I Miss...by Steve Russo, staff writer
Nostalgia is a funny thing. It didn't exist for me in my early years but began to rear its head as I entered my 30s. Now with each passing year it seems there are more fond memories than ever. Admittedly, I think human nature has us embellishing the positives and glossing over the negatives of any memory. To make my point, the next time you feel nostalgic for the 1970s, go back and look at the clothes.
Nostalgia also comes into play with Walt Disney World. I know that I often smile when reflecting on memories of past trips or recalling an amusing anecdote that typically involves me screwing something up... much to the delight of my family. But it also applies when I recall a few things that are no longer there—attractions, restaurants... even specific items.
Walt Disney once famously said "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." That's a wonderful notion and one that I'm certain we all applaud—and it applies to Walt Disney World as well. Just in the last ten years, the World has rolled out Wishes, Mickey's Philharmagic, Mission: Space, Soarin', Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Expedition Everest... to name just a few. Then there's the in-progress-and-opening-soon Fantasyland expansion. We Disney fans have a lot for which to be thankful.
Unfortunately, progress often brings change and at times we appreciate the new—while simultaneously lamenting what's passed. Nostalgia creeps in and we find ourselves missing what once was but is no more. Case in point: Soarin' is probably my favorite attraction, but I still miss the Food Rocks/Kitchen Kabaret attraction that gave its life so Soarin' could exist. Would I trade Soarin' to bring them back? Not on your life but I miss them just the same.
With that said, what attractions or items are on my "I miss" list? I have fond memories of many bygone attractions, but let's begin with a somewhat odd choice...
Seabase Alpha and the Hydrolators
I view the upgrade from The Living Seas to The Seas with Nemo and Friends as a positive change. Nevertheless, when I visit Nemo I'm often reflecting wistfully of what it displaced. If you visited in the 1980s–'90s, you'll remember the Living Seas as not a single attraction but a series of shows.
It began with a brief, introductory sequence projected high on the walls in a circular room. You were then ushered into a theater for a longer film that explained how the oceans were formed. I can recall "the deluge" where there was so much rain and rushing water depicted, half the audience needed a restroom break as soon as the film ended.
After the film, in order to bring the guests to the viewing areas, the Imagineers needed a way to place you into the ocean—more specifically, the ocean floor. Enter the Hydrolators—three 20 passenger elevators that transported guests on a 30-second trip to the ocean floor. This was simulated with a shaking floor while pushing water upward behind a glass wall, delivering the impression of swift downward movement. While this effect was providing visible and tactile evidence of descent, electronic monitors offered scientific evidence that you were indeed traveling to the bottom of the ocean.
Allow me to digress for a moment. There is an urban legend that claims a woman once sued Disney, claiming eardrum damage from the pressure change during her rapid descent in a hydrolator at The Living Seas. Supposedly, Disney's lawyers transported the judge and jury to Epcot, took them into a hydrolator and operated it with both doors open—revealing that there is no actual descent. This evidence caused the judge to dismiss the case on the spot.
That's a cute story but one that I believe is highly unlikely to have actually occurred. I would expect any attorney worth his or her salt could get that claim tossed without needing an Epcot field trip.
At any rate, I miss the film and the hydrolators. They were part of the show that set the stage for the aquarium viewing in the pavilion—part of the "story," if you will. Evidently, they weren't a necessary component but I miss them just the same.
Can you remember the first time you told friends that you had eaten a beaver tail? This particular treat was available at Trapper Bob's kiosk outside the Canada pavilion in Epcot, and in fact contained no actual animal parts (thank goodness). Beaver Tails were fried dough flattened to resemble a beaver's tail. While tasty on their own, it was best to complement them with one of the available toppings that included Chocolate Hazelnut and Sugar, Strawberries and Whipped Cream, and Apples and Cinnamon.
In 2005, Beaver Tails were no longer available, and I've yet to learn why. I miss them.
I know Pleasure Island had its fans and its detractors and I'd be the first to admit it wasn't for everybody. However, my family and I are huge comedy fans and we truly enjoyed attending several shows at the Comedy Warehouse during each Disney vacation.
The Comedy Warehouse was based in improvisation and relied heavily on audience suggestions and interaction along with a tremendously talented cast. The beauty of that setup is that no two shows were alike and it was common for folks (like me) to exit a show and jump right back in line for the next one. The Warehouse was an adult venue and served alcohol but the very talented actor/comedians were always mindful they were "at Disney" and never allowed the jokes to cross the "PG" line. In fact, they would often have a little fun at Disney's expense.
Alas, the Comedy Warehouse, along with the Adventurers Club, was closed a few years ago in order to prepare the area for Hyperion Wharf (see my recent Park Peeves column for my opinion there). Here's one fan who wishes Disney would bring it back. I miss it.
The Imagination Pavilion
Ah, there's so much to miss here. Let's begin with the original ride, Journey Into Imagination: a dark ride that used omnimover technology. Guests followed the Dreamfinder and his friend, Figment, on a journey through imagination. The first few minutes of the attraction kept your ride vehicle moving in front of Dreamfinder and Figment as they flew in his Dreamfinder vehicle. His vehicle and yours were in sync so it was, essentially, a stationary scene. I'm still not certain how the Imagineers pulled that one off. I'm betting someone out there knows how the technology was used to create that effect but I think I'd prefer to remain amazed.
I have fond memories of that attraction and the infectious song, "One Little Spark." I know there's an Eric Idle rendition on the current ride—and I like Eric Idle—but I still prefer the original.
Once you exited the ride, you could spend time in the Image Works. Yes, I know it's still there but trust me... what's there today is a shell of the many hands-on exhibits that were presented on the second floor of the pavilion. I can recall easily spending 30-45 minutes interacting with the displays there. I still can't figure out why it was shut down—but I'd venture cost was involved.
The third part of the Imagination triad was the 3D film (Magical Journeys, Honey I Shrunk the Audience and now... Captain EO) but... before you entered the theater, there was the pre-show. I truly miss True Colors. It was a hauntingly beautiful song that accompanied a Kodak slide show containing some the most stunning slides I've seen—the audio and video together conveying the essence of "imagination." I never, ever tired of that show and I'm saddened today that I never recorded the whole show. I miss it.
Tapestry of Nations
I agree that the World Showcase promenade was never really designed to accommodate a parade. I'm aware of the logistical difficulties it presented. I've also heard, and can appreciate, the horror stories of injuries that accompanied cast members supporting those large puppets while dodging high winds, children and aggressive guests.
Knowing all that, I still miss the Tapestry of Nations parade. In my Disney collection is the Millennium CD, which offers the soundtrack to Illuminations as well as that wonderful Tapestry of Nations music. "Ayla, Wayla, Ayla, Wayla, Ayla. Way-o-Way." Anyone that hasn't heard it is now questioning my sanity but... if you're a fan like me, I'll bet you're singing it.
I wrote that phonetically by the way. I've read the song has no real words—just sounds to mimic a language and convey emotion while the puppets do their thing. Regardless, I miss it.
Superstar Television / Monster Soundstage
Can you remember when Disney's MGM Studios—now Hollywood Studios—offered attractions that actually took you backstage to see how film or television show productions worked? OK, it was a brief glimpse but an entertaining one and provided a bit of insight into the types of things that were being done to bring entertainment to us.
One of my lasting memories from Superstar Television was when my wife and I appeared in an episode of Golden Girls and I totally messed up my one speaking line. Somehow, "We don't want to wear out our welcome" became "We don't wannaweahoudaweckom."
I know American Idol has its fans (I'm not one of them) and I can understand how it replaced Superstar Television. I don't agree with it, but I can understand it. But I'll probably never get another shot at TV stardom.
Regarding the Monster Sound Show... Sounds Dangerous? Really?
Here it is. I'll close with the granddaddy of all that is missed at Walt Disney World—Horizons. It's been closed since 1999 and legions of Disney World fans still speak reverently about this attraction.
Let me say that I loved Horizons but I think the passing of time has created an ideal that never really existed. Horizons offered a trip through what was envisioned as a possible future. Sights, sounds, and smells combined to treat the guest to a look at what life might be like as we colonize the deserts, oceans and outer space.
I loved Horizons for its story but I admit that it offered me something that I'm a sucker for—the sense of flight—not unlike what Soarin' does for me. There was a segment where the ride vehicle passed through an iMax type screen and, if you timed it right, you'd be treated to a wonderful scene of flying over planet Earth, through the atmosphere, and then over New York City. The sensation of flight was real and I always thought that segment alone was worth the price of admission.
Horizons has been replaced by Mission: Space. Space is technically superior and offers its riders a different type of glimpse into the future—one with a few thrills thrown in. Do I miss Horizons? Certainly. I wish it could co-exist with Mission: Space but wishful thinking gets us nowhere. But I do miss it.
So... that's my list of a few of the things I miss at Walt Disney World. Reality, and progress, tells me this list will be forever growing and that's both good and bad news. Good because Walt Disney World, as Walt said, will "never be completed" but I'm certain I'll lament the passing of more personal favorites as they're ushered out to make room for the next big attraction.
I stayed away from a few more obvious choices, predominantly at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Who among us doesn't long for the days when we could see real animators working on real films as a part of the Magic of Disney Animation tour? Or see the filming of real television shows as part of the Backlot Tour? Or... any others? What's on your "I miss it" list?