It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Disney World. But there are some choices that even we don’t quite get in the history of the parks!
From new attractions to refurbishments of classic favorites, Disney World is constantly evolving. And that’s part of what makes visiting the parks so exciting! But we have to admit, there are some moments in Disney history that left us thinking, “ummm, what??” Here are six seriously head-scratching things that happened at Disney World!
1. The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is a beloved classic attraction with deep ties to Disney history. It was an opening day attraction at Magic Kingdom on October 1st, 1971, and its Disneyland counterpart was the first attraction to feature Audio-Animatronics.
But the nostalgia factor of this attraction apparently wasn’t enough to keep guests coming back for more. By the 1990s, attendance at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room had dropped, and eventually, the decision was made to give the attraction an overhaul. The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) made its debut on May 1st, 1998.
If you were lucky (or unlucky, depending on your view) to not get to experience this version of the attraction, allow us to explain. The show started similarly to the original with the singing birds we’ve come to know and love for almost 50+ years, but then Zazu from The Lion King and Iago from Aladdin show up on the scene and try to take over the show.
The Under New Management overhaul was pretty much universally panned by both long-time fans of the original and first-time guests alike. It seemed like Disney tried to shoehorn in intellectual property from recently successful films (hey, technically they both are birds, so we can make the connection at least), but the overhaul lacked the charm of the original attraction. You take two of the arguably most annoying side characters in Disney animated films (especially squawky and screechy Iago!) and give them the spotlight over the sweet classic sounds of Jose, Fritz, and the gang. If we could sum up this version in one word, it would be: annoying.
The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) continued its largely unpopular run until January 2011, when a small fire in the attic forced the temporary closure of the attraction. When it reopened later in 2011, the Under New Management elements were removed…and we can’t say we miss them!
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2. Bizarre Intellectual Property in the Parks
Okay, so Zazu and Iago were a more heavy-handed use of intellectual property in a classic attraction. But they were less of a stretch than some of the other IPs that have made their way into the parks over the years!
From 1993 to 1995, The Magical World of Barbie show played at the America Gardens in EPCOT. She also used to cruise around World Showcase in her GLITTERY PINK limo. Since this was long before she appeared in Toy Story 2, Barbie seemed a bit out of place in Disney World — especially in EPCOT, which doesn’t exactly scream toy land!
And she’s not the only out-of-place character to appear. Back when Disney’s Hollywood Studios was still known as Disney MGM Studios, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appeared in the streets of the New York section of the park from 1990 to 1996. It’s strange to look back at pictures of Nickelodeon characters in Disney World!
But wait, there’s an even MORE shocking IP we have to throw in the mix! Disney MGM Studios was also home to an Ace Ventura: Pet Detective show and meet-and-greet from 1995 to 1996! This is definitely up there for us as one of the most out-of-place IPs to pop up in Disney World.
That’s just scratching the surface! There was also a Goosebumps (yep, the children’s books) show, a Dinosaurs show, and a wacky Dick Tracy themed show! While these attractions undoubtedly boasted some talented entertainers, looking back on these IPs in the Disney parks has us thinking “excuse me, are you lost??”
3. Tomorrowland Cabanas
In November 2016, Magic Kingdom debuted a short-lived — and SUPER pricey — upgrade. Guests were able to rent private cabanas located near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland.
Each tent could accommodate up to eight guests, and the rental price when they were first introduced was a whopping $649 per day.
So, what would that pricey rental get you? Cabanas included lockable storage, charging stations, sunscreen and insect repellent, water, soft drinks, and food. All nice perks, but probably not worth that kind of price tag for most guests!
The cabanas themselves also looked out of place and a bit thrown together. They felt more at place poolside in Vegas than they did in the company of Space Mountain and the Astro Orbiters! Overall, not what we would expect to see for an upgrade with a luxury price tag! And it seems we’re not the only ones to think so — the short-lived Tomorrowland cabanas were discontinued four months after they debuted in February 2017.
4. The Splash Mountain Rap
OK so this next one is more Disneyland than World but equally promoted the same attraction, so we’re counting it. Plus, it’s too cool and crazy and weird to not share with the world more!
We’re constantly blown away by Disney’s incredible marketing. And with that being said, we’d like to present this Splash Mountain rap promo from the 80s.
Note that the rap was filmed at the Disneyland Splash Mountain, which opened in 1989. Disney World’s version of the attraction opened a few years later in 1992. We’re still talking about it this wacky video over 30 years later, so we’d call that successful marketing! Z-Z-Z-ZIPPITY ZIP ZIP!
5. The Scary Spectromen
SpectroMagic was beloved nighttime parade that ran in Magic Kingdom from 1991 to 1999, and again from 2001 to 2010. The parade was kicked off by Mickey decked out in a massive gold glittery cape with an electric ball. Also leading the parade were SpectroMagic Spectromen who some people (Us. It was totally us.) might consider…incredibly…creepy.
If you saw the parade, then you know what we mean! These little guys were meant to be cute and playful, often sitting on twirling giant balls. But they looked like if a cross between a Troll doll and a Gloworm toy dressed up like Captain EO for Halloween. It was…a look. Later versions of the SpectroMen had a half-mask, half-makeup hybrid that still haunts our dreams. SpectroMagic was a beautiful parade overall and, love em or hate em, the SpectroMen were a huge part of it. Many members of our team still pick this as their favorite nighttime spectacular from Disney World!
6. The “Star a Day” Promotion
Here’s another old school offering from Disney MGM Studios, AKA modern-day Hollywood Studios. The promotion, called the “Star a Day,” “Star Today,” or “Star of the Day,” allowed guests to see a real-life celebrity on their trip to the park.
The promotion kicked off on the opening day of the park on May 1st, 1989, with Annette Funicello as the first “Star of the Day.” Funicello was one of the most popular Mouseketeers on the original Mickey Mouse Club.
The celebrities would participate in a “Star Conversation” at the Theater of the Stars, a ride down Hollywood Boulevard in an open convertible, and a public Handprint Ceremony in front of the Chinese Theatre.
While there were some big-name celebrities that participated in the promotion (Mark Hamill, Pierce Brosnan, and Neil Patrick Harris, for example) many of the film and television stars involved were B-list celebrities. And since the goal was to have a celebrity every few days, this seems like it could quickly become a logistical nightmare for Disney as an ongoing promotion.
The Star a Day promotion fizzled out in 1992 with little fanfare. As exciting as it would be to spot a celebrity we love in the park, we definitely think the more recent additions of Tower of Terror (1994), Toy Story Land (2018) and, of course, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (2019) are fair trade-offs!
Disney World is known for its innovative and bold ideas. So it isn’t super surprising that some of those choices in its nearly 50-year history look a little odd in hindsight! These are the Disney World moments that still have us scratching our heads. Now, excuse us while we go learn that Splash Mountain rap choreography.
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What head-scratching moments in Disney World history do you remember? Let us know in the comments!