Dead Theme Park Rides – Laser Time

What ever became of your favorite Universal and Disney attractions? We explore the history of decommissioned rides, covering why they left, and what replaced them!


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43 thoughts on “Dead Theme Park Rides – Laser Time

  1. Before I even listen: Great premise for an episode. I’m always interested when this trivia comes up.

  2. It’s not gone, but I wish Universal Hollywood would update some of the rides to reflect sequels…like the JP ride is alright at best, but obviously only capitalized on the first one. Would be neat if they incorporated LW, Jurassic World.

  3. Out here in Midwest Cedar Point is the amusement park to head to. One of the only indoor rides the park had called Disaster Transport was a space themed roller coaster of sorts. It had actually lost more and more of it’s parts and changed it’s ride queue a bunch over the years, but I was still sad to see it go. This original commercial for it (yes a commercial for a single RIDE) is still pretty cool!

    Disney wise, they did make a tv-movie based on the ride Tower of Terror in 1997 which aired on Disney Channel. (Talk about synergy!) So, it was a movie, based on a ride, based on the T.V show The Twilight Zone. It features Kristen Dunst and Steve Gutenberg, is horrible but still available for purchase at the park.
    Also I’m very upset they’re apparently closing THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE AT DISNEY WORLD went on it when I was seven and it blew my mind!

    1. I hope 30-20-10 covers Tower of Terror 1997 in October!

      Also, while it’s sad to see The Great Movie Ride go, it’s probably time. It’s 28 years old, which means that every movie in it is now 28 years further away in time from the ride’s audience. So your average person who was 20 years old when they saw Casablanca, or the Singing int he Rain or The Searchers when those films came out was probably alive in 1989 when the ride opened but that same average person is now . . . probably not

  4. This was a great episode! As a Walt Disney World historian I have done so much research on how those parks have changed over the years!

  5. I had a holy shit moment hearing the voices of hanna and barbera.
    I feel bad for bob who was really quiet through most of this episode, because like me he’s from a working class family and didn’t get to go to these parks as a kid. The only reason me and my sisters went to Disneyworld as kids is because my aunts and uncles all pitched together financially to bring my family along because it was part of a huge family reunion event. I was VERY disappointed, i thought it was going to be like six flags over georgia with roller coasters and crazy cartoonish rides.
    I want a full on Nintendo theme park with a Metroid experience. A true Nintendo Land. I also want to go to the One Piece theme park in Japan one day. I love that, that series is so popular that is has a theme park.

  6. I went on that Alien ride. I remember there was a warning sign on the entrance for an excessive amount of darkness. As a huge baby, even at 14, I should not have not gone on that ride. I have been afraid of the dark for most of my life, and I was scared shitless. You could feel the floor shake while it seemed an alien was running around the room. I closed my eyes and plugged my ears. Was pretty surprised that something like that was at Disney World. Id be curious to ride it again as an adult.

  7. I haven’t been in years, but I love the Jurassic Park ride. As a big JP fan I thought it was cool they pulled the river raft ride used in the books (and mentioned in the movie) for inspiration. The T-Rex at the end is an amazing fake out: it lunges down and everyone’s attention is on the giant head closing in and just as it is about to reach the boat, the bottom drops out and you go hurtling down in the dark. One of my favorite memories from Universal Orlando.

  8. Man, I have so much to say about this episode.
    I was an army brat, and Disney gave deep discounts to army families who wanted to go there on vacation. When they started the Disney Vacation Club, it was actually cheaper for us to go to Disney World than it was for us to visit family, so we would go every other summer growing up. My dad is retired now, but he’s still a member of the Vacation Club, and that’s still his preferred vacation spot.
    I got to go back for the first time in years last month, and I’m really glad I did. For me, it was like going home for the first time in a decade. I got to say goodbye to the Figment ride (which is, in all honesty, terrible now) and got to go on The Great Movie Ride, which they also just announced will be closing, in spite of the fact that it is the SINGLE GREATEST DARK RIDE OF ALL TIME!
    Kinda bummed you guys don’t have the love for WDW that I do. I live 20 minutes from Disneyland now, and can go more-or-less whenever I want, since I know so many people that work there, but it just doesn’t seem as magical to me as WDW. It’s a Star Wars park with an occasional Mickey Mouse pretzel stand.

    1. They’re closing the Great Movie Ride? FUCK. That was one of my absolute favorite rides from the two times I went to WDW as a kid.

      I too, was a bit surprised by the lack of enthusiasm for WDW from the guys, but I guess it all depends on when you go and what you expect. If you don’t want to walk around in the sun all day, then yeah, I can see how it might not be an ideal place for you. Also, if you are expecting thrill rides, I can see why something like Spaceship Earth or Horizons (RIP) would be unappealing, but those were some of my favorite attractions.

      I mean, yeah, its cool that there were rides based on Back to the Future and Harry Potter, but those things seem more like pop culture facades (really really well done ones, to their credit, I won’t take that away) on roller coasters than the kind of ground up (top down?) experience of some of the Disney rides.

      1. And speaking of the Great Movie Ride, the first time I went to WDW as a kid, the ride broke down halfway through. We were stuck in the Tarzan area for like 10 minutes, with Tarzan swinging over and doing his “yell” every 15 seconds or so. It was kind of incredible, to be honest.

        1. Tarzan doesn’t do that anymore 🙁
          TMC took over as sponsor, and added a narrator throughout. I think Tarzan yelling covered up the narrator’s voice so they took him out. Jane is still there, though.

  9. I visited Universal Studios in 2006 and found mostly disappointment. I’d grown up in the Midwest where the closest amusement parks were Kings Island and Cedar Point. Like Bob’s family going to Disney or Universal when we were kids was like going to the moon. It just wasn’t going to happen.

    Universal hyped their stuff around the 75th anniversary and I remember all their VHS tapes in the late ’80s and early ’90s had commercials at the beginning showing all the awesome rides. JAWS, King Kong, Back to the Future. I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan and I loved the idea of a place where the guys were out on the streets having fun.

    By the time I finally got there fifteen years later and close to graduating college it was a little disappointing. JAWS was still there and was fun for what it was. Back to the Future was obviously aging though. It looked like they’d stopped taking care of the exterior and the projection for the ride itself was washed out like it hadn’t been updated running on repeat for over a decade (and incidentally I had the same experience with washed out old rides on the Star Trek Experience ride in Vegas back in 2007 just before it closed).

    The other stuff was gone by then though. The only sign of Ghostbusters was a small corner of the park where they had a firehouse that had been repainted to wash it of the GB IP and the Shandor building in the background as part of a New York skyline. Its replacement was an underwhelming Twister themed ride that amounted to a column of fog halfassedly swirling in the middle of a set. Not impressive if you’re from an area where you can see real tornadoes by stepping off your back porch.

    Even the newer rides felt kinda worn down. Some of the raptors on Jurassic Park weren’t working and just sorta stood there awkwardly being the opposite of scary.

    All in all Universal was a pretty sad experience. Now that I’m all grown up and a dad you bet your ass we take my kid to see the mouse. I might give Harry Potter a try someday, but the overwhelming run down cut-rate county fair feel of the place really soured me on the idea of ever going back.

  10. I went to Universal Studios Florida when I was 4. My dad assured me Earthquake was just a train ride… so that was traumatic. On the E.T. ride you encounter the cops and at that age I was so afraid of cops I cried. And the cherry on top was that I was supposedly being a little brat so my dad took me around a corner and hit me. LOL I’m such a 90s kid.

  11. Ghostbusters Spooktacular -> Twister…Ride it Out -> Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

  12. One more note: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was originally supposed to be Mel Brooks’ ride – called “Hotel Mel” or “Mel Brooks’ Haunted Hollywood Hotel,” depending on who you ask. It was originally planned to be a working hotel inside MGM studios where guests would participate in a spoopy murder mystery every night after the park closed – some ideas from that are finally being used in the new Star Wars resort 30 years later. Eventually, the concept was reworked into a dark ride, but Mel dropped out to go make “Life Stinks” and the old-Hollywood themeing was the only thing that was kept. I feel the same way about this that you guys do about the Back to the Future ride – on the one hand, I LOVE The Twilight Zone AND the Tower of Terror, but on the other hand, I would have really loved to see a Mel Brooks attraction.

    1. okay okay okay – ONE MORE one more note:
      At the end of the episode, Chris talks about the no costumes policy at Disney parks. First of all, they *do* sell costumes in the park – that’s all there is in the Bippity Boppity Boutique. I believe the policy is that *adults* can’t wear costumes, but even then, there are exceptions.
      Disney offers a VIP pass to celebrities where they are given a cast member guide that escorts them “back stage” to a pre-scheduled set of attractions, so that their presence doesn’t effect the other guests’ experience. Johnny Depp didn’t like doing that, because he thought that it robbed his kids of getting to see the park like normal folks, so he’s worked out a deal with Disney that he is allowed to dress as Jack Sparrow when he visits the parks. When people see a Jack Sparrow walking his kids around, they don’t immediately think “OMG, that’s Johnny Depp!” and start lining up for autographs, they think it’s a guy with a really great costume that came to Disneyland. If things do get out of hand, a cast member can still usher him back stage. A few weeks ago, that turned into a publicity stunt for the new movie where he was allowed to walk on stage at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and surprised tourists.

  13. I find the men and black ride extremely fun. It’s just cardboard in the first 1/4th of the ride saying it’s training and then you go out on 3D designed models.

  14. For the record, Back to the Future was closed at USJ in Osaka to make room for Minions, the Nintendo deal was announced much, much later. And USJ auctioned off nearly every prop, including the Delorean! No word if anyone actually paid up though.

    You discussed the T2 movie/show as one of the oldest Universal attractions still running, it’s worth noting that the Florida version uses an updated pre-show video about the future of Cyberdyne products, but at USJ they continue to use the original version from 1996 which includes a young Shaq making free throws and amazing predictions of grandmas watching videos on-demand over the internet. Inconceivable!

    Original from 96:
    New version now in Florida:

  15. Regarding Tom Wilson and money from Back to the Future: Unless you are a megastar, it really doesn’t help you financially if a film is a hit or a bomb. Generally speaking non-star actors almost always get paid a set fee and never get a percentage of the profits. I did some quick googling and while I couldn’t find anything definitive Some Random Internet Person states that Crispin Glover (George McFly) stated that he was offered half ($125,000) of what Tom Wilson (Biff) was offered ($250,000) for the sequels.


    In late 1980’s dollars that would have been enough for to buy a decent house in a decent neighborhood in LA (or 1/3rd of a house in Malibu) but not enough to set him up for life unless he used it all to buy Apple stock.

    1. Re: payment, that $250 grand would be for the initial shoot; stars can sometimes negotiate for “points,” aka 1 or 2 percent of the box office, otherwise they just get that downside guarantee of whatever they’re promised to actually make the movie. But what the group is referring to are residuals: under union rules, principal actors split up 3.6% of what the studio makes when a movie is broadcast on television (or optioned to a streaming service), and 4.5% to 5.4% of home sales. Sure, that’s splitting that percentage 20 ways (weighted towards giving more to opening titles cast), but if the movie makes 100 million dollars in licensing, that’s an additional 250 grand, minimum (and Back to the Future has undoubtedly made more than that, considering cable rights, multiple dvd and blu ray releases, etc.).

      1. Even if Tom Wilson has such a deal, there is no guarantee that Hollywood Accounting would mean that he’d ever get paid. For example, Return of the Jedi has yet to make a profit so the actor who played Darth Vader hasn’t gotten a time in residuals,
        “Here is an amazing glimpse into the dark side of the force that is Hollywood economics. The actor who played Darth Vader still has not received residuals from the 1983 film “Return of the Jedi” because the movie, which ranks 15th in U.S. box office history, still has no technical profits to distribute.
        How can a movie that grossed $475 million on a $32 million budget not turn a profit? It comes down to Tinseltown accounting. As Planet Money explained in an interview with Edward Jay Epstein in 2010, studios typically set up a separate “corporation” for each movie they produce. Like any company, it calculates profits by subtracting expenses from revenues. Erase any possible profit, the studio charges this “movie corporation” a big fee that overshadows the film’s revenue. For accounting purposes, the movie is a money “loser” and there are no profits to distribute.”

        1. Everybody has such a deal if they’re union, so there’s no “even if he had such a deal,” as long as he made the movie in SAG. That would be based on gross proceeds, not net. If that actor really hasn’t received anything, he’s got a lawsuit settlement coming to him. If he just hasn’t received any net points he had been promised in addition to gross, he’s probably not going to get them.

  16. Growing up in West Virginia, going to Disney was a pipe dream. Most of my friends were able to afford to go to Myrtle Beach or something like that.

    I didn’t visit Disney until this year (I’m 37). My wife and her family went to a Disney property almost every year. Her parents went to the opening of the park in Florida when they were kids.

    My wife and I went to Universal last year for our honeymoon. It was a glorious week. I had so much fun! I enjoyed seeing the Marvel properties, Rip Ride Rocket and many of the other rides. Men In Black was fun for me. The Harry Porter rides were pretty cool for a non-HP fan. I enjoyed Race Through New York, but Jimmy Fallon kept calling this a “Roller Coaster” on his show. It’s not a roller coaster at all. It makes me sad to see so many new rides to be screens with simulated movement. Universal is by far my new favorite place.

    We went to Disney World this year and I had a good time. But to me, it felt like a trip backwards in time. Lots of old aging rides. Many of the rides were family rides and there were very few thrill rides. Outside of Rockin Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror and Space Mountain I didn’t enjoy most of the rides. It was neat to do them once.

    The amount of people at Disney was astonishing. It was difficult to get to things at times, even in May. Having to park, take a tram or train to get to the park was quite annoying as well. If I would have went as a kid and had memories to return to at Disney I think I would have enjoyed the park much more.

    Universal is more my jam.

  17. Even though my family was solidly middle-class and single income through the 90’s, my grandparents retiring to Lakeland Florida meant we started doing one park a year pretty much every summer starting in 1994 or so. This brought back a lot of memories from a trip in either 94 or 95 to Universal that was pretty terrible: we did everything in a day, but E.T. kept having issues so we were in line for over 2 hours, Jaws also had technical difficulties so it was over 90 minutes. I also remember Earthquake’s line being an outdoor flea market/swap meet thing that was just swelteringly hot (despite Chris’s whiny baby-kvetching, Disney lines are almost always smartly designed to keep people out of direct heat/sunlight). I also remember the Back to the Future ride being pretty disappointing after a pretty lengthy line. I never rode the re-branded Earthquake when I came back in the 2000’s, as the Islands of Adventure rides were all much better than re-doing Jaws or the re-designed Earthquake, although I did definitely like the Simpsons ride that replaced it. Also visited once in the 2010’s right when the Wizarding Town of Harry Potter just opened; I am not in the HP demo, so I thought it was mostly just one good ride and a bunch of waiting around, but my sister ten years younger than me was excited for it.

    At Disney World, I remember really enjoying Mr. Toad’s wild ride as a kid. I also miss the Skyway system, as by the mid-90’s it was barely being used and you could just hop on it and get a view of the park. Also my favorite Disney World trip was in 96, in October for my birthday; because it was non-peak time and it was the anniversary of the park, they let everybody into every area of the park for the price of one park (I had only ever gone to Magic Kingdom previously, as there wasn’t a ton for kids in the other parks), so we saw the best of everything in a day, then the rest of that trip was spent playing Mario 64 on my granddad’s mid-90’s gigantic 4:3 big-screen television.

  18. One you guys didn’t mention was Backdraft, which was more of a show like Ghostbusters if I remember right. Not sure what it turned into. I also remember in the early 2000’s there was some weird Drew Carey “experience” ride where you wore headphones and they did some interesting 3D sound type of stuff. I don’t think that lasted very long. I definitely recall going in the early 90’s since I lived in Orlando, and Jaws, King Kong, ET, Back to the Future, etc were always broken. Jaws and King Kong especially were ALWAYS not working. Definitely Universal Studios is my favorite park precisely because they do add in new rides. It sucks that happens at the expense of the classics though, I wish they were still there. I saw T23D when it first opened around 1998 and that was mindblowing to me, the effects were the best I’d ever seen.

  19. Let me start this off by saying I spent half a decade working the my latter teen years and slightly into my twenties working at Kings Island while it was owned by Paramount. The latter two were spent working in the rides department. Between 2002-2003, KI decided to buy two rides from HUSS. One of which being the only Giant Top Spins to ever exist (there are smaller variations of this ride), and the other being a Giant Frisbee (which I worked at in ’04-’05). The Frisbee was named Delirium, and still stands at KI today. The top spin in question was enclosed and themed around Jolie’s Tomb Raider flicks. Naturally, it was called Tomb Raider: The Ride.

    Basically, it was themed as if you were stumbling onto one of Lara Croft’s archeological excursions. The entrance of the ride and the inner sanctums were meant to evoke something from ancient Eastern times. You make your way through two rooms before you get to the ride proper. The first room “unlocks” the tomb and you enter the second room where a giant Durga statue sat. The door you entered shuts behind you and eventually a screen moves up in front of the statue, showing a preshow movie. It’s basically clips from the first movie and a paper-thin justification to get you onto the ride. Once that door opens, you’re loaded onto the ride proper.

    Initially, the ride had three rows. But this ride was a maintenance disaster, and weight issues caused it to not “go home” properly. So they removed the third row later on. In a nutshell, the top spin brings you up to a Durga that you “awaken” and you did a full rotation into an “ice” ceiling. You then did another rotation, this time suspended over “lava”, which is actually just lit up water that shoots up at you from the bottom. You do one more rotation before a blast of fog ends the ride.

    Because of it being the Giant version of this ride, it was just hell for the maintenance staff to keep up with. It was by no means unsafe, but the issues were obnoxious enough for it to be closed constantly. In fact, ride ops gave it the nickname “2-9 The Ride” (2-9 being the department code for “ride down for electrical and/or mechanical reasons) because of how consistently it was down. I would work this ride occasionally, and the regular staff frequently lamented how spotty the reliability was.

    Eventually, Cedar Fair bought out the Paramount Parks chain (Kings Island, Kings Dominion, Great Adventure, Carowinds, Canada’s Wonderland, Star Trek: The Experience) and had to strip all the Paramount/Viacom theming from the park. This basically meant that they couldn’t use the Tomb Raider IP and renamed it “The Crypt” and gave it a really shitty theme job until they dismantled the ride in 2012. It was quite the “fuck it” adjustment, and the building only exists for use in their Halloween Haunt attractions nowadays.

    I could delve deeper into certain bits of park history, but I felt that the Tomb Raider fiasco was worth sharing. You tend to learn a lot from coaster nerds as an employee, hilariously.

    1. King’s Island had rides for Face/Off, Top Gun and Outer Limits. They had Nickelodeon Land, kid coasters based on Fairly Odd Parents, Rugrats and Last Airbender (among many others).
      Before Nickeldeon it was Hannah Barbarra Island (Chris had mentioned Kentucky Kingdom but that isn’t accurate. They’re close enough to make the mistake.) A Smurf ride similar to Its a Small World, Scooby Doo haunted house, flintstones, huckleberry hound, all your favorites. I loved it. It’s all generic now.
      Also an entire episode of Brady Bunch takes place at King’s Island

  20. The fact that someone killed themselves at the Minions ride made me laugh hard, and then immediately feel fucking awful, but holy shit.

    Also Jimmy Fallon having a ride is just… WHO WANTED THIS

  21. I have a sorta sweet story regarding this episode.
    I’m at my parents, up early trying to make breakfast for everyone listening to this episode while making omelettes. My dad, who and this is a little sad, pretty much hates everything I do, doesn’t really say shit when he gets up, he’ll accept the coffee, normally I’d pause the podcast because he’s got his shows and is just grumpy af. But for being 6’5″ and old he’s as quiet as a wraith and I didn’t know he was even awake. He had been listening to you guys while I cooked and I couldn’t read his expression at all as he’s even grumpier in the morning. I leave it going as he’s not saying anything as I finish up cooking, he turns down the omelette even though he eats one most days and I know how he likes them. I go and pause the show as I’m about to wash up and he finally makes a sound. He actually laughed a little and said you guys were really funny. I’m able to mention its a podcast and he chimes in again that you’re really good and that I should have let it keep playing. Before I can back to the phone (as I’m cleaning up) he turns on Let’s Make a Deal starting his daily routine of that, PIR, Law & Order re-runs, The Talk, Dr. Phil more Law and Order or NCIS reruns and I’ll have to wait until a commercial at very least to see if he’d want me to show him how to hear more of you guys. I already used one comercial break to explain you have different shows and he sounded interested in 30-20-10 but then I had to shut up as Let’s Make a Deal is Back.

    I might be his only daughter but I know I can’t compete with Wayne Brady lol
    ~ Dea

  22. Love episodes on theme parks, US parks are just so much better than what we have in the UK. My wife got me to marry her on a promise the honeymoon would be 2 weeks at disney n Universal at Halloween as it has always been a dream of mine to do the universal hallwoween horror nights n lucky me I got to go the year they did cabin in the woods, resi evil 2, america werewolf in London, evil dead and walking dead with the prison as the setting.
    We do have some big rides in the UK like in blackpool the Pepsi max big one was the tallest and fastest ride in the world at the time of opening and at alton towers we had air which was the first ride I think where the seats rotated forward so you were facing the floor and it kind of felt like u were flying like superman if you were in the front row if not ur you were stuck looking at the feet and the bottom of the seat of the person in front of you, but now on that ride i think the tv ads said it was the worlds first vr roller coaster where u wear vr helmets and on the ride you are flying round in space.

  23. My BEST recent theme park experience was at the Osaka Universal Studios, where at the time (April 2016) had a Resident Evil/Biohazard Escape Room challenge. Imagine the interaction of an escape room, but with the budget of a theme park ride. It took place in a BUILDING with multiple floors, dressed up as a medical research facility. All the guests were there under the guise of tourists of this facility, but something goes horribly wrong as terrorists attack and start releasing a virus and generally starting shit. Everyone formed groups of 6 and went into the facility trying to figure out the cure to the virus and escape the building. With zombie and Umbrella corps actors running around play fighting, the immersion was so on point and it was easily the best theme park experience I had.

  24. I consider myself lucky to have been on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride before it was ripped out for Pooh. Alas I was too scared of the slime fountain klaxons to set foot in Nickelodeon Studios…and at the time I was at Universal they basically weren’t taping anything there as far as I know (it was around 2001-2)

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