Disney World’s Most Controversial Rides Transformed Into Inclusive Experiences

in Disney Parks, Updates, Walt Disney World

Disney World Attractions Needing Changes_feature image

Images Credit: Disney

What happens to a Disney attraction gone bad?

Nothing is new about the need to replace or alter a problematic Disney experience. Over the last five decades, several beloved attractions and rides at Disney World near Orlando, Florida, have undergone massive overhauls. It’s not just the Disney Florida attractions, though. Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and other Disney Parks worldwide must make necessary revisions a time or two.

A serene morning at a magical theme park, featuring a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, with a majestic castle standing tall in the backdrop amidst a clear blue sky.
Credit: Canva

From removing controversial content or potentially insensitive material to mitigating possible dangers or health risks, there are many reasons behind all those once-thriving, now-closed Disney attractions. Here at Inside the Magic, we’re looking back at some of these former attractions and sharing the stories behind what went wrong with each one.

Related: The Most Controversial Changes at Disney World

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Signage warning Guests about ExtraTERRORestrial
Credit: DisneyDining

Centering around a menacing alien terrorizing the audience, this theater-based attraction opened in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park in 1995.

It would be a gross understatement to say that it deviated from the usual family-friendly Park offerings. It was almost the antithesis of what Disney hoped to aspire. It sent young showgoers screaming and crying, which wasn’t fun for parents either. That’s why Disney started posting cautionary advisories at the attraction’s entrance, hoping to dissuade those guests who could not handle the content.

By 2003, the attraction closed for good, only to be replaced by the lackluster Stitch’s Great Escape!, which has also since closed. The Stitch retheme wasn’t much of an improvement, but at least it didn’t terrify small children like its predecessor did.

Related: This Disney World attraction crossed the line: not suitable for kids, so scary, it was forced to close to Guests

Mission: SPACE

Exterior of Mission: SPACE
Credit: Disney

If you’ve ever ridden the Orange Team version of Mission: SPACE, you know how intense it is. When the attraction opened in 2003, there was no Green Team alternative. That came later as a solution for the potential health risk factors that have since been attributed to the ride.

Within its first three years alone, 12 people were hospitalized following their rides on Mission: SPACE. There were even two reported deaths in individuals who had preexisting health conditions. Later, Disney learned that a grand total of 194 people had been treated for sickness by the paramedics. Some even passed out, suffered breathing difficulties, or reported chest pains or irregular heartbeats.

That led Disney to establish the more docile Green Team variation and place sick bags and cautionary advisories in the Orange Team section.

The Making of Me Film

Martin Short alongside graphic segment from 'Making of Me' film
Credit: Disney

This not-so-family-friendly, somewhat uncomfortable film about conception was shown in EPCOT’s now-defunct Wonders of Life Pavilion between 1989 and 2007. Directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, the film starred Martin Short as its main protagonist and narrator as he recounted how his parents fell in love, got married, and then…made him. And yes, the film does show implicative, albeit not-too-graphic, onscreen actions.

Pair those scenes with the animated segments detailing fertilization and fetal development, and you can clearly understand why this isn’t the sort of thing you’d want to watch alongside your family on Disney World visit. There were also potential concerns regarding the controversy surrounding the abortion issue. That’s why Disney eventually posted content advisory signage near the theater entrance.

Although it’s surprising, to say the least, that it lasted as long as it did.

Related: The 12 Weirdest Closed Disney Attractions

Journey Into Imagination

Figment and Dreamfinder from the original Journey Into Imagination
Credit: D23

Here is the perfect example of a bad Disney attraction replacement that had to be walked back, at least partially. When Journey Into Imagination premiered at EPCOT in 1983, it featured an adorable purple dragon known as “Figment” and his likable redheaded “Dreamfinder” pal. The original storyline centered around Dreamfinder creating Figment from inspiring ideas and materials and then leading him (and his guests) to explore Dreamport.

It was an attraction that delighted folks for many years until Disney made the controversial decision to update it. The redo titled “Journey into YOUR Imagination” opened in 1999 and featured a whole new storyline revolving around Dr. Nigel Channing (portrayed by actor Eric Idle) and a tour of the Imagination Institute. Figment and Dreamfinder were no longer a part of the magic, which had longtime fans outraged.

Hoping to restore fan interest by returning the Figment character, Disney again shuttered the attraction for another refurbishment in 2001. Then, in 2002, the new version we still enjoy today opened as Journey Into Imagination with Figment. While the former retheme with Dr. Nigel was still included, so was Figment. Yet Dreamfinder has yet to return to the scene.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Baby Elephant in Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction
Credit: Disney

As far as Disney’s Animal Kingdom rides go, Kilimanjaro Safaris remains a forever-popular must-do endeavor. It’s also easily one of the best rides at Disney World overall. But that may not have been the case had Disney followed their original working storyline.

The conceptualized plot was initially far more gruesome and centered around an elephant that had been poached. It would have even included a graphic replica of the elephant’s bloody carcass with missing tusks. It was eventually decided that this theme and the accompanying content would have been far too traumatizing. So, the story was significantly reworked into one that still included poachers in the area needing to be stopped. Yet it did not feature any graphic representations of the death.

In 2007, the story shifted to focus on a baby elephant wandering about the Park. The poacher subplot was significantly mitigated. By 2012, there were no longer any poacher references at all. The bumpiness and the intensity of the rugged terrain have also been significantly leveled out over the years. Now, Kilimanjaro Safaris is a relaxing sightseeing expedition.

Related: The Surprising Truth About Kilimanjaro Safaris

Pirates of the Caribbean

Side-by-side comparisons of the old and new auction scenes

Since the 2003 film franchise of the same name premiered, we’ve seen many updates and alterations to the original Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disneyland and Disney World. Most tie into the movies and are generally accepted by fans. But in 2018, there was a controversial reworking of a longstanding classic scene.

We’re referring to that now-infamous auction that has since been deemed sexist. It is the one with women being auctioned off for marriage and particular attention being paid to the redhead. The redhead has since received a makeover and appears as the much more empowered female pirate, Redd.

Splash Mountain Transformation

Folks enjoying the now-defunct Splash Mountain
Credit: Disney

The Splash Mountain closure at Disneyland and Disney World in May 2023 is perhaps the most publicized controversial change in recent years.

In favor of removing longtime racial associations with the contentious Song of the South film of 1949, Disney decided to retheme the site for its existing water-based attraction with one inspired by the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog—Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

So, when will the Tiana ride open at Disney World? The opening dates for the new Tiana ride at Disney World and Disneyland are both set for the summer of 2024.

Related: Splash Mountain Erased, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Added to Magic Kingdom

What are some of the other ride and attraction changes you’ve experienced at Walt Disney World Resort over the years? Let us know in the comments.

in Disney Parks, Updates, Walt Disney World

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