Guests who visited Walt Disney World during the COVID pandemic are all too familiar with the modification and closure of Disney Resort Hotels, rides, shops, restaurants, and shows.
Even though we know the closures and changes were made to keep Guests and Cast Members safe, it’s never fun seeing that your favorite attraction or restaurant isn’t available!
Thankfully, most attractions, shops, entertainment, and eateries have now reopened at WDW (although several, including Monsieur Paul in the France Pavilion at Disney’s EPCOT Park, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, and Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa do remain closed with no known date for reopening).
Today, we look at Walt Disney World Resort rides, shows, and restaurants that we miss dearly. In many cases, they were replaced by new lands or attractions that are arguably even better, but we still get a little nostalgic for these gone-too-soon gems.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
A fixture in Fantasyland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park from opening day in 1971 until 1998, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was based on the animated 1949 feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. This bizarrely dark attraction gained cult status, and Guests can still ride its counterpart in Disneyland.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which arguably has a wider Guest appeal, but fans of the original attraction can visit the Mr. Toad statue in the pet cemetery at the exit to Liberty Square’s Haunted Mansion.
Finding Nemo – The Musical
Walt Disney World knows how to entertain! And one of our favorite shows on WDW property was always Finding Nemo – The Musical, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.
Larger-than-life sea creature puppets, ethereal under-the-sea special effects, mesmerizing original songs, and all of your favorite endearing characters from Disney and Pixar’s Finding Nemo (2003) made this 40-minute show a must-see.
Finding Nemo – The Musical closed in 2020 when the pandemic hit, and won’t be returning. But a reimagined version, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! is coming, sometime in 2022.
The Great Movie Ride
The iconic Chinese Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now home to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, but that wasn’t always the case. From 1989 to 2017, Guests could enjoy a journey through classic film scenes, including iconic scenes from Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Mary Poppins (1964), and Alien (1979), on the attraction The Great Movie Ride.
A film lover’s dream, The Great Movie Ride was a perfect fit for a theme park that delivers movie magic. Its absence is still deeply felt, and Mickey and Minnie have some big shoes to fill!
Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights
Wandering through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land today in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it might be hard for Guests to believe – or remember – that an entire section of the park, Streets of America, made its final bow to pave the way for these new lands.
One of the best things about this former area of Hollywood Studios was The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights that delighted Guests every holiday season from 1995 until January 2016.
This magnificent light display involved over 5 million lights and 16 million colors, and the lights would periodically “dance” in time to Christmas music. The magical display was truly a spectacle in every sense, and it’s sorely missed by all who were fortunate enough to experience it.
Another casualty of changes in Disney’s Hollywood Studios? The Writer’s Stop.
This unique venue, part café and part shop, blended in with the false building fronts in Streets of America, and it was a glorious refuge from the chaos of the park.
Whether you wanted to peruse the bookshelves for a souvenir, or order a comforting beverage or treat (like the famed Carrot Cake Cookie), or simply sit and watch the world go by, The Writer’s Stop was truly a special spot. Nowadays, BaseLine Tap House occupies this location, but Guests may still be able to snag a Carrot Cake Cookie at Hollywood Studios’ Trolley Car Café.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure
The idea was to show Guests the origins of the energy sources we take for granted, but when I think of Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Disney’s EPCOT theme park, I mostly think of the Audio-animatronic dinosaurs, Bill Nye, and Ellen herself. At nearly 40 minutes long, this attraction was a commitment, and a welcome relief from the Orlando heat!
Ellen’s Energy Adventure closed back in 2017 to make room for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, opening in the summer of 2022.
This was one of our favorite places to eat in Disney’s EPCOT Park. Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco Pavilion combined stunningly beautiful tilework with captivating belly dancing and traditional musical entertainment and delicious Moroccan food with enormous portions. Plus, being located in our favorite pavilion in the World Showcase in which to get lost for an afternoon didn’t hurt!
Disney has now taken over the management of the Moroccan Pavilion, formerly run by a Moroccan company.
The Pavilion is in the midst of renovations, and Restaurant Marrakesh has not reopened, though it has been used for air-conditioned seating for Guests. We’re told that Buena Vista Construction Company has filed a permit for work on the site, so we’re hopeful that Restaurant Marrakesh will return in some form in the future.
Change is inevitable, and in Walt Disney World, change has given us some of the most exhilarating attractions to date, along with amazing new lands, including Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park.
But Guests will never stop mourning the attractions, shops, restaurants, and shows that fell to pave the way for the future.