Continuously building, improving, and evolving was always part of the original plan for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort. Knowing that times change, and attraction popularity ebbs, means that updates are needed. Guests want to be entertained with the newest technology on attractions themed after new Disney movies. So there is an obvious need for change in a theme park looking to withstand the test of time to change. Walt Disney himself felt that progress was important and shared that Disney World would always be changing as they built and updated attractions in the coming decades.
Quite a string of attractions has been overhauled at Walt Disney World since the original opening of the Magic Kingdom in 1971. Some of these attractions were staples for more than a decade before going the way of the dodo. Others were more short-lived experiences that you may not even remember. Let’s dive into the long-lost Walt Disney World experiences you might not think of. Do you remember these Disney experiences from a previous Walt Disney World vacation?
The king of the apes himself had a live stage show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom back in the early 2000s. Located in DinoLand U.S.A. this stage show was an acrobatic musical that sported songs like “Two Worlds”, “You’ll Be in My Heart”, “Trashin’ the Camp”, and “Strangers Like Me”.
This stage show had a somewhat limited run from 1999-2006. It was replaced by Finding Nemo: The Musical. While the music was awesome, and we loved the vine acrobatics in “Strangers Like Me” still, this show felt a bit disjointed. Such a complex story in a short show length didn’t shake out that well on stage, despite the great music and Cast Members performing in the show.
Hollywood Studios (Then MGM Studios)
Let’s throw it way back to the pre-Hollywood Studios days, when this Park was still called MGM Studios! Many original attractions were still in operation, and stage shows were a staple of the Park. Doug was a 90s TV staple for many kids. I loved watching Doug, his best friend Skeeter, his adorable crush Patti Mayonnaise, and, of course, loyal dog Porkchop, on this fun kids’ show. MGM Studios gave us our Doug fix on vacation with Doug: Live!.
This show was located in the ABC Theatre near Echo Lake and ran from 1999-2001. This interactive show even chose some adults and kids to join the show playing the roles of band members in Doug Funnie’s favorite band “The Beets”. One lucky kid would be chosen to play superhero Quailman in each show. This stage show was eventually replaced with an updated attraction as the television show became less popular and less relevant in the early 2000s.
Did you know that the Walt Disney World Skyliner that we know and love was not the first sky bucket system in a Disney Park? Yep, it’s true. Magic Kingdom Park had its own Skyway that offered beautiful views of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland back in the day. Guests boarded the Skyway in Fantasyland in a spot beyond Peter Pan’s Flight and “it’s a small world”! In fact, today you would know this space as the Tangled bathrooms. This slow-moving Skyway gondola ride offered great views of the Park during an approximately five-minute-long ride.
Guests even caught glimpses of lost attractions like Ariel’s Grotto ( 1996-2010) at the edge of Fantasyland, where you could meet Princess Ariel. Ariel’s Grotto was located next to an even older forgotten attraction, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon, which ran a submarine attraction that opened in 1971 and ultimately closed in 1994.
Journey Into the Jungle Book
Do you remember this opening day attraction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom? I’ll admit that the first mention of Journey Into the Jungle Book, didn’t ring a bell. Then I searched for photos of the show and memories came flooding back of this awesome live-action puppet hybrid show. Journey Into the Jungle Book was a live stage show that featured Mowgli and his animal friends.
Some characters like King Louie and Baloo were Cast Member face performers, whereas other roles were played by performers in innovative puppet-like costumes. I especially remember the elephant act with a lineup led by Colonel Hathi the elephant. Even though this show had a shorter run from April 1998 to April 1999 this was a great and (in my opinion) underrated show. That said, The Jungle Book is an older Disney film, having been released in 1967. So it makes sense that Disney chose to update this space with a show reflective of a new movie.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure
Hollywood Studios (Then MGM Studios)
My memories of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure seems more like a fever dream than reality. This oversized kids’ playground was truly larger than life and featured playground equipment that was disguised as grass, leaves, ants, spider webs, and ant mounds.
There was even a giant whoopie pie that made for the perfect photo op. Not too surprising as this attraction was sponsored by Kodak. Opening in 1990 and ultimately closing in 2016 this was a climbable, explorable, and altogether fun experience for 90s kids that were fans of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movies. This attraction was closed to make way for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Hollywood Studios (Then MGM Studios)
Any Disney fan that came of age in the 90s was incredibly lucky to have had a childhood during the height of the Disney Renaissance. There were so many incredible movies being released, and Walt Disney World often had parades at MGM Studios to celebrate the new release and hype fans up for the film.
I will never forget lining the streets in the afternoon heat to dance along to “Zero to Hero” while watching the Hercules “Zero to Hero” Victory Parade, or waving to Aladdin during Aladdin’s Royal Caravan. Parades often ran for two or three years and were a big draw to see characters from your newest favorite Disney movie.
Character Meet and Greets
Across Walt Disney World
Over the years, Disney characters cycle out of character meet and greet lineups to make space for newer or more sought-after characters. Other times, it’s just time for a change, so Disney rotates an individual character to character meet and greets in another Park (like Duffy Bear moving to Shanghai Disney). Disney also may choose to limit certain character meet and greets to exclusive special events.
It’s well known in Disney fan circles that exclusive meets with unique characters are part of the programming at parties like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and RunDisney events. So, while certain characters may not be gone altogether, opportunities to grab a hug and photo with them during a Park day are gone.
A missing character meet and greet that others may not remember is Pocahontas and John Smith. In addition to having a show in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Pocahontas has a character meet and greet with John Smith. These days you will only see this duo for surprise appearances at RunDisney events or during spur-of-the-moment Valentine’s Day specialty Park appearances. Meeting this Disney couple was a life goal for me as a 6-year-old visiting Walt Disney World.
A long-lost Disney experience you have likely forgotten is a character meet and greet session with Barbie, Ken, and Skipper. That’s right, Barbie (as in Barbie doll) met Guests for photos and autographs at EPCOT back in 1994!
Do you remember these Disney experiences? Have we unlocked other core Disney memories in this article? Reflecting on these awesome Walt Disney World attractions is a fun way to reminisce and get amped for your next Disney vacation?