I love theme parks. It’s something I’ve touched upon before; ever since my childhood, I’ve had a facination for theme parks of all kinds. However, theme parks change. They evolve, and old attractions are replaced with newer, fresher ones. Sometimes, these changes are for the better, but other times, they are not. Regardless, many great attractions have been shut down over the years, and are still fondly remembered by fans to this day. I present to you: my personal pick for the Top 10 defunct rides of all time.
10. Skyway (Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, & Tokyo Disneyland)
The Skyway was a fairly simple gondola lift that traveled between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The Skyway was a gentle, relaxing ride that offered a great view of the park, but sadly, maintenance issues led to its closure in all three parks. It was simple, but special nonetheless, and is still fondly remembered to this day.
9. JAWS (Universal Studios Florida)
JAWS shut it doors last year, yet another victim of Universal Studios’ increasing focus on modern franchises. JAWS was a boat ride based on the film, wherein your boat is under attack by a fearsome great white shark. It was hokey, sure, and the effects didn’t really age well, but it was still a fun ride. Thankfully, the ride is still open in Universal Studios Japan, but, y’know, good luck getting over there. JAWS and the surrounding Amity area are now being turned into a Harry Potter expansion.
8. Original Test Track (Epcot)
Though Test Track is still around, it was recently given a major facelift and bears little resemblance to the original ride. The original Test Track was a fun look at the kind of testing procedures used today, while the new version feels more like something out of Tron. Despite the visual appeal, it’s just missing the charm that the original had.
7. Nights in White Satin: The Trip (Hard Rock Park)
In this case, the entire park is now defunct. Hard Rock Park opened in 2008 and closed just a year later, putting an abrupt end to a quite fun experience. One of the casualties was Nights in White Satin: The Trip, a dark ride themed around the Moody Blues song of the same name. The ride was trippy and visually stunning, and of course had a great soundtrack to go along with it. Hard Rock Park has since become Freestyle Music Park, and Nights in White Satin has been turned into a generic kid-friendly ride called Monstars of Rock.
6. Kongfrontation (Universal Studios Florida)
Kongfrontation put you on a tram ride through Manhattan, which of course goes horribly wrong. King Kong attacks the city and you’re stuck smack dab in the middle. The ride featured multiple enormous Kong animatronics, which had banana-scented breath. The ride shut down in 2002 to make room for Revenge of the Mummy, and sadly, Universal Hollywood’s similar King Kong Encounter burned down in 2008. King Kong Encounter has since been replaced by King Kong 360 3-D, but it seems that we’ll never see the return of our beloved Kong animatronics.
5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea/Submarine Voyage (Magic Kingdom, Disneyland)
Submarine Voyage was a classic Disneyland ride, taking guests on a simulated submarine ride through mysterious and fantastic locations. The Magic Kingdom version was called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage, and was themed after the Jules Verne novel (as well as the 1954 film). Though the Disneyland version stayed open until 1998, the Magic Kingdom equivalent shut down in 1994 due to excessive maintenance. The Disneyland ride has since reopened with a Finding Nemo theme, but sadly the MK Lagoon has been filled in. Before that, the lagoon was just sitting there unused, while the ride sadly rotted away.
4. Back to the Future: The Ride (Universal Studios Florida & Hollywood)
Back to the Future: The Ride was one of the all-time great simulator attractions, and a consistently popular ride at that. It was fun, it was witty, and even had Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson reprise their roles as Doc Brown and Biff Tannen!
And you know what else was great? No cgi. Yes, the ride’s video was made using good old-fashioned miniatures and stop-motion animation. And it looked great! Both the Florida and Hollywood versions of the ride were shut down in 2007 to make room for the Simpsons Ride, but the Japan version is still open.
3. Original Journey into Imagination (Epcot)
Like Test Track, Journey into Imagination is an Epcot ride that technically still exists to this day, though in this case the attraction’s been bastardized to the point where it makes me feel sick. That may seem a bit harsh, but Journey into Imagination was one of my favorite rides growing up. It was a whimsical, gentle ride featuring a lovable old man named Dreamfinder and his purple dragon friend, Figment. It was a ride that celebrated imagination and creativity, and to this day Dreamfinder and Figment still have a huge fan following.
In 1999, Dreamfinder and Figment were removed and the ride was renamed Journey into YOUR Imagination. Hosted by Eric Idle, the new ride was less whimsical and, while still fun, lacked a lot of the charm that the original had. Fans wanted Figment back, and in 2002, we got this nightmare. Hopefully, some day Journey into Imagination will return to its former glory.
2. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Magic Kingdom)
I debated whether or not to include this one, as the ride still exists in Disneyland… however, the Magic Kingdom version was undeniably the better of the two and a highly regarded attraction to this day. Mr. Toad was a seemingly simple dark ride, albeit a somewhat fast one, featuring characters from the Wind in the Willows. What made the Magic Kingdom version stand out, however, was that it had two tracks, with each side offering a unique ride.
The ride is also notable for its unusually dark tone, for a Disney ride at least. The ride had a very frantic and chaotic feel to it, and actually ended with you getting hit by a train and going to Hell. Jesus Christ. Despite its overwhelming popularity, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was shut down in 1998 to make way for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which, while still a fun ride, does not end in Hell.
1. Ghostbusters Spooktacular (Universal Studios Florida)
Oh man. My love of Ghostbusters is no secret, and as a kid, I was no different. The movie, the sequel, Real Ghostbusters, hell, even Extreme Ghostbusters… I loved it all. And of course, Universal Studios Florida was arguably Ghostbusters haven at the time… In addition to the Ghostbusters driving around for meet-and-greets in their Ecto-1, in the New York area of the park was a replica of the Ghostbuster’s famous fire house. And what was inside?
One of the greatest stage shows in theme park history. Ghostbusters Spooktacular featured an amazing recreation of the Temple of Gozer, and tons of special effects that were great for their time. Using a Pepper’s ghost effect similar to Disney’s Haunted Mansion, not only were there actual transparent ghosts that could appear and disappear, but the Ghostbusters could even fire their blasters! It was a great show, and the gift shop was great too. Unfortunately, (again, despite massive popularity) Ghostbusters Spooktacular was closed in 1996. It’s since been replaced with Twister: Ride it Out because I have no fucking idea. Fans still hope to this day that the Ghostbusters will return to the park in some way, but only time will tell.
So that’s my personal top 10 defunct rides! Of course, there’s tons of great former attractions out there that didn’t make the list… maybe I’ll have to do a second list at some point. Though these rides are dead and gone, there’s still plenty to love about theme parks today… no matter if you’re young or old.