The Disney theme parks around the world are in the middle of digging themselves out from a months-long closure, and both Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris are still shuttered, the former with no expectation of when its parks will reopen.
And yet, the parks have had no problem making the news following the announcement that a Marquee attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Splash Mountain, will be undergoing a major transformation from an attraction based on the controversial Song of the South to the far more easily palatable The Princess and the Frog.
The news was met with the expected variety of opinions. Some loved the decision, others don’t want to see the original version of the ride go away. Such a response was expected because it’s happened so many times before. Sometimes old rides get replaced by completely different experiences, and then there are instances where the core ride has been left alone, and only the skin surrounding it has been changed. Here are six times that the latter has happened before Splash Mountain.
Maelstrom/Frozen Ever After
Everybody loves Frozen, right? You wouldn’t have known that in 2014 when it was announced that Maelstrom, the boat ride attraction in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion would be closing down to see a retheme to go along with the record-breaking movie. The original attraction took riders through a vision of Norway that was both mythological, historical and modern, and it was a popular enough ride, but like all Walt Disney World attractions, it had fans that really loved it and hated to see it go.
While the Norway pavilion was a spot that made sense for a Frozen ride, which was called Frozen Ever After, and certainly made sense considering Anna and Elsa's popularity, a lot of people were sad to see Maelstrom go. Still, the ride itself saw no major changes. The ride layout and even the ride vehicles are the same as before. There are even some puffin animatronics you can spy that were saved from the old ride and put in the new one.
Disney California Adventure is one of Disney’s most interesting theme parks because really, in its own way, the entire park has seen a significant retheme to be something not quite the same as it was originally planned to be. Case in point, Paradise Pier, the area originally designed to feel like California’s Santa Monica Pier, became Pixar Pier in 2018.
As part of that change, the land’s roller coaster (the only one in the park), California Screamin’, became The Incredicoaster. The ride itself is the same, which is good because it's a unique attraction. It's the only Disneyland Resort roller coaster to include an inversion, and it’s one of the longer roller coasters in North America. Originally, the ride had no real theme beyond being a boardwalk-style attraction, bot now it includes a story about Edna Mode trying to babysit Jack-Jack. The only physical alteration comes in the form of scream tubes which show off the popular characters. Gone is the voice of Neil Patrick Harris and the awesome soundtrack.
The Great Movie Ride/Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Splash Mountain may be the next “new” ride we get at Walt Disney World, but the previous new ride comes to us as part of a very similar retheme at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway used to be The Great Movie Ride.
The Great Movie Ride took guests through animatronic sequences from a host of popular old movies that were part of Disney’s previous partnership with MGM, when the park was more about making movies and less about rides based on living inside them. Most people were happy to see Mickey and Minnie finally get their own theme park attraction, but there was a lot of love for the Great Movie Ride when it was announced it was going away.
El Rio Del Tiempo/Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Similar to Norway’s Maelsatrom, El Rio Del Tiempo was a boat-based dark ride in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion designed to take guests through the history of Mexico, It was a simple boat ride full of animatronic characters in locations inspired by Mexico, but like Norway, it would eventually be decided that the ride needed a bit of a Disney kick.
In 2007, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros opened. The ride was only closed for a few months as this was a pretty quick and dirty retheming. Animatronics were removed and replaced with screens that showed animated scenes of the Three Caballeros, though animatronic versions of Donald, Jose, and Panchito can now be found at the end of the attraction. While this was an odd choice since The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos aren’t exactly super popular Disney movies, it’s about the only option if you’re looking for something from Disney with a Mexican or South American theme.
Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror/Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout
Disney California Adventure's Avengers Campus was supposed to open this month, but due to the park closure, the land has been delayed. However, when DCA does reopen, there will be at least one Marvel ride available: Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout. The ride is only three years old, but before that, it was a very different attraction known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Mission: Breakout is still the same drop ride that Tower of Terror was, it’s just that now the ride has video screens showing off the cast of the MCU Guardians of the Galaxy movies and a 1970s pop soundtrack. On the plus side, the Walt Disney World version of the Tower of Terror still exists, and it’s the better version of the attraction anyway.
Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon/Space Mountain Mission 2/Hyperspace Mountain
One of the most interesting rethemes, which has sort of happened twice, in Disney history happened at a park that most from North America have probably never seen. Disneyland Paris’s version of Space Mountain exists in a land called Discoveryland, which is its version of Tomorrowland, designed to be a future that never existed. As part of that, the park got a version of Space Mountain unlike any in the world, which was themed after Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon.
Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain is the biggest and the fastest in the world, and its unique steampunk theming, combined with it being the first Space Mountain to include inversions, made it, from all reports, incredibly special. However, in 2005, the ride was redesigned into something that, while technologically superior, looked more like what traditional Space Mountain fans would be familiar with. Since 2017, the ride has been the Star Wars-themed Hyperspace Mountain that Disneyland has seen as a limited time reskin now and then, but appears to be semi-permanent in Paris.
Nobody likes to see their favorite rides change, and sometimes rides get replaced from the ground up with something entirely different. At least in these cases, as with Splash Mountain, the structure of the once-loved ride is still there. Even if a lot is different, you can still remember what it once was.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.