The Horrific Story of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter The Ride That Was Too Scary For Disney World

Alien Encounter Tomorrowland Sign at Night Disney World

The Disney Parks in the 1990s were going through a massive transition. Driven by an influx of new cash from the revitalized animation department, numerous expansions were planned for many of the parks around the world. One of the many drivers for this was a want to attract new types of visitors to the park, mainly teenagers and young adults without children.

This led Disney to develop different kinds of attractions they never would have considered in the past, attractions that weren't necessarily child friendly. This is why they began developing Alien Encounter to replace Mission to Mars.

The Magic Kingdom had few attractions outside the roller coasters that appealed to teenagers, causing them to begin to develop an attraction to bring more of them to the park.

Tomorrowland had been designated the more adult land in Disneyland and other Disney Parks around the world with attractions like Star Tours, but with the Disney World version of the attraction being located in a different park, Disney would have to look elsewhere to bring in the same crowd to the park.

They turned to another popular science fiction franchise of the time, the Alien franchise.

This was a significant departure from Disney Parks tradition. It had been controversial when Disney started using PG content in their films and now they were jumping straight into R rated territory in their most child-friendly park.

The attraction would have featured you being trapped in a room with the Xenomorph after having entered a display by the Weyland-Yuntani corporation in Tomorrowland, which at the time was themed as a futuristic intergalactic spaceport.

Disney acquired the rights to the franchise and set the project in motion. Eventually, it was decided the film was not the right fit for the park and a unique story was developed involving a unique alien creature and an original company, X-S Tech, that would follow the same basic story beats as the original version of the attraction.

Disney would later use the alien rights for a scene in the Great Movie Ride.

The ride would proceed based on the original storyline inspired by Alien.

The story was that X-S Tech was presenting a new teleportation technology in an expo center and you were going to witness it being tested. After seeing a small test of it featuring a cute alien named Skippy, who doesn't seem to enjoy the experience, you proceed to the main demonstration room.

This ride would go through a lot of changes in its early days.

Initially, it had a comical preshow featuring Skippy led by a robot named T.O.M. This was replaced with a more serious preshow with the robot renamed S.I.R and Disney even swapping out the voice actor, to keep the tone of the attraction and preshow more in line with each other.

The attraction itself was also toned down after soft openings to remove a few of the more intense scenes, including one which simulated an audience member being eaten alive by the alien.

This ride was a part of a larger push to add more thrills to the Disney Parks that also brought attractions like Star Tours and Rocket Rods. Some became instant successes and others are remembered as short-lived disasters.

This remains as something in between.

While the attraction was applauded for its theming and departure from anything else Disney had done in the past, parents with small children frequently complained about its intensity and placement in the Magic Kingdom, the most child-friendly park at Walt Disney World.

It had plans to be cloned to other Disney Parks, including being a part of Tomorrowland 2055 in Disneyland, but Disney's financial troubles related to Euro Disneyland would prevent that from happening.

The backlash from parents of frightened children was strong. Eventually, additional warnings were placed around the attraction warning parents of its graphic and scary content, but it remained a controversial ride. Guests either loved it or hated it. There wasn't much in between.

Eventually, Disney was given the opportunity to replace it with the smash hit of Lilo and Stitch, a film that could easily have an attraction based on it in Tomorrowland.

Stitch's Great Escape would replace Alien Encounter with a similarly themed experience instead featuring Stitch attempting to escape from a holding facility while still evil.

The response to this attraction was pretty universal. It received almost universal hate.

Stitch's Great Escape is generally regarded as one of the worst attractions Disney has ever made. It completely misses what audiences loved about Stitch, instead subjecting you to him spitting and burping on you in the dark.

This attraction has since unceremoniously and unofficially closed leaving the future of the space unknown. Many of the props from Alien Encounter were still used for Stitch, from Skippy to the theaters, and it is unclear if they will be reused yet again.

Alien Encounter is fondly remembered by some, and hated by others.

X-S Tech Letter Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout

Several attractions feature references to this attraction, notably Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout which features a letter between the collecter and X-S Tech in the queue.

This is undoubtably the scariest attraction Disney has ever made, and it was pretty much doomed from the start by its position in the center of the most family-friendly park Disney has ever built. Whos to say but maybe it would have been more popular if it had been in another park.

Did you get a chance to ride Alien Encounter? Be sure to share your memories of this attraction in the comments below.


  1. I was only 1 when AE closed, but I remember reading about it in a book that was in my 4th/5th grade classroom called "The Mystery at Disney World." It mentioned X-S Tech, S.I.R., Skippy, and Chairman Clench by name. I eventually looked up videos of the attraction and being my 13 year old self (and because of the fact that I have a thing for evil male robots - blame all the Metal Sonic x Amy fanfics I read when I was 7), I had a crush on S.I.R. I did get to go on Stitch on my 2016 trip, and I kinda liked Sarge (S.I.R.'s replacement), but now I just want to shoot that annoying son of a gun in the face. My mom thought it was lame (Stitch, that is.) Very glad to know it no longer exists. If I had done AE, I would have been scared crapless!


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