Entire Multi-Million-Dollar Magic Kingdom Attraction Forced to Close Forever After Being Deemed Inappropriate and “Too Far”

magic kingdom partners statue
Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

Disney was forced to scrap and remove an entire Magic Kingdom experience after the attraction was deemed unsafe and inappropriate for guests of the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida.

Related: Imagineers Scrap Brand-New Attraction, Citing Unsolvable Problem For Guests

cinderella castle disney world

Credit: Becky Burkett

Walt’s Inspiration for Building the Parks

Throughout its 100-year-long history, The Walt Disney Company has grown its business and scope of services, created films, and shared stories with the ideas of family and togetherness serving as its guiding principles.

“The important thing is the family,” Walt Disney once said. “If you can keep the family together, and that’s the backbone of our whole business–catering to families–that’s what we hope to do.”

By his own account during an interview in 1963 with the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Fletcher Markle, which was released in 2015 in celebration of the Diamond Celebration of Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney’s idea of family was what ignited the visionary genius’s attention to stepping into the theme park business.

fletcher markle and walt disney at burbank studios in 1963

Journalist Fletcher Markle and Walt Disney in 1963/Credit: Walt Disney Archives

That practice would eventually extend to Disney’s theme parks with the development, construction, and opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in July 1955.

As guests poured in through the gates at Walt’s first park, they were introduced, for the first time ever, to Disney’s beloved fairy tales and classic stories in dazzling “real” life as the Southern California park featured costumed characters that roamed the park, delighting guests of every age, as well as exciting and whimsical rides, attractions, and other experiences designed to bring the magic of beloved stories like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, and others to life in front of visitors’ eyes.

storybook canal boats disneyland

Credit: Disney Archives

Related: Walt Disney Despised Sequels, and Honoring His Legacy Means Stopping the Remakes

Disney: No Longer Family-Friendly?

But for all of the Disney Company’s family-friendly endeavors, present-day critics of the House of Mouse say that, in recent years, Disney has abandoned its guiding principles in the name of higher revenue.

Some former fans and non-fans claim that Disney has begun opting instead to seek after a broader scope of projects, including inappropriate or “woke” Disney Parks rides and attractions, questionable offerings of entertainment at Disney’s theme parks, and films and television series that are given PG-13 or R ratings, many of which come with the promise of high returns on investment–and ultimately, a boost in revenue for the company.

lion king rated r mpaa

Credit: Disney/MaximumEffort/Canva

But whether fans agree or disagree about whether Disney has recently embraced a less-than-family-friendly approach to entertainment, the truth is that Disney was dabbling in such endeavors more than 30 years ago at Magic Kingdom. It’s likely, however, that the absence of the internet and social media helped the company keep such poor judgment under wraps in days gone by.

A Questionable Disney Parks Experience in the 1990s

In 1990, Disney began developing a new attraction for Disneyland that was, by no means, a family-friendly experience. In fact, there was nothing friendly about it at all.

disneyland california sleeping beauty castle

Credit: Disney Parks

The earliest plans for the new attraction included a storyline that was largely written by George Lucas. Per the narrative, a new technology company called XS-Tech welcomed the public to take an inside look at its laboratories and learn about the company’s cutting-edge technology by attending demonstrations by XS-Tech scientists and technicians.

The pre-show queue would take guests on a tour of XS-Tech labs, which would be featured behind glass, and guests could see scientists hard at work in the development and discovery of next-generation technological advancements. Then, guests would move into a theater for a teleportation demonstration, only to find out that it was a cover for something more sinister.

alien encounter disney concept art

Credit: Disney Parks

Originally envisioned for installation at Disneyland Resort, this version of the attraction would have guests becoming trapped. It would soon be clear that XS-Tech was a corrupt organization, and as such, when in need of human guinea pigs on which to test the violent capabilities of an alien creature they created in their labs, they fabricated a tour offering at their labs, only to lure in unsuspecting guests.

The alien creature would wreak havoc in the theater where guests were seated before finally turning his rage toward the XS-Tech scientists who created him. As the creature departs to destroy the labs and leave no survivors in his wake, guests would leave the theater, only to hear the sounds of the creature attacking scientists and lab workers as they exited the attraction.

It was a dark concept, to say the least, and Disney hoped to tone down the Lucas version and add some comedic elements.

Disney Announces a New Attraction at Disney World

In 1993, after nearly three years of planning, extensive changes, collaboration, and development, Disney announced that the new attraction, which would be officially called the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, would be constructed at Tomorrowland at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom instead of Disneyland.

alien encounter disney world

Credit: Flickr/Steven Miller

The experience, which was a theater-in-the-round attraction, briefly opened on December 16, 1994, for previews. But on January 12, 1995, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner demanded the attraction be closed while Imagineers and other ride designers revised some parts of the experience–but not because it was too much of anything. Rather, Eisner felt the experience wasn’t scary enough for guests.

michael eisner with mickey and minnie

Then-Disney-CEO Michael Eisner/Credit: Disney

More than five months later, on June 20, 1995, the attraction opened to guests at Magic Kingdom as part of the reimagining of Tomorrowland, some of whom showered the new experience with praise because of its darker tone and feel. But the overwhelming sentiment from guests was a negative one.

Like every Disney Parks attraction, this one told a story–but perhaps a far too terrifying tale was told.

alien encounter disney

Credit: Disney

CinemaBlend describes the attraction and the accompanying horror in great detail:

“The show is supposed to teleport a humanoid alien, played by former ‘Ferris Beuller’ principal Jeffrey Jones, into the main theater, but then something goes wrong and instead, what appears is something massive and ravenous looking.

Then, the alien appears to break the glass, the power is cut, and guests are subjected to a series of sensations via touch, sound, and even scent, that imply the alien is moving around the dark space wreaking havoc and looking for food. It’s implied that the alien eats several people before being recaptured.”

The experience stood out in stark contrast to other Magic Kingdom attractions, which featured Disney stories, Disney characters, and a brighter take on comedy and other ride elements. Very quickly, guests began to air their concerns, noting that the attraction, simply referred to as Alien Encounter by most guests, was not appropriate for children–or Magic Kingdom, for that matter–as it pushed the envelope far past anything thrilling.

It was probably the first and only (so far) attraction at Disney World that came with a warning to parents that the experience might be too frightening for children–and for some adults.

alien encounter disney world warning sign

Credit: Flickr/Steven Miller

But as it would turn out, many parents reportedly didn’t read the warning sign and proceeded into the attraction with their children in tow, only to be terrified at the outcome. Children weren’t alone in their terror, however, as reports have stated that even some adult guests were so unsettled by the experience–and their screams so intense–that much of the dialogue in the attraction was easily missed.

Complaints began to pour in from guests about the attraction’s elements, its misplacement at a place like Magic Kingdom–or anywhere at Disney World, for that matter–and its inappropriateness altogether. Before long, it was clear that the attraction wasn’t only inducing terror in guests; it had become a nightmare for Disney as well.

The Nightmare Comes to An End

In September 2003, after eight years of operation and countless complaints and criticism from angry guests, Disney World announced that the attraction would be scrapped, effective October 12 of that year, and as promised, the Alien Encounter nightmare finally came to an end a month later.

stitch's great escape

Credit: Disney Parks

The attraction space was reimagined to make room for a new attraction called Stitch’s Great Escape, featuring #626 himself, Stitch, from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch (2002). It opened to guests in November 2004, but criticism and complaints followed as many guests seemed generally disappointed in the attraction.

Stitch’s Great Escape closed fourteen years after it opened–in 2018.

Though the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction will likely forever stay in the Disney history books under the title of Scariest (or most inappropriate) Disney Parks attraction of all Time, it’s by no means the creepiest attraction at the parks. That title might very well go to the “it’s a small world” attraction at Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom.

it's a small world Britain doll, Magic Kingdom

Credit: Disney

If you’re not sure why, click here to find out . . . if you dare!

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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