Disney has permanently closed three attractions at Disney World. Primeval Whirl, Stitch’s Great Escape, and the nighttime show Rivers of Light won’t be reopening, Disney disclosed to employees today in a memo.
Two of the attractions could be found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Primeval Whirl was a “Wild Mouse” style roller coaster in the park’s Dinoland U.S.A. area, whereas Rivers of Light was a light, music and special effects show that took place on the Discovery River lagoon.
Stitch’s Great Escape, meanwhile, was a show in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland where guests got to sit in on a scientific presentation featuring an audio-animatronic Stitch.
It’s not surprising to see Primeval Whirl and Stitch’s Great Escape officially shuttered. Both had been closed for months before the parks shutdown in March. Primeval Whirl last ran in June 2019; it was closed for maintenance that month, and in September it was announced that it would be entering “seasonal” mode, meaning it would only be open during the park’s busiest times of year. Basically making an attraction seasonal means it has one foot out the door and towards termination. Case in point: Stitch’s Great Escape. The greatly unloved but family friendly replacement to the ExtraTERRORestial Alien Encounter—the most frightening thing to ever exist at a Disney park—has been in seasonal mode since 2016. It actually hasn’t run at all since the first week of 2018, and rumors have long buzzed that it was scheduled to be replaced by a new attraction—potentially one themed to Wreck-It Ralph.
Both Primeval Whirl and Stitch’s Great Escape have poor reputations, and given their extended closures and seasonal status, their permanent closures make sense. And Disney kind of tipped their hand when the parks reopened last week and Primeval Whirl had been removed from the Animal Kingdom map and other listings.
Rivers of Light, though, is a bit of a surprise. Disney spent years trying to perfect the technology behind what was intended to be a groundbreaking nighttime show—the first one in Animal Kingdom’s history, and an addition that would finally let the company keep that park open at night. It finally opened to mixed reviews in 2017, and although it was a popular Fast Pass selection it apparently also received poor scores in guest surveys. A 2019 budget cut removed live performers from the show, indicating that Disney was already willing to retool it as needed. No nighttime shows are running in the parks now during pandemic-era operations, but when they do return Rivers of Light won’t be one of them.
Although theme parks in Florida are open again—a decision that has been roundly criticized, the pandemic is still having an enormous negative impact upon this industry. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see other permanent cuts and changes coming to Disney World, as well as to competitors like Universal and Sea World. Not only did these places lose massive amounts of money during the shutdown, but they’re still operating at significantly reduced capacity, both in terms of park attendance, restaurants, and resorts, and thus making far less than they would during normal operations. We know Disney has also paused some of its upcoming construction plans; it wouldn’t be a surprise to see other attractions, rides and shows phased out as the coronavirus continues to hurt their business.
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