Two new theme-park attractions are debuting inside the spaces that were the homes of long-running attractions.
The wicked witch has melted, and the terminator has left the building. This spring, two new theme-park attractions are moving into spaces that housed the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Terminator 2: 3D at Universal Studios. From the outside, there have been few visible changes. Disney recently installed a sign touting Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (debuting March 4), and Universal gave a paint job and sign for “The Bourne Stuntacular,” which opens sometime this spring.
Inside, of course, is a different matter, as both buildings have been shuttered for months to make a new space from an old attraction.
It’s not a new concept. There are spaces at Magic Kingdom — we’re looking at you, Tomorrowland — that have been several attractions over the past five decades. We compiled a list of 10 transformations and how they shook out. For this exercise, we skipped the times that parks went the scorched Earth route and plowed down the previous structures, such as Amity and Jaws into Diagon Alley at Universal Studios or the “Lights! Motors! Action!” show into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios.
So, put on your time-travel caps and remember yesterday like it’s today.
Twister, then Race Through New York
What it was: Twister: Ride It Out, Universal Studios. This walk-through attraction, itself a replacement for the “Ghostbusters” show, recreated tornado-like conditions as entertainment with support by very earnest “Twister” stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in the pre-show plus a flying cow as comic relief.
What it is: Race Through New York With Jimmy Fallon. The building got a significant face lift, and the simulator ride pulls in a lot of late-night characters for a trip through the Big Apple and way, way beyond.
Bottom line: Fallon’s Hashtag the Panda gets the edge over bovine aerial maneuvers.
Disaster, then Supercharged
What it was: Disaster: A Major Motion Picture Ride … Starring You!, Universal Studios. Cinematic special effects were explored with crowd participation, a simulated subway mishap and perhaps the most guffaw-worthy visual punchline of a ride ever. It involved lightning and a gardener, remember?
What it is: Fast & Furious: Supercharged. The car-driven attraction is a tribute to the “Furious” franchise and simulates a chase through San Francisco.
Bottom line: Insert your own joke about the renovation remaining a Disaster.
Back to the Future, then Simpsons
What it was: Back to the Future: The Ride, Universal Studios. Simulator where visitors boarded a faux DeLorean that, at 88 mph, chased Biff through time, back to the Ice Age and into the future (a.k.a. 2015), thanks to new Doc Brown technology. When it closed in 2007, the ride had gotten notoriously bumpy.
What it is: The Simpsons Ride debuted in 2008 with animated visuals and loads of wink-winks to theme-park life (old churros, out of control whale shows). And instead of flying into the mouth of a T. rex, we fly into the mouth of a giant radioactive baby Maggie.
Bottom line: The Simpsons are timeless.
Bermuda Triangle, then Wild Arctic
What it was: Mission: Bermuda Triangle, SeaWorld Orlando. The park entered the simulator game in 1992, and riders went virtually underwater for submarine rides.
What it is: Wild Arctic. In 1995, the means of transport was switched to helicopters, and real animals moved into the post-show.
Bottom line: We vote for reality, the hard, cold facts.
Snow White, then Fairytale Hall
What it was: Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Magic Kingdom. The old-school dark ride featured a memorable queen-to-witch transformation, a huntsman and a prince but just two dwarfs.
What it is: Princess Fairytale Hall. It’s now a much brighter space, part of 2012’s “New Fantasyland” expansion, where visitors meet and greet various royals (Tiana, Rapunzel, Cinderella and so forth) and perhaps glimpse a glass slipper.
Bottom line: If you factor in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we’re actually ahead in character count.
Mr. Toad, then Pooh place
What it was: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Magic Kingdom. This was an edgy-for-Disney ride-through with a face-to-face encounter with a locomotive and a trip through Hades. Its closure in 1998, prompted an early angry outcry from fans.
What it is: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Fast forward to 100 Acre Wood, where there are no satanic references.
Bottom line: Oh, bother.
Alien, then another alien
What it was: ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Magic Kingdom. This Tomorrowland attraction had a dark side with a torturous scene with a furry foreign being. (Singed aliens were sold in the gift shop.) When it debuted in 1995, it was considered intense by Disney parks standards. This space has also been home to Flight to the Moon, an opening day attraction in 1971, and its successor, Mission to Mars.
What it is: Stitch’s Great Escape. The show was re-imagined in 2004 with the blue scamp from “Lilo & Stitch,” retaining some of the theatrics.
Bottom line: We’re OK, for now, with this being an occasional meet-and-greet space.
Wings, then Buzz
What it was: If You Had Wings (and other names), Magic Kingdom. In early Disney World days, this relaxing ride was a famously air-conditioned travelogue topped with an exhilarating big-screen finale that incorporated downhill skiing and other in-motion activities.
What it is: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. This glow-in-the-dark shooting gallery on a rail, in operation since 1998, revolves around a “Toy Story” character.
Bottom line: Either choice could make you feel young again.
World of Motion, then Test Track
What it was: World of Motion, Epcot. This animatronic-heavy attraction rolled through the history of transportation, including a flying carpet. Think Spaceship Earth meets Great Movie Ride. This world stopped moving in 1996.
What it is: Test Track. Epcot switched to a higher gear in 1999 with indoor-outdoor ride that also has an emphasis on design and safety.
Bottom line: We have the need for speed.
Idol, then Frozen
What it was: American Idol experience, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In 2009, Disney reached outside its empire to stage an in-park version of the popular singing competition, which then aired on Fox. Visitors sang on stage in front of three judges and a voting studio audience. It was produced multiple times daily in the park’s Hyperion Theater, which previously had houses Superstar Television and “Doug Live!”
What it is: For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Disney sang a different tune, beginning in 2015, incorporating audience participation based on its blockbuster animated film.
Bottom line: This is the burst into song corner of Walt Disney World.