The Walt Disney Company has opened up 12 theme parks across the world in its 47 years. And what do you need to fill up 12 theme parks across North America, Asia, and Europe? Attractions. Lots and lots of attractions.
But they can’t all be winners.
For every iconic ride like Pirates of the Caribbean or Space Mountain, there’s a few middling attractions (think: Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Seas With Nemo and Friends), and one real stinker. So we decided to revisit Disney park attractions throughout history (and current day) to sort through the Splash Mountains and the Tower of Terrors and the Flight of Passages to find out the company’s biggest blunders and failures. These rides are boring and they’re ugly and they’re clunky. Luckily, many of them are no longer in operation. But some attractions just refuse to die. We’re looking at you, Stitch’s Great Escape.
Even though Disney’s Imagineers (ride developers) are the best in the biz, not everything they touch turns to gold. Here are 15 of the worst Disney park attractions of all time.
Sometimes it goes by the name Autopia, other times it’s called the Grand Circuit Raceway or Tomorrowland Speedway. No matter its name, there’s one thing to call this mini car raceway: A massive waste of space.
Walt Disney World’s Epcot was always supposed to be a park that blended together entertainment and education. Rides like Spaceship Earth and Living With the Land prove this can be done well. Meanwhile the Lion King-based film Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable shoves its environmental message down your throat while you sit in a crumbling theater being very, very bored.
To get to the Conservation Station and Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you have to take the train, which is a real drain on your time because you don’t even see any interesting animals. Once you get to the Conservation Station, you will find… not much. You’re better off waiting in line for Flight of Passage for four hours than spending any time here.
Is a method of transportation a ride? That’s the quandary Animal Kingdom had to address with its opening day attraction, the Discovery River Boats. Guests boarded the boats expecting to see live animals or perhaps amusing animal animatronics à la The Jungle Cruise, but it was… just a boat to get you around the park. This attraction was such a flub it closed just 16 months after it opened.
The Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland in California is a guest favorite, so Disney does know how to pull off a ride with this theming. But, the steel rollercoaster Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril) is just that: a steel rollercoaster. It lacks theming and imagination and thus is not worth the long waits it racks up.
Figment, a small purple dragon, is the icon of Epcot park. That’s why it’s such a bummer that his ride, Journey Into Imagination With Figment, is so lame. The animatronics are half-baked and showing their age, the song really starts to grate on you, and there’s a particularly foul moment with a skunk scent. This ride has its adamant fans, but they’re really just nostalgic for the original version of this ride, which this iteration does not hold a candle to.
Luigi’s Flying Tires was a bumper car-style attraction that opened with Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure in 2012. Riders sat in tires that floated across the attraction on a bed of air, like an air hockey table. If it sounds exciting, don’t worry: It wasn’t. The tires moved slowly, and the ride was ugly in its black and white design. At one point, Imagineers added red, green, and white beach balls to this ride for guests to throw at one another, as if that would make this dud any more thrilling. It closed in 2015, making room for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters.
When Disney’s Animal Kingdom first opened, its concept involved three distinct areas: animals of present, animals of past, and animals of the imagination. Though the final concept never came to be, animals of the past were represented by DinoLand U.S.A., an area that due to budget concerns, was themed to a roadside carnival. All of the attractions in Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama are off-the-shelf rides you can find literally anywhere, but none are as bad as Wild Mouse rollercoaster Primeval Whirl, which does nothing but give you headaches and bruises as it whips you around the track.
A carrousel is what inspired Walt Disney to create his own theme park, Disneyland, so it is fitting that each “castle park” features one. They go by different names, but they all have one thing in common: They’re super lame. The theming and artwork on these carrousels is ornate and gorgeous, but a horsey ride in a circle can only be so fun.
Ellen Levy Finch/Wikimedia Commons
The PeopleMover at Disneyland and Walt Disney World is one of Disney’s all-time finest attractions. So, why Imagineers decided to take the PeopleMover track at Disneyland and turn it in to high-speed race through Tomorrowland is a mystery no one can truly solve. The rebranded, sped up PeopleMover was branded Rocket Rods, but the high speeds and new cars were ill-suited for the existing track. The ride was constantly having mechanical issues and shut down after just two years.
There’s honestly not much to be said about Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin. It is what it sounds like. Slinky Dog, the adorable spring toy from the Toy Story franchise, moves around in a circle in sort of an up-and-down motion. It has playful theming to it, but the ride experience itself it pretty forgettable.
So, you’ve bought the rights to Star Wars. What do you do next? Until Disney is finished building Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its Star Wars-themed hotel, they installed exhibits called Star Wars Launch Bay in three of its parks. It’s basically little more than a Star Wars-themed store and mini-museum, but that’s it. You can meet Chewbacca though, and that’s pretty cool.
Disney really likes having interactive shows where (child) guests can joke around with Crush the Turtle, Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc., and Stitch. At four of Disney’s international parks, you’ll find Stitch Encounter, where the lovable, rascally alien can sing to kids and chat with them. But oftentimes, kids are too shy to talk to Stitch, and that makes it awkward for everyone.
Dang, Disney just can’t get a Stitch attraction right, can they? This stain on the Magic Kingdom is themed to Stitch, which would be great for kids, right? Wrong! The room is pitch black, there are scary sound and visual effects, and guests are locked in to their seats, so parents can’t even comfort their crying, screaming children. And, oh, do children scream and cry, especially when Stitch burps chili dog breath in their face.
When Michael Eisner was CEO of Disney, he wanted to create rides that appealed to teens and young adults. Enter: Superstar Limo at Disney’s California Adventure. Guests would enter a stretch limo and go through a cartoon version of Hollywood. But it was… weird. The ride parodied celebrities who were already fading from popularity by the time the attraction opened. The caricature-style characters were creepy and weird, and the jokes fell flat to people who weren’t very, very invested in show business. The ride was open for less than one year before it shut its doors.
Now you know the worst Disney rides ever, and thankfully, many of them are closed. But what are the best Disney attractions in the parks’ histories? Well, we’re glad you asked…
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