Legacy Content

Jim Hill
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In order to get all the necessary changes made (which often involved hours and hours of trial and error), Disney officially closed WDW's "Alien Encounter" in January 12, 1995 -- less than six weeks after the Mouse had been begun doing test and adjust on its new Tomorrowland attraction. Though the show had never officially opened to the public, Walt Disney World was still abuzz with rumors about why the new Magic Kingdom attraction had suddenly shuttered.

The Mouse tried to put a funny spin on the story. They distributed thousands of copies of a flyer property-wide that had supposedly been written by X-S Tech Chairman, L.C. Clinch. In his message to WDW cast members, Clinch apologized for the delays involved with getting "Alien Encounter" opened. "We look forward to a profitable relationship with your species," or so said the pretend memo. The flyer then went on to say that the projected re-opening date for this new Tomorrowland attraction was Easter 1995.

Unfortunately, the Easter Bunny would be long gone before most WDW guests finally their chance to "Seize the Future with X-S." It wasn't until June 20, 1995 before "The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter" officially re-opened in Disney World's Magic Kingdom. By then, Michael Eisner had reportedly lost all enthusiasm for this new Tomorrowland attraction.

What exactly caused Eisner to sour on "AE"? Some say that it was the additional $10 - $15 million Disney had to pump into "Alien Encounter" so that this new Tomorrowland attraction would finally play properly for WDW guests. Others suggest that it was all the negative publicity that was associated with the "AE" redo.

The most likely reason for the Disney CEO falling out of love with "The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter" attraction? I believe that Eisner eventually began to believe what those old Imagineers had been saying: that a scary show like "AE" doesn't really belong in the Magic Kingdom. Given the hundreds of letters that the Walt Disney Company still receives every year from angry WDW guests -- people who'd just gotten off "Dumbo the Flying Elephant" or just been whirled around in the Teacups, only to unwittingly wander in "Alien Encounter" and find themselves locked down in a chair, suddenly being threatened by a rasping, drooling monstrosity -- there are obviously quite a number of folks who feel this way.

Which -- to some Disneyana fans' way of thinking -- is a real shame. For -- as vocal as "Alien Encounter" 's critics may be -- there's an equally hard core group of theme park fans who absolutely adore this Tomorrowland show.

These are the folks that you'll spy at the N.F.F.C. conventions proudly wearing their "Fried Skippy" t-shirts. These are the same people who eagerly snatched up all the "Alien Encounter" action figures Disney began selling last year. You can usually pick out their cars in the WDW parking lot. Their vehicles are the ones with the Skippy beanie baby sitting on their dashboard.

It probably won't surprise you to hear that there are also a lot of "Alien Encounter" fans inside WDI. These are the Imagineers who had their hearts set on adding this edgy attraction to every single Disney theme park worldwide. These guys insist that -- if Eisner had okayed construction of "Tomorrowland 2055" and followed Imagineering's original plans for "Alien Encounter" (Not the dumbed down, gag filled WDW version) -- Disneyland's "AE" show would have been a huge hit right out of the box. A "Star Tours" sized success which would have served a template for all the other "Alien Encounter" attractions to follow, giving the company a successful franchise show that they could have quickly rolled out at the corporation's theme parks worldwide.

Ah, but I guess that's not going to happen now. WDW's "Alien Encounter" appears to be the one and only version of this high tech new Tomorrowland attraction that will ever make it off the drawing board. (Though I would be remiss if I didn't mention the "Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter" inter-active game that's currently available for play at DisneyQuest. I'm told that this multi-player game -- which is very loosely based on the WDW attraction -- is hugely popular at both the Chicago and the Lake Buena Vista DQ locations.)

But still you have to wonder. Given that WDI's reportedly in the process of putting together a new dark, scary, intense attraction -- the long-rumored "Armageddon" exploding-Russian-space-station effects show -- for both Disney's California Adventure and Disney Studios Europe, wouldn't it just be cheaper and smarter just to do "Alien Encounter" as it was originally supposed to be done? Featuring the creatures from 20th Century Fox's Alien movies?

Come on, Disney! "Seize the Future." Take another stab at doing "Alien Encounter."

Only this time, don't let Eisner muck it up.

Discuss It

- Jim Hill

Jim Hill can be reached using the Talkback form below or by emailing him at [email protected].

Jim Hill is this guy who lives 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. (Hey, it's not like he wants to live there. But the Witness Protection Program has got rules, you know.) He has one beautiful daughter and three obnoxious cats. When he's not looking for real work, Jim writes about the Walt Disney Company and related matters for LaughingPlace.com, AmusementPark.com, "Orlando Weekly" and Digital Media FX.

The opinions expressed by Jim Hill, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the past decisions and future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

- Posted April 19, 2001
- Originally published on another website in January and February 2001.