The Coolest Movie Theme Park Rides That Were Never Built –
Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition
Disneyland has an Indiana Jones ride, The Indiana Jones Adventure, which opened in 1995. Originally, though, Imagineers plans for the Indy property were far more elaborate, and would have radically reshaped the park’s Adventureland area. The Lost Expedition pavilion would have housed two different rides — a roller coaster based on the mine-car ending of ‘Temple of Doom,’ and a dark ride in jeeps that would tour through Indy’s greatest hits — and incorporated the existing Jungle Cruise. Much of the land designated for The Lost Expedition ended up getting used to build Splash Mountain instead.
Indiana Jones Ore Car Attraction
Here’s a closer look at the “Ore Car Simulator” that would have been housed inside the Lost Expedition complex. Though the Indiana Jones land was never built, the Disney empire does have one Indiana Jones mine-train roller coaster: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, located at Disneyland Paris. It was the first looping coaster at any Disney park. (I rode it once as a teenager, and it got stuck mid-ride. That was not pleasant.)
Indiana Jones Jungle Cruise
This “River Idol” would have been one of the centerpieces of the reconceived Jungle Cruise retrofitted to match an entire land of Indiana Jones-related attractions. It certainly looks like something out of an Indy movie.
The Hauntington Hotel
Years before interactive shooting galleries became the norm in Orlando with rides like Toy Story Midway Mania and Men in Black Alien Attack, Six Flags developed a concept for a Ghostbusters ride called the Hauntington Hotel. Riders would have toured a spooky building, shooting at targets with car-mounted proton packs. According to an interview with the ride’s designer at 2600connection.com, the entire ride was “created, designed, engineered, and prototyped” and ready for installation in Texas when Six Flags’ parent company sold its theme parks division. Under new ownership, the project fell apart, perhaps the greatest tragedy in human history.
For about eight years, the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was home to an attraction named ExtraTERRORestrial: Alien Encounter. Riders were literally strapped down to their seats while a menacing E.T. “materialized” in the center of the room, and then proceeded to touch and breathe on them while the lights were out. When Alien Encounter opened it starred a creepy alien; when it was conceived it starred *the* creepy alien — as in H.R. Giger’s iconic xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 film. Astonishingly, someone at Disney thought it was a good idea to insert a little acid-blooded horror into the Happiest Place on Earth. Eventually, Disney came to their senses and abandoned the ‘Alien’ aspect (and the original name for the attraction, Nostromo, after the ship in the film), but not the overall concept. After terrifying children for almost a decade (I was one of them; this thing was pure nightmare fuel), Alien Encounter finally closed in 2003. The site now houses a toned-down version starring Stitch from ‘Lilo & Stich.’
The James Bond Live-Action Stunt Show
The concepts for the original Universal Studios Florida included this stunning image by ‘Star Wars’ artist Ralph McQuarrie for a stunt show that would have been themed to James Bond and bore the distinctive influence of longtime James Bond production designer Ken Adam. The “Giant Circular Roof” would have opened, and the screens on the far walls would have been filled with all of Bond’s greatest villains, who’d “watch [007’s] demise and the launch of the nuclear warhead.” This project never got off the launchpad, so to speak, but through the years, Universal has had stunt shows themed to ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ ‘The A-Team,’ ‘Miami Vice,’ ‘Spider-Man,’ and ‘Waterworld.’
Mel Brooks’ Hollywood Horror Hotel
At its earliest stages, the Tower of Terror wasn’t themed to ‘The Twilight Zone,’ and was instead conceived as a collaboration between Disney and Mel Brooks. Eventually Brooks dropped out of the project, and ‘The Twilight Zone’ elements were introduced, but before then ideas for “Hotel Mel,” as it was commonly called, involved an attraction and a working hotel housed together in the same building, and a murder mystery that could be solved with clues littered around the grounds. StudioCentral.com says Brooks lost interest and left to make ‘Life Stinks’ right around the time Imagineers stumbled on the idea of adding haunted elevators which leap out of their shafts. The Tower of Tower is a great ride, but when you hear that we almost got an entire Mel Brooks hotel, it does seem that life stinks.
A series of columns at Comics101.com outlines the original plan for Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure: Before the park included a Marvel Super Hero Island, it instead featured an entire area themed around Batman. Developed in the early 1990s while Tim Burton’s Batman movies were popular, the section would have included a Batmobile ride, a Bat-jet attraction, and a live-action stunt show featuring Batman, Robin, and Superman. Plans shifted, as they often do, and Batman’s spot in the park got taken by Marvel characters like Spider-Man and Hulk.
Batwing: Batman vs the Penguin
Major attractions on Batman Island could have included this suspended roller coaster, where guests would have had the option to choose between either the Batman or Penguin track, each with totally different experiences, special effects, and pyrotechnics. (Note the sign for Shreck’s Department Store in the bottom left, a reference to Christopher Walken’s character in ‘Batman Returns.’) Though the ride never came to pass, Islands of Adventure found a home for the concept of “dueling” coasters in its Dueling Dragons ride (now known as Dragon Challenge, and part of its Harry Potter land).
Dick Tracy’s Crime-Stoppers
Before Warren Beatty’s ‘Dick Tracy’ opened in 1990, the film was expected to be an enormous hit, and Disney hoped to capitalize on it with a theme park attraction that would have let riders join the famous detective on a chase through Chicago (a.k.a. dark ride sets). Each vehicle would have been equipped with tommy guns that could be fired at targets throughout the ride. When ‘Dick Tracy’ never materialized into a full-blown franchise the idea was dropped, but the planned ride vehicles are similar to the ones in the Indiana Jones Adventure, and the shooting gallery idea lives on in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Ride
Guests on this ride based on the 1993 stop-motion animated Christmas movie would have boarded flying coffins (!) for a dark ride similar to Peter Pan’s Flight (except, y’know, weird and creepy and Tim Burton-y). Disney liked the idea but Tim Burton, who shared control of the characters, wasn’t enthused and nixed the whole thing. Instead, Disney annually transforms the Haunted Mansion in California into the “Haunted Mansion Holiday,” featuring characters from the film.
Godzilla Bullet Train
As far back as the 1970s, tentative plans were in place to add a bullet train ride to the Japan Pavilion at Epcot. Guests would have stood on a ride vehicle and looked out windows at screens simulating a journey through the Japanese countryside. A much more interesting variation of the bullet train concept would have thrown Godzilla into the mix; he’d rise from the ocean and attack the train on its journey through Tokyo Harbor. Supposedly, the project never went beyond preliminary conversations with Toho, the studio that owns Godzilla, before the company decided a giant, world-destroying lizard didn’t really jive with the sedate, naturalistic atmosphere at Epcot. Alas.
The Great Muppet Movie Ride
The Muppets have been a mainstay at Disney Hollywood Studios for more than 20 years with their MuppetVision 3D movie. But at one point the Muppets were intended to be an even larger focal point of the park, with their own parody version of Hollywood Studios’ Great Movie Ride. In The Great Muppet Movie Ride, Jim Henson’s beloved characters would have acted out various scenes from famous movies. At the time, Disney and Henson were in the midst of a corporate merger, but the deal fell through after Henson’s death in 1990, squashing the Muppet Movie Ride. But Disney did eventually buy the Muppets in 2004, so who knows? Maybe their greatest theme-park attraction is still yet to come.
Jurassic Park Jeep Safari
The Jurassic Park land at Universal’s Islands of Adventure includes a River Adventure ride, a kind of log flume that bears very little resemblance to the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies (besides the animatronic dinosaurs). But the original plan called for several more Jurassic Park attractions, including a Jeep Safari that would have hewed much more closely to the story of the movie, and sent visitors on a remote-controlled ride through the park. The jeeps would have driven under brontosaurus, outrun the T-Rex, and faced off with raptors. According to DisneyAndMore.Blogspot.com, the concept was deemed “too similar” to the River Adventure for both to coexist.
Jurassic Park Jeep Safari
Here’s a closeup of the Jurassic Park Jeep Safari ride vehicle. Definitely gives off a similar vibe to the old 8-seat DeLoreans in the ‘Back to the Future’ ride.
Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy Ride
Disney was able to milk ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ for one theme-park ride (Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin in Disneyland), but their original plan called for several more. Baby Herman’s Runaway Buggy Ride would have seen guests recruited to play the foul-mouthed baby’s stunt double in a particularly dangerous scene, in ride vehicles shaped like baby carriages. According to JimHillMedia.com, guests would have been given baby bonnets to wear for the duration of the ride in order to complete the illusion (and to encourage sales of cute photographs taken during the ride). Sadly, Disney’s battles with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment over control of Roger Rabbit prevented the ride from coming to fruition. The same issues also prevented the construction of…
Like the Baby Herman ride, battles over the Roger Rabbit character kiboshed plans for a Star Tours-esque simulator ride that would have taken guests on a tour through Toontown, the home of the cartoons in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ At one point, all of these rides were planned to be part of an entirely new Disneyland section called Hollywoodland. Eventually, the area was reconceived as Mickey’s Toontown. Sorry, Roger.
Here’s an another piece of concept art from the Roger Rabbit trolley ride. Looks pretty trippy. The kids would have loved it, especially the ones hopped up on sugar.