Let's Bring 'em Backby Steve Russo, staff writer
Visit any Disney-themed website or blog and you’re likely to find an article or two (or twenty) regarding closed attractions. We all have a warm spot in our heart for Horizons, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Tomorrowland Skyway… you get the idea.
It’s very easy to sit back, and from the comfort of our keyboards, tell Disney they have to bring back Horizons. Practically speaking, I think we all understand the magnitude of an undertaking of that size. Nevertheless, we can dream, can’t we?
For this article, I’d like to take a bit of a different slant. Not only would I like to see a few of my favorite attractions back in action, I think I can offer a reasonably realistic plan to get them there. Now I don’t claim to be an Imagineer (although I often play one on the Internet) so when I say “reasonably realistic," I’ll leave the engineering, construction and costs to the experts and bean counters. I’ll handle the heavy lifting and leave the details to them.
Let’s begin with two of my favorite attractions from the now-defunct Pleasure Island (soon-to-be Disney Springs).
I’ve long been a fan of improvisational comedy and the Comedy Warehouse was an excellent venue. On each trip, we’d spend at least one night visiting this establishment and enjoying their versions of Schmeopardy and What’s My Line? We’d often see multiple shows, leaving and jumping right back in line. The beauty of improvisational comedy is that no two shows are alike. Many Warehouse fans shed a tear when the doors closed for good back in 2008.
Did I say “for good?" Over the past few Holiday seasons, Disney has brought back the Comedy Warehouse for limited runs. This tells me there is still interest among the fan base and Disney management recognizes this so… let’s bring it back.
Where? I have the perfect venue. Have any of you ever been to the Atlantic Dance Hall? I didn’t think so. I visit the establishment only for Welcome Home Wednesdays, the weekly info-tainment show for Disney Vacation Club members. Bringing the Comedy Warehouse to this location for multiple nightly shows will help Disney fill a mostly vacant building, generate revenue through admission and drinks/snacks sales and bring additional people to Disney’s Boardwalk in the evening where they can enjoy the restaurants/bars, carnival games and free entertainment.
Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it? So’s the next one…
If the Comedy Warehouse had a loyal fan base, we’d have to call the aficionados of the Adventurers Club near fanatics. The Club, in its heyday, had almost a cult following of devoted customers. The theming was a 1930s private club for explorers and travelers. The walls were covered with artifacts and guests would interact with animatronics, puppets and cast members portraying several recurring characters. Show after show, night after night, you’d spot many of the same faces in the Mask Room or Library. To say it was unique entertainment would be an understatement.
I’ll bet Disney still has the artifacts and cast members so all we need is the appropriate venue. Many have suggested Disney’s Animal Kingdom but I’m not convinced a theme park is the best setting. I know Disney has plans underway to make Animal Kingdom an “evening destination” but I think the Adventurers Club is better suited to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I don’t care whether we use Jambo House or Kidani Village—the theming of either would be consistent with the Adventurers Club. I’ll let the Imagineers sort out the best location for a re-purposing, or perhaps an addition to one of the buildings.
Think about it…dinner at Boma, Jiko or Sanaa followed by an evening at the Adventurers Club. Kungaloosh!
It’s likely difficult for the current generation to fathom what I’m about to say—the Imagination Pavilion once housed three top-notch attractions. For those of us old enough to remember the original dark ride that featured the Dreamfinder and Figment, today’s incarnation is a very poor facsimile. At one time, the ride was very entertaining and… wait for it… the fun wasn’t over when the ride ended. We could venture upstairs to the Image Works, an area of fun, interactive exhibits reached via a walk through a colorful tunnel of multi-colored lights. One could easily spend 30–45 minutes leading an electronic orchestra, doctoring electronic images of your face or playing on the pin-table and then you could make your way into the theater for the very entertaining 3D film: Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.
I recently listened to an interview with Disney Legend Tony Baxter and he indicated that Disney was aware of the issues with the latest ride, Journey Into Imagination...with Figment. While nothing was promised, my impression was that something would be changing here, hopefully sooner rather than later. When it does change, I urge Disney to bring back a new, updated Image Works.
Regarding the 3D film…I’m certainly aware that today’s generation of guests are likely not to have seen the film, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Heck, many probably never heard of it. But… I think the 3D film could be enjoyed even without the foundation provided by the original film. I could be wrong but… in any case, I do think it would be a distinct improvement over the stale, dated Captain EO. But I wouldn’t be opposed to something new.
Huh? The Odyssey? What is it? Do you know that angular building with the concrete walkways that connects Future World to World Showcase (Test Track to the Mexico Pavilion)? You probably know it as a restroom location (possibly the nicest restrooms in Epcot). Or perhaps you’ve visited the First Aid Station in the building? I’m told it also hosts some special events.
Well, prior to its closing in 1994, the Odyssey was a very nice counter service establishment. I can recall dining outside, under cover on those angular walkways, enjoying lunch and a wonderful view of Epcot. I can’t swear to this but I’ve heard of character meals offered here. What I can attest to is seeing a live stage show (featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy) while having lunch. Sounds special, doesn’t it? So why did it close?
I have no idea but I believe Epcot needs another counter service restaurant and I’m bringing the Odyssey back. The building is still there as are the restrooms. If it’s being used for special events, there’s also a kitchen so…
Wonders of Life
Here’s another quiz for the younger Disney World fans: What’s that building tucked back in the trees, between Ellen’s Energy Adventure and Mission: Space? If you’ve visited during Epcot’s Food and Wine or Flower and Garden festivals, you may have visited the building for some shopping or a seminar. Once upon a time, this was the Wonders of Life: a pavilion dedicated to, er… the wonders of life.
The main floor was filled with some very neat interactive exhibits: you could “ride” a stationary bicycle through Disneyland; hit a baseball or golf ball while being recorded and get some expert advice on your swing from a sports celebrity; or just get some helpful and healthy advice about diet and exercise.
The building also housed three attractions:
- Body Wars – was a simulator ride (think Star Tours) that offered a ride through the human body, after being shrunk down to the size of a blood cell (think Fantastic Voyage for you film buffs);
- The Making of Me – featured Martin Short explaining, in a very safe, Disney way, where babies come from. And my personal favorite…
- Cranium Command – offered a few minutes inside the mind (and body) of an adolescent boy. It was funny, very creative and featured a very appropriate cast of celebrities portraying the various body parts (left and right brain, stomach, etc.).
I’ll give you that Cranium Command may be a bit dated, and a few of the celebrities won't be immediately known to the younger generation, but I'm betting it would still be entertaining.
Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It!
"Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It!" was my absolute favorite Disney abbreviation. It was also a very fun show. It left us a few years ago to make room for Toy Story Midway Mania and I guess that’s not a bad thing. But Millionaire (or WWTBAMPI) was a great show that featured a set that made us believe we were in the studio that housed the actual televised game. The play was near identical to the television show and prizes of a Disney variety (pin, hats and T-shirts) were offered.
However, the absolute best part was that each audience member could play along and your scores were tallied against the rest of the audience—and, if you did well enough, you could get into the hot seat! And did I mention that the grand prize was a Disney cruise?
Where would it go? Well, I just heard that American Idol was ending its run and unless they’re going to bring back Superstar Television… wait, that’s another article.
These are just a few of my ideas to bring back some of the attractions and restaurants I label as “sorely missed." I know I have others and I’m certain you do as well. Let’s hear ‘em and, as always, thanks for reading.