The INSIDER Summary:
- Disney made a ton of announcements at its D23 Expo convention this past weekend, including new rides and major ride closures, like the Great Movie Ride.
- Closing rides and attractions seem to be either outdated, not on-brand, or both.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios will also no longer be a love song to Hollywood movies.
If you’re a Disney fan, you probably had your eyes glued to the Internet during last week’s D23 Expo Disney fan convention, scouring for news about the House of Mouse’s new theme park attractions and movies. We knew plans for “Star Wars” attractions were going to be officially unveiled, but even hardcore fans could not prepare for the onslaught of changes and openings announced this past weekend.
Multiple classic attractions like The Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios are being scrapped to make way for on-brand Disney attractions featuring classic franchises like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway or new brands, like the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride in EPCOT. We noticed that the attractions getting the heave-ho have long been outdated and/or feature storylines and characters that have no direct relation to Disney brands. This signals an important shift for theme park fans that has been in the works for a long time: Nostalgia (on its own) just does not sell tickets anymore.
Ride/attraction closures and their replacements
The Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Closing August 2017) will be replaced by: Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Disney World’s EPCOT (Closing August 2017) will be replaced by: an unnamed “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction.
Paradise Pier in Disney’s California Adventure is being revamped and rebranded in 2018 as: Pixar Pier
Disney’s Hollywood Studios gets a total makeover
Disney’s Hollywood Studios now looks starkly different from when the park originally opened as MGM. After The Great Movie Ride’s last day in August 2017, the park will no longer have any original attractions from opening day in 1989. Over the past decade, with the loss of the licensing fee to MGM in 2007, Hollywood Studios has slowly moved away from its original theme: a celebration of classic Hollywood.
MGM used to have a working film studio on-premises which gradually ceased operation, along with a Studio Backlot Tour featuring old sets and costume design warehouses, which guided its last tourists in 2014. The Great Movie Ride was Disney’s celebration of all movies, not just Disney-owned ones, but its days were numbered when the sponsorship by Turner Classic Movies (which began in 2014) was rumored to be coming to an end.
By 2021, the majority of the attractions in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be devoted to “Star Wars” and “Toy Story.” For awhile, there were even rumors that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror would be on the chopping block (like it was in Disney’s California Adventure) but for now, the thrilling riff on Rod Serling’s classic TV show seems to be safe.
Epcot is all-but ditching the educational theme
Epcot in Orlando was originally envisioned by Walt Disney as an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow:” a real community where people could live and work with futuristic technology. That idea was soon scrapped for logistical reasons in favor of a more educational approach. By the time the park opened in 1982, half of it was devoted to celebrating the technology of energy and communication, while the World Showcase “showcased” cultures from around the globe.
Apparently, “edu-tainment” doesn’t sell tickets either. Future World and the World Showcase are still intact today, but by August, Ellen’s Energy Adventure (which teaches kids about energy conservation) will be gone in favor of an action-packed ride based on “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The appearance of Disney movies and characters used to be taboo in the World Showcase but last year, the Maelstrom ride, which originally celebrated Norwegian culture, was re-themed as “Frozen Ever After,” featuring the familiar Disney characters from the fictional (but Norway-like) country of Arendelle. By 2021, another Disney movie will get an attraction in the World’s Showcase: a “Ratatouille” ride in (of course) the France pavilion. We wouldn’t be surprised if more Disney franchises found homes in other World Showcase pavilions in the future.
What does this mean for fans?
The Disney corporation has rapidly expanded over the past decade, so theme park fans should think BIG. The recently-opened Avatar land in Animal Kingdom and upcoming Star Wars land in Hollywood Studios and Disneyland are two of the most expensive and extensive projects Disney has taken on.
With the addition of Lucasfilm and Marvel to its franchise repertoire, we predict that elaborate attractions with cutting-edge ride technology, total immersion, and easy merchandising opportunities will become the norm. Any attraction (or even park) that doesn’t meet these high standards faces a significant makeover or may be closed forever. Park visitors had long-complained about the outdated ride experiences in Ellen’s Energy Adventure and The Great Movie Ride, so they were cut from this new theme park vision.
Why you shouldn’t panic:
Many classic attractions that are not connected to Disney characters or popular movies will likely still be up and running for decades to come. The Haunted Mansion (despite a 2003 movie adaptation that completely tanked) still draws long lines, as well as Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and It’s a Small World. These rides are regularly refurbished and revamped with the latest ride technology and designs to keep fans interested. Even the Carousel of Progress, which rarely accumulates crowds of visitors or refurbishments is (probably) safe from the cutting room floor because it was one of Walt Disney’s personal favorite attractions.
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