There are many classic attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, but rarely does an attraction achieve such cult status as Tomorrowland’s now-defunct ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. The attraction replaced the aging Mission to Mars attraction, and opened in December 1994. It then closed for some months for re-working, as then Disney CEO Michael Eisner deemed it not scary enough. The attraction is notable for breaking away from the family friendly Disney attraction mold, as a sign at the attraction entrance explicitly warned of its intense nature and unsuitability for children.
The attraction contained a detailed back story, in which guests were invited to see a demonstration of advanced teleportation technology from the X-S Corporation. After watching a pre-show, guests sat in a circular theater, where the company’s CEO decided to transport himself into the chamber. Along the way, his signal is intercepted by a planet, and a monstrous alien arrives in the chamber instead. After it escapes, it menaces guests, using a pioneering combination of binaural sound, water and physical effects, in complete darkness, to create a truly unique attraction.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter began life much differently however, with the original designs for the attraction calling for an experience based on the Alien series of films, and would be titled Nostromo, after the ship from Alien. The film was deemed to scary, and not at all fitting with the Disney image. Alien had made an appearance in sister park Hollywood Studios however as a show scene on The Great Movie Ride.
George Lucas worked on the project, and ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter featured Tyra Banks, Tim Curry, Jeffrey Jones, Kevin Pollak and Kathy Najimy. A Disneyland version was planned as part of the Tomorrowland 2055 project, which was ultimately scrapped with the financial failure of the Disneyland Paris Resort.
So what happened to ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter? The attraction closed in 2003 to make way for Stitch’s Great Escape, a far tamer version of the original show, featuring the alien character from Lilo and Stitch. The replacement has been heavily panned by Theme Park Critics and casual guests alike. However, Stitch sells toys, and Disney will make far more money with the current iteration than it did with the original.