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Disney World ABANDONS New Theme Park, Shut Down Permanently

four parks at disney world
Credit: Edited by Disney Dining

While there are many noted attractions that have stood the test of time, there are others that never truly made their way to Walt Disney World Resort.

Known as “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” Disney World is home to four theme parks, two water parks, and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district. Walt Disney World Resort stands as a testament to imagination, creativity, and innovation, but hidden within its storied history are the remnants of dreams never realized.

Mickey Mouse at Magic Kingdom Park

Credit: Disney

Despite the wealth of attractions that grace its parks today, there exists a realm of concept art, blueprints, and abandoned plans that offer a tantalizing glimpse into what might have been. Join us as we embark on a journey through five Disney World attractions that, though consigned to the realm of imagination, continue to capture the fascination of Disney enthusiasts worldwide.

Five attractions that were abandoned by Walt Disney World Resort

1. The Western River Expedition (Magic Kingdom)

In the embryonic stages of Walt Disney World’s development, Imagineers conceived a grand riverboat journey through the untamed landscapes of the American West. The Western River Expedition promised an immersive voyage through frontier towns, Native American settlements, and breathtaking canyons, akin to Disneyland’s beloved Pirates of the Caribbean.

pirates of the caribbean attraction

Credit: WDW Steve Wise, Flickr

With meticulous attention to detail, concept art brought to life scenes of bustling saloons, rugged landscapes, and encounters with colorful characters. However, the allure of expanding upon the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, combined with budgetary constraints, ultimately led to the project’s abandonment. Despite its demise, remnants of The Western River Expedition’s legacy endure in the hearts of Disney aficionados, who continue to marvel at the tantalizing vision of what could have been.

2. The Great Muppet Movie Ride (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

In the whimsical world of Jim Henson’s Muppets, a proposal emerged for a journey through cinematic history at what was then Disney-MGM Studios. The Great Muppet Movie Ride promised a rollicking adventure through iconic film scenes reimagined with the zany antics of Kermit, Miss Piggy, and their beloved cohorts.

muppet vision 3d attraction

Credit: Becky Burkett

Concept art showcased Muppet-fied versions of Hollywood landmarks, while mock-ups of ride vehicles teased at the uproarious journey in store for guests. Yet, despite initial enthusiasm and creative fervor, the project succumbed to the complexities of aligning creative visions and financial viability. Though relegated to the realm of unrealized dreams, The Great Muppet Movie Ride remains a testament to the enduring charm and universal appeal of Jim Henson’s beloved creations.

3. Disney’s America (Near Magic Kingdom)

This next one may not have been planned for Walt Disney World Resort, but it still had the fingerprints of the beloved theme park destination all over it.

In the tumultuous landscape of 1990s America, Disney announced plans for a groundbreaking theme park venture: Disney’s America. Situated in Northern Virginia, this ambitious project aimed to celebrate the tapestry of American history and culture through immersive storytelling and interactive experiences. Themed lands would transport guests through pivotal moments in U.S. history, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil Rights Movement.

However, fervent opposition from local communities, historians, and conservationists raised concerns about the park’s impact on the region’s historical landscape and cultural heritage. Ultimately, Disney’s America was abandoned, leaving behind a legacy of unrealized potential and a testament to the challenges of balancing entertainment with historical preservation.

4. The Enchanted Snow Palace (EPCOT)

In the ethereal realm of EPCOT’s conceptual landscape, Imagineers envisioned a frosty escapade through a whimsical world of ice and snow: The Enchanted Snow Palace. Inspired by the success of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds, this enchanting attraction promised a thrilling journey through a magical ice kingdom inhabited by talking snowmen, dancing polar bears, and other whimsical characters.

new park disneyland's matterhorn bobsleds attraction ride age limit bumpy old track mountain older back pain

Credit: Disney

Concept art brought to life scenes of shimmering ice palaces, cascading waterfalls, and mystical forests, igniting the imaginations of guests young and old. Yet, despite the allure of its fantastical premise, The Enchanted Snow Palace failed to gain traction and was ultimately shelved, consigned to the archives of Disney’s unrealized dreams.

5. The Beastly Kingdom (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)

When Disney’s Animal Kingdom roared to life in 1998, one section remained conspicuously absent from its menagerie of themed lands: The Beastly Kingdom. Envisioned as a mythical realm teeming with legendary creatures and fantastical adventures, The Beastly Kingdom promised to transport guests into the realms of dragons, unicorns, and other mythical beasts.

animal kingdom tree of life joe rohde

Credit: Theme Park Tourist, Flickr

Yet, despite early concept art and tantalizing visions of epic encounters, logistical challenges and budgetary constraints stalled its development. While elements of The Beastly Kingdom found their way into other areas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the original vision of a dedicated land of mythical creatures remains one of Disney World’s most enduring mysteries.

Five beloved attractions that closed down permanently at Disney World

While many attractions were abandoned before they had a chance, others were built and enjoyed by guests but ultimately still met their demise.

1. Stitch’s Great Escape (Magic Kingdom)

Originally debuting as “Alien Encounter” in 1994, this Tomorrowland attraction underwent a rebranding in 2004 to feature the mischievous character Stitch from Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch” franchise. Despite its initial popularity, Stitch’s Great Escape faced criticism for its intense nature and was eventually relegated to seasonal operation before closing permanently in 2018.

Stitch's Great Escape

Credit: Disney Fanatic

2. The Great Movie Ride (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

An homage to classic Hollywood cinema, The Great Movie Ride took guests on a journey through iconic movie scenes, housed within a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. From “Singin’ in the Rain” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the attraction celebrated the magic of the silver screen. However, in 2017, The Great Movie Ride bid farewell to guests, making way for Disney World Park’s transformation into Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

3. Ellen’s Energy Adventure (EPCOT)

Debuting in 1996, Ellen’s Energy Adventure combined entertainment and education as guests joined Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye on a humorous journey through the history of energy. Housed within the Universe of Energy pavilion, the attraction featured impressive Audio-Animatronics and a sprawling diorama depicting prehistoric landscapes. Despite its unique concept, Ellen’s Energy Adventure closed in 2017 to make room for a new Guardians of the Galaxy-themed attraction.

EPCOT wdw

Credit: Brian McGowan on Unsplash

4. Maelstrom (EPCOT)

A beloved staple of the Norway pavilion, Maelstrom whisked guests away on a boat ride through scenes inspired by Norse mythology and Norwegian folklore. From encounters with trolls to a thrilling plunge down a waterfall, Maelstrom captivated visitors with its immersive storytelling. However, in 2014, the attraction closed its doors to make way for Frozen Ever After, a new ride based on the wildly popular film “Frozen.”

5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Magic Kingdom)

A classic dark ride inspired by the adventures of Mr. Toad from “The Wind in the Willows,” this beloved attraction delighted guests with its whimsical charm and frenetic pace. From dodging traffic in Toad Hall to standing trial in the court of the underworld, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a nostalgic favorite for many Disney fans. However, the ride closed in 1998 to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, leaving behind fond memories and a piece of Disney World history.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride entrance at Disneyland Park

Credit: Disney

What is on the horizon for Walt Disney World Resort?

While we’ve taken a look at the projects that were never meant to be and those that were eventually closed down at Walt Disney World Resort, there are numerous attractions on the way for Disney World.

First, EPCOT is in the midst of finishing up significant construction that has taken over the Disney World park in phases for the last several years. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, have all opened in recent years. Outside of those and major facelifts to the theme park, Disney has also announced that CommuniCore Hall and Plaza is set to open this summer.

communicore hall concept art

Credit: Disney

In a previous announcement, Disney gave some updated information on what guests can expect when the location opens later this year.

“While CommuniCore Hall will be home to the iconic EPCOT festivals and other celebrations (and we’ll definitely share more on that later!), it’ll also be a perfect cool indoor space year-round for you and your family to recharge. Speaking of cool, CommuniCore Hall will be surrounded by serene views and exciting experiences. The coolest mouse around will be ready to give you a hug once new character greeting location Mickey & Friends debuts! With its beautiful mural of all things EPCOT past and present, a geometric exterior design inspired by Spaceship Earth, and of course, Mickey Mouse and his pals, you’re sure to have a smile on your face.”

For the other three parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t have much on the immediate horizon, but significant expansions are coming to both Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

First, Magic Kingdom is set to open Tiana’s Bayou Adventure later this year. The anticipated attraction will take the place of Splash Mountain. There have been rumors that the land could be split into New Orleans Square and Frontierland, but this hasn’t been confirmed by Disney. In addition, Country Bear Jamboree closed down for a major refurbishment earlier this year. The attraction will open with a new song list and much more this summer.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure Frontierland Magic Kingdom

Credit: Krysten S.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will close down It’s Tough to be a Bug! permanently later this year, and it will be replaced with a Zootopia-themed show.

animal kingdom's tree of life walt disney world disney park disconvery island it's tough to be a bug replaced with zootopia show disney imagineers tree of life theater

Credit: Michael Gray/Flickr

Both Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park are slated for major land expansions in the future, as well. Magic Kingdom will expand with a project titled “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain.” Animal Kingdom, on the other hand, will be saying goodbye to DinoLand, U.S.A., for a new intellectual property. The exact details of these two projects have not been revealed, but we are hopeful that we will hear something soon in the coming months.

About Brittni Ward

Brittni is a Disney and Universal fan; one of her favorite things at both parks is collecting popcorn buckets. While at Disney World Resort, Brittni meets the princesses and rides Kilimanjaro Safaris. At Universal, Brittni enjoys the Minions and watching Animal Actors on Location! When not at Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando, Brittni spends time with her family and pets.

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