Making Way for Star Wars Land…And Other Quiet Closing Attractions

Ever since the announcement of a Star Wars-themed land to open in both Anaheim and Orlando, all anyone can seem to talk about is “Star Wars Land.”  The media has been covering the closure of several of Disneyland’s attractions in anticipation of this new area being built in and around the area where Big Thunder Ranch currently occupies.  And while I will miss the all-you-can-eat hoopla of Big Thunder Ranch Barbeque, it’s hardly an area with a big impact on guest satisfaction.  Replacing it with Star Wars Land will be a huge blessing.

FANTASMIC! -- Guests will enjoy magical thrills in the popular Fantasmic! spectacular on the Rivers of America. Recent enhancements include the climactic transformation of the evil Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty into a fully animated 40-foot-tall dragon. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)
FANTASMIC! — One of the most popular shows at Disneyland is closing for at least a year while the Star Wars-themed land is being built. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Probably of greater impact is the temporary loss of the Disneyland Railroad, Davy Crockett’s Canoes, the Mark Twain Riverboat (and Sailing Ship Columbia), Tom Sawyer’s Island, and Fantasmic! which are slated to be down for a year during construction.  It will be extremely obvious to visitors how much is missing when these go down.  Other than Fantasmic!, none of the other attractions have the same “E” ticket pull, but are such a part of the landscape of Disneyland they will be missed even if people were not planning to go on them.

A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF LIVE ENTERTAINMENT: Aladdin and Princess Jasmine literally take to air over the heads of audience members in "Disney's Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular" at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF LIVE ENTERTAINMENT: Aladdin and Princess Jasmine literally take to air over the heads of audience members in “Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif.  After over 14,000 performances, it will come to a close today – 1/10/2016

However, there are a number of other attractions that are slipping away or have recently vanished that have gone without as much attention.  Probably the one most people are aware of is the final curtain today for Aladdin the musical at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure.  After 14,000 plus performances, this long running and popular show will be closing to make way for a new Frozen musical to open later in the year.

The entrance for the newly unveiled Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival - replacing Captain EO which quietly disappeared as of December 6
The entrance for the newly unveiled Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival – replacing Captain EO which quietly disappeared as of December 6

Over at Walt Disney World, Captain EO quietly vanished for apparently the last time just a month ago (December 6, 2015).  It made way instead for the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival which showcases previously released short films in a new 4D format.  It went without much fanfare, but the show at Epcot was the last version to leave with Disneyland’s tribute having left in 2014.  According to a cast member at the attraction, Captain EO was “pulled by the family” but that hasn’t been verified or supported by any official Disney documentation.   Regardless, it’s too bad this iconic Michael Jackson, George Lucas, Francis Coppola collaboration didn’t get a “farewell” sendoff like many other well-loved attractions.

Another well-loved attraction that has faded into the sunset is Soarin’ Over California.  Initially made as a premiere attraction for Disney California Adventure, the popular ride made its way over to Epcot and was equally popular there.  But now it has gone the way of other attractions of its ilk and the version we are used to has vanished without much notice.  Instead, a new version of the attraction called Soarin’ Around the World will debut in 2016 using similar technology to the Soarin’ Over the Horizon attraction that is set to debut at Shanghai Disneyland.   If you were hoping to ride the original version, unfortunately you won’t get the chance.

The "Frozen Ever After" attraction coming to Epcot in 2016 is an adventure fit for the entire family that will take guests through the kingdom of Arendelle. Guests will be transported to the Winter in Summer Celebration where Queen Elsa embraces her magical powers and creates a winter-in-summer day for the entire kingdom. "Frozen Ever After" will be located in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot, which is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)
The “Frozen Ever After” attraction coming to Epcot in 2016 is an adventure fit for the entire family that will take guests through the kingdom of Arendelle. Guests will be transported to the Winter in Summer Celebration where Queen Elsa embraces her magical powers and creates a winter-in-summer day for the entire kingdom. “Frozen Ever After” will be located in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot, which is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)

This is a season of change for the parks on both coasts.  And while there are many attractions that have gone and vanished, there is a lot to look forward to also.  The new Frozen Ever After attraction in the Norway pavilion at Epcot (which arrives with some controversy) opens this Spring as does the previously mentioned Soarin’ Around the World at Disney California Adventure.  The new Frozen musical will premiere this year in the Hyperion Theater.  Luigi and his cousins will reappear at Luigi’s Rollikin’ Roadsters in Cars Land. And of course the Star Wars: The Force Awakens version of Star Tours has already premiered as has the Star Wars version of Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland.

It’s always a season of change at Disney theme parks, and although you may have missed the closure of some of your favorites, hopefully the new attractions on the horizon will more than make up for it!

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