Welcome to Disney Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole Geryak, and I’ll be your guide on today’s attraction’s magical quest through four Disney parks.
The American Disney parks had a lot going on this week. It was finally announced that the Main Street Electrical Parade would be returning to Disneyland on January 20th, with a special premiere performance on January 19th (which I will be at!). But the bigger news story was the fact that Spaceship Earth turned into the Death Star on Monday night.
There were a lot of mixed feelings from Disney fans about whether they like the idea or not. Personally, I think it was an awesome idea, and the final effect was pretty phenomenal. (But then again, I am a huge Star Wars nerd.)
The ball appeared as the Death Star for that night only, easing the concerns of those who were afraid that Epcot’s beloved wienie would be changed for the long run.
Speaking of Epcot, we’re off to our featured attraction of the day, whose life also began at the EPCOT Center on opening day.
As I’ve talked about on this blog before, Journey into Imagination became the headlining attraction of the Imagination Pavilion when the ride opened in March of 1983. But the classic attraction’s next-door neighbor — which actually opened with the park five months early — Magic Journeys (clearly, the Imagineers behind that area loved the word “journey.”), is often left out to dry.
One of the first 3D films to grace the Disney parks, this attraction got its start in the current home of the Pixar Short Film Festival. While never the most popular attraction, the film actually had a few pretty talented people behind it, so it’s a bit surprising that it never gained more traction. (Then again, I wasn’t alive when it was open, so I can’t truly judge the exhilaration the show provided.)
Murray Lerner, the winner of an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1980, directed the short film. He was a perfect choice for the role because the narrative is very loose, allowing for a lot of natural landscapes and a more documentarian feel.
The film also featured songs from two of my favorite songwriters, the Sherman Brothers. In case you haven’t heard of them, they are the writers of little songs like “it’s a small world” and “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.” Frequently called on by the Disney company to make catchy songs, the duo are quintessential Disney Legends.
In terms of their contribution to Magic Journeys, the brothers actually wrote the songs for both the preshow and the featured short film. Interestingly enough, the preshow song “Makin’ Memories” is actually better known than the titular song “Magic Journeys.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video of the preshow, but I could find the audio, so you can listen to one of the Sherman Brothers’ catchiest songs (and one of my personal favorites).
So now that you’ve gotten a chance to enjoy the preshow festivities, it’s time for the main attraction. I have to give you a warning, this film was extremely odd. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Disney attraction as completely weird as this one. But I do highly recommend watching it because it is something you have to see to believe. I apologize for the low quality in advance, but it was the only version I could find.
Now that you’ve had a chance to see it for yourself, I have to take a few minutes to discuss my thoughts on the attraction because my jaw dropped from beginning to end out of pure confusion. To start, I thought I had accidentally started 2001: A Space Odyssey when the film began because of how incredibly odd everything was. It went from a garden to a beach to a butterfly to a kid flying to random lights, and I had literally no idea what to think. I take notes while I watch the videos for reference in the articles, and I made about seven notes about my intense confusion.
The film had no real narrative, loosely following the magical journey of a young boy. He appears at random points throughout the film, but otherwise the footage keeps jumping from location to location with no real direction. My favorite part had to be when he was just flying around, and then suddenly he was galloping on a horse with his smiling face still dissolving on screen. (You can kind of see it below.)
With all that in mind, I absolutely loved this short film. Granted, I could not stop laughing because of how crazy everything was. This attraction is the type that I would definitely have seen this film every single time I visited the park. Weird things that make no sense always amuse me and this film was no exception. Plus, the song “Magic Journeys” is pretty fantastic, sounding unlike many of the Sherman Brothers’ other songs. I’m still not sure what was going on, but that’s what made it so fantastic.
While not the biggest success at Epcot, the film did well enough that it became a part of the Disneyland family on June 16th, 1984. One of the coolest parts of this attraction’s transition to Disneyland was that it was initially shown outdoors on the Space Stage. Located in the Magic Eye Theater’s current home, this stage hosted concerts and other forms of entertainment over the years. Every night, the film would be projected after nightfall, in full three-dimensional glory. But the best part was that you could actually see the stage from the Space Mountain queue, so I know I would have loved catching glimpses of the film as I waited for the classic attraction.
After Magic Journeys had been there for a year, the Space Stage was demolished. In its place, the Magic Eye Theater was created, giving Magic Journeys an indoor home for the remainder of the attraction’s time at Disneyland.
But Magic Journeys did not stop its trek in America, arriving in Tokyo Disneyland on June 17, 1985. The attraction replaced another film, The Eternal Seas, a movie that only lasted in Tokyo for just over a year. To be fair though, Magic Journeys did not fare very well at the other parks either, being replaced by Captain EO by 1987 at each and every one of its locations. Captain EO was the next big breakthrough in the Disney 3D film lineup, so it made sense for the change to be made.
Funnily enough, each of those theaters also then housed Honey, I Shrunk the Audience before becoming home to the Captain EO Tribute. It’s one of the only cases where the same attraction was continuously replaced by the same things at each park.
Luckily, its closure at those parks was not quite the end for Magic Journeys. Instead, the film disappeared for almost two years at the Walt Disney World before making a triumphant comeback on December 15th, 1987 in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. I love how it appeared in both Fantasyland and Tomorrowland because it truly showed how versatile the film was.
The film actually lasted the longest in the Magic Kingdom, surviving there for almost as long it survived in Disneyland and Epcot combined. Unfortunately, it also became outdated there, closing on December 1st, 1993 to make way for The Legend of the Lion King. The new show was based off of what Disney expected to be a huge hit, so it obviously had precedence over an older film that had no real narrative.
And sadly, that brings our time with Magic Journeys to a close, but not without the promise of some new attractions to talk about next week.
- These nighttime attractions served more as entertainment than attractions.
- These attractions only ever graced one park.
- Each of the attractions focused around music and dancing.
Thanks for reading and I really hope you enjoyed the post. And as always have a magical day!