9 Disney Characters You Can’t Meet in the Parks Anymore
Meeting your favorite characters is one of the best parts of a trip to a Disney park, but there are some characters visitors sadly won't be able to see in person...at least not anymore.
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If you follow Disney news, it can seem like the parks are almost constantly changing. Awesome new rides like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Rise of the Resistance replace older attractions that we’re still nostalgic for. More somberly, the coronavirus pandemic has led to massive changes at Disney World. Even the characters that pop up around the parks aren’t guaranteed to stick around forever. While we’re certain classics like Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan will never go away, Disney always has to account for new, hugely popular characters—sometimes at the expense of other ones. Here are some (perhaps surprising!) characters you can’t meet in the Disney parks.
As the least vocal main character in Disney’s entire film library (Dumbo never speaks in the film named for him!), you’d think this pachyderm would at least get more of a chance to shine in the Disney parks. Though he is featured in the popular “Dumbo the Flying Elephant” ride, and occasionally as part of parades or fireworks shows, he’s not a character that park guests can actually meet. This is most likely because, as an elephant, he’d have to walk around on four legs, which could present a challenge.
Though it’s acquired somewhat of a cult following, The Hunchback of Notre Dame didn’t perform as well at the box office as Disney executives hoped, especially because its 1996 release came on the heels of mega-hits like The Lion King and Aladdin. Because of this, you won’t see outcast bell-ringer Quasimodo, star-crossed lovers Esmeralda and Phoebus, or lively jester Clopin walking around the park with Disney’s more popular characters. They appeared in a “Festival of Fools” show that played in the parks in the late 1990s, but they haven’t enjoyed much of a presence in the park in the 21st century. The exception: The film’s villain, malicious clergyman Frollo, appears in Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the Fantasmic show, and a few of the parks’ other baddie-themed attractions.
The 1988 combination live-action and animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit experienced pretty much the opposite fate as Hunchback. Though aimed at slightly more mature audiences than many Disney offerings, the film performed unexpectedly well at the box office, becoming 1988’s second highest–grossing film. After this, Roger Rabbit enjoyed a bit of a heyday at the Disney parks that lasted well into the ’90s. He appeared in everything from stage shows to parades to meet-and-greets.
But it was behind-the-scenes drama that eventually caused the funny bunny to disappear from the parks. Steven Spielberg, who’d served as a consultant on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and owned 50 percent of the rights to the character, didn’t approve Disney’s script for a planned sequel. Spielberg was also becoming more and more associated with Disney competitor Universal Pictures thanks to his Universal films E.T. and Jurassic Park, causing his relationship with Disney, and its CEO Michael Eisner, to crumble. Eisner then ended up putting the kibosh on the Disney parks’ Roger Rabbit attractions.
Wait…Dream who? Unless you’re a real Disney devotee, this top-hat-sporting bearded scientist is probably unfamiliar to you. He’s not from a Disney film, TV show, or any other media offering. He was created solely for an Epcot ride called “Journey Into Imagination,” which debuted in 1983. In the ride, Dreamfinder, a crafty inventor, talked about the power of imagination with the help of his purple pet dragon, Figment. In 1998, Epcot’s entire Imagination Pavilion went under construction, and the ride re-opened as “Journey Into Your Imagination.” This version of the ride had no Dreamfinder whatsoever, and Figment only made a cameo.
Disney, however, had severely underestimated the popularity of Figment and Dreamfinder, whose absence actually upset quite a few park-goers. So they re-did the ride yet again in 2002, this time calling it “Journey Into Imagination (With Figment)” and featuring Figment as a major part of the ride again. Dreamfinder, however, never returned. But he didn’t vanish entirely—he did appear in a Marvel comic exploring his origin story. See if you know more Disney trivia that’ll test your true knowledge of the House of Mouse.
The Sword in the Stone, Disney’s 1963 retelling of the King Arthur legend, might be one of Disney’s lesser-known films, but it still has a presence at Disneyland. In the Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom, you can find the “King Arthur Carrousel,” complete with a sword buried in a mound of stone. Until 2006, King Arthur’s magical tutor performed a miniature show where guests could try their hand at removing Excalibur from its perch. No adult guests ever could, but one lucky kid would be able to make it budge and would be crowned king or queen for the day. Today, Merlin and his crowning ceremony are no more, but the carousel and sword remain.
In 2004, the Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to The Muppets, a piece of Disney trivia you’re probably well aware of if you’ve spent any time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park (formerly known as MGM). This park offers a Muppets-centric show called Muppet*Vision 3D, in addition to plenty of Muppet merch. What you won’t see—at least today—are Kermit, Miss Piggy, and your other favorite characters just strolling around. Though they did walk around the park and appear in parades in the early ’00s, they didn’t enjoy quite the same level of success as Magic Kingdom’s meetable characters. In addition, puppeteers and guests alike seemed to prefer the familiar, hand-size puppet versions of the Muppet gang rather than life-size ones. Get a look at these photos showing the “new normal” of Disney parks during coronavirus.
The Power Rangers
If your first thought was, “Wait…the Power Rangers aren’t Disney!”, well, you’re correct. For all the superheroes Disney does own the rights to, the Power Rangers are not among them. But this wasn’t always the case. In 2001, Disney actually did acquire the rights to the super-team when they bought Saban Entertainment. For the next few years, the Mighty Morphin’ crew featured in an MGM parade and even did their own live performance next to the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show. In 2010, though, the series’ original creator, Haim Saban, acquired the rights back from Disney. Of course, there’s still plenty of fun for superhero fans to be had at Disney, since they now own the rights to virtually every Marvel hero in the (comic) book.
Kenai and Koda
In 2003, when Disney released the Inuit legend–inspired coming-of-age story Brother Bear, its two ursine heroes seemed like shoo-ins for a successful tenure at Animal Kingdom. And they did, in fact, spend some time in that park, as well as in the Canada section of Epcot. However, Brother Bear’s release had been preceded that year by a massive Pixar hit, Finding Nemo, which had both greater box office success and a stronger lasting impression on moviegoers. Therefore, Nemo, Dory, and Marlin became permanent features of the Disney parks, while Kenai and Koda did not. Another Disney feature you won’t see anymore before long? The original Splash Mountain.
The Three Little Pigs
Way back in 1933, before the release of any of its feature-length films, Disney produced an Academy Award–winning short film retelling the story of the famous piggy trio and their big, bad nemesis. The cartoon classic—and its catchy tune, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”—are still fairly well-known, but nearly nine decades’ worth of other Disney characters have surpassed them in the way of relevance and park presence. There is a cafe named for them in Disney’s California Adventure park, and the characters themselves do occasionally appear in parades and events celebrating “Long-Lost Friends.” Don’t miss these other insider secrets Disney park employees won’t tell you.
- SuperCarlinBrothers: “Figment: The Most Popular Disney Character You’ve Never Heard Of”