Farewell SpectroMagic and Fort Langhorn Escape Tunnel at the Magic Kingdom

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on April 30, 2013 at 3:00 am with 22 Comments

Apparently, about a month ago the “escape tunnel” from Fort Langhorn, in the Magic Kindom’s Tom Sawyer Island, was unceremoniously closed. I couldn’t get any confirmation from the front line Cast Members (who may indeed have not known anything) about the immediate future. Is the thing shut for refurbishment or down permanently? I hesitate to jump to conclusions. One always likes to give the benefit of the doubt. Then again, Disney has a habit of abusing that “benefit.” Just recently, they announced that the promised return of SpectroMagic is impossible, and the parade floats are badly decomposed and must be destroyed. And the world is still waiting for the return of both Light Magic and Rocket Rods at Disneyland, which were similarly put on “hiatus.”

April, 2013.

A refurbishment would be nice. The front-line CM we spoke with did say they tried to put up signs and barricades, and people kept ignoring them, so the tunnel entrance had to be differently closed up. Thus, today’s visitor will find no mention of the escape tunnel; just a door. And the “door” is really a plywood shape screwed into the opening. There are no hinges and this gives all the appearance of a permanent closure.

October, 2011

I do hope it comes back. Then again, I was also hoping for the return of SpectroMagic, too, so perhaps I’m naive to hope.

Not coming back.

At the end of the day, it *is* just a tiny little thing. Not that many hundreds (forget thousands) of people know about it or indeed could experience it if they wanted to; it’s more low-volume than that. But this is precisely why I love it. It’s a small detail and the sort of thing that could be overlooked if you were hasty in your survey of the area. It’s essentially an Easter egg in theme park format, and we all know that the public thrills in finding Easter eggs.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom excels in these kinds of discovery Easter eggs. Or rather, they did. Half the trails around the Tree of Life are closed now, and the other half are covered by nets, rendering the exploratory, expeditionary feeling a bit mute now. And some of the better Easter eggs are gone, like the path that looped around the main path between Asia and Africa that had a SECOND path looping off into the real, honest to goodness wilderness. An unpaved path you were encouraged to explore. It had stepping stones in running water, for crying out loud – how great was that?! These days, the stepping stones in water are gone; the path through the foliage blocked off (lawyers, you see). The only other stepping stones in water – for the Storm Slides (body slides) at Typhoon Lagoon – are similarly history. They’ve been paved over now, so the pathway is smooth. I guess theme takes a back seat to lawyering.

A smooth path now (for the last couple of years)

In the end, this could be much ado about nothing. I do hope the escape tunnel re-opens. But in the event it was a closure that will turn out to be permanent, I wanted to mark the occasion. Disney has shuttered things without much notice before, so anything is possible.

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More information and updates

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida.

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  • Instidude

    I dislike the closure of the unique, little touches of the parks. But I unfortunately see the reality of the situation, for every one lawyer that says something needs to be removed/replaced/modified, there are thousands of people who would sue in an instance if they hurt themselves on the item.

    Some of my favorite rides from my youth at regional amusement parks have disappeared for the same reason. It would be different if Disney and others were intentionally out to injure people, but a great theme and interactive elements do lead to inadvertent injuries due to clumsiness. The vast majority of people understand that they can slip, trip, or knock their heads almost anywhere, but there is a very small minority who do not want to take personal accountability for their actions.

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    Thank you Kevin.

    My heart breaks that Spectro won’t be coming back. Let’s face it, Main Street Electrical Parade does NOT belong at the Magic Kingdom. The scale is way off and it just doesn’t feel the same there as it did at Disneyland. Magic Kingdom needs its own show, something built for the park. SpectroMagic was that show.

    For them to say that the floats had deteriorated too much is absurd. That would mean that either 1) They didn’t store them properly (in which case someone should be fired) or 2) they didn’t want to replace bulbs, etc to get it show worthy (in which case they are just too cheap).

    The real story here is that you really can’t trust anything that Disney says. They just make things up to suit their needs. And in this case, they needed an excuse for why they didn’t want to bring SpectroMagic back, even though they had previously promised that they would.

    They need to get Steve Davison out there to build them a new night time parade ASAP.

    • SpectroMan

      I agree Dusty, it IS absurd. What happened was, as we already know, DLR was ready to accept MSEP back into it’s lineup for this Summer. In order to do that, WDW would have to get Spectro back up and running. Unfortunately, whichever idiots chose to not plan ahead to have two nighttime parades parked behind the Magic Kingdom, allowed Spectro’s floats to remain outdoors for many months in the harsh sun, humidity and rain that is Central Florida (I’m sure they could’ve been stored over at Epcot where Tapestry of Nations floats used to be, but what do I know).

      Anyway, a “Restoration Expert” was sent out to the MK to ascertain the condition of Spectro’s floats and what it would take to get them street-ready again. A few were in decent shape, but the bulk were very deteriorated. A rough estimate was given, at which point Disney decided it wasn’t worth it and they would simply keep MSEP as long as they needed to, rendering DLR without a nighttime parade once AGAIN. No announcement, no final farewell for the thousands of Spectro fans (like myself) out there to say a proper goodbye. The whole thing makes me sick…it’s yet another of Disney’s planned phasing out of older attractions with a PR twist that makes it sound all planned. The lack of foresight on the part of managers never ceases to amaze me.

      So, now what will most likely happen is that MSEP will stay at WDW indefinitely and DLR will have to come up with a new nighttime parade in time for it’s 60th. That’s all fine and well, but for us traditionalists, it means the loss of not only one childhood favorite, but two – all at once.

      • SpectroMan

        Oh – I should add that, at about the same time as this Expert was commissioned to look at Spectro, a team from Disneyland Parade Maintenance flew to WDW to check out the current condition of MSEP’s floats so that they could plan/budget how much time and money would be needed to get them at “Disneyland level” condition again. Results were dismal and disappointing – WDW had not been maintaining them per DL’s standards and it was going to be a huge cost for Anaheim.

        This may play into the fact that at least one MSEP float seems to be missing on any given night at the MK these days. Last time I visited (March), it was the Tink opening float – the NEWEST one of all – that was absent.

      • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

        Thank you SO much for your comments. VERY helpful. What a sad situation. WDW is penny wise and pound foolish. Their long term decision making has been abysmal.

      • kirbilicious

        Hopefully whatever new parade Disneyland gets will be good, because I’m sure it’ll just be dumped on the Magic Kingdom in a few years anyway.

      • StevenW

        Whatever injustice to MSEP, I would imagine WDW can keep them. I already gave my farewell to MSEP years ago. How many more goodbyes do Disneyland need? Disneyland can use an entirely new nightime parade!!!

      • tcsnwhite

        Word is Steven Davsion and team are working on an all-new nighttime parade for DLR. Honestly, I would rather have a brand new 21st century electrical parade (or some cool nighttime concept) than have an aging “Disney’s Electrical Parade” come back when it should have gone to the retirement parade home in the sky decades ago. I don’t know what it with people in the US wanting aging, old entertainment while the international parks get new concepts up to new design standards, etc.

        DEP not coming back to DLR doesn’t bother me as long we (hopefully, fingers crossed) get something new.
        As for Spectromagic, what a relic too. The only loss is that WDW is too damn cheap to just order a brand new concept (for the next 20+ years), along with their new upcoming “Festival of Fantasy”.

        It’s high time (and has been for over a decade), for Disney to invest in a couple new nighttime parades – one for DL, one for MK – and finally move on from nostalgic aging relics.

      • Amy VandenBoogert

        In regards to Spectro Man’s comment about the Tink float being missing in March… I too was at the park that month and I saw the Tink float. So I don’t know what the deal is. But WDW really needs to step up the maintenance and stop being such penny pinchers becauce in the end it will come back and bite them in the butt in a BIG way.

    • DisWedWay

      Will we see another light bulb sale as was done with DL’S ELP many years ago? I still have mine.

  • SummerInFL

    My favorite memories as a kid was “escaping” down that tunnel, it’s a shame that I won’t be able to bring my kids there and show them how much fun they could be having. What’s next? Closing the island altogether because it’s too much of a hassle to ferry people over?

    Thanks for giving me yet another reason not to go to the parks….

  • Westsider

    In all my years of working Rafts and the Island at Disneyland, I’ve taken a lot of complaints from Guests about the physical condition of that facility. The women who complain (and I’m sorry ladies, but it is ALWAYS a woman who complains, while the husbands and dads don’t seem to be bothered in the least, just speaking the truth from the front lines) are quite confident that “Disney” is negligent in its duties to keep their children safe.

    The usual complaint generators are narrow pathways or stairs, low overhangs or cave ceilings, darkened corners or the caves, and the barrel bridge for simply being the barrel bridge. Quite a few of these ladies storm away to go to “City Hall!” when their complaints are met with nothing more than a smile and an “I’m sorry you didn’t have fun” comment by the raft driver or Island Lead. Almost all of these ladies have Annual Passes, as they are either hanging around their necks or they include that bit of info in their complaint. (It’s a cliche’, but it really happens quite a lot, and they don’t seem to get that wearing their AP on their sleeve diminishes their complaint.)

    So what’s the answer, short of barring over-protective soccer moms from Tom Sawyer Island? I’m not sure. But the reality is that there is a new generation of young moms who are more protective of their children than anything I’ve seen in the past. They want Tom Sawyer Island to look and feel like the padded Gymboree play center at their local mall. And they complain about it quite regularly. I’m surprised the Island has made it this far into the 21st century, honestly.

    • boatsofdl

      Ain’t it the truth! People think DL doesn’t think one bit about safety. If this was true, you would be seeing PeopleMovers without handrails all throughout Tomorrowland!

  • ex-wdi

    “rendering the exploratory, expeditionary feeling a bit mute now”

    Moot, dude, not mute.

    • Kevin Yee

      Actually I meant mute, in this instance (I too dislike it when people confuse moot and mute). Though I probably should have instead gone for a totally different sentence structure (“muting the exploratory feeling…”)

  • Disneylandfan85

    What I’m curious about is how the Electrical Parade floats, all of which are a WHOLE LOT older than the SpectroMagic floats and some at least 35 years old, could survive so long, but the SpectroMagic floats did not.

  • Kevin Yee

    Indoor storage. The MSEP floats were stored fully indoors in CA and FL. The Spectro floats were stored outside (but covered) once MSEP got here.

    • Disneylandfan85

      But why would they store the Electrical Parade floats indoors but the SpectroMagic floats outdoors? That doesn’t even make any sense.

  • Skimbob

    I only got to see Spectromagic once and I liked it way better than MSEP. It’s unfortunate that WDW just doesn’t care. It is amazing that the guests, CMs and many of the Imagineers get it but management can’t get their act together. If Walt were alive there would be a whole lot of pink slips going out. If I were in charge there would be a lot of changes starting with firing all upper management unless they prove they actually care about guests and employess alike.

  • ChrisNJ

    Perhaps Disney can create a new park called Dangerland where all of the attractions that modern people think aren’t safe can be located. I’d visit just to get onto the Skyway one more time.

  • ttintagel

    Exploring that tunnel is one of the most special, exciting memories for my first childhood WDW trip. isn’t “interactive” supposed to be the watchword of the day, or does that only apply when it’s a touch screen or something noisy?

  • HauntedPirate

    The Escape Tunnel closure is sad, but the SpectroMagic floats being beyond repair makes me disgusted beyond words. Who would ultimately make the decision to keep the SM floats outside, even if covered, and not in fully-indoor storage? Yet again, TDO’s Management-And-Maintenance-On-The-Cheap (or more affectionately, and accurately, known ’round these parts as “The Rizzo Factor”) philosophy is shown to be detrimental, extremely short-sighted, and harmful to… *gasp!!!*… Disney’s Bottom Line©. Instead of spending *some* money to keep the SM floats indoors, Disney now gets to spend _a lot_ of money creating, designing, and building a brand new parade from the ground up. Yep, I’m sure the suits in Anaheim are so glad TDO saved a few dollars by storing the floats outdoors…

    How many more times is this management paradigm going to be allowed to fail before a full management house-cleaning is done?