Every Disney theme park attraction is somebody's favorite. While there are clearly favorites among large groups (basically everybody loves the Haunted Mansion), the diversity of fans inside the Disney Parks is so great that if you look hard enough, I'm sure you'll find somebody who loved Stitch's Great Escape more than anything. And yet, if there's such a thing as a Disney theme park attraction that nobody liked, that dubious distinction might belong to Superstar Limo, a short-lived dark ride that was part of Disney California Adventure's on opening day, but didn't survive too many days after that.
It's rare for Disney theme park attractions to just completely miss the mark, and to be sure, there's more to the story of Superstar Limo than just it being a bad attraction. There was a combination of factors involved in this one, and above all of them, simply bad luck as the result of a tragedy. Here's how Superstar Limo came to be, and just as quickly, came to be gone.
The Birth Of Disney's California Adventure
The process of deciding what to do with Disneyland Resort's second gate was one that deserves a feature unto itself (note for future). But eventually, it was decided that Disney would try to encapsulate an entire California vacation in a single place. The idea was that instead of traveling everywhere from Hollywood to the Napa wine country, and also Disneyland, tourists could experience all those things in one place, and thus spend more time at Disneyland. It was a dubious concept from the start, but as a layout for a theme park, it wasn't a bad choice. You could visit the California Redwoods, the wine country, the Santa Monica Pier and Hollywood, all with their own Disney flavor.
Of the three attractions that made up the new Hollywoodland area, two of them would be transplants from Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and MuppetVision 3D. The third, however, would be an all-new attraction. Superstar Limo was a dark ride that was designed to have guests be invited by Disney CEO Michael Eisner himself to come to Hollywood to become stars. However, the paparazzi would be in pursuit, leading to a high-speed attraction that flew through Southern California. It would be full of jokes at the expense of Hollywood and celebrity culture. Whether or not this ride would have worked, we'll never know, because we never saw it.
The Death Of Princess Diana Changes Superstar Limo
The plans for Disney's California Adventure and Superstar Limo began in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, in August 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a car accident caused reportedly by her vehicle's attempts to avoid the paparazzi at high speed. Considering that this was basically the premise of Superstar Limo at the time, the entire concept had to be scrapped. The ride wouldn't be out for years, and despite the concept existing prior to the accident, it would look like the ride was trying to make light of a tragedy.
Ground hadn't even broken on the new theme park yet when the accident occurred. That would happen the following January, but the fact was that there simply wasn't the budget to replace Superstar Limo with something new. Disney's California Adventure was being built in the aftermath of EuroDisneyland, and that park's slow start had a negative impact on the budget for everything that came after for years.
A new version of Superstar Limo was conceived, but it seems that even those within Walt Disney Imagineering weren't really on board with it. Still, for whatever reason, Disney CEO Michael Eisner gave it the green light, though he, perhaps unsurprisingly, removed himself from the attraction. Now, Superstar Limo would be a mostly peaceful ride through Los Angeles that would take riders past caricatures of many Hollywood celebrities, like Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan and Regis Philbin. The storyline is that your agent, Swifty La Rue, has sent a limo to pick you up to take you to your big Hollywood premiere. and on the way, you'd see these various celebrities pop out complete with (bad) voice impressions of the famous celebs.
While the concept was simple, it still could have been something fun, except that the execution was equally simple. The celebrity characters were barely more than stationary figures, and the stylized look, which resembled rejects from Sid and Marty Kroft, didn't help matters. In addition, the fact is that the majority of the "celebrity" characters, like Drew Carrey, Regis Philbin and Tim Allen, were all performers with a history of working with ABC and Disney, or they actually had shows on ABC at the time the ride opened. This was likely done for speed and efficiency, as rights management for the likenesses was easier, but it came across to many that the ride was little more than a commercial.
The slower ride speed also meant a need to increase the number of gags, and while Southern California locals and Hollywood insiders probably found them funny, they weren't seen as all that funny by many riders.
The fact that Disney's California Adventure was itself not given the best reviews at the outset didn't help. There was a general feeling that the park was built on the cheap, and Superstar Limo became the poster child for that feeling. Eleven months after the park and attraction opened, Superstar Limo closed for good, making it the first casualty of the new park.
The Legacy of Superstar Limo
It took years before an actual new attraction replaced Superstar Limo, thus indicating the feeling that the ride was so unpopular, providing nothing was better than people experiencing Superstar Limo and being unimpressed by it.
In 2006, the Superstar Limo space was replaced with Monsters Inc: Mike & Sully to the Rescue, a dark ride that takes guests through the story of the original Monsters Inc. film. The attraction uses the same ride path, with the original limos replaced by Monstropolis taxi cabs. In addition, many of the original celebrity "animatronics" have survived into the new version of the ride, They've been covered over by the isolation suits worn by the CDA agents.
For the most part, Mike & Sully to the Rescue is better received if for no other reason than it's a better use of the attraction design. Disney's California Adventure was also a much smaller park at its inception, and thus one bad attraction was a bigger deal than it was later on. The Superstar Limo redress would be the first step in a major renovation for the park, which has largely fixed its major issues and has made the park much more popular with guests.
Not every theme park attraction can be an incredibly expensive E-ticket blockbuster. Some attractions will be smaller and less impressive. That's okay, a lot of people love smaller. dark rides as pleasant breaks from the wild thrill rides, but Superstar Limo was not pleasant by anybody's definition. I'm sure there were a few people who loved the inside jokes at Hollywood and Southern California culture, but even if there were people who didn't hate this one, I'm not sure anybody really misses it.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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