The awesome array of attractions that make up the scene of Walt Disney World Resort today is spectacular indeed. But did you know that several of them actually pay homage to former follies that went defunct long ago? That’s right, not all those Disney favorites of yesteryear are completely gone. From repurposed parts and pieces to cleverly incorporated shoutouts, here are 12 examples of today’s Disney attractions giving a nod or two to former ones.
12. Looking Beyond Horizons
Longtime Disney Park-goers to EPCOT may remember that before there was a Mission: SPACE attraction, in its place there existed Horizons. Now regarded as a historical cult classic with a fan following that’s still surprisingly large today, Horizons ran between the years 1983 to 1999 and featured profuse conceptual presentations of what the future could be, with animatronics at the heart of all the presentations.
While Horizons has moved beyond the horizon of existence, its memory remains alive today with quite a couple of callouts worth taking note of. First, there is that large rotating wheel that Guests in line for Mission: SPACE must pass by, featuring all those different living areas. And at the very heart of it all, an observant eye can see that former Horizons logo.
The logo is also present at the cash register desk in Mission: Space’s adjoining Cargo Bay store. Note, there is also a reference to the former Mission to Mars/Flight to the Moon attractions in the Mission Control room via an image of a bird landing — part of the former attractions’ pre-show films.
Over at Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom Park, there is another subtle callout to Horizons. If you look carefully at the conveyor belt near the exit of Space Mountain, you will notice a Mesa Verde sticker on a suitcase. Mesa Verde was one of the three optional destinations that Horizon riders could choose for their personalized finale flyover.
On another interesting note, one of Disney World’s newest attractions pays its own homage to Horizons. In the pre-show for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Star-Lord makes reference to several old EPCOT attractions, including the Universe of Energy, Kitchen Kabaret, and Horizons.
11. Test Track’s Time-Tested References
When Test Track opened at EPCOT back in 1999, it replaced the former World of Motion attraction. By 2012, it underwent a refurbishment that actually ended up incorporating several nods to both the former World of Motion attraction and some tributes to the original plan for EPCOT Center.
One of the more subtle yet repeated references that observant Guests may notice is the careful placement of the World of Motion’s swirled logo upon various objects like exit signs, trashcans, et cetera.
There are also two signs you will pass during that grand fast-paced part of the ride when the doors bust open and you’re zipping along the roadway at high speeds. One of these signs features a cityscape scene much like the futuristic EPCOT city as depicted in the original concepts. Note that there is also a similar EPCOT tribute during the brakes test.
The second sign displays the anagrammed message “FN2BFRE” — a callout to the song “It’s Fun to be Free,” as featured in The World of Motion.
10. Mr. Toad Hasn’t Completely Croaked
If you’ve been to Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park any time between its grand opening year of 1971 and 1998, you may recollect there was a Disney World version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which still exists today at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
The ride eventually closed in order to make way for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which occupies Mr. Toad’s former “pad” so to speak. But this antiquated amphibian isn’t “toad”ally gone from the Park. In fact, you can see a portrait of him still, right in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride posing alongside Owl right within Owl’s treehouse. There’s also a portrait of Mr. Mole — another character from the same storyline.
On a more sinister note, there is a very grim tribute to Mr. Toad that can be found right within the pet cemetery right outside of the Haunted Mansion attraction. It is a tombstone with a toad shape on top.
9. Finding the Dreamfinder
No, it wasn’t all a dream. Between the years of 1983 and 1998, back when Journey into Imagination with Figment was simply Journey into Imagination, you may have vague memories of Figment’s redheaded creator — the Dreamfinder. He was a beloved character who used to travel around the world collecting dreams in his dream catcher to bring back to Dreamport.
After a refurbishment of the attraction, he and Figment were entirely scrapped, until Figment was eventually brought back into the mix with a third reboot. The Dreamfinder, however, was altogether lost. But was he really? There is still a tiny, easy-to-miss reference to him on the current attraction. Just look carefully at one of the doors and observe how it actually reads “Dean Finder” on it.
Also, observant visitors to Mouse Gear may also notice that the Dreamfinder’s original vehicle can be found on location here as well.
8. A “Moving” Tribute to The Great Movie Ride
The Great Movie Ride was a fan favorite Park attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM) that ran between 1989 and 2017. This attraction took Guests on the ultimate epic journey through some of the most iconic films of all time, and the decision to close the ride in order to make way for a long overdue attraction featuring Mickey and Minnie was a controversial one indeed.
But to soften the blow somewhat, fans of the original as well as those folks who like a good Easter egg can take note of the subtle homage that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Rail pays to its predecessor. It’s in the carnival scene where the observant eye will notice a poster advertising “The Great Moving Ride” — a subtle, easily overlooked play on the Great Movie Ride attraction title.
7. The Nautilus “Rocks” On
Both Disneyland Park as well as Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park at one time featured Submarine Voyage attractions — both of which have since been replaced. Disneyland’s version was given a Finding Nemo retheme, while the area in Disney World’s Fantasyland that once featured their 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was redone entirely after the attraction closed back in 1994.
Guests can still take a different kind of plunge into a wonderful watery attraction here, though; it comes in the form of Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. And while you are standing in the queue, pay careful attention to the rock formations over the water. It is a clever, subtle recreation of the Nautilus from the former attraction.
6. The “Spitting” Image of Former Camels?
In most cases, being spit on is never a fun experience. But it is for those folks who come out to Adventureland in Magic Kingdom Park to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. In fact, it’s to be expected. But don’t those camels look a bit familiar? They may if you ever attended the former Aladdin Caravan parade procession back in Hollywood Studios (Disney-MGM), which ran from 1992 to 1995.
Yes, those camels were a part of all the action, having found a brief home as decorations featured in the since-removed Soundstage Restaurant before their repurposing for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. On a separate note, the 32-foot Genie from that same parade was re-featured in Disney’s Magical Moments Parade, which ran between 1996 and 2001.
5. The “Buzz” About Delta Dreamflight
Before Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin came to Tomorrowland over at Magic Kingdom Park, there was a Delta Airlines-sponsored attraction known as Delta Dreamflight. This attraction ran from 1989 to 1998 and replaced an earlier one — If you Had Wings/If You Could Fly, which was sponsored by Eastern Airlines before then.
In one scene of Delta Dreamflight, Guests enjoyed flying through a barn scene, which featured a couple of kooky chickens. Flash forward to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and these same chickens are still clucking about.
4. A Hidden Wiseacre Wisecrack
This one is about as subtle as you can get. Remember when The Barnstormer over at Fantasyland was known as The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre? This was the time between 1996 and 2011 prior to the massive Fantasyland expansion. It’s interesting to note that the former Barnstormer featured animatronic chickens that were repurposed from EPCOT’s even more-former World of Motion attraction.
Ironically, now the Wiseacre theme for this very Goofy roller coaster is also retired. All that remains is a very subtle remnant: the wood in the current attraction’s entrance sign. Look closely and a keen eye can see that the back part of the sign clearly displays parts of the old “Wiseacre” sign.
3. Maelstrom Didn’t “Let It Go” Entirely
Most folks today are familiar with the fact that before Frozen Ever After was the noted Norway Pavilion attraction, there was another classic dark water ride in its place: Maelstrom. An EPCOT staple from 1988 to October 2014, the storyline depicted a representation of Norse history and included several animatronic callouts. Among those were a couple of puffins.
Well, fellow birdwatchers rejoice, because the puffins seen in the last scene of the current ride are the same birds from Maelstrom. It’s also worth mentioning that the same boats carrying Guests through the former follies are still operating here.
2. Tom Morrow’s Presence Today
Have you ever wondered what the significance was behind that cryptic announcement they make while you’re onboard the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover? It goes a little something like this: “Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow. Please contact Mr. Johnson in the control tower to confirm your flight to the moon.” Well, this actually serves as an ingenious series of multiple references to quite a couple of former (long-defunct) attractions featuring the fictional character of Tom Morrow.
Mr. Morrow hosted both Disneyland’s Rocket to the Moon attraction and the Magic Kingdom’s Flight to the Moon (both later renamed Mission to Mars). He also played host to Innoventions over in EPCOT. For the former, the character of Mr. Johnson later replaced Mr. Tom Morrow, which better explains the relevance of the entire quote.
1. Snow White’s Scary Reprisal
It’s no secret that Guests today enjoy the Magic Kingdom’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. But there was a very different Snow White and the Sven Dwarfs-themed attraction that predated it. Snow White’s Scary Adventures closed back in 2012 as part of a massive Fantasyland expansion, and the construction of a new Princess Fairytale Hall.
But not all is gone and forgotten, as several of the features from the former attraction have been repurposed and given reprised roles in the current coaster. For instance, you can still spot that pair of vultures up ahead as you ride into the mine. You will also see a quaint little cottage scene at the finale featuring many familiar faces.
There are numerous other references to former Disney attractions throughout various other locations within Walt Disney World Resort beyond the Parks. Additionally, other Disney Resorts around the world as well as the Disney Cruise Line boast their own carefully-laced tributes.
Finding all these subtle nods to classic Disney getting a second wind — a new life so to speak — is heartwarming and endearing. But we wouldn’t expect anything else from Disney.