While Disneyland and Disney World are hopefully reopening at the beginning of April (but it could be longer), we’ve been using our time outside of the parks to reminisce about the memories we’ve made in Disney. And, with all the exciting new changes coming soon, we can’t help but think about the Disney Parks and attractions of the past!
Although we’re seeing new rides like Rise of the Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, some of the most beloved attractions have come and gone in the parks (but a few have stuck around!). And, we’re sharing our FAVORITE throwback attractions with you, so get ready for some serious nostalgia.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
While most of the rides in Disneyland are very family-friendly, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride has a bit of a twist at the end of the attraction that’s aimed more towards grown-ups. The attraction, based on The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, opened with the rest of the park in 1955 and saw a revamp in 1983. While the sister version in Disney World switched to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the original Disneyland ride is still one of the few remaining rides present at the park’s opening.
While you travel through a bar scene and end up getting hit by a train, the most ICONIC scene from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is at the end of the ride when you travel to the underworld. Yeah, we aren’t kidding, you guys!! Since Mr. Toad lives his life recklessly throughout the attraction, his final judgment comes in a room filled with demons, red lights, a high temperature, and even a visit from the devil himself.
This attraction has a completely different tone from the other rides in the park, and we LOVE a wacky plot!
Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Although we had to say goodbye to the ride in Magic Kingdom in favor of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Disneyland still has Snow White’s Scary Adventures! This is another original attraction that opened when the park debuted in 1955 with similar rides now in Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland. While the ride takes you through the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (with a few spooky moments, of course), the overall theme promotes that Disney “happily ever after.”
When Disneyland opened, the ride was named Snow White and her Adventures where the riders were actually the main character. But, it was kinda difficult to understand so the ride switched to the version we know and love in 1983. However, Snow White’s Scary Adventures is seeing a few more updates this year with “state-of-the-art audio and visual technology,” music, laser projections, LED black lighting, and an animation system put into the attraction. There will even be a new scene, an entirely different ending, and an update to the exterior of the attraction.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Based on the novel of the same name, Disney Parks around the world have featured different versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarines. While the Disney World version was gutted to make way for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the Disneyland attraction has been replaced with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage…
…Tokyo DisneySea takes guests on small submarines made by Captain Nemo to explore Atlantis. Along the way, you can spot a shipwreck, artifacts, and mer-creatures — all while you narrowly escape the Kraken!
The special effects are worth a ride on the Tokyo DisneySea attraction, since they beautifully use light effects and sounds to make guests actually feel like they’ve traveled deep under the sea to Atlantis.
Peter Pan’s Flight
Think of the happiest things! It’s the same as having wings! And, taking a ride on Peter Pan’s Flight lets you soar through the air on a pirate ship sprinkled with pixie dust. When this attraction first opened in Disneyland in 1955, it completely changed the game for ride technology. Guests had never really been able to feel a simulated flight before, so the ride became a HIT.
It became so classic, in fact, that the attraction made its way to Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland as one of the most beloved rides of all-time. Many of the attractions have kept their original animatronics, but have since added fiber optic lights, projections, and black lights to the ride to seamlessly blend the past with the present.
Plus, if you head through the stand-by queue in Disney World, the ride has been even more modernized with interactive technology à la those amazing Imagineers.
“it’s a small world”
Mary Blair’s innovative design and unique art style has given us perhaps the most well-known Disney attraction EVER. When “it’s a small world” opened in Disneyland in 1966, the iconic tune struck a chord with visitors around the world as the song promoted our connection to one another. The ride features different countries from around the world with animatronics representing different cultures and singing in their diverse languages.
While some of the rides have seen updates, like the addition of Disney characters in the Disneyland version, the attractions have mainly stayed the same classic boat rides that guests of all ages love.
And, if you’ve got Disney+ at home, you can even find out how it’s a small world was created by watching The Imagineering Story (one of our favorite shows, tbh)!!
Tower of Terror
This e-ticket attraction has THRILLED guests everywhere with the use of its drop technology that takes you to the fifth dimension and back again (we’ve totally hopped on three or four times in a row). But, while the Tower of Terror is terrifying visitors in Disney Parks around the world, all of the attractions except one have strayed from the original The Twilight Zone plot.
Tokyo Disneyland tells the story about Harrison Hightower whose elevator plummeted to the ground after he made fun of an African idol that he had stolen. The curse that the gods put on him still haunts the tower, where Hightower’s body was never found. The Disneyland Paris version incorporates randomized drops and three different narratives that focus more on the little girl haunting the hotel as well as a sinister spectre, rather than The Twilight Zone storyline. And, Disney California Adventure has left behind the “haunted tower” theme entirely, bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy for Mission: BREAKOUT!
Hollywood Studios is the only park that has kept the original narrative of the Hollywood Tower Hotel as well as Rod Sterling’s introduction to the attraction. While we find it extremely cool that each of the parks around the world have their own unique take on the ride, we hope that Disney World will keep the original (since it does have that level of nostalgia for the 1940’s Hollywood the park was created with).
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Dumbo is so iconic that ALL the Disney Parks feature the attraction! The timeless ride lets guests soar above the ground with a great view of the other rides in the parks. While Dumbo the Flying Elephant might seem pretty simple compared to the other attractions featured on this list, it has been around since the early days of Disneyland.
And, if you’ve never been to Disney, taking flight on one of these adorable elephants is basically a rite of passage!
Disneyland and Walt Disney World Railroads
Yes, the railroads definitely count as rides in the parks!! Disneyland and Disney World both have trains that take guests around the parks, inspired by Walt’s own love for trains.
Although he might not be with us today, we think that the railroads in the park are a wonderful way to connect Walt’s hobbies to the heart of the Disney Parks.
Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to wave to all the people you’ll pass around the area (so you can feel like you’re one of the characters in the parades)!
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Imagine the Figment attraction with no journey through the senses, no Imagination Institute, and no Nigel Channing… And, now try to think of one of the CRAZIEST rides you can dream up. Yup, that was the original Journey into Imagination before it saw a complete revamp in 1999.
The previous version of the ride was all about the Dreamfinder, who was looking to find anything that sparked imagination and creativity. He dreamt up Figment then took us on a journey through art, science, space, and the most absurd (and awesome) scenes to “One Little Spark.” There was even a room that had so many Figments, you couldn’t escape images of the purple dragon wherever you looked.
After you exited, the ImageWorks building had more interactive elements than the current version. There were coconuts you could hit together to learn about sounds, paint brushes you could point up at the ceiling to draw Figment, and even a RAINBOW TUNNEL (!!!) that changed as each person walked through it.
There are plenty of whimsical and fun things around Disney, but the Captain EO film is an absolute GEM. Although the movie is no longer in Epcot or Disneyland (which has since replaced it with The Path of the Jedi), the sci-fi musical adventure was written by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and starred Michael Jackson.
It was one of the first 4D films ever to be featured in a theme park. The story took you to a trash planet (no, really — the planet was basically made out of metal trash), where Captain EO and his crew used the power of music and dance to transform the Supreme Leader into a beautiful woman and her home into a garden-like state. The film featured bops like “We Are Here to Change the World” and “Another Part of Me” that enveloped the theater with stars, lasers, smoke effects, and more over the course of 17 minutes of pure 80’s bliss.
Honestly, with Disney World’s 50th anniversary coming up, we’d love to see Captain EO brought back in some way. We can’t dance as well as Michael Jackson, but we would DEFINITELY jam out to the film’s soundtracks in the park!!
The Great Movie Ride
While the Chinese Theatre is now home to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (which you can take a peek at here), it used to transform guests into the starring roles of their favorite Hollywood films on The Great Movie Ride. When you first entered the theatre, you could spot different costumes from the movies featured in the attraction…
…as well as a pre-ride video montage of some of the BEST clips from the films! The Great Movie Ride made us say “Hooray for Hollywood,” even as our guide actually encountered a few baddies along the way. (Who else LOVED that skeleton scene from Indiana Jones??) Although the attraction featured classic films like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, it also sprinkled some Disney magic in there with Fantasia via Sorcerer Mickey!
While Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway uses some AWESOME new ride technology, we will always have a special place in our hearts for the moment we got to “rise dramatically to our feet” after taking a trip through the movies.
Disney Studio Backlot Tour
Speaking of a trip through the movies, Hollywood Studios also used to have the Disney Studio Backlot Tour that let you go behind the scenes of television and film productions! Yeah, it was JUST as cool as it sounds.
The attraction took you on a walking and tram tour through the backlot of the park, where you could spot costumes from films like Pirates of the Caribbean…
…and even old props, like the organ from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!
But, our favorite part of the tour was when they showed you “movie special effects” with fire, flood, and ALL THE DRAMA from a moving truck barreling towards you!! It was all for fun and you’re saved at the last minute, but you definitely got wet!
While we miss some of the attractions that we’ve said goodbye to, we can’t wait to see the finished transformations coming to the Disney Parks. And, who knows? Maybe we’ll even find a new favorite or two!
Want to know how the recent closures could change Disney World forever? We’ve got all the details for you here!
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What’s your favorite Disney throwback ride? Let us know in the comments below!