I’ve been visiting amusement parks since I was a kid. Some of my fondest memories growing up were at Disney World, Universal Studios, Six Flags, and even old-fashioned county fairs. Something about these places always resonated with me; I loved the attention to detail, as well as the thrills they provided. Over time, some of these rides have been retired to make way for something new and exciting. This phasing out of old favorites usually sucks, but is sometimes—not always—worth it. I thought it would be fun to run through some memories of my favorites. This will be volume one of a continuing series.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Located at Disney's Magic Kingdom, in their "Tommorowland" area, the attraction ran from 1995 - 2003. The premise of the ride is: you're a guest at the "Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center" for a conference demonstrating new technology from the company "X-S Tech." After a Robot named "S.I.R" demonstrates the company's new teleportation device on a cute little alien, you're led into a large chamber-like conference room. Once inside, you're prompted to take a seat. A harness is lowered on your shoulders which locks you in place. On a screen, two employees of X-S tell the audience that one guest will be teleported to the meeting with Clench (X-S's Chairman.) Clench then changes his mind and randomly tells the audience along with his employees that he wants to be teleported into the room himself. As with most attractions, something goes wrong and his sudden decision causes quite a mix-up. The X-S employees mistakenly send the teleportation signal to an unknown planet and bring a nasty alien amongst the audience instead of the chairman. Chaos ensues as you and the rest of the group have to survive being locked in with this creature.
My first experience with this attraction was probably in 1995\96, so I would have been around 10 years old. I was heavily into horror films and loved almost anything involving monsters, but this ride still scared the bajeezus out of me! Keep in the mind the queue was a little deceiving with its cute alien sequence. When you finally get on the attraction, you're not expecting a man-eating alien to rampage through the audience. Needless to say, my first experience was a terrifying one. One of the most amazing aspects of this ride was the special effects and animatronic work. The "harness" you're wearing is actually an effects rig, similar to a harness on a roller coaster, but with speakers and other effects built into it. At one point, power in the room goes out and you can smell, feel, and hear the creature trying to remove you from your seat. By the time you actually got to see the creature, you were already terrified. Imagine, what looks like a giant 7 foot tall cockroach. That's the best way I can describe it. On later visits to Magic Kingdom (as I got older), the ride quickly grew to be my favorite (behind The Haunted Mansion.) Even knowing what was going to happen beforehand the ride still had a creep factor, which always made it awesome!
From what I've read online, the ride was closed down due to it being a little too intense for children. What's strange is the attraction was operational for almost a decade, so I'm sure there is more to the story then we know. An interesting side note, the attraction was original supposed to be themed around the "Alien" franchise. Looking back at it, I can see how the creature could have easily been replaced with the famous "Xenomorph." That would have been awesome if they stuck with their original plan, even though an R-rated-franchise-themed attraction would have felt out of place next to cheery images of Mickey Mouse and his friends.
Unfortunately, in 2004 "Stitch's Escape" opened, replacing ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. The current attraction borrows heavily from its predecessor. A lot of the same effects and props from the original attraction are intact, but it has now been toned down for younger audiences. Instead of a man-eating-alien trying to have the audience as its main course, Stitch, from the animated Disney film, runs playfully amok. He jumps on your head, tickles you, and even burps in your face. The dark atmosphere has been replaced with silly jokes and kiddie humor. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy "Stitch's Escape;" it's really cute and has a certain charm to it, but man, do I miss the original attraction!