Defunctland: The History of Disney’s Worst Attraction Ever, Superstar Limo

[Insdistinct chatter] I think it’s…I think it’s fantastic. [Offcamera] Mr. Eisner? Oh, hi Michael. Oh certainly Mr. Eisner. Sorry to disturb you, but I’m delivering to you Mr. Barry Bostwick and Mr. Richard Kind. If you’ll just sign for them Yea, right on that. Thank you very much. [Richard] Hi Michael! [Michael] Richard. [Barry] Hi Michael. [Michael] Barry. [Michael] So? [Richard] Yeah, we were told to meet the big cheese at the Disneyland Resort [Michael chuckles] The big cheese… I’m not the, I wish I was the big cheese This is the big cheese [Richard and Barry] Oh! [Mickey] Hiya Fellas! [Mickey] Gee, I’ve been looking for you all day! I wanna give you a personal tour of Disney’s California Adventure! What do you say we start with a ride on Caaaalifornia Screamin’? [Richard and Barry groan] [Michael] So Mickey, it’s just you and me and I love that ride, and I want to go on it with you. [Mickey] Aweeee [Mickey] Okay, boss. [Michael] Okay boss You know Mickey. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful theme park. [Mickey] You betcha! [Kevin] It wasn’t. And now the story of a company in panic and the one CEO who just couldn’t seem to catch a break. It is Defunctland On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates to the public and along with elaborate theming, it had an expansive, magical, parking lot. Due to its placement in Anaheim, Disneyland’s land was far from sprawling. This made the parking lot prime real estate for any kind of expansion, including a potential second gate. While a variety of concepts for a second park were proposed over the years, it wouldn’t be until 1982 that the Walt Disney Company would seriously begin to consider it. On October 1st of that year, Epcot Center in Orlando Florida’s Walt Disney World opened. This created the Walt Disney World Resort as it is known today. And it made a multi-day vacation to the resort necessary if guests were going to explore all the offerings. Two years later in 1984, it was becoming increasingly clear that despite Epcot’s success, Disney as a company was not doing well. A string of box office failures from their studio and big budget projects for the parks had brought Disney to the lowest point in the company’s history and many feared a takeover. In a bold move by the company, then CEO and president Ron Miller was ousted and Michael Eisner was brought in as the company’s new CEO. Eisner had big plans for the company: the most notable of which were to turn the company’s failing studios around, Make the existing Disney parks more appealing to older audiences, expand internationally with the addition of a European Park, and finally make Anaheim a multi-day resort with the addition of a second gate. In 1987, the Walt Disney Company acquired the Wrather corporation. Decades earlier in the mid-1950s, Walt Disney had asked oil tycoon and television producer Jack Wrather to build the Disneyland Hotel. Since Disney lacked the funds, having spent most of his money constructing Disneyland. Since then and up until Disney’s acquisition in 1987, the Wrather corporation had owned the Disneyland Hotel and property near the theme park. The obvious next step after obtaining the necessary assets was to finally build a second theme park in the Disneyland Resort. And it might have been that simple had Eisener not gotten distracted Apart from the Disneyland Hotel, the Wrather corporation also owned the RMS Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner that was permanently docked in Long Beach, California. After Disney acquired the Wrather corporation, Eisner became interested in transforming the Queen Mary and surrounding land into a new resort called Port Disney. Port Disney was to feature hotels, a cruise ship dock, and an all-new ocean themed amusement park called Disney Sea. Eisner pitted the cities of Anaheim and Long Beach against one another, trying to decide whether to build Disney Sea as the second gate to the Disneyland Resort or build it in Long Beach within Port Disney. The announcement was made in January of 1990 and Anaheim and Long Beach both worked with Disney in order to bring the new theme park to their City However the citizens of both cities were not thrilled with the Disney Expansion Citing the issues the residential neighborhoods of Anaheim already faced due to the existing park this along with a variety of other legal logistical and budgetary issues caused Eisner to announce in late 1991 that plans for Port Disney and Disney Sea had been scrapped in favor of an alternative idea that the Imagineers had been drafting due To the popularity of Florida’s Epcot Eisner and the Imagineers believe that a West Coast version of the park was the best idea for Disneyland’s Second gate the park would have been almost identical to Epcot with a few notable changes such as a larger spaceship earth improved future world attractions and a much different world showcase Including a steel dragon coaster in the Asia pivot and a boat cruise around the entire world Wescott was announced at the same time as the cancellation of Port Disney and Disney Sea in 1991 One year later Euro Disneyland would open which for a variety of reasons that are too long to discuss here failed horribly The budget for the parks division was cut dramatically and his ideas for Westcot grew it became clear that the company could not afford such an expansion But Eisner did not give up on the disneyland resort and despite the issues went forward with his plans for a second park Eisner had a simple technique that he often used when he decided on new projects the technique is known as Jealousy whenever Eisner saw another company doing something successfully he decided that Disney would do the same thing Moreover he would take the idea and do basically the same thing In basically the same place for instance after seeing the success of the amusement park-zoo hybrid Busch Gardens Tampa in the early 90s he greenlit Disney’s Animal Kingdom the park was just over an hour from Busch Gardens after seeing the success of the Church Street Station nightclubs in Orlando Florida Eisner greenlit his own nightclubs and Pleasure Island at the Disney village marketplace Pleasure Island was about half an hour from Church Street Station So when Westcot was cancelled and Disney returned to the drawing board it wouldn’t be long until Eisner was presented with a new idea since the Disneyland Resort at the time provided such a short visit to Vacationers many of the guests would go explore the other tourist offerings of California after their trip Disneyland president Paul Pressler recognized this and pitched an idea to Eisner if Disney could provide all the sites and attractions of the state of California within the Disneyland Resort then guests would have no reason to leave and spend their money elsewhere This concept would develop into the plans for California adventure a California themed theme park to be located in the already California themed California concept art for the park was released in 1996 a year after Westcot was cancelled the release date of the California adventure would feature everything from soaring above Yosemite Valley to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood movie making the original concept art from the park had a sense of serenity and seemed to be designed as an intimate romantic tribute to California in the Hollywood section of the park there was to be a recreation of the theme building the observation deck and former restaurant at the Los Angeles International Airport which was being renovated by Walt Disney Imagineering Around the time the California Adventure was in development this was to be the show building to one of california adventures signature attractions Superstar limo a high-speed dark ride that would take guests on a wild paparazzi chase through Hollywood as guests boarded the attraction They would be greeted by Michael Eisner himself Eisner would tell guests that they had to get to the big premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater as soon as possible to sign a contract for their next film But he warned guests that the paparazzi were all over town And if they were caught doing anything to ruin their image Then Eisner would have to cancel the deal The limo driver would then flora in an attempt to get guests to the movie premiere on time according to Disney historian Jim Hill the ride system would have been a combination of the traditional dark ride and a Family-friendly roller coaster the ride would have also included a variety of jokes and gags For instance guests would fly past the famous tale of the pop hot dog stand with a large man in rhinestones creating sounds of flatulence But his guests turned the corner it would become clear that this was actually Elvis Presley squirty mustard onto a hot dog the ride ended with guests reaching the Chinese Theatre only to have Eisner tell them that he Would have to cancel the contract because they had been caught by the paparazzi Then a picture taken of guests while on the ride to be shown cropped into a tabloid reporting on their limo chase after this Guests would exit and walk the red carpet Into the Chinese Theatre which was the Gift Shop and exit to the attraction where fake Oscars on ride photos and t-shirts would have been sold the original concept of super star limo was nothing groundbreaking But it seemed that it would have been a fun dark ride that would have fit perfectly in the Hollywood section of the park However the mid-90s version of the attraction would not be the one that guests Experienced when the park opened and this time it wasn’t Eisner’s fault In August of 1997 in Paris France Diana Princess of Wales was killed in a limo accident her driver was supposedly fleeing from paparazzi when he lost control of the wheel the tragedy captured the attention of the entire world who grieved the death of the princess and the other passengers As for Eisner and his team they now had a big problem Superstar limo can no longer be a high-speed Paparazzi chase because it would now seem that it was some sort of twisted reference to the tragedy the Imagineers scrambled briefly considering cloning a disney-mgm attraction to the Anaheim Park top contenders with a great movie ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or rock and roller coaster which at The time was still in development of these the Tower of Terror was probably considered to be the top Contender as Eisner was heavily pushing for the idea of a ride Hotel hybrid on top of most everyone besides him thinking that this was a bad idea that Logistically would be problematic if not impossible It was also clear that the budget for California Adventure would not allow for this or any of the other potential attractions Which meant the Hollywood section of the park would not have a ride on opening day, or would it? Forced whether by situation or executives to write a treatment for an acceptable version of superstar limo the Imagineers had a few solutions one remove most of the references to paparazzi to remove any high-speed element by having the limos inch forward through the show building and Three add more setting specific jokes and gags the idea wasn’t good and the Imagineers considered superstar limo to be dead unfortunately If their job was to please the boss they had done it a little too well Eisner who had been in the entertainment industry for decades Adored the inside jokes and Hollywood gags He loved them so much that he greenlit the new terrible version of the attraction Imagineering most likely baffled at what they now had to do did their best to make the attraction work This included scrapping the Chinese Theatre Gift Shop and adding the theater as a show scene in the ride in order to fill time after budgets were slashed even more the theme building exterior was scrapped in favor of a Cartoonish cutout look this art style was also used within the ride itself the only three-dimensional animated figures would be that of celebrities But due to the lack of budget these would have to be Celebrities whose likenesses were cheap or stars that the Walt Disney Company already had contracts with also these were not animatronics But barely animated figures with minimal on didn’t see movement at some point Eisner realized that the ride was going to be bad So we made a few quick changes to save face first He removed a reference to DreamWorks Animation that read dream jerks animation which referenced the ongoing feud between former president of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg who now worked for DreamWorks and Eisner also Eisner asked Imagineering to remove him from the ride and the on ride footage was replaced with the sleazy, Hollywood agent barking orders at guests proving that superstar limo foreshadowed more than one catastrophe the retooled ride opened with California Adventure on February 8th 2001 so was it as bad as they thought it would be? Yes, yes it was Here and around Hollywood Boulevard There’s lots of fun and interesting places to eat and shop all geared to bring out the Hollywood in everyone And if you’ve ever wanted to be a star, then you have to ride superstar limo From the moment your board your limo at LAX and journey through Malibu Beverly Hills Bel Air and Hollywood you are Hollywood’s newest sensation hey enjoy your 15 minutes of fame babe The cartoon cutout exterior of super star limo features a variety of landmarks from Los Angeles such as Union Station City Hall And the Beverly Hills hotel one section features the world’s shortest railway Los Angeles’s Angels flight the railway Which was constructed in 1901 had recently reopened but an accident resulted in the death of a passenger on February 1st 2001 Exactly one week before California Adventure and super star limo would open however the prominent reference on the queue’s exterior would not be removed Another interesting feature was the flower bed that was decorated to look like a pool after making their way into the queue guests would find themselves in the baggage claim area in the LAX Airport the inside jokes to California and the entertainment industry would begin with the female announcer giving instructions to arriving passengers The white zone is for loading and unloading only No schmoozing Further into the queue guests would encounter television screens playing an entertainment news report featuring a horrifying puppet version of the late Joan Rivers Rivers would describe Hollywood’s next biggest star who was set to arrive at LAX that day the star turns out to be the guests entering the ride In this queue area there were more cartoon cutouts that helped foreshadow what a terrible experience guests were about to have one example of this was A baggage carousel with packaged Oscars after guests winded their way through the queue They would approach the ground transportation section of the airport and board their limo a sparkly purple Cartoonish limo a cast member guides them into their cars and tells them to enjoy their premiere guests are then sent on their way into their soon to be a recurring nightmare an announcer tells them to keep their hands feet and Egos in the limo at all times ha The limo enters a dark tunnel and the guest agent appears on the screen attached to the rides vehicle despite being a creepy gross puppet This turned out to be the most realistic part of the ride The first showroom is Beverly Hills and Regis Philbin pops out of the door Fanning himself with money next up Melanie Griffith with Antonio Banderas then immediately following Cindy Crawford And this is just the beginning the next show scene is the Sunset Strip here guests get to see Tim Allen and Jackie Chan After this guests enter a second tunnel and are reminded by their agent to not be late the third show scene is Bel Air Where guests can see Drew Carey with a handful of star maps guests also run into sponsors trying to get them to sign advertising Deals a third tunnel features another reminder from their agent before the Malibu show scene here guests encounter Cher Standing in the corner of the scene as if she doesn’t want to be there the limo Then enters the studio Lots where guests encounter paparazzi screenwriters and production assistants all Represented through cheap cutouts after this guests arrive for their premiere where none other than Whoopi Goldberg greets them guests are shown an on-ride photo of themselves before entering a final tunnel where their agent tells them that they are a superstar and that was superstar limo So now everybody I thought we’d go over to super star a little a limo yeah, because I’m on it excellent California Aventure is right next to Disneyland exactly located right next to Disneyland Superstar limo has a superstar with the picture of me is super limited looks exactly like me really Here we go here we go now. This is not a scary fast ride right no No, no, this is just like a scenic like as if you were doing Hollywood you want to become a super star, right? Come on, my darling. Let’s take a ride See ya on the way back! Say hi to me! Okay And dashing Antonio Banderas, and there’s Hollywood Beauty Cindy Crawford Hey Everyone How about a map to your house Drew Carey Pool party hold your breath now a Picture Why they always entertaining share Hollywood favorite Whoopi Goldberg There might be no better way to illustrate the reaction the public had to the ride than the odd ride photos It is no surprise that the ride was received negatively with guests complaining that they had waited a half hour to ride the cheap pop-up Book superstar limo was not the only issue, California Adventure as a whole was berated by the general public and critics alike, but overall the lines were so short at times out here I thought it was closed This is outstanding the concept was bad the execution was worse and superstar limo was unforgivable It is no surprise that on January 11th 2002 less than a year after the park opened superstar limo was closed Management had no replacement in mind They just realized that guests visiting California Adventure would be a lot happier if they never Experienced the attraction the building sat abandoned in the Hollywood pictures backlot for four years rumors circulated of various redressings that the ride could undergo Jim Hill reported that the Imagineers were considering retooling the ride into goofy superstar limo where goofy would drive guests through Hollywood and the c-list Celebrities would be replaced with classic animated Disney characters to pull this off Disney would take over a hundred Disney figures that had been placed in Disney stores throughout the United States and move them into the new Show scenes another idea was to reopen the ride as is and over the course of a few months Introduced animatronics of the Muppets cast at various points in the ride these characters would be wearing hard hats and be actively renovating superstar limo as guests rode through it The Muppets would also be commenting on how horrible the current version of the ride was the finished product after the transformation would be Miss Piggy superstar limo of Course neither of these ideas happened and the building continued to sit abandoned It wouldn’t be until after Eisner stepped down from CEO in 2005 that the super star limo space would receive a new attraction as the first step in what would become a 1.5 billion dollar expansion and renovation to California Adventure the new management team constructed the Pixar themed dark ride Monsters Inc Mike and Sulley to the rescue the simple dark ride would take guests throughout the events of the first Monsters Inc film and It was set to open on January 23rd 2006, but that is not the end of superstar limos story oh
no the ride very much lives on in the Absolute worst way possible since the Monsters Inc dark ride was a quick fix for the park Come in a year before the major expansion it didn’t have the budget to bulldoze the space and start over quite the Opposite really in order to save money the Imagineers decided to utilize as much of super star limo as possible this included Retrofitting the cut out exterior with door designs, which actually matched the film’s intro animation Repurposing the limos into Monstropolis taxis reusing the track layout and some of the tunnel sequences and there was one more thing Oh, yeah They stripped the c-list celebrity figures and dress them into various animatronics throughout the ride Some of these Zomba tronics are more obvious than others and the Drew Carey and Jackie Chan figures are especially easy to spot But don’t worry most if not every figure in the ride was reused in some way while the new ride has received mixed reviews and its inclusion of the previous attractions assets is Unsettling to say the least is a far better dark ride than superstar limo while Disney might wish they could erase super star limo from the memories of the unfortunate park guests that Experienced it it is still important to remember the ride and the other missteps of California Adventure The story is a good reminder that even a company as big as Disney can still get themselves into financial difficulty Creative gridlock and even some pretty wacky situations On the next defunct land Michael Eisner learns the differences between building a park in Tokyo and building a park in Paris resort to the magic of Disney and Hope that that in the end makes the dream come true

Comments 6

  • Hello everyone. To answer the main question, yes I have already done an episode on Superstar Limo. I will be going back and redoing some of my old videos every now and then to give them the same research and production value as the new ones. This video is over twice as long as the original, because I was able to find so much more information and footage.

  • why does the pen move at 9:46 wtf wat that? 0___o

  • At least japan got Disney sea

  • I feel like removing paparazzi would’ve been enough to keep people from thinking of Diana. Just say you’re running late and need to get there fast and have the post ride picture be y’all arriving or maybe have a gag where you get a ticket because of a red light camera.

  • I honestly think that the first version of the attraction would've failed to. I don't think mos people would want to see attractions based on where they live, also I don't think the lack of escapism would of worked either. But this video as usual was educational, and definitely not a failure. 🙂

  • Building California as a theme park so that people have no reason to leave and experience the real California, when they can visit a fake, sterile copy of Cali is the most Disney thing I’ve ever heard.

  • This is still better than "It's A Small World"

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