Much like the lyrics to a favorite song, the multi-sensory experiences had in Walt Disney World can serve to cement memories in a Guest’s subconscious. Often times, these locations are tied to special “firsts,” family moments, or unmatched feelings of awe. This truth makes it hard, if not crushing, to learn that a favorite attraction, restaurant, shop or area is being replaced. The allure of new technologies and mind-boggling experiences comes at a high price: the loss of places that, while perhaps outdated or less popular, were nonetheless beloved by many.
And so, it is the extinct experiences of Walt Disney World that we honor with this year’s WDW Radio Magic Madness tournament. With a history spanning five decades and a 50th anniversary just around the corner, the list of options from which to choose seemed almost endless. Since Walt Disney World is so much more than its attractions, this year’s list of 32 contenders also includes restaurants, shops, and more. While heavy hitters such as Horizons have achieved an almost mythic status in the hearts and minds of Disney devotees, other niche experiences such as the House of Magic have a smaller yet fervent fan-base. It would have been easy to fill a list of 32 with only the most oft-remembered attractions that have resided in Walt’s Florida Project; and yet, the home of Cinderella deserves the chance to witness a Cinderella story or two. As such, lesser known locations such as the Top of the World can be found competing alongside well-known, bygone favorites like World of Motion.
For readers’ reference, a short description of each experience/location has been included below, in case a reminder is needed.
Left Side of the Bracket
Image Works (1982-1998) – This post-show area was found on the second floor of the Imagination Pavilion and featured the Rainbow Corridor, a long tube of neon lights that surrounded Guests, as well as Stepping Tones and many more interactive, hands-on experiences.
Soundstage Restaurant (1989-1998) – This restaurant was located in the Animation Courtyard area of Disney-MGM Studios and was laid out to resemble a Hollywood soundstage. When it opened, the soundstage was set up as if the film Big Business was being filmed there, later it was changed to feature Beauty and the Beast followed by Aladdin.
Horizons (1983-1999) – The Horizons Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World was a 15-minute long attraction where Guests boarded their vehicles and traveled through history and into the future. Featuring audio-animatronics, massive sets, aromas and an Omnimax film, it was a multi-sensory experience that ended with riders journeying to their chosen future on either Mesa Verde, Omega Centauri or Sea Castle Resort.
Mile Long Bar (1971-1998) – Located at the exit to Country Bear Jamboree, Mile Long Bar served snacks and drinks. It was known for its mirrors on either end which created the optical illusion that the bar was a “mile long.” It also featured its own set of Buff, Melvin and Max audio-animatronics that would interact with Guests.
River Country (1976-2001) – Nestled in the woods next to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, River Country was a water park that resembled an ol’ swimmin’ hole. With waterslides made to look like they were carved out of a mountain and supported by weather-worn lumber, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn would have felt right at home.
SpectroMagic (1991-1999 and 2001-2010) – Featuring a beloved soundtrack and an impressive use of fiber optics, SpectroMagic served as Magic Kingdom’s nighttime parade for nearly two decades. Mickey Mouse and the Spectromen led the way for floats depicting the Silly Symphony shorts, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Fantasia and many other beloved Disney characters.
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (1995-2003) – Created through a collaboration between Disney and George Lucas, Alien Encounter welcomed Guests to the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center for a demonstration by X-S Tech. What began as a show of extraterrestrial scientific advancement devolved into a nightmare when a horrifying alien was teleported into the laboratory.
The Great Movie Ride (1989-2017) – Inside the doors of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater at Disney-MGM Studios/Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Guests boarded trams that took them into the movies. With scenes from films such as The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ In the Rain, Mary Poppins, Tarzan, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Public Enemy and more, the trip into the movies featured audio-animatronics of Hollywood stars like Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and many others.
Mickey Mouse Revue (1971-1980) – Maestro Mickey Mouse led an orchestra of audio-animatronic characters in this Fantasyland show. Characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Ludwig Von Drake, Goofy, King Louie and more each had a place in the orchestra. As the show progressed, they were lowered into the orchestra pit so that characters from Disney films and shorts like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Three Little Pigs, The Three Caballeros, Cinderella and Song of the South could perform beloved songs from their respective films.
Discovery Island (1974-1999) – Originally known as Treasure Island, the 11.5 acre island that this wildlife sanctuary called home can be found in the waters of Bay Lake. Home to one of the world’s largest aviaries, Guests could see a number of bird species up close such as macaws, flamingos, peacocks, cockatoos, cranes, toucans, pelicans and more. In addition to animals of the avian variety, there were also exhibits for Capuchin monkeys, lemurs, tortoises, and alligators.
Skyway (1971-1999) – The Skyway was a suspended gondola attraction that ran from one end of Fantasyland to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. Skyway buckets could hold up to four passengers, and Guests were able to board at either station for a one-way or roundtrip with overhead views of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and other attractions and pathways.
Magic of Disney Animation (1989-2015) – On opening day of Disney-MGM Studios, this attraction featured the film Back to Neverland which was followed by a tour of the actual, working animation studio. Guests were afforded the opportunity to look over the shoulders of animators as well as learn about the overall process of creating films like Mulan and Lilo and Stitch. When studio operations ended in 2003, the initial film was changed and the walking portion of the tour included various displays and Character Meet and Greet opportunities.
Cranium Command (1989-2007) – Located inside the Wonders of Life Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World, Cranium Command was a show that took place inside the brain of 12-year-old Bobby. Guests sat in a small theater made to resemble the inside of Bobby’s head, with two screens allowing viewers to see everything the young boy saw. Buzzy, an audio-animatronic character, was in charge of directing the cast of characters who represented Bobby’s various organs and body systems. These characters offered up a number of celebrity cameos such as Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, George Wendt and others.
Kitchen Kabaret (1982-1994) – This audio-animatronic show located on the lower level of the The Land Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World featured a cast of culinary characters such as the Cereal Sisters, Bonnie Appetit and others singing little ditties about nutrition. Favorites tunes included “Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit,” “Chase Those (Meal Time) Blues Away,” “The Stars of the Milky Way” and others.
Maelstrom (1988-2014) – A boat/flume ride found in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, Maelstrom put Guests face to face with Norse god Odin, a three-headed troll, polar bears and an oil rig all while traveling through a seaside village, plunging backward over a waterfall, and peeking outside to the exterior of the pavilion. Following the ride portion, the attraction continued with the short film “The Spirit of Norway.”
Ellen’s Energy Adventure (1996-2017) – This was the second incarnation of the single attraction which comprised the Universe of Energy Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World. Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye starred in both the film portion and as an audio-animatronics in this expansive journey through the history of energy. Perhaps most famous for its enormous audio-animatronic dinosaurs, Ellen’s Energy Adventure was unique in that its 80-person ride vehicles partially ran on energy supplied by solar panels located on the pavilion’s roof.
Right Side of the Bracket
The Diamond Horseshoe Revue (1971-2003) – Originally, this Frontierland show and eatery was a tickets-only establishment featuring wild west entertainment such as singing, Can-Can dancers, comedy and more. Later the show was modified and the menu changed to quick-service offerings. The interior of The Diamond Horseshoe remained relatively unchanged, a two-story theater complete with balconies and tables where Guests could take in a meal and a show.
World of Motion (1982-1996) – Found in Epcot’s Future World and sponsored by General Motors, this attraction heavily featured audio-animatronics depicting the history of transportation. Guests traveled on Omnimovers through scenes showing the invention of the wheel, animal-led transportation, bicycles, the horseless carriage, and future transportation, all to the tune of X. Atencio and Buddy Baker’s “It’s Fun to Be Free!”
Top of the World (1971-1993) – The original Walt Disney World nightclub, Top of the World was located on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort and offered panoramic views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. Occasionally, the stage welcomed celebrity entertainment like Rosemary Clooney, Donald O’Connor, Mel Torme, Phyllis Diller, The Four Tops, and others. Then, in 1981, the twice nightly show “Broadway at the Top” began its run, which included songs from popular Broadway shows.
Mickey’s Starland (1990-1996) – Taking the place of the temporary Mickey’s Birthdayland, which was created to celebrate Mickey’s 60th birthday, Mickey’s Starland offered Guests the opportunity to visit Mickey, Minnie and a number of the popular Disney Afternoon television characters. With facades for photo taking and Mickey and Minnie’s homes, children could literally step into the toon world. The land was also home to a stage show called Mickey’s Starland Show, which included characters from Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, TaleSpin, Adventures of the Gummi Bears and DuckTales.
DisneyQuest (1998-2017) – Offering the latest in virtual reality, video games, and interactive experiences, DisneyQuest was a five-story, indoor, 100,000 square-foot experience located in the West Side section of Downtown Disney. Popular attractions and games throughout its history included Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, Ride the Comix, CyberSpace Mountain, Virtual Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold and others.
CommuniCore (1982-1994) – CommuniCore (short for Community Core) was the precursor to Innoventions in Future World at Epcot. It was comprised of two buildings. CommuniCore West included FutureCom, Expo Robotics, and the EPCOT Outreach and Teacher’s Center. CommuniCore East was made up of Computer Central, The Astuter Computer Revue, Travelport, Energy Exchange and the Electronic Forum.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1971-1994) – Based on the 1954 film of the same name, which was based on the novel by Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was located in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Guests boarded one of twelve Nautilus submarines on a journey through the sea with Captain Nemo. With the ride vehicles partially submerged in water and animatronic sea life just outside the portholes, Guests felt as if they had taken a dive into the deep.
Adventurers Club (1989-2008) – Merriweather Adam Pleasure, the fictional owner of Pleasure Island, founded this club and filled it with artifacts from his trips around the world. Designed to reflect a West Indies/British Colonial style and filled with live entertainment, audio-animatronics, puppetry, and more, the Adventurers Club was not the average nightclub.
The Disney Institute (1996-2002) – Designed for Guests looking for enrichment on their vacation getaway, The Disney Institute (located where Disney’s Saratoga Springs currently sits) offered a wide range of programs and individual courses including culinary arts, gardening, entertainment arts, design arts, sports and fitness, story arts and more. The property offered on-site accommodations in bungalows, townhouses, Treehouse Villas, and Grand Vista Homes. In 2000, the institute shifted away from individuals and began offering classes for groups or corporate retreats until its closing in early 2002.
House of Magic (1971-1995) – The House of Magic was one of the shops on the west side of Main Street, U.S.A in the Magic Kingdom. This unique store offered a number of “monster” masks and small magic tricks as well as being staffed with Cast Members who performed illusions and card tricks.
If You Had Wings (1972-1987) – At the time of the resort’s opening, Eastern Airlines was the official airline of Walt Disney World and served as the sponsor for If You Had Wings. This attraction was a perfect cross-promotion opportunity for the company as it used projections and film to showcase Eastern Airlines’ destinations including Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and others as Guests progressed through scenes in Omnimover ride vehicles.
Backstage Studio Tour (1989-1996) – Back when Disney-MGM Studios was still a working studio, the Backstage Studio Tour took Guests on a behind-the-scenes tram ride through all aspects of the film and television production process. Included in the ride portion of the attraction were views of the costume and set construction area as well as a trip through Catastrophe Canyon and a ride down Residential Street. After Guests disembarked from the tram, they could continue their walking tour through the sound stages where they may have been lucky enough to catch a filming of The Disney’s Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club.
Adventureland Veranda (1971-1994) – As Guests crossed the bridge into Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom, immediately to the right was the Adventureland Veranda restaurant. Originally, the menu included items like sandwiches and fried chicken. However, in 1977, Kikkoman became its corporate sponsor and the menu was changed to offer items such as teriyaki hamburgers, sweet and sour hot dogs and stir-fry, which seemed to fit better with the overall South Seas decor.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (1971-1998) – Based on the animated short from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was located in Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom. It was a dark ride that followed the story of Mr. Toad and his obsession with his new motorcar. Show scenes followed along with the original animated short film, with the exception of the ride’s infamous finale.
Journey into Imagination (1983-1998) – Found in the pavilion of the same name in Epcot’s Future World, this dark ride followed two audio-animatronic characters, Figment and Dreamfinder, as they collected ideas in Dreamfinder’s flying machine. Throughout a number of show scenes, the pair explored the importance of imagination in art, writing, music and science.
Odyssey Restaurant (1982-1994) – The building housing the Odyssey Restaurant still stands today jutting over the waterway between Future World and World Showcase in Epcot. While this dining location served quick-service style items such as hot dogs, hamburgers and salads, it was known for its dinner show. Throughout the day, Guests could grab their food and sit at tables in front of the stage while Mickey and his friends put on a show in their famous rainbow spacesuits.
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