10 Movie-Based Theme-Park Rides That No Longer Exist
Disney’s Hollywood Studios just opened a new area called Toy Story Land, based on the classic Pixar film [checks notes] Toy Story. It includes a roller coaster inspired by the movie’s Slinky Dog toy, and another featuring the little aliens from the Pizza Planet claw game. Next summer, Hollywood Studios will expand further, will an entire section based on Star Wars, complete with a ride where you can pilot the Millennium Falcon and a hotel that will immerse guests in a galaxy far, far away.
Rides based on movies, in other words, are hugely important to theme parks. They’ve been a staple of amusements for decades, but many of the coolest rides based on films have already closed their doors forever. In their honor, here is a memorial tribute to 10 of the best (#RIP), along with a ride video for each where you can see what these experiences were like if you missed out them.
1. Ghostbusters Spooktacular
Based on Ghostbusters (1984)
Universal Studios Florida’s opening day attractions included this unique stage show that recreated the ending of the beloved 1980s sci-fi comedy using Pepper’s ghosts and a gigantic Marshmallow Man. It was reconfigured a few years into its run to incorporate a pre-show featuring Ricky Moranis’ character, Louis Tully, and was then closed for good in 1996 so that the space could be used for...
2. Twister... Ride It Out!
Based on Twister (1996)
The next attraction in the Spooktacular space was an interactive show based on Twister, a hugely successful blockbuster from 1996 that’s basically fallen down the memory hole because it didn’t spawn any sequels or tie-ins to keep it alive in the collective pop-cultural consciousness. Guests stood on a soundstage and watch as practical effects approximate the experience of surviving a close encounter with a tornado. Ride It Out! closed in 2015 and was replaced by a Jimmy Fallon ride, forever depriving the world of Bill Paxton’s most magnificently IDGAF performance, which we have written about at length here.
3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage
Based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Theme parks must always turn over their old attractions to create new thrills that will draw in customers. So movie-based rides are usually inspired by whatever is hot at the time (like Ghostbusters in the late ’80s or Twister in the mid-’90s). A rare and kind of hilarious exception is the submarine ride based on Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which first left port at the Magic Kingdom in the fall of 1971, more than 15 years after the Kirk Douglas movie debuted. Captain Nemo led Orlando tourists on a leisurely undersea journey for the next 23 years, before the subs were finally put into dry dock.
Based on King Kong (1976)
King Kong was originally a part of the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour, and he’s still represented at Universal Florida’s Islands of Adventure in a new attraction called Skull Island: Reign of Kong. In between, he jolted Universal fans at a fun dark ride called Kongfrontation, loosely based on the 1976 version of the character. Guests boarded trams that were supposedly evacuating New Yorkers in the midst of a King Kong attack. If it sounds like a questionable way to escape a giant gorilla, it was! Kong attacked the tram a few times, seemingly grabbing and shaking the entire car. The kongfrontations permanently ceased in 2002 and were replaced by a Mummy rollercoaster. The ride is best remembered for Kong’s “banana breath”; literally the giant animatronics spewed scents into the air that made it smell like he’d just eaten bananas.
5. Drop Zone: Stunt Tower
Based on Drop Zone (1994)
Though the company no longer exists, there was a period not that long ago that Paramount attempted to compete in the theme park space with Disney and Universal juggernauts. Paramount Parks owned several amusement parks around the country and like their bigger competition, Paramount would theme rides to its properties, like a roller coaster based on the Mini Cooper chase in The Italian Job (you can see more about that here). Unfortunately in order to find themes to match the rides, Paramount had to dip pretty deep into its library. And so a bunch of drop towers got named after Drop Zone, a Wesley Snipes action thriller about skydiving crooks that grossed less than $30 million.
6. Star Tours
Based on Star Wars (1977)
Yes, the adventure continues at Star Tours locations in California, Florida, Paris, and Japan. But the current ride is actually an updated version of the original Star Wars simulator ride, with a new branching ride film and C-3PO and R2-D2 serving as hosts. The first version of Star Tours, which has been replaced at every installation, had a different film, and a different robot pilot: RX-24 or “Rex,” voiced by Paul Reubens.
Based on Wayne’s World (1992)
This former Paramount Parks ride technically still exists (at Carowinds Park in North Carolina) minus the Wayne’s World theming that it originally featured. (Puking, or “hurling,” is a running joke in the Wayne’s World franchise.) Turning a comedy about a bunch of goofy dudes who host a cable-access TV show into a thrill ride is some the most out-of-the-box thinking in theme park history. Tragically, when Paramount sold their parks in the mid-2000s the Hurler lost all its Wayne’s World setting, including an impressive recreation of Wayne’s basement.
8. Back to the Future: The Ride
Based on Back to the Future (1985)
Poor, Back to the Future: The Ride. You were so great, but you were also set in the distant “future” of 2015, a place with flying cars and Pepsi Perfect. At a certain point, it became clear this utopia was never coming to pass. (The real future wound up looking more like the dark version of 1985, what a bummer.) And so the terrific Back to the Future simulator ride, where guests flew in remote-controlled DeLoreans, was retired at all the Universal Studios parks. It held on longest in Japan, where it didn’t close for good until 2016, which meant that for a few hilarious months its jump into the “future” was technically backwards into the past. (Fun Fact: The Back to the Future ride film was written by future Ant-Man director Peyton Reed.)
9. The Great Movie Ride
Based on various
The flagship attraction at the launch of Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) was this lengthy dark ride through the history of American film, rendered in impressive (if sluggish) animatronics. Highlights included a tour through Munchkinland from The Wizard of Oz and an ancient tomb from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Housed inside a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Great Movie Ride lumbered on for almost 30 years before finally closing in 2017 to make way for a new Mickey and Minnie Mouse attraction in the same location. We wrote about the history of the Great Movie Ride and what its demise means at length here.
10. Luigi Flying Tires
Based on Cars (2006)
When Cars Land opened at Disney’s Calfifornia Adventure park in 2012, it had three rides: Radiator Springs Racers, where guests boarded approximations of the cast of the post-apocalyptic Pixar series about a world where humanity has gone extinct and been replaced by sentient cars, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, and Luigi’s Flying Tires. That last attraction, loosely based on a Flying Saucers ride at Disneyland from half a century earlier, was a sort of high-tech bumper cars, with guests bouncing around in tire-shaped vehicles floating on puffs of air. Visitors reportedly found the tires difficult to pilot and in 2015, Disney closed the attraction. But don’t feel bad for Luigi: He got a new ride, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, in its place.
Gallery - Amazing Movie Theme Park Rides That Were Never Built: