The layout hasn't changed much, it's just been severely truncated. They cut about one-third of the ride out. I think I posted diagrams on the "WDW Did You Know?" thread, but I can repeat them here if anyone is interested.Originally Posted by askmike1
As to the reason it closed, the Michael Eisner rumor is highly likely, but I've also heard that Kodak wanted "something different" (as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for).
There are a couple of other things as well that had to be strong contributing--if not overriding--factors. First, someone mentioned maintenance on the AA's. Yes, maintenance on any AA is an ongoing issue, and one of the reasons you see less and less of them all the time. But the big maintenance issue was with the "turntable", the mechanism that allowed you to "ride along" with Dreamfinder and Figment in the opening scene, where you first meet Dreamfinder. Though it was quite clever and provided for a unique and compelling experience, it was an engineering disaster. That disaster carried over to much of the rest of the ride. It also made operations unncessarily problematic. I've written about this at length--including diagrams--elsewhere, but again can repeat here if anyone's interested. I think it's a rather interesting story myself, but then I'm an engineering geek.
The other reasons for the change are more obvious--they wanted the obligatory gift shop at the exit , and they wanted to move Image Works downstairs. I think the latter was due to ADA concerns or compliance, not insurance. The upstairs Image Works could accommodate wheelchairs with the elevator, but it was notoriously unreliable. It broke down frequently, leaving guests stuck for extended periods. It was hydraulically-driven (as opposed to riding on cables) and the "pump room" (located near the original exit) was unventilated. The hydraulic fluid would overheat and seize up the system. It seems to me that a simple fix would have just been to ventilate that room, but in my experience, Disney isn't real big on common sense.
The bigger issue is that there was no reasonable way to evacuate disabled guests in the event of a fire. I was told in training that should a fire occur in Image Works, I was to (insert horrified scream here) put the guest in a supposedly "fireproof room". As I told my trainer, I'd sooner carry them on my back down the back stairs than do that! I suppose that could be where the "insurance" rumor came from. Perhaps Disney's insurers were as horrified by that plan as I was.
The new Image Works and gift shop take up much of what was once occupied by the turntable and part of the queue and exit areas.
I've heard that while much of the original Image Works existed for years, a lot of it has since been removed. I also doubt that many--if any--of the sets and backdrops still exist. There are a lot of "blank", black-curtained spaces in the ride, so it's possible that they just hung the curtains over original backdrops rather than go through the trouble and expense of demo, but it wouldn't amount to much. I suspect that, like so many other treasures, much of the original ride is in WDW's landfill now.