By Cristal Mezell
On February 15th of this year, Disney finally announced the official closing of Timekeeper, a long standing Magic Kingdom attraction. All four parks have had to say good-bye to attractions over the years. These closings are almost always applauded by some and mourned by others. With the announcement of Timekeeper’s permanent departure, we reminisce on a few of our favorite attractions from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at The Magic Kingdom to Tarzan Rocks! at Animal Kingdom.
Disney Says Good-Bye to Timekeeper.
Opened on November 11, 1994, Disney decided to close Timekeeper on April 29th, 2001. After opening briefly in the summer of 2001, the attraction was closed once again after the events of September 11th, allegedly because of scenes of the New York City Skyline and the World Trade Centers. Finally, in October 2003, Walt Disney World officially re-opened the attraction as “seasonal.”
Timekeeper gave Magic Kingdom guests a hilarious look at time travel. Actor Robin Williams stars as the voice of Timekeeper and kept us laughing throughout the 20 minute show, as actress Rhea Pearlman, best known for her feisty role as Carla on the comedy hit Cheers, served as his wisecracking assistant, 9-Eye.
With his Time Machine Super Sport Turbo XL, Timekeeper thrusts 9-Eye throughout many famous scenes in history. Traveling throughout time, 9-Eye shows us everything from the Ice Age to turn of the century Paris and the Paris Exposition with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. After bringing Jules Verne back to the future with her, 9-Eye and Timekeeper spend the rest of the show trying to get him back to 1900’s Paris.
Though not the most popular attraction in Tommorowland, many who cherished the comedy of Timekeeper and 9-Eye will sorely miss this attraction. Those of us who just can’t live without can always hop a plane to Disneyland Paris for the French version, Le Visionarium.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride comes to an End.
Quite possibly the most notorious closure of any attraction in the history of Disney, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is missed by millions! The hoopla, if you will, surrounding the closure of Mr. Toad has left a bad taste in the mouths of parents forced to take their children on The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh time and time again.
Based on the “Wind in the Willows” movie, J. Thaddeus Toad first made his way into Disney hearts in 1955 at Disneyland. The success of the Disneyland attraction made Mr. Toad a shoe in at Walt Disney World. With 2 separate tracks, riders had the opportunity to experience 2 rides in one. After heading “Nowhere in Particular”, both tracks lead riders to the same fate, a collision with a train landed riders in the middle of a fiery pit.
On October 22, 1997, the Orlando Sentinel announced plans were revealed to replace Toad with Winnie the Pooh. The very next day, protesters swamped Disney with some 1100 + letters in favor of saving Mr. Toad. Devoted Toad fans swamped the Magic Kingdom and staged “Toad-Ins” to convince the Disney powers that be to keep Mr. Toad. In the end, Pooh prevailed and Mr. Toad took his last wild ride on September 7th, 1998.
Tarzan Rocks! its way into the Disney history books.
In July 1999, Disney’s Animal Kingdom debuted a one of a kind, fit for Broadway Musical, Tarzan Rocks! The high energy 30-minute show was loved by everyone from Grandpa to grandkids.
Tarzan, Jane, Terk, and countless in-line skaters, gymnasts, dancers, and singers dazzled Animal Kingdom guests with their high energy show in the Theater in the Wild. The show featured songs from the motion picture including “You’ll be in My Heart” and “Trashing the Camp.”
Disney closed the show on January 21st, 2006 for renovations. The Theater in the Wild will be renovated from a 1500 seat amphitheater to a fully enclosed theater. When the Theater reopens a new, yet to be named stage show will debut.
The sun sets on Epcot’s Horizons.
Opened on October 1st, 1983, Horizons was “dedicated to humanity’s future.” Taking guests on an amazing journey to the 21st Century, Horizons was fascinating for all. Taking guests on a ride through the eyes of past visionaries, we got a look at what the future may hold. After exploring the past, guests entered the 21st century and viewed the cities of tomorrow. In order to return back to the 20th century, guests chose their favorite method of travel: land, undersea, or through space.
After GE’s contract for sponsorship ran out on September 30th, 1993, Disney kept the ride open until late 1994. The attraction was reopened December of 1995 due to renovations on Universe of Energy and World of Motion. Finally, when Test Track made its debut, Horizons was closed forever on January 9th, 1999. In April of 2000, Disney announced that Horizons would be replaced with Mission: Space
Curtains close on Hunchback of Notre Dame show at Disney-MGM Studios
Featuring a 20 minute pre-show that was just as entertaining as the musical itself, Hunchback followed the script of the original movie. The show was themed around 15th century Paris and recounted Quasimodo, the Notre Dame bell ringer, and his love for Esmeralda. The musical adventure closed at Disney-MGM Studios on September 28th, 2002.
20,000 Leagues is drained.
All aboard for the last stop on our look back on a few of our favorite, closed Walt Disney World attractions.
20,000 Leagues under the Sea took passengers along for a deep sea adventure with Capt. Nemo. Guests traveled through dark caverns and coral reefs to explore the dangers of the deep. 20,000 Leagues made its debut at Walt Disney World on opening day, October 14th, 1971. Branded an E-Ride attraction due to its popularity, 20,000 Leagues was plagued with troubles from the beginning. With constant ride breakdowns and loading difficulties, Disney closed the attraction for good 23 years to the day after its debut.
The space where 20,000 Leagues once operated sat unused for years after the closing. Finally in 2004, after much speculation as to what would replace the ride, Disney began demolition and construction of the space. Opened on September 1st, 2005, Pooh’s Playful Spot took the place of the beloved 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
And the list goes on…
I could write a book on all of the beloved attractions that are no more. Here is a list of some past attractions that deserve honorable (and not-so-honorable) mention!
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (although gone at Walt Disney World, it is getting an extensive makeover with a Nemo theme at Disneyland)
- Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration (which may be back at the end of this year)
- ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (parts of which are still in the Stitch attraction)
- Goofy’s Country Dancin’ Jamboree and its previous incarnation: Diamond Horseshoe
- Main Street Electrical Parade (another attraction that can still be found at Disney’s California Adventure)
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (which can still be found at Disneyland)
- Captain EO, which moved to Epcot before being retired
- World of Motion
- If You Had Wings
- Food Rocks
- Tapestry of Dreams and Tapestry of Nations (a fan favorite parade)
- Wonders of Life Pavilion (including Body Wars, The Making of Me and Cranium Command)
- Tarzan Rocks!
- Discovery River Boats
- Lucky the Dinosaur
- Doug Live!
- Hunchback of Notre Dame
One can only wonder what beloved attraction might be next. The good news is more often than not, the new attractions that replaced the closed ones are innovative and fun. Many become new family favorites.