Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The slight melancholy of remembering closed Disney rides

Disneyland. Walt Disney World. EPCOT Center. My Disney experiences. I've been to Disneyland...once? Twice? Thrice? I'm not sure. I've been to Disney's Florida parks, the two it had at the time, in Spring Break 1984, during fourth grade. I have not been to a Disney park since. I can still miss it.

Each time was memorable, in good ways. Space Mountain was too much for me: after the ride, I asked to go again and tried to front that I'd had a good time, I even think I thought I'd had a good time, but my mom told me she'd heard how I'd yelled on it and it wasn't a happy yell. I had a much better time running around and through Tom and Huck's Treehouse and the Swiss Family Robinson House on Tom Sawyer Island. At one visit I was too worried that the Haunted Mansion would actually be scary, so I didn't go; my next time in a Disney park, I did, and loved it. And, of course, the people-watching is choice, both visitors and the park "residents" in character. Heck, even watching the logistics of Walt Disney World employees directing traffic to grassy overflow parking was intriguing. Disney people know their stuff.

Me being me, I loved EPCOT. Futuristic, sleek, designed to seem like a Seventies-Eighties vision of the future — though I know that it could be, at best, just a guess — plus its World's Fair-like pavilions for other countries, EPCOT engaged me. That's likely the part of the 1984 Walt Disney World visit that I remember most vividly. I took most of my pictures (with a camera I'd borrowed from my photographer Grandpa Irv) while there, including a very awkward angle on Spaceship Earth. (Tip: presumably unless you go really abstract, Spaceship Earth does not photograph well up close.)

I'm glad I went on Horizons, so I can remember that ride. It no longer exists — it was replaced by Mission: Space — but, to the delight of others like me who recall the attraction fondly, two friends risked arrest and their necks sneaking onto the ride and taking loads of photos. (Their blog shares far more than that article, if you feel like digging.) The sheer, immersive detail of Horizons, like so many Disney attractions, is boggling. And, now, gone.

So's the Disneyland ride Adventures Thru Inner Space. It meant nothing to me that Monsanto sponsored the ride: what struck me was the model illusion making it look like riders, entering the ride, were getting reduced to tiny size. (I KNEW IT WAS AN ILLUSION. Trust me.) Also gone.

So's the Disney World ride If You Had Wings. For some reason, it really stuck in my memory in 1984, even though by Disney standards it was, apparently, kind of tinny and low-tech. But it was calming, mainly thanks to that song. (Here's a ride-through.)

You can't enter the same river twice. You can't really enter the same Disney park twice, either. Three decades past my last visit — which I then followed up with a visit to Cape Canaveral, because yay real space flight! — and I know, intellectually, how different Disney is now. More parks, more rides, more attractions, more (fractally more) detail. The people at Disney know what they're doing.

Now I want new memories of Disney, though I don't know when I'll next go. But it's a nice thought.

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