DECEMBER, 2018 UPDATE: Has it already been more than a year and a half since DisneyQuest shut its doors to make way for the NBA Experience? Apparently so. Here’s our report of our final visit in June 2017, along with a history of the attraction, and some new additional information and media we’ve found since…
Ah, DisneyQuest. You were the collection of interactive video games in Walt Disney World that hadn’t been upgraded in over a decade. They finally closed you on July 2, 2017, with plans to build an NBA-themed restaurant in your place. You were fun while you lasted…for the first few years, anyway.
Opening in June, 1998, DisneyQuest was Disney’s attempt to profit off the popularity of places like Dave & Buster’s. Disney rarely did anything in a small way and DisneyQuest was no exception…most of the games were state-of-the-art (at the time) and the building was huge, at 5 stories tall, and 100,000 square feet. It even had an internet cafe! (back in the late 90s, that was HUGE!) After getting your ticket, you went into an elevator that, way back when, had this short animated feature starring the Genie from Aladdin:
Unfortunately, the video was removed in 2011.
After exiting the elevator, you had a choice of four “zones” to enter (Create, Explore, Replay and Score), and each zone had different attractions (thanks to disney.wikia.com for assistance with the game descriptions):
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold: Man a pirate ship and destroy other ships, sea monsters, and fortresses to collect gold. One player captains the ship by steering and controlling the throttle, while up to four gunners control the cannons.
- Virtual Jungle Cruise: Paddle an inflatable raft (with real paddles) as you make your way down a prehistoric river, avoiding dinosaurs and occasionally getting sprayed with water.
- CyberSpace Mountain: Guests design a roller coaster on a design kiosk, then sit in a pitch-and-roll simulator and “ride” it. Guests may also ride pre-built coasters. It is hosted by Bill Nye the Science Guy, who instead refers to himself as “Bill Nye the Coaster Guy”.
- Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride: Players wear an HMD as they ride a magic carpet through Agrabah, collecting gems to find The Genie, who has been hidden away in the Cave of Wonders.
- Animation Academy: Regular sessions throughout the day teach how to draw characters, with lightpens on computer screens. Guests can purchase a printout afterward.
- Sid’s Create-a-Toy: A program featuring the evil Sid character from Toy Story that allows one to custom design a toy out of parts of other toys, and then buy it later.
- Living Easels: An interactive touch screen program where guests can place various images onto several selectable backgrounds. A full-color printout of a guest’s design may be purchased.
- Radio Disney Song Maker: Where you can create your own song, and then buy it later.
- Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam: Based on the Disney Afternoon cartoon, players “become” a pinball in a gigantic projected pinball game; by rocking their “duck” back and forth, up to twelve players at a time control their corresponding pinball on the screen, attempting to collect the most points.
- Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster: Players board bumper cars and attempt to navigate over foam balls (“asteroids”) on the floor. By doing so, the asteroids will be sucked up into the cabin where players can then load them into a cannon and shoot at the other cars. If hit in the correct spot, one’s car may spin around uncontrollably for ten seconds. Usually there are two players to a car; however, it is possible for one person to pilot and shoot at the same time.
- At the time of DisneyQuest’s closing, this floor had a snack bar, lots of table seating and several dozen vintage video games and pinball machines.
- Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter: Four players ride inside a rescue vehicle to save astronauts: one player drives, the other three shoot enemy aliens. Based on the extinct-since-2003 Magic Kingdom attraction, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (are you starting to notice a pattern?).
Over the course of time, there were several attractions that closed and were replaced or that closed entirely:
- The Pirates of the Caribbean game took the place of the Hercules in The Underworld attraction in the year 2000. The attractions were similar, but in Hercules you gathered lightning bolts instead of shoot at pirate ships. It’s assumed the attraction was changed when the popularity of Disney’s 35th animated feature, “Hercules,” from 1997, had waned in popularity and Disney wanted to start focusing on its Johnny Depp/POTC brand.
- Treasure of the Incas was an attraction where you would drive a remote controlled truck around an ancient temple and find treasure. The truck had a camera in the drivers side seat and as you controlled it, the truck moved around a miniature temple complex underneath your feet (there was clear plexiglass on the ground). You would watch your truck move from a large CRT monitor and then a friend would yell directions of where to go to find the next treasure – which was also augmented with video once you found it. I remember playing once and beside the plexiglass floor being all scratched up, it was very difficult to hear your game partner talk or even yell directions. I’ve also heard that it was a maintenance nightmare. The game closed in 2007, the floors were covered over, more “jungle” themeing was added and it became home to several Let’s Go Jungle! games.
- Daytona U.S.A. was a Sega driving game that had previously been in Innoventions at Epcot. Up to 8 players could compete in a big screen driving game…until it was pulled and replaced with EA Sports/Global VR’s NASCAR Racing.
- Ride the Comix was a virtual reality game where guests entered the comic book world and were pitted against villains by using laser swords. It closed in 2014.
- Magic Mirror was an attraction where you sat in front of a mirror to have your picture taken. The pic would appear on the screen in front of you and from there you had tools so you could add different eyes, ears, noses, mouths, etc., distort your face entirely, etc. Sounds a whole lot like Snapchat, doesn’t it?!?!?! It closed in 2005 and became extra seating in the Create Zone.
- There was a 150′ corkscrew Cave of Wonders Slide that went from the 3rd floor to the 1st floor – it dropped you off under the stairs that were right near Jungle Cruise/POTC. The slide was permanently closed very early on, during its first year of DisneyQuest being open, due to multiple injuries.
- The original food vendor was a Cheesecake Factory Express – at the time, it was the only “express” version of the chain. They closed up shop in 2008, after not renewing their 10-year contract (no official reason was given, but since Disney has originally set their eyes on multiple locations which, by 2008, were all dead in the water [see next paragraph], on top of the Orlando Location already not being well maintained, one questions if Cheesecake Factory was disenchanted and/or losing money). It was replaced with “FoodQuest,” a counter-service eatery owned and operated by Disney.
During its early years, the plan was for DisneyQuest to expand and have multiple locations. The Chicago location did come to fruition but closed 2 years later due to low attendance. There was DisneyQuest in Philadelphia that was supposed to open in summer of 2000, and they even poured the concrete foundation – and then stopped building. There were hints of a DisneyQuest that would come to Niagara Falls, but that one never got beyond “hint” stage.
The DisneyQuest attractions had been state-of-the-art in the late 20th and very early 21st century, but unfortunately, Disney didn’t keep up with the times and didn’t update the attractions, so most of them began to look and feel dated after just a few years. Maintenance on some aspects of the complex also started to be “let go,” with, for example, video game screens or flippers on pinball machines needing repair for inordinate amounts of time (and with no signage to alert guests before they attempted to play). The Ride the Comix vehicles on the 4th and 5th floors were left to languish after they closed and many areas of the complex needed repainting or fixes to signs for weeks or months at a time. But during its heyday, DisneyQuest was THE place to be on Disney’s West Side. Here are some videos and photos Joe and I took during DisneyQuest’s final week of operation:
Virtual Jungle Cruise (full game)
Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam (full game, including pre-game videos)
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (full game)
Pre-show queue videos of Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Full game of Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Downtown Disney Management did allow DisneyQuest to go out in style. They announced the closure far in advance so those who really wanted to “say goodbye” could. And those who were there on the very last day even got a certificate, which was a nice touch.
The arcade cabinets were sold on an online Cast Member auction and although the area was walled off soon after the closure, you couldn’t help but see the demolition of the building, which kind of sucked.
If you ever were lucky enough to visit DisneyQuest in its heyday, you know how cool it had been for its time. It was still fun towards the end, but had definitely seen better days. I prefer to remember it how it was, instead of what it became. How about you?
Hat tip and “thank-you kindly” to Jennifer S. for her assistance in obtaining research material for this post!
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