33 photos of old Disney World attractions we wish would come back

Tony Ranze/Stringer/Getty ImagesDisney World removed its famous sorcerer’s hat in 2015.
  • Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has gone through tons of changes and renovations since first opening for business in 1971.
  • Over the years, a number of beloved rides and attractions have been removed from the park’s grounds.
  • The Maelstrom ride in Epcot, for example, was renovated in 2014 with a new theme inspired by the animated film “Frozen.”
  • Other attractions, like the giant sorcerer’s hat at Hollywood Studios, were removed to keep up with the changing atmosphere of the theme park.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Whether you’re a frequent Disney World traveller, or have only visited once, there’s a good chance that you have a favourite attraction at the theme park.

Since Disney often renovates its properties, over the years a number of beloved rides and attractions have been removed in the process.

From the fan-favourite Maelstrom ride in Epcot to the classic Studio Backlot Tour in Hollywood Studios, we wish these retired rides and attractions could come back.

The Great Movie Ride epitomized the movie-set aesthetic of Hollywood Studios.

Barry King/Getty ImagesThe replica building looked nearly identical to the actual Chinese Theatre.

The ride first opened in 1989, and was built within a replica of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Outside the ride, tons of celebrities left signatures and handprints in a cement walkway.

Walter McBride/Getty ImagesLeonard Nimoy, who played Spock in ‘Star Treck,’ left his handprints in 1989.

The celebrity signatures were implemented to replicate a similar walkway found outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

According to the Disney blog AllEars, everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Robin Williams left their mark at the Florida location.

From start to finish, the Great Movie Ride made guests feel as though they were starring in a film.

Blog Mickey/YouTubeThe ride was designed to honour Hollywood’s favourite films.

After entering the replica theatre, park visitors would wait in a “theatre lobby” filled with real props from famous films, according to Disney blog WDW Info. Classic silent films were also displayed on screens along the line queue.

Park visitors then took a 22-minute-long ride through some of Hollywood’s most famous movie scenes.

The ride was filled with animatronics meant to represent classic movies, like “The Wizard of Oz.”

Blog Mickey/YouTubePark visitors view animatronic munchkins from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

Throughout the ride, park goers viewed animatronic versions of scenes from films such as “Casablanca,” “Fantasia,” “Alien,” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” among others.

And there were live actors involved in the ride too. According to Paste, each ride was “taken hostage by a cast member playing either a 1930s gangster or a bandit from an old Western.”

Unfortunately for fans, the Great Movie Ride was closed on August 13, 2017.

Blog Mickey/YouTube‘Singin’ in the Rain’ animatronics were included in the Great Movie Ride.

In its place, Disney created its first-ever Mickey Mouse ride called Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The trackless ride, which opened at Hollywood Studios on March 4, tells the story of a runaway train as it encounters obstacles like bad weather and stampeding bulls.

The attraction is also the first at Disney to feature two story lines in one ride, according to the Orange County Register.

Lights, Motors, Action! was another staple of the Hollywood Studios park.

Peter Cosgrove/APVisitors enter the stunt show at Hollywood Studios in 2005.

The “extreme stunt show” was first brought to Disney World as part of the park’s Happiest Celebration on Earth event in 2005, according to Extinct Disney, a blog about retired park attractions.

The show was inspired by the similar Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular in Disneyland Paris.

The 40-minute-long show featured high-speed car chases, motorcycle tricks, and jet-ski stunts.

Peter Cosgrove/APA car drives over high flames during a show in 2005.

Famous Disney characters also made appearances in the show, including Herbie the Lovebug and Lightning McQueen from “Cars.”

But to make room for new “Star Wars” and “Toy Story” attractions,Disney chose to end the show on April 2, 2016.

Streets of America was previously a respite for people who spent the day on thrill-seeking rides in Hollywood Studios.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesPeople walk through Disney World’s Streets of America on November 11, 2001.

Because Hollywood Studios was originally designed to honour the magic of moviemaking, Disney created a backlot that resembled streets from famous American cities, like New York and San Francisco.

There wasn’t much to do on the Streets of America – as every building was fake or locked – but the area still made parkgoers feel as though they’d been transported to another place. It also provided great photo ops, and a relaxing environment tucked away from the park’s rides.

But according to Yesterland, a blog about retired Disney attractions, the Streets of America closed for good on April 2, 2016, and has since been replaced by the giant Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land.

Even after being renamed, Hollywood Studios still featured a fake water tower that read: Disney MGM Studios.

Barry King/Getty ImagesA view of the MGM Studios water tower in September 1999.

The MGM Studios water tower, also known as the “Earffel Tower,” once served as a recognisable landmark signifying your arrival at the movie-inspired theme park. It was first built in 1988.

Even after the park was renamed Hollywood Studios, the tower – adorned with Mickey ears – stood standing. But in January 2016,Disney World announced the 130-foot-tall landmark would be taken down.

By April 29, 2016, it followed attractions like Lights, Motors, Action! and the Streets of America by being removed from the park permanently.

In 1996, Cinderella’s castle was decorated like a bright-pink birthday cake to celebrate the park’s 25th anniversary.

Chris O’meara/APA crowd gathers in front of the castle during a birthday ceremony in October 1996.

The castle was transformed on October 1, 1996, according to Disney Everyday, a blog dedicated to the the Florida theme park. It was covered in pink-and-white paint that looked like icing, fake candy canes, and 26 decorative birthday candles. The park’s birthday celebration went on for 15 months, and the castle remained decorated until January 31, 1998.

While Disney World won’t be celebrating another 25th birthday, the castle would look stunning if decorated for other milestones.

Fans were sad to see the closing of Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 2011.

Attractions Magazine/YouTubePark guests could tour replicas of Minnie Mouse’s cartoon house at the Toontown Fair.

The smaller land was located within Magic Kingdom, and was home to meet-and-greet areas, rides inspired by classic Disney characters, and playgrounds, among other attractions.

The two walk-through replicas of Mickey and Minnie’s cartoon homes were arguably the most famous part of the land.

Mickey Mouse’s larger-than-life home was beloved by visitors of all ages.

Orjan F. Ellingvag/Getty ImagesPark visitors were allowed inside Mickey Mouse’s bedroom while visiting his house.

Those who visited were able to tour Mickey’s living room, bedroom, kitchen, and garden, among other areas.

Disney World reportedly held a party for employees at Mickey’s Toontown Fair after it officially closed.

SoCal Attractions 360/YouTubeToontown still exists at Disneyland in California.

Attractions Magazine reported that Disney held the VIP party on February 12, 2011, after Magic Kingdom closed for the night.

During the reported event, park cast members were said to have taken photos with Disney characters throughout Toontown.

The Studio Backlot Tour was one of the most interactive rides in Disney World.

Travisimo/FoursquareThe Studio Backlot Tour was located in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.

Like the Great Movie Ride, Disney’s Studio Backlot Tour was one of the first rides built for Hollywood Studios in 1989.

The tour changed a lot over its nearly 15 years in business.

Aaron H./FoursquareFour visitors were chosen to participate in a live demonstration during the tour.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the attraction originally took hours to walk through and doubled as a working studio. At the time, visitors were even able to get a glimpse of television productions being filmed on the lot.

Even after being reduced to a 30-minute-long show in its later years, the Studio Backlot Tour still gave visitors a taste of what it’s like to make action movies. For example, four volunteers would be chosen from the audience at the start of the tour to take part in a live special-effects demonstration, according to Disney blog Yesterland.

During the tour, visitors would board tram cars that drove through backstage areas of the park.

Orman B./FoursquareTram cars brought park visitors through the Studio Backlot Tour.

During the ride’s heyday, park visitors were able to see everything from working movie sets to the working Disney costume department as part of the Studio Backlot Tour.

In its final years, much of the back lot had been taken over by other attractions, such as the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show.

Amy S./YelpA car from the 2005 film ‘Herbie: Fully Loaded’ was once on display.

Still, some movie props and Disney memorabilia could be seen throughout the attraction. An authentic Herbie the Lovebug was on display, as well as Walt Disney’s personal aeroplane called “The Mouse.”

A fan-favourite part of the Studio Backlot Tour took place at “Catastrophe Canyon,” the attraction’s last-standing film set.

Carl H./YelpMovie explosions and floods were demonstrated during the tour.

At the movie set, visitors would sit in tram cars and view an imitation movie scene play out.

During the demonstration, a fake earthquake would shake the tram car, a tanker would explode and soak the audience, fake power lines fell, and a fake flash flood would drench the set.

Despite wishes from fans, the ride closed permanently in September 2014.

For almost 15 years, a 122-foot-tall sorcerer’s hat was the main focal point of Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.

Tony Ranze/Stringer/Getty ImagesThe structure was inspired by Sorcerer Mickey, a character from the movie ‘Fantasia.’

According to AllEars, the structure was first built in 2001 as part of Disney World’s100 Years of Magic Celebration. It was inspired by the celestial blue hat worn by Sorcerer Mickey in the 1940 film “Fantasia.”

Mickey’s giant sorcerer’s hat was originally home to interactive kiosks that taught park goers about Walt Disney’s life, but was taken over by pin-trading stands and merchandise booths by 2003.

Disney World began to deconstruct the hat in January 2015, and completed the job by February 2015. Like other attractions in the park, it was removed to match the changing image of Hollywood Studios.

Epcot’s World Showcase once featured a thrilling ride called the Maelstrom.

Donna N./FoursquareThe Maelstrom was located in Epcot’s Norway pavilion.

It was located in Epcot’s Norway pavilion, and had a loyal fan base. During the dark ride, park goers were taken on a whimsical journey filled with trolls and Norse mythology, which helped visitors to “seek the spirit of Norway,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

On October 5, 2014, the ride was closed permanently, and has since been replaced with Frozen Ever After, an animatronics ride based on the film “Frozen.”

The American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios offered a unique chance to experience the popular show in real life.

John Raoux/APThe American Idol Experience would cast actual park goers for its show.

To participate in the show, visitors would audition with park producers early in the morning, according to WDW Info. Chosen park goers would then undergo hair and makeup transformations before spending time with a vocal coach.

Later on in the day, participants would compete during a live show for other park attendees, and winners were awarded passes to cut the lines during auditions for the actual “American Idol” television show.

But on August 30, 2014, the American Idol Experience was permanently shut down to make room for new attractions in Hollywood Studios.

Yet another esteemed attraction at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios was called The Magic of Disney Animation.

Amy S./YelpThe Magic of Disney Animation was located within Hollywood Studios.

While many of the park’s attractions were fast-paced and full of energy, the art studio provided a relaxing escape for visitors of all ages, according to WDW Info.

At the studio, park goers could receive art tips from actual Disney animators.

Donato/FoursquareVisitors could learn to draw Disney characters during the interactive tour.

The tour began in a theatre filled with Mickey-shaped drawing stations. There, a Disney animator worked alongside Mushu from “Mulan” to teach visitors how to draw popular characters.

Real Disney animations were displayed in glass cases throughout the studio.

Marina/FoursquareThe art studio displayed art from ‘Monsters University’ in 2013.

Depending on which Pixar movie had recently been released, Disney World displayed original drawings and story boards from film productions like “Monsters University.”

But the fun didn’t stop there. The art studio also held meet and greets with characters like Baymax from “Big Hero 6.”

The attraction closed for good on July 12, 2015.

The “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure made park guests feel as small as insects.

Chris K./FoursquareThe playground was open to park visitors of all ages.

The playground was inspired by the 1989 film, and was beloved by park visitors of all ages. Like many other retired attractions, the fake movie set was located within Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.

The playground’s larger-than-life features were demolished in 2016.

Mike W./YelpA giant roll of film in the playground was actually a slide.

According to WDW Info, the attraction once featured 30-foot tall grass, 40-foot-tall bumblebees, and a 52-foot-tall garden hose that sprayed visitors with water.

There were also larger-than-life cans of Play Doh and giant rolls of film in the playground, which doubled as climbing walls and slides.

To make room for the upcoming Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, the playground was closed on April 2, 2016.

The Mickey Mouse Revue was once a popular attraction in Magic Kingdom.

Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesAnimatronics inside the Mickey Mouse Revue attraction in 1971.

According to Fandom, Mickey Mouse Revue was an animatronic attraction found in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland section starting in 1971.

Twenty-three characters were included in the show – such as Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, the Mad Hatter, and Baloo – who “performed” classic Disney songs like “Whistle While You Work,” “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” “So This is Love,” and “Zipp-a-Dee-Do-Dah.”

Unfortunately for fans, the attraction was shuttered on September 14, 1980, according to Fandom. It was eventually transferred to Japan for the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, but was eventually replaced by Mickey’s Philharmagic on May 25, 2009.

When Epcot first opened in 1982, parkgoers could ride a double-decker bus around the World Showcase.

Michael SERRAILLIER/Getty ImagesA double-decker bus in Epcot’s World Showcase in 1982.

According to Yesterland, the buses were driven slowly through crowds of visitors, and brought parkgoers to each pavilion in the World Showcase.

It’s unclear as to when Disney stopped offering the bus service, but those who have recently visited the area will know that it now requires a lot of walking.

Epcot visitors could also walk through a rainbow tunnel with moving lights.

Ann Purcell/Getty ImagesA man and child stand in the rainbow tunnel in the ’80s.

The tunnel was located in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion, specifically in the ImageWorks play area above the original Journey Into Imagination ride, according to WDW News Today.

Each person who entered the tunnel was assigned a colour, which would follow them as they walked through. WDW News Today also reported that the spot became especially well-known after Michael Jackson was photographed there.

Despite its popularity, the tunnel was closed in 1998 when ImageWorks was moved to a lower level of the building, according to WDW News Today.

The tunnel will soon be coming back to Disney World, though it might look a little different. Today, parkgoers can visit Journey Into Imagination with Figment, an updated version of the classic Epcot ride. And soon, it appears that Disney may reintroduce its famous rainbow tunnel in a nearby section.

According to sources close to the project cited by WDW News Today, the walkway will be included in the upcoming Epcot Experience Centre in The Odyssey, a new section that will be built in an abandoned pavilion. More details are expected to come in August, WDW News Today reports.

The Barnstormer was a Goofy-themed staple of Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

Inside the Magic/YouTubeA view of The Barnstormer in 2011.

According to Fandom, The Barnstormer roller coaster opened on October 1, 1996 in Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm, a section of Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

The ride was themed like an aeroplane class taught by Goofy, and riders were brought on a journey full of twists and turns straight through a barn.

A similar ride still exists, though it’s been renamed and redecorated.

Sharp Productions/YouTubeA view of the new Barnstormer ride in 2020.

To make room for a renovation of Fantasyland, The Barnstormer was shut down on February 12, 2011, according to Fandom. However, that wasn’t the end of the classic roller coaster.

The ride was renovated throughout 2011, and reopened as The Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini in 2012. Still, The Barnstormer looks a lot different than it once did. Goofy also no longer acts as a flight instructor, but stars as a circus performer riding a stunt aeroplane.

Cable cars once glided above the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Nik Wheeler/Getty ImagesA view of the Magic Kingdom Skyway in 1971.

According to Yesterland, a blog about retired Disney attractions, the Skyway was one of the first rides built in Disney World in 1971. It could transport travellers from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland, and each car could hold four passengers.

But, like many other classic attractions, the original Skyway shut down in November 1999 “to keep the park exciting and fresh,” Yesterland reported.

Those who wanted Disney World to reinstall the cable cars have gotten their wish — sort of.

Ray Fisher/Getty ImagesThe Magic Kingdom Skyway above Fantasyland in 1971.

A new cable-car attraction – theDisney World Skyliner – opened in the Orlando, Florida theme park on September 29, 2019.

However, it isn’t exactly the same as the original ride. Rather than transporting parkgoers between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, the new version brings visitors from Epcot, to the Riviera Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, Hollywood Studios, the Pop Century Resort, and the Art of Animation Resort.

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