Magic Kingdom’s Most Controversial Ride Can Never Be Changed, Report Says

in Walt Disney World

Stitch’s Great Escape! animatronic at Walt Disney World

Credit: Disney

Some of the worst rides at Disney World are based on some of their most beloved and lucrative properties. In the case of Stitch’s Great Escape! at Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, a former Disney Imagineer has revealed that the attraction can never be altered unless the House of Mouse wants to risk shutting down its neighboring buildings.

Guests in front of Cinderella Castle at night
Credit: Lee (myfrozenlife) via Flickr

The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Central Florida, is one of the most visited places in the world. The Resort’s first Disney Park, Magic Kingdom, opened over 50 years ago and is the most attended theme park in the world. Playing with the unique magic and nostalgia Disney is synonymous with, Magic Kingdom welcomes Guests to multiple themed lands.

From riding the “wildest ride in the wilderness,” Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, in Frontierland to meeting Aladdin and Jasmine in Adventureland, flying over London on the classic Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland and taking a spooky journey through a certain Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, Disney World is a true celebration of its 100 years of storytelling.

Peter Pan's Flight
Credit: Disney

Another land in Magic Kingdom is the futuristic, science-fiction-themed area of Tomorrowland. Home to the classic Space Mountain ride that can be found in Disney Parks all over the world, such as Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris, Tomorrowland also features Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.

Earlier this year, Disney added its new e-ticket attraction to Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. TRON Lightcycle / Run finally opened six years after it was announced at the D23 Expo 2017 in Anaheim, Southern California. Based on the TRON movie franchise, Guests board lightcycles for a race through The Grid in the high-speed adventure. Upon its opening, some Cast Members and Guests commented how the attraction was not as accessible as they would have liked, leaving Disney to comment on the situation.

So, while Guests flock to Tomorrowland to ride the latest offering, one attraction lays dormant.

Signage for TRON at Disney World
Credit: Disney

Stitch’s Great Escape! opened in November 2004 and ran for 14 years until it closed in 2018. Taking over from ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, which was deemed too scary for a family-friendly audience, the attraction saw Guests seated in a theater-in-the-round for another extraterrestrial experience.

The ride — themed after Lilo & Stitch (2002) — situated Guests in the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center and used sensory elements to tell the story, including the famous chili cheese dog burp.

Stitch’s Great Escape! has been described as one of the worst rides at Disney World, so it came as little surprise that following an extended temporary closure, Disney officially confirmed it would remain closed forever in July 202o. Since its closure, the spot has been used for meet and greets, and just earlier this year, was used to house the TRON attraction popup shop.

Stitch’s Great Escape! animatronic at Walt Disney World
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney World Can Now Save Stitch

So, why doesn’t Disney completely dismantle and rebuild the attraction with something new? Well, a former Imagineer’s comments have let fans peek behind the curtain.

According to User vtfb79 on the Walt Disney World Reddit, the company cannot completely redo Stitch’s Great Escape! because of its connection to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café next door. Replying to a question about little-known Disney World facts, the user reported that building codes and other maintenance issues were maybe causing the powers that be not to destroy one of the worst rides at Disney World.

Stitch posing
Credit: Zach Gass

“Former Imagineer here, the reason why Stitch will never have a major attraction overhaul is because it shares the same building as Cosmic Ray’s. Due to the asbestos in the facility and building code changes since the 70s, both Cosmic Ray’s and the attraction would have to go down and be brought up to code,” the former Disney Imagineer states. “Cosmic Ray’s generates millions a week, and they cannot lose that revenue. They can retheme Stitch all they want and not trigger code change requirements.”

Responding to a follow-up question, the user adds: “The way I understood it was they could not switch the “ride system,” but they could retheme it. Like when Sesame Place went to SeaWorld. None of the rides actually “changed.” It just got a new coat of paint. Same thing with what is happening at Splash. There’s a very fine line, and WDI knows exactly what it is.” However, times have changed — as many fans know. “The only curveball now is all of my knowledge comes from a time when [Reedy Creek Improvement District] was actually a thing. Not sure what they’re doing now, but sure permits of any type are an absolute treat to get….”

An official poster announcing Tiana's Bayou Adventure, opening late 2024.
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Related: Imagineering Gone Wrong? Massive ‘Guardians’ Show Building Is Taking Over EPCOT

The future of the Stitch’s Great Escape! show building may remain a mystery for quite some time. As Disney propels forward with their reimagining of Splash Mountain over in Frontierland — the attraction will remove the Song of the South (1946) inspirations and replace them with ones from The Princess and the Frog (2009) in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure — and continue the large-scale landscaping work over in EPCOT’s World Celebration, smaller transformations are likely to take even more time.

Disney World IP expansion including 'Coco', 'Encanto', and Villains Land
Credit: Disney

Other future developments at the Walt Disney World Resort include the potential expansion of both Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At last year’s “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” panel, Parks chairperson Josh D’Amaro revealed that work had begun on planning the next stages of the Disney Resort.

For Magic Kingdom, this could be in the form of a new area beyond Big Thunder Mountain featuring elements from Coco (2017), Encanto (2021), and the worlds of Disney’s villains. While at Animal Kingdom, potential plans include areas themed to Moana (2016) and Zootopia (2016).

Do you think Stitch’s Great Escape! is one of the worst rides at Disney World? What do you think they will retheme it with? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

in Walt Disney World

View Comments (10)