Welcome to Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole, and I’ll be your guide on today’s trip into the storied past of Disney-MGM Studios.
Last weekend, Bob Iger visited Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with some famous friends in Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and Scott Trowbridge (the chief designer of Galaxy’s Edge). We are just two weeks away from the most anticipated expansion in theme park history, and I think I speak for all of us when I say, I cannot wait until I can finally get to experience this amazingly immersive land.
Now it’ll be opening at Disneyland soon, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ version still has a couple of months before it opens at the end of August. A lot of people have questioned the decision to put Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland, saying it doesn’t fit, but no one has questioned its inclusion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a park that is no stranger to welcoming in IP, as you’ll see with our featured attractions today.
In 1991, ABC debuted a unique new television show, featuring dinosaurs in a starring role. Normally, we think of dinosaurs as kind of scary and awe-inspiring creatures, but Dinosaurs decided to shake that up by making the show a sitcom all about the Sinclair family of dinosaurs.
The Walt Disney Company produced this show along with Michael Jacobs Production (who also made Boy Meets World) and Jim Henson Television. Jim Henson had originally thought of the idea for the show as early as 1988, but he unfortunately passed away before the show could debut. Luckily, the show obviously made its way to airwaves and while it was never a ratings juggernaut, it did manage to stick around and was a nice success story, especially due to its quirky nature.
Because of their nature as giant puppets created by the Jim Henson Company, these stars of Dinosaurs actually fit in really well with general characters that you see at the Disney Parks. With this is mind, just a few months after the show debuted, Dinosaurs Live! began its run at (what was then) Disney-MGM Studios on September 26, 1991 (meaning there were two Henson attractions in the park at the time with Muppet*Vision 3D also debuting around then).
Dinosaurs Live! was interesting because it was a mini-parade that led into a mini-show. The float that they were on was basically just a stage that would stop right in front of the Chinese Theatre. For some reason, the Sinclair family was chosen as the family of the day and got the chance to film some type of promotional video for Disney. (The details got a little lost in the poor audio quality.)
To be honest, pretty much nothing was happening as the float traveled for five minutes with the dinosaurs just yelling stuff at the crowd and arguing with each other. But then, it all changed when the “filming” began because the hit song, “Walk the Dinosaur” came on. I must preface this with the fact that I love that song because it is so dang catchy. It will get in your head for the rest of the day as soon as you hear it even just once. After the song ended, it just kept playing as the Sinclair family was floated away, with the whole “show” taking no more than 4 minutes.
Overall, Dinosaurs Live! was pretty disappointing and not special at all, but I don’t believe that it was billed as anything special, so I’m willing to overlook its flaws and take it for what it was, a simple promotional show. It served its purpose well and was out of the park by August 29, 1992, less than a year after its debut. We aren’t quite done yet though, as there’s another 1990s IP-based attraction that made its home in Disney-MGM Studios.
In the early 1990s, R.L. Stine began publishing Goosebumps, a series of horror novels aimed at children and teenagers. To say that the series was a success is an understatement, with the series currently being the second-highest selling book series of all time, behind only Harry Potter.
Though Disney did not have anything to do with the Goosebumps publications or television shows, Disney wanted to bring the brand into Disney-MGM Studios to try and appeal more to the teenage crowd as they had already done with Tower of Terror. They approached Stine, who was ecstatic to bring Goosebumps into the Disney Parks as he is a huge Disney fan himself. In fact, I reached out to him on Twitter, and he kindly got back to me and confirmed that it was indeed a thrill.
It's true. The GB attraction was a thrill for me. I couldn't believe I had my OWN LAND at Disney.
— R.L. Stine (@RL_Stine) May 12, 2019
Debuting on October 8, 1997 (right in time for Halloween), Goosebumps Horrorland Fright Show and Funhouse took over a good portion of the Streets of America, creating its own little land in an area that wasn’t being particularly utilized.
The show begins with a magic show led by Amaz-O the Magician, who brings a couple of children onstage to help him perform a magic trick. Things were looking a little ominous for the kids because it seemed like they could really lose their hands, especially with Amaz-O making punny hints about how they would have stumps for hands. A lot of his jokes were actually pretty funny, but the crows in the video were not feeling it (like when you go on the Jungle Cruise and no one else is laughing).
After the trick was successful, with the kids luckily getting to keep their hands, Amaz-O decided to put them in a giant crushing machine with huge spikes. Now it was pretty obvious that these children weren’t actually going to get hurt, but as soon as they stepped in and you could hear the sound of children screaming, things got a little morbid. I was just sitting there wondering how this made it into a Disney Park, while also applauding Disney for taking a risk and doing something that you normally wouldn’t see them do.
After the children had been “crushed,” Amaz-O opened the door to his machine and instead of the children, a walkaround Slappy the Dummy was sitting there. He hopped out of the machine and immediately began talking about how he was going to take the whole audience as his slaves (another check on the “Whoa Disney” list).
But he wasn’t the only Goosebumps villain to appear with Curly the Skeleton, the Mummy and Cuddles the Hamster all coming along to help Slappy take control of the audience and make them his slaves. At this point in time, things did get a little scary because these characters had quite a bit of menace to them, which was further perpetuated if you were familiar with the Goosebumps characters and knew how nefarious they could be.
Just when all hope seemed lost, the Executioner showed up with some very familiar looking monsters. Normally, seeing an executioner is the worst thing imaginable, but it worked out pretty well in this case because he actually managed to save the day and “shock” the crowd when it was revealed that it was really Amaz-O, and he had saved the children and the day.
Now that you’ve made it through that journey, I’ve got to say that it was truly unlike anything I had seen at a Disney Park before. Because of its nature and spooky tones, it definitely felt more like something that you’d find at Universal Studios, but I applaud Disney for taking a chance and adding some creepiness to the Disney Park experience. At the time I could see it fitting into the park because of Disney trying to compete with Universal for that teenage age group, but today, it seems like a tougher fit, especially with Hollywood Studios getting more and more family friendly as time passes.
Luckily for Goosebumps fans, there was more than just the Fright Show, with a Funhouse also being a part of the experience. Originally, the maze was more of a traditional House of Mirrors that was relatively simple to make your way through, but due to popular demand, the Funhouse was updated to add some difficulty as well as characters from the show as you made your way through.
The combination of the show and walkthrough really helped establish a Goosebumps presence in the Streets of America and brought some much needed attention to this back area of the park. Unfortunately, the timing of the Goosebumps Horrorland Fright Show and Funhouse was just off, happening a little too late. By the time it joined Disney-MGM Studios, the original book series was coming to an end, as was its television show adaptation, and with Stine was working on a new Goosebumps series, the original Goosebumps was in a transitional period, so it was difficult to capitalize on the success that the series had in the mid 90s. So with that, the show and walkthrough lasted one more Halloween period before officially coming to an end on November 1, 1998.
Well, that brings today’s journey to a close, but here’s your look at what is coming in two weeks (because next week I’ll be looking at Aladdin’s box office).
- This attraction was a nighttime show.
- This attraction was delayed for nearly a year.
- This attraction is being replaced by an updated version in a couple of weeks.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.