed me that a detailed exposition was possible in a theme park setting and that original, theme park specific IP attractions are always going to be more special to me than rides that come from pre-existing properties. I still wear my AE shirts when I’m in the Magic Kingdom and the attraction sign picture is the lock screen on my phone. There were great attractions built before and after this attraction, but none of them had the impact this one did.

  3. FettFan says:

    1. The biggest mistake that Stitch made was that they dumbed down the storyline so badly. Instead of a semi-sketchy corporation wanting to show off its wares, we get a watered down “guard this prison until the prisoner wants to be nice”. Stitch Escape also exists in a strange universe. Whereas Alien Encounter took place at the Tomorrowland Convention Center….with Stitch, we are supposed to be on a different planet entirely, and the cartoon aliens have never even heard of Earth before. It makes no sense.
    Had they kept the X-S Tech storyline and simply replaced the giant bloodthirsty bug with Stitch, I think it would have been better received.

    2. There was also an original ending for Alien Encounter that involved Clench being recovered and beamed into the auditorium. Originally as guests were leaving the room, they would hear him pounding on the now-enclosed tube and screaming for someone to let him out. I don’t know why exactly this was cut out (Birnbaum’s travel guide wrote of it along the lines of “Clench is retrieved, but too late to save the presentation”), but the second ending had Spinlock and Feemus simply saying goodbye to the departing crowd.

  4. disco_yeti says:

    LOVED this attraction! I was only able to experience it once, but I was blown away by how immersive it was. No other Disney attraction (for me) has been able to capture the feeling of being an active participant in such an experience. I knew a little of what to expect when I walked into it, but was still blown away by the whole show.

    That being said, although I loved this ride, I completely understand those who were shocked that it showed up in the Magic Kingdom. It seems like this would have been much better off in Hollywood Studios. I know the chances of it being resurrected as next to impossible, but I would love to see Disney (or someone else) resurrect even this style of attraction.

    Since the ride had two theaters, I wish Disney could have programmed one to run at Stitch during the day, and the other to run as Alien Encounter during other times. The pre-shows could just be swapped over to different videos and animatronic programming.

  5. Patty says:

    I loved this attraction and miss it. The replacement, while probably a better fit for the Magic Kingdom, is just a sad reminder of its former awesomeness. I would love to see this moved to the Studio and returned to the original.

  6. Ken says:

    I loved this attraction! I still remember that hot air feeling on my neck. That is when I flipped out and started yelling and screaming for my mommy LOL. I feel bad that my wife and son will not be able to experience that! I would love to see them bring this back. I have not been on Stitch (in protest) b/c I just don’t think it would be the same! Knowing that they were going to try and do the Alien creature – now THAT would be a sight to see. Bring it back with that creature!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Alien Encounter scared me quite a bit, but I really loved it too. It contained my favorite WDW storyline and a couple of my favorite characters (Skippy and Dr. Feemus). I haven’t ridden Stitch, but I’ve heard its soundtrack and I agree that it’s a sad reminder of what used to be playing in those theaters. By the way, I love all the character analysis this ride inspires! That shows what an intelligent and creative story this was.

  8. Jezza says:

    I loved this attraction for it’s fear factor. I first rode it in 1999 and remember everything from the ‘blood’ dripping from the ceiling to the hiss behind your head as the monster came right up behind you and the sounds as it flew around the room.

    Although it was a great attraction and it is missed by many, I do like Stitch’s Great Escape purely for the fact that I got to take my young son in and there was nothing for him to be afraid of. He is a Stitch fan and he enjoyed the attraction which was great.

  9. faldred says:

    My first adult trip to WDW was in 2002, and I went to Alien Encounter on the advice of a friend. Not knowing what to expect, I was worried that it might be some form of spinning ride when I saw the circular room and the harnesses. Thankfully, of course, it didn’t spin, but was probably about 3 times as scary for all of that. After screaming like a little girl and letting my heart rate return to normal, I made sure I went in again later in my trip.

    I bought the action figure set, and to this day I have them on display on my office desk – skippy (pre- and post-burnt), SIR, and the alien. That was one of my two main souvenir purchases for the trip.

    As for the alien, I too sympathize with its plight, and wonder if perhaps it was just confused by its entitlements on the Disney Dining Plan.

  10. Arline says:

    I totally miss Alien Encounter. It was so terrifying as a teenager bc I had no idea what was going to happen. In the first room, I remember thinking, “This is dumb.” And then we got strapped in… Totally scary!

    However, years later I wanted to take my husband to it bc I knew he’d love it. And it was gone! 🙁

    You mentioned people missing “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”… I rode that once when I was little. My dad so lovingly convinced me I was really driving and there was no track.

    That was scarier than the alien and scarred me for real. Seriously. I didn’t get my drivers license until I was 17 bc I was terrified of driving. :0 True story.

  11. Brad says:

    I absolutely loved this attraction, I saw it as a kid when I was twelve and I was absolutely TERRORfied. I had a lot of the merchandise that they sold for this attraction. I would do anything to experience this attraction again….BRING. IT. BACK.!!!!!!!

  12. Jim Wills says:

    I really liked Alien Encounter and miss it being there. What made me like it so much was it’s uniqueness and depth on so many levels, from the special effects to the story line and ethical questions that it raised. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t aimed at everyone as was meant for an older audience but with that said I can understand someone saying that: this was a park for children and adults to enjoy together.
    I wouldn’t have been as upset with them closing the attraction and replacing it because it never had the highest attendance numbers. What bothered me was the way in which it was replaced. I get the synergy model but why not a new unique attraction to showcase Stitch instead of swapping out Stitch for the alien and basically dumbing down and adding a cutesy element to the script? If I never saw Alien Encounter and just saw Stitch’s Great Escape, the attraction would be fine but you can’t un-see something especially when it was great.

  13. Peter A says:

    It was the best show in Tomorrowland. My wife and I really loved it. When the alien first appeared you heard someone behind you exclaim “That looks like my mother-in-law”. It was only on the second time we saw it that we realised that it was part of the show. I don’t believe that Clench wanted to come to see us because of remorse for skippy, but rather because he saw the big sales potential, and great showmen always want to maximise the impression they make.

    Just to comment on another point you made in the show. My daughter is terrified of the Hollywood tower, not because of the drop, which she loves, but because of the scary story…

    Love your show.


  14. Jim says:

    Alien Encounter was enjoyable ride, I always enjoyed it, but I experienced one of the worst times of my life on this same ride. I was solo in line behind a couple who had a young daughter (6-7 years old). I suggested to dad he ride before taking the daughter on the ride. They didn’t listen and the girl had a very bad experience. Once the shoulder harnesses come down there’s no getting out. Her cries of fear were horrible, real terror could be heard. I sat next to the dad, who tried to get out of his seat during the show, but was unable because of the restraint. I’lll never forget that fear coming from that young girl.

  15. Jill says:

    I really enjoyed this ride. Even as an 8 year old girl I enjoyed the thrill! I understand that it was not everyone’s cup of tea, but I still feel like, with the proper warnings and now all of the travel books you can buy describing the attractions, that having one scary ride should not be out of the question. Perhaps it would be better in Hollywood studios. Either way, I miss it dearly and would love to seek it back someday in one of the parks.

  16. BerdoRules says:

    This is my all-time favorite ride of Walt Disney World. I rode it for the first time with my family when I was 18 in 1995 and I was screaming like a little girl. I had to go on it again because I never did that on any ride anywhere. I also loved the themeing and the story. I have several pins of the ride and try to buy any Alien Encounter items I can find on eBay.

    I miss this ride

  17. Devan says:

    I saw this attraction as a teenager and DO NOT miss it at all. I’m a bit of a wimp, so this ride was far beyond something I enjoyed. I didn’t like the sense of being in the dark and not going on. That being said, I saw the warnings and chose to ignore them, so I asked to be scared!

  18. Ken says:

    I so agree that this was a technically advanced and intricate attraction. However, I went on it once and vowed never again – I am not a fan of stuff jumping out at you, the unknown, etc. I’m sort of glad it isn’t there as I don’t need to hem and haw about whether I should go on it or not when at MK (along with my kids). I do think Stitch is cool to kids, my daughter was apprehensive about going on stitch, I can just imagine what it would have been like for her on AE.

    Frankly, I think it was out of place at disney world, would be better suited for that other park in Florida….

  19. Kari says:

    I went on this with my family back in 2000. I was 17 at the time and my sister was 11. I was scared but she was beyond scared! We had no idea going in, that it was that scary.

    When I went back in 2004 with my then fiance, now husband, I really wanted him to ride it. But it was closed for Stitch.

    I love Stitch and ride it every time we go. The only regret is that my husband did not get to ride it. I do think Alien Encounter was out of place in Tomorrowland.

  20. MJ says:

    I remember the 1st time my brother and I went on the ride. Not knowing what the ride was about, even at 19 it scared me. We liked it so much we made my sister and dad come on the ride too. With my brother and I knowing my sister was not much on scary things, we thought this would be fun. It was! She screamed the entire time. I loved the adrenalin rush from the ride and was sad the next time we went and it was no longer there. Still liked Stitch but wasn’t the same scare!
    Thank you so much for bring back some fun memories and teaching me some good in site on the ride!
    PS- Maybe you know this. I have a photo of me with my G’pa on a ride in Disneyland coming out of what it looks like Monstro the whale. What ride would that be?

  21. njoy says:

    I LOVED Alien Encounter! I rode when I was in my twenties and almost passed out! Went home and told other family members they HAD to rid it and they were scared out of their wits too! But I was older and love to be scared and surprised. AND I want it back! (This does not mean I Liked TOT)

    I did find a DVD of Alien Encounter on the web and just listen to it (the video is pretty stat-icky). so I can go back once in a while. And I did buy a bubble pen of the Alien chasing Micky after riding the ride.

  22. Cristabel says:

    I have never experienced this attraction but I had thoroughly researched WDW before our first trip in 2006 but did not know that it had been closed three years prior. When I arrived and experienced Stitch’s Great Escape, I was so sad I missed Alien Encounter. It sounded like a great attraction!

  23. I loved this episode. Like all the other DSI’s you’ve done over the years, they are extremely thorough and ripe with great nuggets of trivia.

    This too was one of my favorite attractions, mostly because it came outside the box. It was created and imagined from start to finish with a complete story line and new characters both lovable and scary. I love what the Disney Parks create all the time, this one (and Timekeeper) however are great attractinos that were extra special to me.

    For all your listeners and readers Lou, I wanted to just let everyone know if they want to relive those memories of this attraction, I released audio I recorded personally in a podcast back in 2006. Feel free to go give it a listen. I’m not Lou Mongello, but I find listening to the audio with the guests talking and reacting puts me back in the park better than downloaded source audio.

    Thanks Lou for the DSI.

  24. Glenn says:

    As I look back over the years at the different things that led up to me being the HUGE Disney fan that I am, Alien Encounter is one of those stepping stones. It was here that special effects took on a whole new meaning to me. I think I only got to experience it once or twice, but I was blown away–from the alien, to the realistic power outage, the broken tube, the use of the speakers in your harness, the breath, the lick, the movement of the harness (you felt like the alien was RIGHT OVER YOUR HEAD/BEHIND YOU!!) (Note about those speakers: many of the screams you heard [“It looks like my mother-in-law!”] were not actually coming from other guests, but from those speakers–prerecorded to make it even scarier–another brilliant use of technology and story-telling.) Whenever people would go to The World that I knew, this was one of those “must-do” attractions I would always recommend. I miss this attraction. I think Disney World needs a few more of these “edgy” attractions. Great show, as always, Lou!

  25. victoria W says:

    Honestly it sounds like i would have LOVED this ride! I HATE stitch’s great escape so so much! It seems like this ride was super amazing and a great thrill experience. next time i visit i am gonna go to stitch’s great escape just to get a sense of what came before it.

  26. Chuck Zitta says:

    Oh, yes. The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction was loads of fun. Something my kids never got to experience. I miss Skippy. Poor guy. That attraction definitely had a great twist to its plot line. That’s what made it so much fun for the older folks. Yeah, not something I would have ever recommended someone take their young children on. Big kids only. Please.

    Thanks again for another fantastic show, Lou and Daniel!!!