Abandoned Disney Attractions: Rides That Are Permanently Closed

I was fortunate enough to visit the newly opened Disney World in 1974, when all of the attractions were shiny and new and none had been abandoned. However, as time has gone on, Disney would close some rides and attractions and replace them with others.

Usually, this swap had something to do with a new Disney movie that the park wanted to tie into. For example, when I took my own daughters to Disney World in 2000, Disney’s “A Bug’s Life” was currently popular.

So was Disney’s “Tarzan.” Not surprisingly, there were attractions from both movies, including a Tarzan “show” that included performers on rollerskates. In case you don’t know, the Tarzan movie debuted in 1999.

Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955. Then Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida in 1971. Since then, Disney has remained a theme park entertainment leader.

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In 2021, the Themed Entertainment Association named the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World the top theme park in the world. The Walt Disney Company also ranked number four on Fortune’s 2021 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies.

How fun is this? You can get a map for a Magic Kingdom scavenger hunt.

Abandoned Disney attractions that don’t exist anymore

Disney has a formula for remaining popular and keeping guests returning for more. That is, the Disney Parks are forever reinventing rides and attractions. In the process, they may close down or abandon old ones.

Thanks to Stacker research, here are 15 popular Disney theme park attractions from the past. These are the ones that Disney has abandoned, recreated as some other ride or simply don’t exist anymore.

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As someone who has been to Disney World in Orlando many times, I’m excited to take this trip down Disney attraction memory lane.

Rainbow Caverns Mine Train (Closed 1977)

Mine Train Accessory at Disneyland

Tom Arthur // Wikimedia Commons

Walt Disney designed Rainbow Caverns Mine Train as a slow-moving train that took visitors through an Old West mining town named Rainbow Ridge.

Two decades later, like Old West mining towns of yore, Disney abandoned the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction. Then, it replaced it with the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a roller coaster still in operation.

FYI, I’m a scaredy cat on most roller coasters. For example, I’ll never forgive my family for tricking me into riding the Aerosmith Rock n Roller Coaster at MGM Studios at Disney. Disney rebranded the park as Hollywood Studios at WDW in 2008.

However, the Big Thunder Mountain, which is also at Disney World, is a roller coaster I loved. In fact, I would ride it again and again with my daughters.

I think I loved it so much because it didn’t so much drop you and throw you around like the Aerosmith one did. Instead, it dipped and turned in a way that felt silly and fun.

Submarine Voyage (closed 1998)

Disneyland submarines of the Disneyland Submarine Voyage

Ellen Levy Finch // Wikimedia Commons

When I first saw the Submarine Voyage on the border of Tomorrowland, back in the 1970s, I remember calling it the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride. Turns out this was its name at Disney World, but not at Disneyland–as far as I can tell.

The underwater crafts in this ride were modeled after the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. The thrill of this attraction was that these vessels took passengers on an adventure to the “North Pole.” There, riders encountered ancient ruins, beautiful mermaids and a gigantic squid.

However, Disney closed Submarine Voyage in 1998. Then, it wasn’t until 2007, when it reopened as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, based on the popular Disney-Pixar film. That film came out in 2003.

World of Motion (1982-1996)

EPCOT Center in 1984

Michel BARET // Getty Images

My senior year of high school (1982), Epcot opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Lucky me, soon thereafter, I visited a pen pal of mine from Ocala, Florida, and her parents took us on a roadtrip to visit this brand new park at WDW.

One of the attractions there–that Disney eventually abandoned in 1996–was World of Motion, sponsored by General Motors. It was supposed to predict what future cars might look like.

While I never took that long-gone attraction, in my mind’s eye those predictions may have looked like the self-driving taxis in the HBO show “Westworld.”

Horizons (closed 1999)

Horizons at EPCOT Center at twilight time

Sam Howzit // Wikimedia Commons

Disney’s futuristic attraction Horizons opened on Oct. 1, 1983, exactly one year after Epcot opened. The 15-minute ride carried passengers in a suspended vehicle through a 136,000-square-foot building that depicted scenes of life and work in the 21st century.

Looking back, Disney Imagineers—the creative minds who dream up park attractions—did an incredible job predicting future technology. For instance, Horizons featured a robot vacuuming for a human and a “holographic telephone” that allowed people to see each other while talking.

I find it ironic that Disney abandoned this attraction right before the start of the 21st century, 1999. Maybe they worried that their predictions would be totally wrong.

Finally, as you well know, that robot vacuum in today’s world is the iRobot Roomba and the “holographic telephone” is the iPhone with FaceTime.

Videopolis dance club attraction

Shot of an empty Videopolis theater

Albaum // Wikimedia Commons

Videopolis didn’t exist for very long before Disney abandoned this concept in 1989. It started in 1985 as a trendy teen dance club located in the Fantasyland portion of Disneyland. The Orlando concept was called Videopolis East.

Anyway, it was a 5,000-square-foot outdoor arena that offered space for up to 3,000 young guests to dance the night away. Entertainment included a DJ, live bands and 70 monitors playing popular music videos. The club also spawned a short-lived Disney Channel show of the same name.

Maelstrom

Norway's pavilion at Epcot with Maelstrom sign

Kjersti Holmang // Wikimedia Commons

Originally named SeaVenture, Maelstrom was a log flume-style ride in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot. A 10th-century ship with a dragon head ferried passengers through the swamps and seas of Norway.

The attraction blended education with thrills, featuring Norwegian history, Viking legends and an exciting 28-foot plunge. Considering its connection to Norway, it should be no surprising that Disney eventually replaced it in 2014 with a “Frozen” ride.

Dreamflight (closed 1998)

People walk through Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Joe Raedle // Getty Images

For years, there were a number of airline-inspired attractions at Disney World. For example, Delta Airlines sponsored Dreamflight. It was the third incarnation of an aviation-focused ride, which Disney originally called If You Had Wings. That latter attraction was courtesy of now-defunct Eastern Airlines.

Located in the Tomorrowland section of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, this attraction included a journey through flight history and a peek into the future.

In 1996, Delta discontinued sponsorship of the ride. It remained open for two more years under the name Take Flight. Finally, Disney abandoned this airline concept and remade it as Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin ride.

Body Wars ride sign

Edward Russell // Wikimedia Commons

Body Wars (1989-2007)

Body Wars opened in 1989 in Epcot’s Wonders of Life pavilion. That was a venue that focused on health and fitness attractions.

Anyway, Body Wars was a motion simulator ride, much like the 1966 film “Fantastic Voyage.” Its purpose was to mimic the experience of being shrunk down and placed inside the human body to race through the bloodstream.

Although the attraction remained open for 18 years, Star Tours—another motion simulator ride in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios—ultimately became more popular with guests. To avoid redundancy, eventually Disney closed it down in 2007.

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Adventurers Club (1989-2008)

Exterior view of Walt Disney World Pleasure Island Adventuers Club

Kgbarrett // Wikimedia Commons

Disney tried to appeal to an older, club-going crowd with the debut of Pleasure Island. It wasn’t an island and it wasn’t inside the parks, per se. Instead, it was adjacent to Downtown Disney.

One of the attractions on Pleasure Island was The Adventurers Club. More than just a bar, it included elaborately themed decor, animatronics and interactive shows by a vibrant cast of characters, such as the club’s fictional founder, Merriweather Adam Pleasure.

Pleasure belonged to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, a group whose membership and mythos are woven throughout the Disney brand. Clever Disney fans will find links to the society hidden throughout park attractions, and a film about the secret society is currently in development.

The fun ended when Disney replaced Pleasure Island with Disney Springs, a more family-friendly group of restaurants, shops, and attractions.

The marquee and entrance to the Studio Backlot Tour attraction

Jedi94 // Wikimedia Commons

The Studio Backlot Tour (1989-2014)

Our family absolutely loved the Studio Backlot Tour. It was one of the original features when Walt Disney World’s Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989.

This “ride” provided a behind-the-scenes tour of a film studio. It was a 30-minute experience that my daughters couldn’t get enough of. That’s why when the ride was over, we’d get back in line and take it again.

One of the reasons they loved it was because it was exciting to experience. The highlight was the staged filming of a catastrophe scene.

I can’t remember if it was a tanker truck turning over and catching fire or a tsunami flood that was kind of like the splash zone at SeaWorld. Considering how many times we took the ride, maybe it was both at one point or another.

Unfortunately, Disney eventually abandoned this concept and shut the attraction down entirely in 2014.

The Great Movie Ride (abandoned 2017)

The Great Movie Ride at the Chinese Theater recreation.

Jedi94 // Wikimedia Commons

Another original attraction in Walt Disney World’s Disney-MGM Studios was The Great Movie Ride. Its home was a replica of the infamous TCL Chinese Theatre.

This ride focused on a visual timeline of cinema history and included videos, costumes and props from famous films like “The Wizard of Oz” and the “Indiana Jones” series.

After 28 years, The Great Movie Ride closed to make room for more contemporary attractions in the park (now Hollywood Studios). Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, based on recent award-winning Mickey Mouse cartoons, took over the space in 2020.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (closed 2003)

A sign at the entrance to Disney's Alien Encounter

Steven Miller // Wikimedia Commons

I wonder if Disney had “builder’s remorse” with ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. I say this because, almost immediately after opening in 1995, visitors did not like it.

In fact, some called it Walt Disney World’s scariest attraction and guests let the Magic Kingdom know right away through negative feedback. Soon thereafter, the park closed it down for adjustments. Even after reopening, people still complained.

Eventually, Disney closed it for good in 2003. Then, it reopened as Stitch’s Great Escape! That, too, is now an abandoned ride.

The Timekeeper (closed 2006)

The Timekeeper theater and screen

LEONARDO DASILVA // Wikimedia Commons

The Timekeeper opened in Walt Disney World in 1994. This Circle-Vision 360° film was located in the Metropolis Science Centre within Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.

For a dozen years, a robot by the name of Timekeeper used this theater to help visitors travel through time. The attraction closed in 2006 to make room for a new show: Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

Other abandoned Disney attractions

In addition to the closed or revamped rides and attractions mentioned above, here are addition shuttered parts of Walt Disney World:

  • Skyway: The Skyway was a ride but also a convenient way to get from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. Basically, they were gondolas like at a ski resort that traveled along cables overhead from one area of Walt Disney World to another.
  • Tarzan Rocks!: This was a show in Animal Kingdom, starting in 1999. Not only did Tarzan Rocks! include actors on rollerskates (as I mentioned earlier), also there were acrobats and lots of other really talented performers.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Stacker.com and were written by Beth Mowbray.