The Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World According to Our All-Star Panel

by on April 1, 2015 49 Comments

Filed under: Ask Jim Hill, Attractions, Magic Kingdom, Saturday Six, Walt Disney World (FL)

This week’s special April 1st edition of the SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World. Our All-Star Panel was exhausted after voting for the best attractions at Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, but we weren’t done with them yet. No, now it was time to look at the other side of the coin. What are the worst attractions at Walt Disney World? This exercise was a lot tougher than you think, because certain attractions jump to mind, but the more you think about it, the more others start to emerge. Did you know that the Leave a Legacy monuments are considered an attraction at WDW? Ellen’s Energy Adventure takes a lot of heat, but what about the #INCREDIBLESSuperDanceParty in Tomorrowland (and yes, that’s it’s actual name. It should get a vote just based on that.) This was going to be a true challenge so our all star, blue ribbon panel  was made up of  40 members comprised of some of the most exceptional people in the theme park community (a full list is available at the end of the article.)

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The numbers were crunched, and then re-crunched by the Saturday Six computers.

The Criteria: Each of the 40 experts voted on what they consider to be the six worst attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. These attractions could be any ride, show, nighttime spectacular, or parade currently in Walt Disney World (including the water parks.) Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. 

When the results were tabulated we then reached out to the great wise man of the theme parks, Jim Hill.

Jim Hill – When Derek invited me to take part in this particular Touringplans.com story, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic. Mostly because — after over three decades of interviewing the people who actually build & design the rides, shows and attractions for the Disney theme parks — I know for a fact that there isn’t an Imagineer on this planet who gets up in the morning and says “I want to create something crummy today. I want to do something that disappoints people.” Every ride, show and attractions starts out with the best possible intentions. It’s just that — between the “Blue Sky” phase and Opening Day — somehow that ride winds up going off the rails for reasons that are completely beyond WDI’s control. So to counter all of the snark found in today’s article, I thought I might try and give you a bit of background on each of the attractions that wound up on the “Worst” list:

We got 40 Disney experts. We got Jim Hill. We got the a list of the worst attractions at WDW. Who’s ready?!

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX WORST ATTRACTIONS at Walt Disney World.

# 6 – Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (13 votes)

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(photo by Brandon Glover)

 

Len Testa (Co-Author to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and owns a Space Mountain Themed Kitchen) –  Let’s start this off by saying that despite having absolutely no driving or mechanical talent of any kind, I can watch car shows like Lionel Richie: all night long. I’ve seen every episode of Top Gear, including the rare pre-James May Series 1. And I’ll watch Two Guys Garage for hours, even though there’s a better chance of a Chevy small block v8 falling on me than me rebuilding one.

So you’d think I’d love the extreme driving of the Lights, Motors, Action! show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, right? Well, no. To quote Mr. May, it’s rubbish. Why? How? Let me count the ways.

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To be fair, it could be worse…

First, there’s the opening. It’s the best part of the entire show, and it’s two and a half minutes of excellent stunt driving, drifting, and automotive choreography. The problem is that this 150-second snippet shows virtually every key element of the production, which somehow continues for another half an hour. If LMA was CSI:Miami, you’d know in the opening credits that the butler did it, see how it was done, and then spend the next half hour watching everyone talk about the crime. Which you saw. In the credits. At the beginning.

Next, there’s the super-in-depth discussion of how each movie scene is set up, including multiple camera angles, cinematography, editing and special effects techniques. This may have been mildly interesting a decade ago, before every 8-year old in the audience had a GoPro, and a YouTube account. But today? Dear Lord, half the audience can edit videos on their cellphones. We get it. As philosopher S. Roy Hagar said in Das Beste aus zwei Welten: “That which is understood need not be discussed.”

And that leads into the third big problem with the show: the pace is slower than 60-weight motor oil in a Boston snowstorm. For every minute of action, there’s something like 3 or 4 minutes of talking. It’s like watching C-SPAN debate fuel economy regulations, without the tin-foil hat voicemails for entertainment.

But the show manages to get even worse by pandering to small boys via the Lightning McQueen segment. It’s obvious, dull, and vapid. You know what would be better? Putting cameras in the cars and letting the drivers talk while doing some stunts. Sure, you’d have to get drivers with personality, but I happen to know of a foursome that is seeking gainful employment. Might be worth a phone call.

JIM HILL (Jim Hill Media) – It’s important to understand that when the Imagineers originally proposed this outdoor arena show for the Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Resort Paris, it was supposed to celebrate the James Bond films. EX: The pre-show area was to have taken Guests through Q’s Lab. More to the point, this stunt show was to have featured Bond doing battle with some of the more memorable villains from this film franchise (i.e., Jaws, Oddjob). But when the Broccoli  family wanted The Walt Disney Company to pay a ridiculous high fee in order to use the James Bond characters in a theme park setting, the Imagineers were forced to drop all of the hi-tech spy stuff that would have actually made this arena show entertaining and then go instead with a generic stunt driving show that wasn’t tied to any film franchise. So no Bond equals bland.

#  6 (tie) – Journey Into Imagination with Figment (13 votes)

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Who would think something so beautiful would hold something so bad inside? (photo by Tom Bricker)

Dani (This Florida Life) – Imagination itself is a way to see the world for its infinite possibilities; it is a concept that bridges Epcot’s two lands: Future World and World Showcase. It is through the use of our imagination that the complex, fascinating world of science becomes the vehicle for the future and the world’s different cultures become more familiar. Therefore, an attraction based on the power of imagination should be very powerful indeed. Once upon a time, the early 1980’s to the late 1990’s in fact, this was the case.

As a child, privileged enough to have experienced the original Journey Into Imagination, I was captivated. The colors, the sights, the sounds, the song, it was all encompassing. Walt Disney World itself is a fascinating destination, especially as a child. But the original Journey Into Imagination felt like one of the most magical realms within the vacation kingdom.

This current incarnation is a shell of its former self. Sure, it’s fun and bouncy, but the same can be said for a Barbie doll. Perhaps this attraction would be good enough if the original version had never existed, but one cannot simply place this attraction in a vacuum. Yes, Figment, the lovable fellow of royal purple pigment was given a much more prominent role than the short-lived 1999 – 2001 version of the attraction, but the storyline is weak, and the true spirit of imagination is not fully honored. There’s so much more it could be, but it’s not. It’s shallow. Though, one could argue that the attraction still serves its purpose: to have guests use and appreciate their imagination. After one ride through, you’ll be imagining all the ways this attraction could be better.

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Dreamfinder, please save us! (photo by Brandon Glover)

Tom Corless (WDWNewsToday) – While the attraction that came before this (Journey Into Your Imagination) would easily be categorized as quite possibly the worst Disney attraction of all-time, Journey Into Imagination with Figment has long overstayed its welcome and over-played what little nostalgia it ever did offer. While this was a good band-aid for Epcot in 2002 and a nice, low-budget love letter to the original attraction, it now lives in a world without Sounds Dangerous, Journey Into Narnia, or Honey, I Shrunk the Audience to make you feel better about wasting 15 minutes in this hollow tomb of one of the greatest theme park attraction ever built. Sure, there’s Figment and the song, but who in 2015 is amazed by mirror tricks and air blasts? While probably not an attraction that would have made this list for me 10 years ago, the fact that this placeholder may soon surpass the 15 year tenure of the original attraction is scarier than an Eric Idle-faced moon. OK, nothing is that scary… but still, it’s reason enough for this to be included in the 6 worst offerings at Walt Disney World.

Jim Hill –  Theme park fans like to blame the Imagineers for this disappointing redo. Truth be told, it was Kodak’s fault. Though the sponsorship contract that this Rochester, NY company signed with Disney in the late 1970s specifically stated that it had to pay for periodic updates & improvements to this Future World attraction, by the late 1990s (thanks to the rise of digital photography), this film-and-camera company was in financial free fall. Given that they had to cut 1/5th of their worldwide work force by the end of 1999 in order to survive, there was just no way that Kodak could honor its earlier agreement with Disney and fund a full-blown redo of “Journey into Imagination” without then getting crucified by the business press. So in the end, the Imagineers were only given a 10th of what they originally asked for when it came to a budget to update & redo this Future World pavilion. Which is why WDW Guests wound up with such a lackluster “Imagination.”

 

# 5 – Captain EO (14 votes)

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Captain EO. (photo courtesy of (Endor Express)

Tom Bricker (DisneyTouristBlog.com) – There are a few reasons why Captain EO is currently one of the worst attractions at Walt Disney World. Most of these reasons revolve around the fact that it was brought back following Michael Jackson’s death. Regardless of whether he was guilty or innocent of his alleged crimes, he was undeniably creepy in a way Disney, a family company, should not be celebrating. People seemed to forget about this when MJ died, and I suspect Disney wanted to cash in on his post-death popularity more than they wanted to honor him. However, he shouldn’t have been honored by a family company. If Bill Cosby dies in 5 years, I certainly hope Disney doesn’t add a tribute to him, even if the public mourns the loss.

Setting that aside and assuming for the sake of argument that Michael Jackson was the perfect human being, bringing an attraction back that is so dated and off-theme for FUTURE World just for the sake of paying tribute to an entertainer is inappropriate. Honey I Shrunk the Audience was also really dated and off-theme when it left, but replacing one dated attraction with another doesn’t make the replacement okay. It’s fans celebrate it largely because of nostalgia, not its current quality. Yes, at one point it was a big budget attraction that worked well in Future World. A little self-aware humor, but overall an ambitious and imaginative sci-fi adventure. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that since the mid-1990s. I think that bit of (at the time) 80s kitsch now can be construed as “laughably bad” for a land that’s ostensibly about the future–or at least should be.

Jim Hill – Three words explain why this 3D musical fantasy is such a mess: Francis Ford Coppola. Though this Academy Award winner had directed such cinematic masterworks as “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II” back in the 1970s, by the mid-1980s Coppola was drowning in debt thanks to the collapse of Zoetrope Studios. Francis really needed a financial lifeline at this point in his career. Which is why his old pal George Lucas persuaded Disney’s new management team that Coppola would be the perfect guy to direct this extended Michael Jackson video which they then hoped to begin showing in the theme parks in 1986. But given that Francis had never directed a 3D movie before (And — as 1982’s “One from the Heart” proved — he had no business helming a musical), is it any wonder that this originally-budgeted-for-$11-million movie wound up costing $23.7 million? Long story short: “Captain EO” wound up being as bad as it is because Coppola — who was terrific when it came to directing dramas — was just the wrong person to direct a 17 minute-long music video.

# 4 – Tomorrowland Speedway (15 votes)

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(photo by Brandon Glover)

Tim Grassey (WDWThemeParks.com) – The Tomorrowland Speedway is certainly a popular enough attraction, but the novelty of driving a car along a guided track at 5 miles per hour wears off around 10 years old. Sure, it’s an attraction that parents can do with their children, but once that child is tall enough they want to drive by themselves. I understand the need for this type of attraction, and so does every other amusement park on the planet. The placement on the edge of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland is a waste. It’s adjacent to the most popular land in the most popular park in the world. That area would be much better suited as a home to Fantasyland style dark rides than a “futuristic drive” in a gasoline powered vehicle.

I’d love to see this re-done in Hollywood Studios with a Cars theme in a park that needs more rides for younger guests. Moreover, the available Fantasyland adjacent real estate in Magic Kingdom would be a much better spot for the likes of Frozen, Tangled and other Disney animated movies to further contribute to the heart of that park.

Jim Hill – Look, not every attraction has to a “Pirates of the Caribbean” or a “Haunted Mansion” E Ticket. Given that the Imagineers deliberately try to give the Disney theme parks an assortment of rides & shows that will then appeal to all members of the family, low tech experiences like the Tomorrowland Speedway is a key part of that plan. Okay. So toodling around a faux racetrack at 7.5 MPH doesn’t appeal to the adults in the crowd. Space Mountain is 500 feet to your right. Go ride that and then leave the 6 year-olds who have always dreamed of getting behind the wheel of a car alone.

# 3 – Mission: SPACE (17 votes)

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(photo by Brandon Glover)

Ivonne Ramos (Twitter’s @servoisnaked)- It’s difficult to look at Mission: Space. Knowing it used to be site of the beloved attraction Horizons is still painful to most people. It’s also difficult to look at it because if the sun catches the red globe on the exterior of the building just right, the glare can burn the corneas right out of your eyes. The subsequent blindness this might cause would be the only reason people stumble into this attraction. When you first enter the queue and they ask you which team you want to choose, they are really asking you if you want to simply be bored, or if you want to be bored and queasy. The pre-show with Gary Sinise as CapCom, feels tedious and it will only make you wish you were watching Apollo 13 instead. Once you are finally seated in your capsule, you will probably have more fun playing with the buttons and switches on the walls around you than the ride itself. The air sickness bags that are provided only serve as a reminder that if one of your teammates gets sick, you are stuck with them inside a sardine can. The ride begins and if you are not one of the lucky ones who blackout after the initial lift off, you will have to look at graphics that would only be impressive to the grandma from Carousel of Progress. From this point on the ride is just more space graphics while listening to Gary Sinise telling you to push buttons and then later, telling you to jiggle a joystick around.  Once you finally land on Mars you see CapCom and the rest of mission control applauding like you actually accomplished something. I feel like no one has had the heart to tell them it’s only a training exercise.

Dan (the World Famous Drunk At Disney) – Nothing says “Fun day at Epcot” like lying in a patch of grass outside the Mission:Space pavillion trying to avoid losing your lunch for the rest of the day, but that’s exactly the experience many unsuspecting guests enjoy following a ride on this attraction.  The tight, enclosed ride vehicles and intense spinning motion are torn directly out of the carnival row ride playbook causing misery for many riders expecting a high tech ride to Mars.  Add this to the fact that it replaced one of the most beloved attractions from the E.P.C.O.T. Center era, Horizons, and you have the recipe for the worst Walt Disney World attraction.  Mission: Space holds this spot in my list following several ruined trips for friends who started their day with this attraction and then were  forced back to their cool, dark hotel rooms due to nausea.

Jim Hill – Long story short: Over the past 40 years, the Imagineers have designed lots of great space-themed attractions for EPCOT. The problem was that — just as Disney began actively looking for a sponsor for this Future World attraction — the U.S. Congress cut NASA’s budget. Consequently, a lot of the aerospace companies who had relied on the money that poured in from man’s efforts to reach the moon then had to start doing lay-offs and severely cut back on their overall operating expenses. Consequently there was no money available to fund fun things like a space-themed attraction at a Disney theme park. Which is why it took until 2000 for the Imagineers to finally line up Compaq to serve as the sponsor for Mission: SPACE. But then when Hewlett-Packard acquired Compaq for $24.1 billion in 2002, they weren’t quite as enthusiastic about the whole sponsoring-a-new-Future-World-pavilion ideas as Compaq had been. So in order to keep HP on as the sponsor of “Mission: SPACE,” Disney had to sweeten the deal. Which is why — when Mission: SPACE officially opened in October of 2003 — HP & Disney announced that they were  launching a “10-year strategic alliance devoted to elevating consumer entertainment experiences through the collaborative development of new technologies and enhanced entertainment experiences.” Translation: Keeping “Mission: SPACE” cutting-edge & exciting took a backseat to Disney promoting HP’s printers & scanners.

# 2 – Primeval Whirl (24 votes)

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How good a photographer is Tom Bricker? He can actually make Primeval Whirl look majestic.

Turkey Leg Jeff (Disney Twitter Celebrity) – It is widely believed that a giant astroid killed the dinosaurs, but I posit that this prehistoric pain producer was really to blame. Imagine a couple of jolly old Triceratops are walking around and decide to ride the roller coaster. They board Primeval Whirl, completely unaware of their impending doom. With a violent whip around each corner they hear the cracking of their beleaguered vertebrae. Unable to stand or run or walk due to their broken backs, they become easy prey for roaming Tyrannosaurus Rex. Fat and happy after their easy kills, these giant carnivores decided they’d like to ride a roller coaster as well since they are having such a great day. But as the sudden dips and garish decor leave them nauseated and dealing with intense heartburn, they shortly developed ulcers that ultimately killed them. They died slowly, glowering at the sky as the light crept out of their lives, and cried out in voices most lugubrious, “Damn you, Primeval Whirl! You crossed the fine line between kitsch and cheap & tacky. I die hoping you meet your end at the hands of another princess meet and greet!”

Jim Hill – Let me get this straight: Theme park fans are complaining because Primeval Whirl looks like a crummy carnival ride that you’d find at some roadside attraction? You do realize that when the Imagineers took Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures shop in 2002 and then expanded that out into Dino-Rama that they were looking to create an affectionate tribute to those roadside attractions? So — when you get right down to it — a lot of time, money and effort actually went into making Primeval Whirl look as though it had been quickly slapped together. It’s called theming, people.  More to the point, the two carnival-themed rides that were added to Dinoland U.S.A. back in the early 2000s gave Disney’s Animal Kingdom additional hourly capacity at a time when DAK desperately needed it. So given the immediate positive impact that Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin had on line length elsewhere in this theme park, these two carnival-themed rides should be celebrated, not scorned.

# 1 – Stitch’s Great Escape (38 votes)

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Stitch’s Great Escape. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

WaltsFrozenHeadBenjamin Lancaster (a low level intern who helps @waltsfrzenhead run his Twitter account and is the writer/director of the upcoming feature film The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head) – Disney fans love to debate what in the parks Walt would have loved or hated. But I can say with absolute certainly that Walter Elias Disney would have despised Stitch’s Great Escape, if for no other reason than it turns off guests from chili dogs for at least the rest of the day. Like Plan 9 from Outer Space or Sharknado, this attraction is infamous for it’s unbearability.  Unlike those two films, however, there’s almost no enjoyment that can be derived from hate watching.

For those of you who are mercifully unfamiliar with this attraction, it begins as you and a handful of other guests take your places as new recruits in the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center, because in the future, low-level security guard is something we all can aspire to. (I think that was one of the endings in Horizons.) After not one, but two exposition-laden preshows, you are informed by the security robot Sargeant C4703BK2704-90210 (yep, these are the jokes) about the protocol for prisoner transports and sent into the final show room. The prisoner being transferred today isn’t a relatively harmless Level 1, nor a more devious and dangerous Level 2, but a, you guessed it, Level 3! (However shall we, brand new recruits, cope! It’s only our first day!)

Once seated in the high security teleportation chamber, safety bars lower across your shoulders, giving the general feeling that an Egyptian mummy must get when placed in a sarcophagus, provided mummies still had the biological needs for air and personal space. Now you finally meet the level three, and as anyone who glanced up at the sign before entering the theater ought to know: it’s Stitch! But not a reformed “’Ohana means family” kind of Stitch. SGE is apparently a prequel, and at this point in the story, Stitch is so evil, so vile, so lacking in moral compass that he…bounces on the back of your chair and burps chilidog in your face.

The bumbling security guards try to recapture Stitch, but to no avail, because additional audio animatronic figures weren’t in the budget. Don’t worry if you find this all hard to follow. Thanks to the magic of binaural audio, no matter where you are sitting in the theater, there are now two children sitting behind you who explain the plot, detail by detail to “each other”. In the end, Stitch, of course, escapes and lands in Flor-ee-duh, in a “some kind of kingdom”. And so you are released to hunt him down, no longer in the world of yesterday, tomorrow, or fantasy. Now you’re in the world of today, in the actual Magic Kingdom Theme Park™.

This isn’t something WED slapped together overnight. There was actual thought and care put into it. It’s part of the reason it’s so hard to appreciate Stitch on even an ironic level: I feel sorry for the people who were tasked with this job, and I think they did the best job they could given the parameters. They had to shoehorn a wildly popular character into a timeline that only makes sense when he’s little more than a horrible monster. It’s like doing a Beast Meet & Greet, where you meet the child version from the prologue. You know, where he’s just snot-nosed little jerk who doesn’t like magic flowers.

The AA figures are actually fantastic, despite the fact that some of them look like they just got promoted from putting together Chryslers. It’s really just a problem with the concept: there’s no emotional connection. No whimsy, no thrill, no fright, no wonder, and no jokes that don’t relate to bodily functions. So I’m sure you’re asking if this is such a wildly bad and unpopular attractions, why hasn’t the company pulled the plug? There is precedent for just shutting down really bad rides (think Superstar Limo). Wait times rarely exceed 15 minutes, so there’s no real demand for a people eater right there. (It’s not one anyway.) Well, the answer can be found not in the ride itself, but in the, you guessed it, gift shop.

Stitch sells merch. Specifically plush. A lot of stuffed furry blue aliens leave Merchant of Venus to the tune of $30 a pop, and right now that’s too big of a revenue stream for WDW to abandon without a surefire hit.

And let’s face it: it’s not like there are a ton of great new Disney owned media franchises competing for space in Tomorrowland. The only two real contenders are locked up at DHS (Star Wars) and at Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Marvel).

So who’s to blame for the continued existence of Stitch’s Great Escape?

The parents who should know better and demand their children accept Mr. Toad plush dolls in a quixotic attempt seventeen years too late? The company who should put guest experience over profits, even to the point of leaving serious cash on the table that could be used for park upkeep and attraction maintenance? The masses of moviegoers who consistently reject every science fiction offering the Walt Disney Company makes?

Well, I say it’s that last one. That’s who I’m blaming. Do you own John Carter on Blu-ray? Of course not. Then I’m blaming you. Which means that, in a way, I’m blaming all of us. The chili dogs are your fault.

Jim Hill – According to the Imagineers that I’ve spoken with, the only way that Disney executives were going to agree to fund a redo of Tomorrowland’s problematic “The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter” attraction was if WDI tied their new show to a popular Disney-owned IP. And given that “Lilo & Stitch” had earned over a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide since this Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois film had first been released to theaters back in June of 2002, Stitch — at that time, anyway — seemed like just the right character to build a retooled “Alien Encounter” around. And given “Merchant of Venus” (i.e., which is one of the two Tomorrowland shops that WDW Guests who have experienced “Stitch’s Great Escape” wind up exiting into) still sells upwards of a million dollars worth of Stitch plush annually, this little blue alien character is still very popular with the public. So don’t expect to see “Stitch’s Great Escape” replaced anytime soon. Just in post-show toy sales alone, this Tomorrowland attraction is more than earning its keep.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS – Because some attractions inspired members of our intrepid panel to share their thoughts, even if they didn’t make the Top Six.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin (7 votes)

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(photo by Brandon Glover)

Epcot Explorer (EpcotExplorer’s site)- Disney’s parks make sense. Although laced with fantasy and interspersed with the bizarre and other worldly, for the most part, thematic environments are designed to be immersive, whole, and logical. From 1971 to 2001, Adventureland followed these rules and was a coherent vision of a colonial settlement, somewhere in the tropics.

Adventureland can be treated as one long thoroughfare. It has a few turns and alleyways, but for the most part the original 1971 layout of the land is a large street, with the attractions and eateries off to the sides, except for the Enchanted Tiki Room, which is at the original terminus of the land… and whose massive form could even serve as a visual anchor (or weenie!) when it comes into view.

 When Pirates of the Caribbean was added in 1973, Adventureland stretched on behind the Tiki Room with Caribbean Plaza. But even so, The Sunshine Tree Pavilion was the visual centerpiece of the area, with a large and lush garden spread out in front of it. 

In 2001, this was all changed with the arrival of Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, which not only blocked the view of the Tiki Room, but changed the South Seas and Polynesian thematic trappings to Middle Eastern inspired facades and details. 

So, not only is there a plastic, hulking, spinning ride in front of the Sunshine Tree Pavilion, there’s a thematic rift in environmental sensibilities. The Tiki Room, which was meant to be the anchor of the land is subverted by a totally different thematic locality wedged between it and the rest of a similarly themed Adventureland. 

On top of that, the visual noise of Adventureland is accompanied by actual noise. The sound effects and safety warnings from Aladdin’s Magic Carpets disrupts the charm and mysterious and exotic feel Adventureland should have. If you want a ‘bustling market rife with foreign flair’, which Aladdin’s Carpets seems to want to accomplish, there are other, more traditional means to do so. An arbitrary kinetic sculpture, with no sense of theme and texture is not the way to do that, making Aladdin’s Magic Carpets one of the worst attractions in Walt Disney World. 

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (1 vote)

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Carousel of Progress. (Photo by Tom Bricker)

Laurel Stewart (owns 12 cats, all named after Disney princesses) – So why did Carousel of Progress make my worst list? Do I hate the idea of progress and hate the American family? Do I hate Walt? Because he loved both – the narrator (the incomparable Jean Shephard) says so right at the beginning. No, I’m down with all of that. It made my list because Carousel of Progress is guilty of something worse than outright suckitude – not trying. The attraction hasn’t seen an update since 1993 – if my math is right, that was approximately 100 years ago as far as technology goes. Even a quick trip to Target for some new costumes and decor would help the last scene. The cast looks like they stepped out of an episode of Seinfield, something else that has aged about as well as Carousel of Progress. And the virtual reality game makes DisneyQuest look cutting edge. How about at least dubbing in some new terminology? “Car phones?” “Laser disks?” Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

A better solution would be to dial the attraction all the way back to 1964 so we could see what the future looked like from there. That would be true to the attraction and kind of cool. Who wouldn’t love to see what people thought the 70s were going to be like? I bet the costumes were fabulous.

But, if I had my way, Carousel of Progress would be on a plan for rehabs every 10 years (see, I’m not unreasonable). The first scene could stay as is, and the last scene would be so far out in the future that it would resemble the Space Mountain post-ride vignettes. Come on, Disney, just go for it. Tomorrowland can’t get more off-theme than it already is (I just heard a Disney marketer somewhere in Burbank say “Challenge. Accepted.”). In the words of the great show Episodes, “if we go down in flames, AT LEAST THERE WERE FLAMES.”

 

Vote Totals: #INCREDIBLESSuperDanceParty (8), Circle of Life (8), Move It! Shake It! Dance and Celebrate It! Dance Party (7), Leave a Legacy (7), Ellen’s Energy Adventure (7), Triceratops Spin (7), Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom (5), Swiss Family Treehouse (5), Mulch, Sweat, and Shears (5),  Tough to be a Bug (4), Great Movie Ride (4), Dinosaur (4), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (3), Innoventions (3), Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid (3),  Canadian Lumberjacks (3), Main Street Electrical Parade (3),Habit Heroes (3),  IllumiNations (2), Enchanted Tiki Room (2), O Canada (2), Disney Junior Live on Stage (2), A Pirate’s Adventure (2), Magic of Disney Animation (2), The Seas with Nemo and Friends (3), Walt Disney World Railroad (2), Hall of Presidents (2),  Test Track (2), Soarin’ (2),Reflections of China (2), Star Tours: The Adventure Continues (1), Country Bears Jamboree (1), Wishes (1), MuppetVision 3-D (1), Kali River Rapids (1), Mad Tea Party (1), Rafiki Planet Watch (1), Toy Story Midway Mania (1), Image Works (1), Singers of Napoli (1), Gangplank Falls (1), Wildlife Express Train (1), New Streetmosphere at DHS (1), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (1), The Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob (1), It’s a Small World (1), Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage (1), Fantasmic! (1), Festival of the Lion King (1), Flights of Wonder (1)

VOTERS: Tim Tracker, Jenn Tracker, Tom Bricker, Kenny the Pirate, Len TestaScarlett Litton, Tom CorlessThe Disney Hipsters (Jamie and Keith), The Mighty Men of Mouse (Russ Lipton, Dutch Lombrowski), Epcot ExplorerMorgan CrutchfieldPatrick Hackett, Cat Lady Laurel Stewart, Brian McNichols, Tim Grassey, New York Times best selling author Josh Humphrey, Lisa TaylorBrandon GloverSeth Kubersky, Kendra HintofSpyDrunk at Disney, Dirk Wallen, Scott Smith“Skipper Ben” Rebstock, Dani ThisFloridaLife, Schmoofy, Ken Hesser, Anthony SOTMK, Hate To Fly, Ashley Hammond, Chuck F, Sir Owen Disney, Turkey Leg Jeff, David Davies, Chris Wakefield, Benjamin Lancaster, Ivonne Ramos, Megan Stump, and Jose Castillo.

So there you have it: The Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

First Annual Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys)

Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks

Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Take BACK To The North Pole

Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2014 (No Matter How Hard We Try)

Derek_Was_HereSpecial thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, Disney Photo Icon Tom Bricker, and Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey. I would also like each and every one of the talented men and women who agreed to take part in this in-depth study. 

Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. PRE-ORDER this baby now! (For every copy sold, a percentage of the profits* go towards destroying the Electric Umbrella.)

*0%

Posted on April 1, 2015

49 Responses to “The Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World According to Our All-Star Panel”

  • The post-humous and baseless smearing of Michael Jackson was entirely unecessary.
    Leave the man in peace.

    • Are you serious. Not meaning to digress – but do you not remember the big trial Michael Jackson went through. And do you realize that California law was changed because of him in the early 90s to allow legal action to go forward even if the underlying complainant does not want to press charges (similar to spousal abuse laws). The entire law was changed so he couldn’t pay families off anymore and get away with it!

      • For those who have forgotten, please YouTube “Michael Jackson with Gavin at Neverland” . He openly shared his bed with children in the name of ‘good manners’, and he paid a whole lot of money to silence the children who told his dirty secrets. And the parents all took the money. I can’t believe that Michael Jackson is a current celebration at Disney World.

  • We do actually own John Carter on Blu Ray, we loved the movie and have watched it several times (including paying to see it in the theatre). Never understood why it was not better received. This was a really good article and having Jim Hill discuss original intentions was a great touch.

  • I’ve never ridden Primeval Whirl because of motion sickness, nor had any inclination to drive the Tomorrowland Speedway, but the others at least fall into the “one and done” category. Well OK, Stitch is amazingly bad. Mission Space Green is on the “do not miss list” for me. I truly enjoy it. I think a lot of the problem is that as the pace of technological change increases, we adapt & accept it faster and it just takes more to impress us.

  • by Kramerica Industries on April 1, 2015, at 10:17 am EST

    @Laurel. Your derogatory comment about the greatest sitcom ever is disturbing to say the least. The fact that TBS runs four episodes a night of Seinfeld seems to indicate that it has aged well.

    • I’m gonna agree with you on that one. We all long for the days of when Kenny Roger’s made a mean chicken with the “red menace” logo and who doesn’t have Co-stan-za jingle stuck in their heads?!

  • I have to disagree on Aladin. My (now 6) 2 year old daughter refused to ride Dumbo even though we showed up at rope drop to be first in line (prior to the addition of the second ride). She jumped at the chance to ride Aladin which is the same ride, but with the added bonuses of water shooting and the possible sighting of Jasmine. Win-win for us! Also notable is Triceratop Spin which is also the same ride as Dumbo. Our kids don’t know the iconic Dumbo but they love dinosaurs and Jasmine!

  • I really liked this post and found the comments interesting, though I’d rather have more variety from the 40 experts and less grumbling from Jim Hill.

    • Agreed. Too many of his comments read as authoritative statements on why Disney is above reproach for this or that with scant persuasive analysis as to why.

      • My issue is the excuse that a corporate sponsor didn’t pony up the money, or enough money, to make a great attraction, pavilion, or refresh, so we just get what we get – not Disney’s fault. Come on! Disney’s as big a corporation as any of these sponsors (making historic profits right now) and these are their parks! If some sponsor doesn’t come up with the money, you don’t just leave your business to rot. You invest in your own product and make it the best quality it can be.

        • Look, not to belabor the point here, but even back in Walt’s day, Pepsi-Cola paid for the development of “it’s a small world.” And when Walt was looking to have that attraction shipped back east after the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair ended, he got Bank of America to pay for that. And then when you like back to Disneyland’s opening day and the number of shops in Main Street, U.S.A. that were run by third party leasees, the Company has been dealing with outside corporations, trying to make them happy / get more sponsorship money from them since the Company first entered the theme business. So to say “They’re Disney parks. They should just pay for all of the rides, shows & attractions” ignores 60+ years of the way that The Walt Disney Company has done business. What I was looking to do here by providing a counterpoint to this “6 Worst WDW Theme Park Attractions” story wasn’t to serve as a WDI apologist. But rather to remind people that Disney Parks & Resorts is actually a business. And when you’re trying to run a truly profitable business, you don’t often make decisions like a Disney fan boy would (i.e., “Wouldn’t it be cool if the Company built a hyper detailed, super-interactive attraction with a cutting edge ride system that has never been seen before?”). More often than not, you make decisions like someone who knows that Disney is a publicly held corporation with shareholders that it has to answer to. Which is why those behind-closed-doors conversation — when the Imagineers do propose new attractions for the Parks — do often include questions like “Do you think that we could possibly find a corporate sponsor to help underwrite the construction costs & operating expenses of this proposed new ride or show.” Long story short, folk: Walt has been dead since December of 1966. So the days of “Walt wanted that ride. So we built it” are nearly 5 decades in the past. These days, it’s more about “Is that an IP that the public is genuinely interested in seeing in a theme park setting?,” “Does our research show that adding this particular ride, show or attraction to that theme park’s line-up will have a noticeable impact on attendance?,” and — most importantly — “How long will be it take us to get a return on our investment?”

          • Jim, I think you meant ‘ship back west’ unless Walt wanted to take Small World to the Hamptons.

  • Jim Hill’s insight into why some of these attractions are clunkers is interesting, but there’s no sense in being an apologist for Disney’s bad attractions. To say that an attraction is bad or awful (or horrifyingly bad and awful) is not meant to be a slap in the faces of the Imagineers or a personal attack on the artists involved in the attraction. People are stating “This attraction just does not work.” So, if anything, Disney needs to examine how their entire financial, creative, and/or production process failed its customers in these cases. Excuses don’t make anyone feel better about failure.

  • For Stitch, I wish they would just make it a show. Get rid of the painful shoulder harnesses and the nasty smell and it would at least be somewhere to pass the time in air conditioning.

  • I do not agree with some on this list. Mission Space is a must due on my trips. I love it, I feel like I am really taking off into space. I never been on a ride that is soo much fun and realistic. I never had stomach issue on it either, but I know some do but that is why there is the green side. I hope Captain EO is way worse than this ride.

    • Totally agree with you about Mission space. My kids, especially my son, loves it and we ride it oh, on average a million times each Epcot day. I was shocked to see the vote totals included 2 for Soarin’! Who doesn’t love Soarin’?

      • Soarin is known as snoring in my house. pretty enough and I love how it was constructed (who doesn’t love the story about how Mark Sumnor created the prototype out of his old toy set?), but just not very interesting. make it a roulette of different destinations and I might get interested.

        oh and that queue – ghastly.

        • Is is possible that Soarin’ has the worst queue in relation to how good (or at least popular) an attraction is? I personally LOVE Soarin’, but that is a top five all time bad queue. And considering they can use anything from the history of aviation? It’s downright criminal.

    • Orange and Green sound great in theory, like one of them will work for everyone, unless you’re claustrophobic like me. I have no problems with dizziness or nausea, but I am claustrophobic. I rode the orange version once and had to try not to have a panic attack during the whole ride. That space inside there with 4 people is ridiculously small!! Never again.

    • Yes to Mission Space! I really did feel like I was blasting off into space. I got off and yelled “I’m Sally Ride!” I love going on with people never been on before. They all enjoy the experience.

    • I also disagree with Mission Space being on this list. I love Mission Space Orange. My tween nieces also loved it. It is probably the most thrilling ride in Epcot.

      Amazingly bad perfectly describes the Stitch attraction. Journey Into Imagination and Captain EO were okay but I can definitely see why they made the list.

      I also thought Tomorrowland Speedway was exceptionally horrible.

  • Tomorrow Land Speedway can be fixed fairly easily. Get Elon Musk and Tesla to sponsor it and replace the horrible gas powered cars with new electric ones. To make it more exciting they should have tandem seats and make the cars look like real Indy cars. The little ones can sit in front so they get the illusion of driving.

    I feel sorry for the Cast Members who work that ride today. The fumes from the cars must be worse than smoking 60 a day.

    • I love the Tesla idea.

    • That would be awesome!

    • I really love the idea of making it Cars themed. And yes, PLEASE replace the lawnmower engines! Mine ended up dying somewhere in the middle of the track. A CM had to come over and start it up again…just like you do a lawnmower. Those current version of the cars need to go!

  • First off, who voted for: The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Walt Disney World Railroad, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, Wishes, Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster ? These are my favourite rides, I even have the railroad tattooed on my arm!

    Worst attractions? Primeval Whirl (undeniably bad), Space ‘bone rattler’ Mountain, Universe of boring bloody Energy, Innoventions (literally a waste of space) and Circle of Hypocrisy.

  • by Mary Jo Collins on April 1, 2015, at 12:15 pm EST

    While I generally agree with the outcome of this survey, it would have been more interesting if the people polled were more diverse. I know and love a lot of these people, but a large number of them are locals to the parks. And they are indeed experts. I value their opinion. However, I’d liked to have seen more people added who vacation to WDW with/or without family every year who don’t live in Florida.

  • Much like the baseball writers who reveal their Hall of Fame votes, I’ll disclose mine:

    # 6 – Primeval Whirl
    # 5 – Leave a Legacy
    # 4 – #INCREDIBLESSuper Dance Party
    # 3 – The Circle of Life
    # 2 – Journey Into Imagination with Figment
    # 1 – The Great Movie Ride

    But honestly, if you told me that I could spend the rest of my day only enjoying these 6 attractions, I would jump at the chance—it would mean that I was in Disney World. What’s not to love about that?

    • I forgot #INCREDIBLESSuper Dance Party is even an attraction. The sorrow that fills my heart knowing it exists makes me want to forget again as soon as possible.

      • Seriously. I looked through the list in each park. I almost put Dream Along with Mickey, but really that Incredibles dance party is too much for me.

        • We’ve had several fun experiences at the dance party. Maybe because my kids are older and enjoy the music and like dancing with the characters. Having said that the Christmas show was a much more enjoyable experience.

    • Completely agree that even the bottom attractions at Disney are great, that said here’s my list:

      6 – Tomorrowland Speedway
      5 – Move it, shake it, celebrate it street party
      4 – Hall of Presidents
      3 – Tiki Room
      2 – Country Bear Jamboree
      1 – Ellen’s Energy Adventure

      Honorable mention goes to Pirates of the Caribbean. I love the ride, but it’s rare that I get on without someone in the boat either taking flash photos or recording on something with a back-lit screen.

  • by Laurel Stewart on April 1, 2015, at 1:57 pm EST

    It seems I really hate Tomorrowland:

    # 6 – Ellen’s Energy Adventure
    # 5 – Primeval Whirl
    # 4 – Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
    # 3 – Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
    # 2 – Capt. EO
    # 1 – Stitch’s Great Escape

    I had to Google Gangplank Falls.

  • My list:

    1. Primeval Whirl
    2. Triceratop Spin
    3. Magic Carpets of Aladdin
    4. Tomorrowland Speedway
    5. Captain EO
    6. Innoventions

  • My list:
    1) Journey into Imagination with Figment – bring back the original! This attraction was my favorite as a kid. There’s nothing left now!

    2) Test Track. Never has going so fast been so lacking in thrills. The nice new interactive queue has no apparent effect on the ride at all (not that it could, so it really feels hollow.

    3) The Hall of Presidents. When particularly tired, I may occasionally consider this if only to hear Morgan Freeman’s soothing voice. I can’t stand listening to politicians when I have nothing better to do, let alone when I’m at Disney World. Plus, when I think about it, if I want to sit through something boring to rest my weary feet, The Enchanted Tiki Room’s inanity is, at least, not boring.

    4) Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable. Let’s take the worst bits of An Inconvenient Truth and blend it with Lion King 1-1/2!

    5) Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Why does this cheap-feeling carnival ride exist when the far superior Midway Mania is only a short distance away at DHS?

    6) Almost everything in Dinoland USA. Except maybe the Dinosaur ride itself, the rest is wasted space.

    • Just to clarify – i didn’t bother considering “attractions” with so little appeal I actually have never made an effort to see them (such as #INCREDIBLESSuper Dance Party, or the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Celebrate It! Dance Party.) Also, I think my brain blocks all memory of Captain Eo due to some traumatic experience of having seen it once. It’s buried and supressed somewhere in this gray matter, and I am not even sure the attraction still exists.

  • Seriously, how did Circle of Life not make this list??? I once had lunch with an imagineer who made it clear that movies are always the cheapest and easiest things in the park to replace, and yet somehow this attraction still exists. With Disney’s “Earth” films that contain hours of footage of wildlife and the environment such a hot-button issue, I really don’t know why they can’t simply update it. Even the “pre-show” facts on the lobby screens at the entrance are outdated, and those are basically just a PowerPoint presentation!

  • If you never rode Superstar Limo, you have no idea how bad a ride can be.

  • Here is an idea: Maybe they could add a new last scene to COP depicting our current “Age of Whining”…they could rename the attraction “Carousel of Regress”. The scene could consist of parents that choose to live off government allowance so they can spend their time blogging about marital rights between people and their pets, life sentences for non-vegans, apologizing for being Americans, or eliminating all traces of capitalism. It could be set in a “tiny green cabin” with the children protected in their emotionally-safe bubbles. Of course, they would all be speaking Chinese.

  • by Jodie Fransen on April 2, 2015, at 12:14 pm EST

    Great article – fun to read :). I am one of the “lucky ones” who has never set foot in Stitch’s Great Escape… not even to see what it’s like. My list wouldn’t be exactly the same, of course, but it’s fun to see what everyone thinks. I would say that my pre-teen absolutely loved Mission: Space (orange!) and the Tomorrowland Speedway, so I guess there really is something for everyone at Disney.

  • So is the amount of money that Stitch still makes for Disney in merchandising the reason that Stitch is the most readily available magic shot with MM?
    No Mickey, no Minnie, and near impossible to get Sebastian. But we have tons of MM shots w Stitch. Really annoying that this one is everywhere, yet so many other extremely rare or completely gone (Mickey, Minnie, Hook).

  • Just for the record, my votes were as follows:

    # 6 – Triceratops Spin

    # 5 – Magic Carpets of Aladdin

    # 4 – Innoventions

    # 3 – Stitch’s Great Escape

    # 2 – #INCREDIBLESSuperDanceParty

    # 1 – Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It!

    It was a toss up between MISIDPI & #INCREDIBLES– the dance party’s bass can be heard in Act 3 and Act 4 of CoP, and Move It! completely ruins Main Street, from adding congestion to an already busy area, to masking the charming background music THREE times a day. Plus, it encourages selfies, so there’s that.

    • The selfies along make it abominable, I completely agree. I also didn’t like when they were using people’s pictures on the castle for a couple seconds. Disney should be telling stories. No one is better at it. Seeing other family’s photos is not a story I want to see in any theme park.