Is Change at Disney Always a Move Forward?

Editor: I would like to welcome a new guest author today, Alison.

There is a lot of change happening in the Disney Parks right now. On a trip to California Adventure earlier this month I could not believe how much disruption the construction work was causing. Even though the changes will bring improvements that are long overdue, I felt sad for anyone who was visiting the park for a one time trip of a lifetime. They would not have been expecting to be greeted with the sights and sounds of so much construction work.

But change to the park is necessary. Just as a new Star Tours and the expansion of Fantasyland were needed.

As Walt Disney himself said:

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world”.

But change can be unsettling. We all get attached to what is familiar. I started thinking about which attractions I would be most upset to see altered in any way. Here are some that I hope don’t change for a long time to come. No version 2.0.

Peter Pan’s Flight

One of my personal favorites. There have been some changes along the way but the ride really remains true to its original self. Perhaps the only change that would be welcome is some pixie dust to make the line shorter. Oh, and a Fast Pass for the Disneyland ride. Please.

Test Track

A thrill ride for those of us who are too scared to truly like really scary rides!

Yes it breaks down a lot (usually when I am just about to get in the car) but this is one of the best Disney rides. Even the child swap waiting area is entertaining – it is amazing how much time you can spend letting your toddler pretend to drive a brand new car.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

When asked which of the Disney attractions is a definite must see this is always at the top of my list. Fireworks, music, pyrotechnics, this one has the lot. Always the perfect end to an Epcot day this is one of the best shows Disney has ever produced.

Every time I watch Illuminations though it reminds me too of a very much missed Epcot parade – Tapestry of Nations. Now if we were on the topic of attractions to be brought back that would be number one on the list……..


This is certainly not the most technically advanced, nor is it the most thrilling ride, but there is something appealing about this dark ride in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot World Showcase. Of course most people skip the movie at the end, but the ride is well worth experiencing.

It’s A Small World

We all know that we will never get that song out of our head but we still love this magical boat ride. Yes it did make my list but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of my all time favorites.

It did get a make over a couple of years ago when popular characters such as Nemo, Stitch and Ariel were included for the first time. Not everyone was happy with the new look including Kevin Blair, the son of the original designer Mary Blair. Mr Blair described the changes as “a gross desecration of the ride’s original theme.”

* * *

That Disney attractions inspire such strong emotions is an indication of just how successful the Imagineers are at capturing our enthusiasm. No one finds it easy to say goodbye to an old friend. That Last Trip To Endor was a difficult one for me. Yes I know it was dated and I had been there so many times, but it was sad to go on the final flight.

Sometimes we must make way for the new imagination in the world. But I hope that some things stay just the way they are.

Alison Meacham has visited Disney World and Disneyland so many times that her children think it is normal to see Mickey Mouse at breakfast. She is a little obsessed with Disney and is the writer of the EverythingMouse blog

10 thoughts on “Is Change at Disney Always a Move Forward?”

  1. The one thing I wish would come back is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was cheesy yes, but so cool. It saddens me my sons never got to ride.

  2. Technically, Disneyland’s Peter Pan & It’s a Small World are both already Version 2.0. Peter was completely rebuilt in the 1983 Fantasyland makeover and you even mentioned the bizarre, unwarranted additions to Small World. (I won’t even ride SW anymore it makes me so angry.) Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room is one that I would put on this list. (Mostly for sentimental value, as it reminds me of my grandparents. Plus, I hear Disney World’s Version 2.0 is terrible.)

    The list of attractions that have been changed (or removed!) and shouldn’t have is unfortunately long. There have been good changes though. The rebuild of Disneyland’s Space Mountain is a vast improvement.

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  5. Disney has to change or it would disappoint those who come again and again and those who just arrive… and it’s not McDonalds where they serve the same food over and over. We visit McDonalds mostly for the taste of the fries… they can’t change that…because that is why we go to Mickey Dees in addition to the fact that it’s always fun to remember when we were young with our friends and parents visiting Mac Donald’s. But the McDonalds menu and retail store has changed drastically too.

    What makes Disney so great is ….the very reason you write the blog… to share the memories and personal experiences and to remember. Without change the experiences would always be the same. Disney does change. It changes every minute and has always made huge changes almost every day, week, month specifically throughout the year! Disney has never been the same. I started visiting Disney when I was 6 years old in 1962; it had already changed drastically from the 1954 grand opening. 1971 Walt Disney World was opened and it really has changed every year too. Disney never stays the same. And it shouldn’t. Your memories of rides and SW, Peter Pan, TIki room are just that…yours! They belong to you and no one else. The Tiki room was lame back when it first came out even with the great advanced technology…that is why you remember it. And it will be lame with the new version 20. However, the experience won’t be the same and the memories at the tiki room were great… 20 leagues under the sea, Swiss Family Tree house change or left. I remember the antique cars in 1964. I would not want to ride them now. It would change my memories of them n 1964. They were 40 years old in 1962. The race cars replaced them in the 1970’s. I have memories of both. Dumbo is Dumbo and the tea cups are the tea cups… can’t really change them, but I wish the rides were larger so the lines would be smaller. If Disney as any problem its long lines for popular rides. The new Toy Story ride is the most popular ride at WDW. My 2 year old granddaughter just loves it.
    At 54 I can’t get it…. what is the fuss about?
    I cry at the sight of my grandchildren screaming to ride it or visit Buzz light year or see Mickey in the parade. The parades are incredible and get better every year. How do they do that? That is what really amazes me is how they continue to improve or change such a great place so the memories are fresh with each visit. Look at the Disney costumes. Watch YouTube Disney costumes 1962 or the Disney grand opening in 1954. You’ll be glad it changed with the times and the improvements.
    We believe in Santa Clause and have memories of Christmas pasts. That is what makes memories so great because they are uniquely personal. They are ours. IF you were to really knew Disney and visited every year the way you say you do…you would know that. The changes happen without ruining old memories. New ones don’t replace they add. The real joy is sharing time and events with your family and love ones. Those are our memories and the ones that never change when and if the rides do.
    If you don’t believe me…visit Walt and the Dream at WDW. Take the underground tour…or
    Go visit Disney on you tube 1954 and see the place and how we dressed to go enjoy Disney. The fun is the same, the excitement is the same, but the place is not! Just like Snow White 1932 premiere it was only new once. It’s been over 80 years and it’s still a great movie and classic. IT hasn’t changed since 1932; I have many new memories of watching it with my kids. I have lots of memories with each child and grandchild watching old and brand new movies. It’s still great. But who doesn’t like a Disney movie. I recently saw Tangled with my niece and was in awe in how they can keep pumping out these great movies telling the same old story over and over.
    It’s all about the Magic! Mickey has changed over the years and he looks great. Change at Disney is good and hopefully they will never stop making dreams come true.

  6. Part of the charm of IASM is that it doesn’t change! I really hope they leave it the way it is–it’s like coming home. Well, I mean, if you’re home is full of slightly crazy looking, bright colored dolls who keep singing the same song over and over again.

  7. I hate change but I love what’s happening at Magic Kingdom, with the new Fantasyland. My husband and I were saddened that Mickey and Minnie’s houses and Toontown will be gone, but we are excited to see what will replace it. I’m also excited to see the new Tiki Room that will be restored to it’s original show due to the fire that took out the current show. I never seen the first show so I’m glad that it will be changing. All I would like to see changed is the ridiculous wait times for rides like Toy Story Mania, Soarin’, Space Mountain, and now the new Star Tours. I have a annual pass and due to the long lines, my husband and I opt to come back another time when the lines aren’t so long than wait an hour for a five minute ride, usually the lines just get longer throughout the day and if I was paying for a single day ticket, I would be furious.

  8. Rebecca Schwesig

    I’m always a little worried when another change is announced. By nature I’m a nostalgic person (as I suspect are many Disney fans), so I worry that they will take away something that for me was a quintessential part of the Disney parks experience. Most of the time, they manage to pull off necessary updates without cutting out the soul of the attraction.

  9. To answer the question posed in the title, no. Change at Disney is not always a move forward. All change at Disney has the potential to be a move forward, if it respects the tradition and ideas on which Disneyland and Walt Disney World were built, are respectful of the source material, respectful of theme, etc. However, Disney has a history of making some decisions that seem very devil-may-care. I totally understand that The Walt Disney Company is just that, a company, and they must consider profits and shareholders in their operations. However, Disney as a company is unique in the Zeitgeist and people’s memories because of the quality of its product and how it endears the customer. Disney is the source of many wonderful memories and childhood (and adult) experiences the world over, and therefore has more of a responsibility to respect that.

    I could create a gigantic list of what I believe should change and what I hope is never touched, but I will spare readers and comment on those already mentioned:

    Peter Pan’s Flight: This was the very first attraction I rode on my very first trip to Walt Disney World, and will always have a special place in my heart because of it. The narrative is cohesive and the presentation is charming and, save for technical improvements and refurbishment, I agree that its current incarnation should stay as such for a long time.

    Test Track: I will not be able to comment on Test Track objectively, as I think its replacement of World of Motion is indicative of significant issues that continue to plague Future World.

    IllumiNations: I think if there is one form of entertainment in WDW that I would fight tooth and nail to exist for all eternity and never be changed, it would be IllumiNations. Reflections of Earth is perfection.

    Maelstrom: I see no need to touch the ride itself, but the accompanying movie is in dire need of updating.

    IASW: I was unaware of the inclusion of Disney characters in IASW before I read this, and it is absolutely abhorrent. However, I feel that rides such as IASW (Carousel of Progress immediately comes to mind) are ripe for defilement because they are misunderstood.

    As I said, change can be good. The changes coming to DCA? INCREDIBLY welcome. The Fantasyland Forest? Mostly welcome (the Little Mermaid dark ride is quite nice and I have high hopes that the Snow White Mine Ride can better represent Walt’s first animated classic better than WDW’s SWSA. I do not like the fact that SWSA is being replaced with a meet and greet, but I have issues with how WDW handles character greetings…). As previously state, Walt himself said that Disneyland would never be finished. However, those who use that quote as justification for any manner of change violates the spirit of Walt’s vision.

  10. This post really got me thinking about my personal history with Disney parks. I was a cast member at Walt Disney World from 1995-2002 off and on. Most of that time I was at the Magic Kingdom where I saw a lot of changes. Certainly one of the things that make the parks so special is the fact that they are constantly reinvented.

    The nostalgic part of me hates saying good buy to many of the classic attractions, parades etc. I also love discovering new experiences and look forward to many more. Now I have the opportunity to share those new memories with my sons. It’s really amazing to see how the same Disney magic that I felt as a kid is now being passed on to each of them. I can’t wait for our upcoming trip to Disneyland this fall. Thanks to all the imagination left in the world I’m sure it will be another unforgettable adventure.

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