It's not easy being Disneyland. To keep people coming back and visiting year after year, the Anaheim amusement park has to constantly reinvent itself while not changing in ways that'll alienate diehard fans whose nostalgia runs deep. A few months ago, the park permanently closed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to turn it into Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!, which opens May 27. While Disney is filling the ride's gift shop full of plush Baby Groots (just a guess), we got to thinking of other rides and attractions that have come and gone over the years. Here are 10 we kind of wish we could check out.
10. Submarine Voyage
OK, Submarine Voyage kind of sucked, particularly if you were a man of a certain weight with a distaste for tight, enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces, aka my father, who basically had a panic attack on the attraction at Disney World in Florida in the mid-’80s. The underwater ride closed in the ’90s but returned in 2007 as Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Feeling nostalgic for the original? As of my visit to Disneyland last summer, those little subs are still as cramped and warm as ever.
9. Country Bear Jamboree
It wasn’t until the late ’70s that the United States reached the height of its fetishization of rural populations (think The Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, etc.), but the Country Bear Jamboree’s Disneyland debut in 1972 predicted the craze. (And eight years before the Rock-afire Explosion debuted at Showbiz Pizza.) An adorable array of backwoodsy, moonshine-swilling bears stole the country’s hearts with their jugs and banjos and washboards. The sit-down show — a great way to trick kids into sitting still while parents soaked up some air conditioning — was retooled in the mid-’80s with the same characters but a vacation theme. Alas, nothing pure and simple can stay — the attraction shut down in 2001. I guess the terrorists won after all.
8. Adventure Through Inner Space
At Disneyland, mice are the size of human men and, from 1967-85 human men (and women and children) could experience being shrunk to the size of a snowflake, then a molecule and then an atom, well before Dennis Quaid ventured inside Martin Short. Sponsored by your friendly neighborhood chemical company, Monsanto, Adventure Through Inner Space was the kind of science-centric ride that appealed to Americans back when they believed in science. Maybe it’s time to bring this back?
7 & 6. Tie: Monsanto House of the Future and the General Electric Carousel of Progress
Before there was a trash island the size of Texas floating somewhere in the Pacific, the future was all about plastic. But, wait, it never biodegrades. Eh, we’ll worry about that later (ahem, now). Disneyland’s House of the Future — also sponsored by Monsanto — was a plastic house filled with plastic stuff that was, reportedly, outdated just about as soon as it was completed. And then there was General Electric’s Carousel of Progress, a shameless advertisement for GE that details all the ways household appliances have improved our lives, masquerading as an educational ride. The Carousel was moved from Disneyland to Disney World in Florida in 1974, so young East Coasters (like myself) could have our first brushes with brand-loyalty propaganda. What a country!
5. Flying Saucers
A lot of the best Disneyland rides — Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, etc. — are the ones that go fast. Flying Saucers was not one of those rides, but it looks very fun all the same. Riders floated on individual cushions of air, using their bodies to steer — it was like a combo of bumper cars and human air-hockey pucks. Alas, there was a “target weight” for riders that allowed the vehicles to work best — kids were too light to get going and some adults were so heavy they sort of just dragged along, so the ride only lasted from 1961 to 1966. Still, it’s one of those weird, cool innovations that makes Disney Disney.
4. Mike Fink Keel Boats
Davy Crockett was the King of the Wild Frontier and Mike Fink was the King of the River. That is until 1997, when one of his Keel Boats — the Gullywhumper — capsized with a boatload of park guests aboard, leaving a few people with minor injuries. Sounds sort of exciting to me.
3. Rocket to the Moon
Before the United States actually visited the moon, the average Southern California tourist could approximate the experience on Rocket to the Moon. As Walt himself put it in a informational video, “After entering the Disneyland spaceport, visitors may experience the thrills that space travelers of the future will encounter when rocket trips to the moon become a daily routine.” The ride had two screens — one above and one below — so riders could see both what they were leaving behind and what they were headed toward. The rocket, which was once the park's tallest structure, is still on the premises, but now it's part of the space-themed restaurant Redd Rockett's Pizza Port. Trips to the moon aren't yet a daily occurrence, but the price for a slice feels pretty futuristic.
2. Captain EO
When Captain EO premiered at Disney parks in 1986, it might have been just about the coolest thing in the world. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and executive produced by George Lucas, the 3-D, sci-fi extravaganza featured 1980s king of the universe Michael Jackson and an orange flying “space monkey” (help!) called Fuzzball, and as a 5-year-old visitor, the desire to possess one was visceral. EO closed in 1997 but returned for a few years after Michael Jackson's death in 2009. And I still don't own a space monkey.
1. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Listen, I'm sure the Guardians of the Galaxy ride will be great. But it's only fair that we take a few years to mourn the silly, spooky Tower of Terror.