Disney World Attractions in Need of a Revamp

Escape the heat by enjoying the Carousel of Progress.

One of the aspects that I feel truly separates Disney Parks from other theme parks is the presence of “classic” attractions. By classic attractions, I mean those that might not have state of the art technology by today’s standards, or cost the size of a small island, but remain relevant, charming, and downright fun years or even decades later. Attractions like Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are just a few examples of these that come to mind. As brilliant as Disney Imagineers are, there is an occasional attraction misstep from time to time, which is inevitable.

It’s incredibly difficult to determine what’s going to resonate with audiences at any one moment, let alone ten, twenty, or fifty years from now. For a variety of reasons, some attractions just don’t age well and feel outdated rather than classic. Most of the time those attractions are replaced (see most of Disney’s California Adventure) but other times, they remain. Below, I’ve listed some attractions that I believe fit this description. These aren’t outright bad attractions per se, but they are ones that have the potential to be really fantastic with a revamp or retheming.

Without further ado, here are some attractions in need of a “tune up” along with what could be done to make them better and my suggestions for what attractions to go on instead.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure

A playground inside a theme park can be a great addition for parents who are looking to let their kids burn off some energy while they relax. Unfortunately, they haven’t made a Honey I Shrunk the Kids movie since 1997. You could argue that the kids don’t care, and you’d probably be right, but that still doesn’t make the attraction feel any less dated. With the rumors of a larger focus on Star Wars for Hollywood Studios, which is also getting a new name by the way, maybe they could do a Star Wars themed playground like Endor, which would still keep the forest vibe. In the meantime, head over to The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom, which offers kids the chance to play around on a better themed playground and dig up “real” dinosaur bones.

 

All of Dino-Rama

Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama managed to make dinosaurs uncool — and that’s almost impossible. The entire area is themed like a roadside carnival with a dinosaur motif: The ground looks like a cracked parking lot, the carnival games have generic dinosaur prizes, and the rides are extremely forgettable. It all feels cheap and out of place considering the rest of Animal Kingdom is such a beautiful park. Honestly, the whole area looks like it belongs at California Adventure before its revitalization, which is funny because California Adventure today features a much better carnival/midway themed area in Paradise Pier. I’m not going to go so far as to tell you to hop a flight to Anaheim to experience Paradise Pier but if you’re really dead set on a carnival atmosphere, head over to the Boardwalk. If you want similar rides to what’s available in Dino-Rama, try Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom.

 

Carousel of Progress

Lay down your pitchforks Carousel of Progress diehards! I understand that Carousel of Progress is a pretty divisive Disney attraction. Some people love it because of the history behind it while others think it’s just plain boring. I’m not here to take sides on that argument. My focus is solely on the final scene of the attraction. While the prior scenes of the attraction take place in the early 20th century and showcase technology and living conditions of the time, the final scene is meant to portray a “modern” setting. Unfortunately, it looks like something straight out of an 80’s movie from the clothing to the décor to the “state of the art” flight simulator game the family plays. To Disney’s credit, they at least replaced the television with a flat screen a couple of years ago but the rest is still left extremely dated. I’d like to see Disney regularly update only the final scene to keep it actually feeling modern while preserving the other scenes so as not to completely get rid of the spirit of the attraction. Judge it for yourself though and if you’re looking for another educational attraction with animatronics and a theme of progression, try Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

 

Ellen’s Energy Adventure

Ellen’s Energy Adventure is a slow moving ride with dinosaurs that also has pre and post show videos with Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye. I actually think it’s a pretty funny attraction mostly because of Ellen, but it pains me to say that this attraction is outdated partly because she’s in it. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with Ellen (she’s great!) but it features her at a time before she had her day time show and arguably changed her entire career. Seeing her in the videos just reminds you that the attraction is old, similar to how you watch an old movie where they’re all using PDAs. That’s the gamble that goes with putting very recognizable real life actors in attractions.

I still think the message of the attraction is extremely relevant today (the search for new energy sources) so that’s not a problem, but at least update the pre-show video. (Side note: Please shorten the ride also. At 45 minutes, it’s a long one.). What attraction do I suggest as an alternative? For a slow moving educational attraction, head across Future World to Living with the Land. For your dinosaur fix, simply go on DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom, which is admittedly more intense but definitely more immersive and interesting. (I swear that the constant mentioning of dinosaurs is just a coincidence.)

While there are undoubtedly more aspects of Disney World that are in need of a refresh, these are the ones that jump out to me the most. Thankfully, Disney didn’t get to be Disney by accident. The company has a history of recognizing theme park missteps and responding accordingly (see the California Adventure revival, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, etc.). Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” With that spirit in mind, let me know what Disney attractions you think need a refresh in the comments below.

T.J. Van Fechtmann

Ever since his first trip before he could even walk, T.J. has loved Disney World more than any other vacation destination in the world. One of his goals in life is to visit every Disney theme park across the globe. Until then, you can find him making regular trips to Central Florida with the occasional trip to Disneyland as well.

32 thoughts on “Disney World Attractions in Need of a Revamp

  • June 3, 2015 at 6:49 am
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    Did they ever update the script and blocking for Fantasmic! at the Studios such that the middle portion isn’t a commercial for the then-new-for-1995 Pocohantas?

    • June 3, 2015 at 12:19 pm
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      As far as I know, the Pocahontas focus is still there.

  • June 3, 2015 at 7:27 am
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    Totally disagree about the Honey I Shrank the Kids playground. My daughter (5) loves it. Its probably the coolest play area we’ve ever been to. We’d be very sorry to see it go.

    • June 3, 2015 at 11:56 am
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      My kids love it too! It is great. We’d be sorry to see it go too.

    • June 3, 2015 at 4:40 pm
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      Kids really don’t care about the theming…they just want to run and play. Honey I Shrunk the kids offers this and that’s all that truly matters. Use the money to change this to create new attractions at DHS. Also, while I like the playground at AK, it’s hot and not a lot of shade from the FL sun. I find Honey I Shrunk the Kids offers more space for parents to relax out of the beating sun.

  • June 3, 2015 at 7:40 am
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    Is this one of the prospective bloggers? There seem to be a whole lot of these strongly-worded blogs this week.

    Our family enjoys these attractions and looks forward to their regular cleaning, since subtle changes are made.

    The HISK adventure prompted us to track down the old movies and enjoy them. We will enjoy the Star Wars upgrades to the rest of the park – but it’s important to keep a variety of films featured throughout.

    It’s also fun to see the late 20th century products in Carousel of Progress. My grandson enjoys talking about the products that were considered “modern” when his mother was a little girl. We talk a lot about which scene was “modern” to which of his extended family members. Perhaps some updating of the script? Or a retooling similar to the one done on the great movie ride?

  • June 3, 2015 at 8:07 am
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    I like Ellen just the way it is…45 minutes in a dark cool place. It’s perfect for a quick afternoon nap. (Plus my kids love it)

  • June 3, 2015 at 8:12 am
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    I am one of those Carousel die-hards, but I agree about the final scene, though, I think, instead of constantly updating the final scene, I really think they should reintroduce the original final scene. Since Tomorrowland is kind of a future that never was, I think retrofitting the Carousel would still fit with it’s vibe.

    • June 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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      I agree with you on this. I like the classic attractions to be the way they were originally designed (like Tiki Room). I think that is the fun of Disney World — the history and nostalgic rides along with the new stuff.

  • June 3, 2015 at 8:15 am
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    I actually disagree with all four suggestions. What would be neat if they added the Magic Band interactions as promised when advertising for the Magic Bands as in animatronics and Monitors displaying “Happy Birthday”s and other events and speaking to a child by name.

  • June 3, 2015 at 8:42 am
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    I’ve always thought they could easily re-theme the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground to “Tinkerbell” or “Bug’s Life” with minimal cost. Kids would, at least, recognize the theming then. Related to that, I know that people still file in for this show, but they need to stop pretending like the “Indiana Jones” show is anything current. After watching it recently, and looking it up on IMDB, I discovered it’s older than most of us young parents!

    • June 3, 2015 at 8:24 pm
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      Actually my 6 year old is a huge Indy fan. That’s what he was for halloween and he still wears the costume all the time. Apparently, Party City does sell kids size Indy costumes, so someone is buying them….
      Incidentally, A Bug’s Life wouldn’t really be updating. An 8 year old who loved that movie is 25 now….

  • June 3, 2015 at 9:11 am
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    Speaking of Ellen’s Adventure, it doesn’t help that Bill Nye looks like his is 30 years old in it.

  • June 3, 2015 at 9:16 am
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    The best way to address Carousel of Progress is to revamp the whole thing and put the emphasis back on progress. Here is my proposal:

    Scene 1: 1900…keep things mostly the same but update the pop culture references to be things the majority of guests would recognize.

    Scene 2: 1950s…this is basically the “Fall” scene in terms of technology and progress. Be sure to make Disney references in here like the opening of Disneyland and maybe a movie reference or two.

    Scene 3: Late 80s-Early 90s…here is where you throw in a ton of pop culture references that most parents and grandparents today would get a kick out of. I would be sure to mention something about Epcot and maybe one of the “new classic” movies like Little Mermaid or Lion King. Keep the focus on progress though…maybe mention the Space Shuttle and computers and all that.

    Scene 4: Today…showcase today’s technology and all that, but do it in a way that will hold up for at least 5-8 years. Disney and Apple are partners…so maybe use ideas Apple has on the horizon to keep things from becoming stale. I would update this scene every 5-8 years in terms of the props…but making sure that the dialog won’t have to change. Maybe talk about the “internet of things” and how you can communicate with people and places in an instant. Maybe that’s being too specific. Basically…showcase mankind’s progress over the last 100+ years and how far we’ve come.

    This would require re-recording all of the family, and I would try to use some of the folks who are currently voicing other Disney attractions. I know there is a guy (Stephen Stanton) who does other park attractions who can do a perfect impression of Rex Allen…so I’d try to use him. The main thing is to focus on progress and create an attraction that will stand the test of time. It gives homage to the past without getting stale. JMHO though.

    • June 8, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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      I just got home from Disney and took the Carousel of Progress too, I found the attraction “vintage” which was nice, found all the “decades” informative (which I have lived through 3 of them), but found the last one confusing. I couldn’t figure out if it was the 80’s or 90’s, wasn’t the 2000’s at all. Yes, that last one should be kept as updated constantly with the new technology. The funniest thing, my 2 1/2 year old grandson just loved it.

  • June 3, 2015 at 9:39 am
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    Agree with all, especially Dino-Rama. So cheap and tacky, Disney should be embarrassed to charge money for that disaster.

  • June 3, 2015 at 9:52 am
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    I think you could re-theme the “Shrunk” playground to Marvel’s “Ant-Man” without too much trouble.

    • June 3, 2015 at 12:24 pm
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      That would be awesome. Currently though, Universal has the exclusive rights to Marvel characters at Islands of Adventure and their deal prevents any Marvel characters from appearing in any other theme park in the US east of the Mississippi.

      • June 3, 2015 at 7:56 pm
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        Disney could be able to find some kind of loophole with that. The Guardians of the Galaxy made an appearance in DHS last fall, so who knows

  • June 3, 2015 at 10:23 am
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    Thanks for the “tune up” suggestions, I always enjoy these kind of “what if” blog posts. I’ll further suggest that sometimes Disney doesn’t need to “update” attractions and that they should return some attractions to their better original form. For example, who doesn’t agree that Disney made the right decision to return Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room to its original form after a small fire ended the disastrous run of The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)? Likewise (using your suggestions) I’ll nominate returning Ellen’s Energy Adventure to its original form as The Universe of Energy. If nothing else, the original pre-show known as the “Kinetic Mosaic” should be returned. The 100 rotating prism-shaped flip screens were groundbreaking and far more entertaining and interesting than any subsequent static screens. I seem to recall them being praised by Time magazine and many other publications.

    • June 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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      Or better yet, revamp Ellen’s Adventure into a New Horizons ride.

  • June 3, 2015 at 10:54 am
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    I’ve been saying for years they should re-theme Honey I Shrunk the Kids to A Bugs Life. It’s right near Pixar Place, so it would work perfectly. My 4 year old loved it as much as I did myself in 1989 …. but the fact that none of the children could identify what the film cannister was and I had a chuckle at the Super Soaker that make the thing seem out of place and left behind. Just spruce it up a little, wouldn’t cost much, and make it feel much current.

  • June 3, 2015 at 11:54 am
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    I totally agree about Dinorama; we go near either Primeval Whirl or Triceratops Spin in our last trip. There was also a really random dance party happening there too.

    With Carousel of Progress, I think the final scene needs an update. Right now, it’s laughable with comments about car phones and bad video games. It’s fun, but I’m not sure in the right way.

    I think that Future World in EPCOT could be re-energized with just two upgrades – Energy and Imagination. The basic structure is there with Ellen’s Energy Adventure due to the ride system and dinosaur portion. While it has some fun lines, 20 years is a long time for no updates.

  • June 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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    What’s wrong with a 45-minute ride?
    I’d much rather a 10-minute wait for a 45-minute ride than a 45-minute wait for a 10-minute ride.

    Also, if they redid the CoP, I’d like to think they’d build all new animatronics and restore the original 1964 show at the Disney Family Museum in SF.

  • June 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm
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    Also, does no one get the story that Dino-Land is supposed to be a tacky roadside attraction that sprung up along Rt. 66 when dinosaurs were discovered? (Note the highway striping of the main path around the lagoon, the re-purposed buildings for the Institute’s mess hall etc.)

    • June 3, 2015 at 1:12 pm
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      I think most people understand it, but just because it’s *supposed* to look like garbage doesn’t excuse the fact that it looks like garbage.

  • June 3, 2015 at 1:19 pm
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    What if articles like this attempts to be are fun and some of my favorites to read. While I agree that these are all in need of some form of revitalization, it would be even more interesting next time to see some ideas on less obvious candidates. Push the envelope! 🙂 I do like the counter proposed attractions.

  • June 3, 2015 at 3:33 pm
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    Do not touch Carousel of Progress!

  • June 4, 2015 at 7:07 am
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    Great topic, and great comments. I can see both sides, especially with some attractions such as Carousel which I always skip. Still, while reading, got reminded of one of photos from our recent trip.

    My 4 yr old grandson’s face, watching the country bears for the first time – his look of wonder. So that tells me that even the attractions that may seem to me boring as 30& disney visitor, such as tiki room, still have a place in the little one’s hearts.

    Also, I really hope the rumors that disney might eliminate tom sawyer’s island is not not so. We all love that place so much.

    I actually stopped going to Universal years ago, when they kept eliminating rides that I liked, such as King Kong, and added very wild rollercoasters with the new park.

    So I say good for Disney, that they are able to design, value and keep some of those wonderful rides we look forward to always revisiting.

  • June 4, 2015 at 3:06 pm
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    The Country Bear Jamboree needs a serious rethink. The original show was fine. Hokey, but endearingly so. The chopped-down version currently presented makes no sense, because what was dropped was all the patter that led cohesively from one song to another.

    I think the Dino-Rama is fine. You may hate the kind of roadside attractions it’s based on, but Disney did a spot-on job of rendering them.

    Hollywood Studios needs help in every single section, too much to cover in a single comment.

    Ellen’s Energy Adventure didn’t actually feel as long as the 37 minutes the CMs kept mentioning. Of course, we were riding it when there was a downpour outside, so dry, fairly comfy seats probably made me less critical.

  • June 4, 2015 at 11:30 pm
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    On Carousel of Progress, forget updating the final Christmas scene. Go back to the original 1960s scene, modified so as not to promote a specific brand of appliances. That way it will never be dated, it’ll just be history.

    • June 5, 2015 at 7:34 am
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      The problem is that you would have to stop calling it the Carousel of “Progress” if you did that. Walt never wanted his parks or attractions to become museums, especially the idea of Tomorrowland. There are ways to overhaul the entire attraction while still keeping the feeling of the original. What exists today is a sad and forgotten version of what once was. It is the opposite of progress. Perhaps the Imagineers can revamp it before MK turns 50…or maybe by 2019 in time for the attraction’s 55th birthday.

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