October 31, 2008

Scared Silly

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Depending on your point of view, this was either one great Walt Disney World attraction or one that never belonged in a Disney park. Count me among the former. Happily.

Arriving at the Magic Kingdom park one early evening in 1999, I could not wait to get to the New Tomorrowland. I was not disappointed. The visuals were staggeringly beautiful, especially after dark when the neon lighting appeared. Here was the Tomorowland I could get excited about after watching the original in California deteriorate before my eyes.

Having just been to Paris the year before, I was curious to see the American version of Le Visionarium. Very glad to have it on our turf. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority was present and accounted for- in my book a staple of great Tomorroland design. Space Mountain loomed in the near distance, and our entire family had our eyes on another great journey to outer space. Yet it was this small theater show that I was most looking forward to experiencing.

Hearing the many stories of families with young children traumatized from the attraction, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew I had to discover the horrifying truth for myself. Wandering inside the building, the more serious, some would say ominous, tone of the attraction was quite a surprise. The upcoming theater experience was only intensified by the eerie music coming from the speakers.

My wife and I gave our kids the big pep talk, particularly preparing our youngest (nine years old at the time) for a thrill on par with the Haunted Mansion- but a little more "up close and personal". We seated him between both of us and held his hands while his teenage siblings sat on both sides of us. The lights dimmed- and the thrills began.

Sitting in the soon darkened theater, every move of the alien brought shrieks- shrieks of laughter that is. Even our nine year old found it great fun. Who ever thought (implied) blood and gore could be so much fun?!? As we exited the show, we couldn't stop talking about it. We spent the rest of our evening in a fairly empty Magic Kingdom, hitting the Florida mountain range and a quick trip with the Pirates. It was a great night under the stars, full of the magic Disney promises.

Expecting Alien Encounter to be around for a long time, we never took another ride. Wish we had as it closed a mere eight years after its premier. Yes, it was a shock for us. Disney, especially in Florida, left its attractions up for years with replacement or rehabilitation. But it was gone, now only to be enjoyed on You Tube.
So, here it is- scary yourself silly! ExtraTerrorestrial Alien Encounter

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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