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Photo TR: Farewell to DisneyQuest


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DisneyQuest has a unique place in the history of the Walt Disney Company... The genesis of the concept came from the company's desire to plant regional entertainment offerings in core markets where the Disney Parks were not present. These mini Disney experiences like Club Disney and ESPN Zone were meant to extend the Disney brand and bolster the company revenue by infusing Disney on the ground level of these local markets.

 

DisneyQuest was intended to be the next extension of the Disney Parks brand with regional locations planned both domestic and international. The first location opened at the Walt Disney World Resort in 1998 and the second opened in Chicago in 1999. Additional locations were planned for the Disneyland Resort and construction had already begun on a Philadelphia location when the DisneyQuest project was officially cancelled. The Philadelphia location's construction was never completed as intended and Anaheim's location never made it off of the drawing board. Chicago's DisneyQuest closed in late 2001 leaving the sole location in Orlando to operate as a part of the Walt Disney World Resort after Disney Regional Entertainment was shuttered.

 

When the attraction first opened, it featured a ticket structure that charged a base admission with a limited number of points included in the base cost to allow you to experience most attractions and some games once, with the option to pay for additional points as needed. This structure was quickly replaced with the all-inclusive ticket structure found in the Disney Parks today with all offerings inside included in the cost of admission with the exception of redemption/prize games.

 

On a personal note, DisneyQuest was a significant part of my childhood. I remember the first time we visited in 1998 (I was eight years old), begging my parents for more points so that we could play more games and ride more rides (Hercules and Virtual Jungle Cruise were my favorites). As a child who loved video games, this space was a personal paradise. During that visit I designed a very random action figure at Sid's Create-A-Toy! I had my eleventh birthday party at DisneyQuest (we created an epic song and bought the CD version at Radio Disney Music Maker) and visited many subsequent times for the years that followed. Over the years the number of my annual visits lessened but DisneyQuest continued to be a great place to drop in for a few hours for some classic games and a few unique attractions. While the time came for DisneyQuest to close, I have a lot of great memories there and there is a part of me that is saddened to see it go. As with so many of the newest Disney Springs offerings, change has been very good so I look forward to seeing the NBA Experience when it opens in DisneyQuest's place.

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The entrance had a few different color schemes over the years with the most prominent being the teal paint with the purple Mickey ears.

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The inside of the entrance featured columns with maquettes of characters representing attractions found within DisneyQuest.

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A closer look...

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And the other side.

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Thematic consistency found throughout DisneyQuest with the compass guiding you through each of the themed zones.

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When DisneyQuest first opened, the Cybrolators that took you up to the Venture Port (the main access way to DisneyQuest's four themed zones) featured an animation of Aladdin's Genie and rumble features in the floor of the elevator to provide a "show experience" during transportation.

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The Score! Zone was the section of DisneyQuest that hosted the bulk of the arcade games along with several attractions unique to DisneyQuest.

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The Create Zone consisted of experiences almost entirely unique to DisneyQuest (with one slight exception).

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Welcome to Venture Port!

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There was something very magnificent about this structure.

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The entrance of the Explore Zone (the Adventureland of DisneyQuest) resembles the entrance into the Cave of Wonders. Just behind the entrance of the Explore Zone there used to be a dry slide that would allow guests to slide down to the entrance of The Magic Carpets of Aladdin attraction. The slide was sealed off early into DisneyQuest's operation and never reopened.

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The Wonderland Cafe used to sell cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory.

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Ride the Comix was a virtual reality experience that saw guests enter the comic book world (a series of custom characters created for this attraction as Disney did not yet own Marvel or any other comic characters) wielding a lightsaber-like sword (Disney did not yet own Star Wars either). Once inside guests would battle these villainous characters as best they could--I never fared that well. The attraction was removed in the last two years of DisneyQuest's operation with the former attraction space briefly being used for additional FoodQuest seating before eventually being walled off entirely.

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In its early years Cheesecake Factory Express/FoodQuest had two sections for food service that offered different options but as demand shifted, the menu became more limited and eventually only one service area was used.

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FoodQuest was the virtual theme park's quick service venue (there were no table service options in DisneyQuest) and was previously known as Cheesecake Factory Express.

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The top floor of DisneyQuest offered a great view of the theming in the Venture Port...

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And an incredible view when looking down!

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The hours I must have spent playing this sound battle game...

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A look down at Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters...

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DisneyQuest had no shortage of pinball machines!

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A look at the ride platforms for Ride the Comix! in the Score! Zone.

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Invasion! An extraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was a virtual reality simulator themed as an extension of the story of X-S Tech previously found in the Alien Encounter attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

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A few of the custom villains designed for the Ride the Comix! experience.

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Some of the design maquettes for Invasion's alien creatures were featured outside of the ride entrance.

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Ugly little buggers...

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Like a boss.

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X-S Tech's Chairman Clench reprised his role in the attraction's pre-show video loop to add further connection to the Magic Kingdom attraction that it outlived.

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A digital representation of the vehicle guests would pilot via simulator in Invasion.

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A look inside... Three gunners and one pilot would be hosted in this nearly 360 visual experience.

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For Larry...

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A look down at the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam.

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Some more modern arcade games...

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Including a branded four-person air hockey table!

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The seating area for Wonderland Cafe was also initially host to the Wonderland Web Adventures offering... Basically an early version of an internet cafe built upon a custom web browser featuring animation and interactions with the Cheshire Cat. The computers were removed from this seating area a few years into DisneyQuest's operation.

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The Game Pit in the Score! Zone lead to a series of themed rooms that featured different arcade games.

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Though the games were swapped out over the years, the themed spaces were never altered.

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This was a frequent visit location for me...

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Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters was a very different experience that the attraction of the same name in Disneyland.

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A combination of bumper cars and a shooting dark ride, these custom vehicles would allow a driver and a pilot to sit side by side, driving over balls to collect projectiles to aim at the targets on these vehicles. If the targets on an opponent's vehicles were hit successfully, the vehicles would spin out of control for a few minutes before resuming operation.

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A detail I didn't notice until my last visit was this wacky set of scribbled equations in the carpet of the Create Zone... According to one Imagineer who worked on the DisneyQuest project this was the "equation of fun" that equaled DisneyQuest.

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Sid's Create-A-Toy was an offering that allowed guests to choose from a virtual toy box of parts to assemble a custom action figure of your design... If you were satisfied with your design you had the option to purchase your digital creation in the physical form of an actual action figure.

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CyberSpace Mountain was the star attraction of DisneyQuest and easily the most popular for guests inside.

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The Design Center allowed guests to select a combination of track maneuvers for a virtual roller coaster...

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Bill Nye served as your design host as you chose a planet....

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You chose a ride speed...

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On a scale of 0 to 5, 5 being the most intense your design was rated. If you weren't satisfied with your ranking you could go back and edit the track design to tame down or intensify your ride experience.

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The end of the design experience allowed guests to name their creation.

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These ride pods seated two guests at a time and were capable of 360 degree pitch and yaw, forward and back and laterally.

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The Animation Academy was a digital version of the popular experience previously found at Disney's Hollywood Studios and still offered at Disney California Adventure. Instead of a physical sketch pad and pencil, a digital screen and stylus allowed guests to learn to sketch some of their favorite characters. In this way, the experience was unique to DisneyQuest.

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The Radio Disney Music Maker experience allowed guests to enter a booth where they could assemble song lyrics and define the style and singer of their newly created song. If they liked their creation, they had the ability to buy the song in the form of a MP3 CD, something that was incredibly impressive when it debuted in 1998.

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The spot where the Explore Zone slide used to exit. The exit section of the slide was cut off and sealed over and few guests ever knew that something previously existed here.

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The entrance of The Magic Carpets of Aladdin features the Genie, a character who also served as the host of the Venture Port as introduced during the Cybrolator show experience.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold debuted a few years after DisneyQuest opened, replacing Hercules in the Underworld but using the same 3-D screen technology.

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Virtual Jungle Cruise featured a cross between Dinosaur and Jungle Cruise with riders paddling through a pre-historic river moments before the giant asteroid impact that destroyed most life forms on Earth (Dr. Marsh!). Riders would attempt to find the radio that allowed them to go back in time in the first place... But I never managed to beat the game (I don't know of anyone that did).

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold allowed guests to shoot other pirate ships (and other creatures) for their gold while one guest piloted the ship.

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The cannons on this ride were a pre-cursor to the shooters used in Toy Story Midway Mania almost a decade later.

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The Magic Carpets of Aladdin was actually tested to a limited group of guests in Epcot's Innoventions in 1997. This was one of the first general public installations of interactive virtual reality and the experience control system was custom designed for Disney's development.

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The pre-show video was distinctly corny in the best way.

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Guests wore a unique helmet that they adjusted with a clickable back knob. The helmet connected to the VR headset and guests sat on their "magic carpets" using a control column akin to that of an airplane. The control column allowed for left-right tilting, forward-back pulling of the control "wheel" and the "wheel" could be tilted back and forth to move the carpets forward and back. This game actually had the ability to see and talk to other pilots sitting next to you and the game could be won or lost depending on which path you took on this pre-curser to a free-roaming game environment.

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The Explore Zone used to feature a remote control jeep attraction called "Treasure of the Incas" which allowed guests to pilot these vehicles in a crystal maze that could be seen beneath guests' feet in this area. The technology was incredibly impressive but problematic and the vehicles would often run out of power or get stuck along the narrow corridors of the maze. The attraction was ended only a few years after DisneyQuest opened but the maze floor remained visible for many years to follow. The former control consoles for these jeeps were replaced with a fleet of Jambo Safari games (a personal favorite of mine) where they stayed until DisneyQuest's closure.

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Jambo!

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Wreck-It Ralph became an unofficial mascot of DisneyQuest in the attraction's final years with him added to video loops outside, this statue being featured in various locations of the attraction over the years and a series of playable Fix-It Felix cabinets being added to DisneyQuest's lineup for a few years after the film debuted.

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As a bonus, I recently looked up some history on DisneyQuest Chicago (which I never had the chance to visit) but I was curious to see what became of the attraction space after it closed...

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After scouring the internet archives for the exact location of the former attraction I found this building in Google Maps...

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It appears that much of the first floor was left intact from an entrance structure perspective. The curvature of the building was retained but the glossy blue and purple alucobond tiles were painted a less dramatic silver/grey to blend in more with the surrounding cityscape--whereas the former attraction's paint scheme was meant to accomplish the opposite.

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If I ever get to Chicago, I will go out of my way to visit this structure if only to see with my own eyes how much if anything was retained from the past DisneyQuest structure.

Edited by jedimaster1227
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It's really sad to see this go. I know it wasn't ever quite what Disney wanted it to be, but I had a lot of fun there the few times I've been able to visit, even if it was fading a bit the last couple times. I still just can't help but feel like the NBA experience lacks any kind of Disney magic at all.

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With the VR craze now in full effect, DisneyQuest was way ahead of its time. If Disney had kept the technology current, I could only imagine what they could do now...

 

However, in its current state, it was WAY overdue to meet the wrecking ball.

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I loved DisneyQuest when I was a kid and everything was new. Thank you for jogging my memory about that slide. I remember skipping it the first time I visited so I would have a new experience the next year. Alas, the slide was removed before I made it back.

 

I visited for the last time in 2011 with my sister and brother-in-law to kill some time while my parents saw a movie at the AMC. While we still had fun, you could see the writing on the wall that the days of DisneyQuest were numbered.

 

Nice report.

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I agree with Joey, the whole complex was ahead of it's time. I mean, it even had a giant slide which are now the new hotness everywhere!

 

Unfortunately, technology like this changes and upgrades so fast that it's cost prohibitive to keep up with it and when we brought KT right before closing she was done after about an hour as she can play better games and do better VR at home!

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I got the chance to visit here back in 2016. Though the VR stuff was certainly in good spirits, it was all very old-fashioned compared to... well, just look at the real world. I enjoyed the massive stash of arcade games more, and in the end, I hope all those machines found good homes.

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I enjoyed the massive stash of arcade games more, and in the end, I hope all those machines found good homes.

The majority of them are in storage at WDW for what I am going to hope will eventually be something like "Flynn's Arcade" that they used to have a DCA in the ElecTRONica. It would only make sense why they didn't sell most of the classic machines (including anything Tron & Star Wars related) in the recent DQ auction.

 

I figure there MUST be a plan for them, and having some sort of Tron themed arcade next to the new ride would only make some logical sense.

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I visited DineyQuest once. I liked the Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise attractions, but got sicker than a dog when I tried this VR comic-book thing (actually had to go outside for fresh air afterward). I remember driving a remote-controlled truck through some sort of "temple," too.

 

Once was enough.

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Never visited to Orlando one, But did go to the Chicago one and really wish I had spent more time on the VR Stuff.

 

Just an idea, What if they rethemed DisneyQuest to Marvel and Star Wars. They can't do Marvel in the parks and this isn't part of the theme parks.

 

Wonder if this would work on their Cruise ships?

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Although it was super outdated, I always enjoyed the hell out of my visits to Disney Quest. I'll most likely never set foot in the sports place they are replacing it with because it carries absolutely no interest for me. That being said, I do understand their reasoning.

 

I'll carry some fond memories of our visits there and wish them the best in the new venture.

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Great report! It's a shame things kept closing like Ride the Comix, the Genie elevator, the slide, etc before the place met its demise. Though we all saw it coming.

 

I enjoyed my one visit to DisneyQuest 10 years ago, but I couldn't justify spending time at it over the main parks at the resort.

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Great report! It's a shame things kept closing like Ride the Comix, the Genie elevator, the slide, etc before the place met its demise. Though we all saw it coming.

 

I enjoyed my one visit to DisneyQuest 10 years ago, but I couldn't justify spending time at it over the main parks at the resort.

 

Totally agree. It was fun for a short visit only.

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