Rocket to the Moon closed and inspired several futuristic flight rides were equally unsuccessful.
Rocket to the Moon was a Disneyland opening day attraction in 1955 that placed guests in a giant rocket ship, or moonliner, standing in Tomorrowland. The futuristic simulation ride was sponsored by the now defunct airline TWA (Trans World Airline).
Guests sat in a circle with screens on the floor and ceiling in the center, which acted as windows and showed realistic scenes of taking off and circling the moon. When TWA’s sponsorship ended in 1961, Douglas Aircraft Company took over until 1966, when Tomorrowland was renovated. It was then closed and demolished.
It reopened as a larger attraction in 1967 with the new name Flight to the Moon, and was still presented by Douglas. A newly painted rocket stood outside the upgraded ride with new pulsating seats and audio-animatronics. It eventually became lackluster, though, after the US sent real astronauts to the moon several times between 1969 and 1972.
Disney closed the ride in 1975 and ended its Douglas sponsorship to create the new and improved ride, Mission to Mars, sans moonliner. Guests instead traveled to Mars rather than the moon. The ride lasted until 1992.
It was shuttered before becoming Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port restaurant and then the “Toy Story”-inspired Alien Pizza Planet restaurant in 2018, which has a moonliner standing outside once again.
After a boatload of passengers capsized, Mike Fink Keel Boats closed forever.
The Mike Fink Keel Boats attraction opened in the Rivers of America surrounding Tom Sawyer Island during Disney’s first Christmas in 1955. The ride incorporated just two boats — Mike Fink’s The Gullywhumper and Davy Crockett’s Bertha Mae — both original set pieces from the ABC programs “Davy Crockett’s Keel Boat Race” and “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.”
Seats and windows were added, holding 12 passengers each to ride around the river. The free-floating boats didn’t have tracks, which made skilled pilots necessary to operate them. Eventually the ride closed to add new double-decker boats that held 24 passengers each.
On a fateful day in 1997, The Gullywhumper capsized with a boatload of guests, some of whom sustained minor injuries. This ended the reign of the Mike Fink Keel Boats and served as its final ride-through.
After this, Bertha Mae was sold on eBay. The Gullywhumper returned to Tom Sawyer Island as a prop in 2003 and was removed and replaced with a look-alike boat in 2010 during a Frontierland renovation.
The Skyway cable cars transported guests around the park. It temporarily closed and was incorporated into a new ride before becoming unpopular.
The Skyway (also called Sky Buckets by guests) opened in 1956. The cable car ride ran two ways between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. It provided a unique mode of transportation and also gave amazing aerial views of the park. This ride was famously added to Disney World too.
When plans were made to create the Matterhorn Bobsleds, a roller coaster set inside a giant mountain structure, the Skyway was meant to be incorporated, so the cable cars closed for renovations in 1957.
The Matterhorn opened in 1959 along with the Skyway, which then fascinatingly ran through an opening at the top of the mountain.
As time went on, ridership became low and stress cracks from the weight of the Skyway started forming in the Matterhorn structure, becoming a safety concern. Rather than make costly renovations, Disneyland shut down the Skyway entirely in 1994.
The Tomorrowland station was demolished immediately to make room for the Indiana Jones Adventure ride and the Fantasyland station stayed untouched until 2016 when it was demolished for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge section of the park.
Rainbow Cavern Mine Train closed and transformed into Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, which also closed.
Rainbow Cavern Mine Train was a railroad ride designed by Walt Disney himself and added into the Living Desert, an area of Frontierland, in 1956.
The ride had vintage locomotive-style cars that ran around the Rainbow Ridge faux-town and a rainbow-colored mountain and desert. It also ran through a building that held the Rainbow Caverns. It was a dark room filled with colorfully lit waterfalls and pools of water.
It then closed in 1959 for refurbishments, opening a year later as Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, which included both old and new ride elements. The stagecoaches and wagons disappeared but the desert and caverns remained. Bear Country, Beaver Alley, and over 200 lifelike animal figures appeared.
The ride closed in 1977. It was then deconstructed to create the bigger and better thrill ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which still stands today. Portions of Rainbow Ridge and Beaver Alley still exist in the area.
Unpopular boat rides were replaced by Submarine Voyage, which included “live” mermaids. This also closed and spawned a new submarine ride.
The Tomorrowland Boats were an opening day attraction in Tomorrowland in 1955. Guests drove themselves in small motorized boats around a lagoon, which was deemed unexciting and unpopular. The boat engines also overheated and constantly needed repairs.
It closed within a month and reopened with the name Tomorrowland Phantom Boats, and updated engines, a pilot seat, and a futuristic design. However, the ride was still low-tier and the addition of pilots was costly. It closed in 1956.
In its lagoon location, the ride Submarine Voyage opened in 1959. It was based on the SS Nautilus — the world’s first nuclear powered submarine — which made a historic ride to the North Pole in 1958. The eight submarines were painted grey like the SS Nautilus and a portion of the ride mimicked going under an ice cap.
Riders looked through personal portholes that showed inanimate sea creatures, the lost continent of Atlantis, and cast members dressed as mermaids. The mermaids were magical but only appeared sporadically in 1959 and the mid-60s.
In the mid-80s, the ride shut down temporarily to be repainted a cheery yellow, perhaps inspired by The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” But in 1998, the ride officially closed and the space was unused until 2007, when the submarines were updated and used for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. This ride is now under construction as of June 2022.
Guests happily hovered and bounced in Flying Saucers, but the ride closed due to constant breakdowns.
Flying Saucers was a futuristic bumper car-style ride that opened in Tomorrowland in 1961. The ride had circular UFO-inspired cars that were rode individually and solely needed air pressure released from the floor to slightly hover, and just the guests’ body weight to change directions.
The saucers gave the impression of floating and when they bumped into each other, they uniquely bounced, rather than harshly hit like normal bumper cars.
The ride was a fan-favorite but constantly needed repairs so it closed in 1966 when Tomorrowland was undergoing a huge renovation. When that section of the park reopened in 1967, Flying Saucers was officially gone with a stage put in its place.
Years later, Space Mountain now sits in this location.
Adventure Thru Inner Space popularly shrunk guests to the size of a snowflake molecule, but it eventually closed to make way for a “Star Wars” ride.
With the opening of the new and improved Tomorrowland in 1967, Adventure Thru Inner Space made its debut. Presented by the now-defunct Monsanto Company, the high-capacity dark ride gave the impression of guests being shrunken down as they travelled through the Mighty Microscope and eventually through a snowflake molecule.
Guests rode “Atomobiles” along the first OmniMover system, a slow-moving track that’s now used in several rides across Disneyland and Disney World.
Even when Monsanto ended its sponsorship in 1977, the ride was very popular, and it remained open until 1985. It closed for the new highly anticipated ride, Star Tours, which opened in 1987.
Today, the ride pays homage to Adventure Thru Inner Space with an appearance of the Mighty Microscope, and is now called Star Tours — The Adventure Continues.
The PeopleMover’s leisurely journey was replaced by the high-thrill yet poorly-working Rocket Rods, which also closed.
Tomorrowland’s ’60s renovation also brought the PeopleMover, a slow-speed ride that shuttled guests along an above-ground track that swept throughout the park.
The PeopleMover rode over Autopia and the Submarine Voyage lagoon, under the Monorail, and through sections of rides like Adventure Thru Inner Space (later Star Tours), Space Mountain, and the former Carousel of Progress.
In 1977, the SuperSpeed Tunnel was added to a portion of the track that featured projections of race cars and, later in 1982, scenes from “Tron.” However, due to low ridership and another Tomorrowland renovation, the PeopleMover closed in 1995.
In 1998, a new high-speed thrill ride opened on top of the PeopleMover tracks: Rocket Rods. This ride was basically the same as its predecessor, except that it sped up faster and more often, and held fewer guests at a time.
However, because PeopleMover’s tracks were only meant to hold a slow-moving attraction, Rocket Rods had to decelerate at sharp curves, which ultimately led to wear and tear on the cars and tracks. In 2000, the ride quietly closed, but the tracks still remain in the park today.
Tacky celebrity caricatures and a lackluster plot contributed to the closing of Disney California Adventure’s Superstar Limo within a year.
Superstar Limo was planned to open with Disneyland’s new park Disney California Adventure Park in 2001 and it did … but only after huge changes to its plot and props. The original concept was guests-turned-superstars being told by then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner to rush through Hollywood while chased by paparazzi to get their movie contract signed at the Chinese Theatre.
However, on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana tragically died in a car accident reportedly from a paparazzi chase. The ride concept was deemed tasteless and the ride needed cost-effective changes before opening day.
Superstar Limo then became a slow-moving dark ride. Riding in purple limousines, guests passed cartoonish Hollywood landmarks and celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg, Tim Allen, Cher, Regis Philbin, and Drew Carey, and they were portrayed as tacky caricature figurines rather than animatronics.
It promptly shut down in 2002. Four years later, Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! replaced it. There are several elements from its predecessor in it including the same cars (that were painted yellow) and the caricatures (now covered by the film’s signature hazmat suits).
California Screamin’ was a highlight at Paradise Pier, but closed and reopened as the Incredicoaster after a rebrand.
Paradise Pier opened with Disney California Adventure Park in 2001 and was modeled after vintage beach and boardwalk culture. Its main attraction was California Screamin’, a steel roller coaster that had the look of a rickety wooden ride. The roller coaster had plenty of thrills including its famous 360-degree loop in front of a giant Mickey Mouse head.
In 2009, Paradise Pier was first renovated, but the popular roller coaster stayed mostly untouched. The only change was removing Mickey Mouse’s ears, and his head becoming a sun. A sign reading Paradise Pier was also added above it.
But then in 2018, California Screamin’ closed when the area was renovated again into the new Pixar Pier Boardwalk.
The roller coaster reopened, now standing in Incredibles Park and renamed and re-themed as the Incredicoaster. This updated version includes characters from “The Incredibles,” special effects, music, and a new backdrop behind the loop: the Pixar Luxo ball.
The Sun Wheel closed twice for renovations before becoming the current Pixar-themed Ferris wheel.
Also opening with the park in 2001 next to California Screamin’, the Sun Wheel and its giant smiling sun was the visual highlight of Paradise Pier. It also reimagined what a Ferris wheel could be.
In addition to stationary gondolas on the outer part of the wheel, other gondolas were on separate tracks on the inner part of the wheel, falling and swinging.
In 2009, when Paradise Pier was being renovated, the ride temporarily closed and was rebranded as Mickey’s Fun Wheel. The sun decoration was replaced with a vintage Mickey Mouse face with sun rays behind it, and the gondolas now had paintings of Mickey Mouse and his famous friends.
During the 2018 renovation into Pixar Pier Boardwalk, this version of the wheel also closed. It was renamed as Pixar Pal-A-Round, and is now covered with fresh paintings of beloved Pixar characters on the gondolas.
King Triton’s Carousel was an underwater dream, but it didn’t match the Pixar takeover, so it got a new look.
King Triton’s Carousel opened in Paradise Pier in 2001. The delightful carousel ride featured the king of the sea from “The Little Mermaid,” along with 56 different undersea creature seats, as opposed to standard horses.
However, when Toy Story Midway Mania! was added nearby in 2008, the different themes clashed, as “Toy Story” is Pixar and “The Little Mermaid” is classic Disney.
Eventually in 2018, the section became Pixar Pier, and King Triton’s Carousel closed. It reopened as the “Toy Story”-themed Jessie’s Critter Carousel with new animals to choose from and ride.
A Bug’s Land and all of its child-friendly attractions closed forever in 2018.
A Bug’s Land, inspired by “A Bug’s Life,” opened in Disney California Adventure in 2002. The area was geared towards preschoolers, giving the perspective of being a bug.
Its main attractions included the famous “It’s Tough to be a Bug!” show and several childrens rides.
Flik’s Flyers sent guests whirling and spinning in the air in makeshift hot air balloons. Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train sat passengers inside the bubbly caterpillar character through a food-infested garden.
But in 2018, these rides and all of A Bug’s Land closed entirely. Although popular with toddlers, this space was needed for a more modern and profitable endeavor: the Avengers Campus area, which opened in 2021.
Disney California Adventure’s Tower of Terror was a classic, but closed for a new “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride.
While The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has been a staple at Disney World since 1994, Disney California Adventure only introduced their version in 2004. The ride acts as a never-released episode of the “The Twilight Zone” in which five guests ride a 1930s Hollywood hotel elevator and are never seen again.
In the California ride, guests entered this same hotel to find the lost people while they rode the same service elevator and got sucked into the Twilight Zone. Special effects and optical illusions tricked and scared riders on their way up the hotel. The climax was a 13-story plummet when the elevator cable supposedly snapped.
Although a fan-favorite, Tower of Terror was set to close in 2017. For the final five months of the ride’s operation, a special “Late Check-Out” experience let guests ride in complete darkness after twilight.
After closing, it was quickly replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, which uses the same building.
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