The Day DisneyQuest Died

The Day DisneyQuest Died

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017 was the last day of DisneyQuest, but the day DisneyQuest died was way back in 2000. Prior to 2000, I was providing team building programs at DisneyQuest while working at The Disney Institute. On Facebook Live, I share the very sad story of a fateful event in Chicago that led to a decision not to continue building DisneyQuest locations across the country. That left only the Walt Disney World location for years to follow. It was one of the most disappointing experiences I had working for Disney. Check out that story here.

I did want to, however, give a little bit of a virtual tour of my experience with DisneyQuest. This is my final salute to DisneyQuest, and offers a different look based on my experiences working with this attraction:

Team Building at DisneyQuest

The center plaza of DisneyQuest, Venture Port. It was an exciting stepping off point to the four lands of Score, Create, Replay, and my favorite, Explore. Here we would organize teams and send them off on a team building experience.

The center of the DisneyQuest cosmos, Venture Port. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

A similar feature was created for Venture Port in Chicago. Perhaps the only remnants of that attraction now exist in Space Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hong Kong Disneyland Space Mountain. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The carpet in the Venture Port can actually be translated. We used it in our team building games, having gotten the translation from Imagineering. Yes, there is something that makes sense in all of that.

The hieroglyphics of the DisneyQuest carpet. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Virtual Jungle Cruise had multiple paths that we used to identify a particular symbol in the journey. This was just one of the activities in our team building events. I loved the concept, though I thought the dinosaur part really took the Jungle Cruise brand in another direction.

Virtual Jungle Cruise. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I wish I had a photo of the Jungle maze that used to exist in this section. An entire archeological-style maze existed along the floor in this section. Along the wall were places you could drive a car in the maze looking at a screen that showed you the point-of-view from the vehicle. Meanwhile those on the floor standing on glass looking down on the maze could also direct you as to which way to go. I think we even blindfolded people during the team building event just to make it more interesting. It was a clever concept, but the trucks kept getting stuck in the maze. I want to say that after DisneyQuest was turned over to operations, it was the first attraction to go. I’m not even sure they implemented the attraction in Chicago.

Arcades in the Explore Zone. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The culminating activity in our team building games was playing in this innovative bumper car game. Here you would pick up balls by driving around, then you would shoot your opponents, causing their car to spin in place. It was a great attraction.

Buzz Lightyear AstroBlaster. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

In order to customize the team building game, we had our own balls with symbols on them. We had to order a specialized ball, because any other ball would create a leather-style dust that would ruin the floor of the arena. To separate them from the other balls, we bought them from the manufacturer in yellow, and then added specialized markings. These were expensive balls. I don’t know what became of them after I left, but I did keep the test ball with me. It’s kept inside my Spaceship Earth model.

Something you can’t find at your local sports store, a Buzz Lightyear AstroBlaster Ball. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Upstairs on the 5th floor of DisneyQuest was an area we could block off for group events. Here we would gather results and announce winners.

Group event lounge. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Most people do not know that at one time the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World was at DisneyQuest. That’s because it was sponsored by The Cheesecake Factory. They had fantastic food at a reasonable price, to include their amazing cheesecake desserts. You could even get permission just to go in for an hour to eat without having to pay the admission fee. Unfortunately, as it became clear that DisneyQuest was not going to continue building other physical locations, Cheesecake Factory eventually moved out.

A former location of the Cheesecake Factory. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Other DisneyQuest Memories

Here are a couple of other really great memories from DisneyQuest. DisneyQuest was not without its controversy, even before it was in trouble in Chicago. Many people did not know that the Ride the Comix attraction was originally based on Disney Villains. Stromboli, Captain Hook, Maleficent and others were turned into very rad looking comic book characters. The story is that when Roy E. Disney heard what was going to happen, he told Eisner, “Not on my watch”. The characters had to be re-designed sufficiently to not parallel the Disney villains. Below you can see Ms. Skinner. Can you guess who that may be?

The name Ms. Skinner should give away which Disney character this refers to. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I loved Alien Encounter. I thought it was brilliant branding to bring it to DisneyQuest. Unfortunately, the attraction at the Magic Kingdom did not live as long as its counterpart at DisneyQuest. Still, my older kids and I had a lot of fun playing on it.

The model for Alien Encounter. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Towards the exit of the attraction was the CreateZone. I had a lot of fun with my younger kids playing with these attractions. I will always be grateful to DisneyQuest for the enjoyable times we had as a family there.

Activities in the Create Zone. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

One final stop before we exit DisneyQuest. Aladdin’s Royal Carpet Ride was first a featured attraction at Epcot’s Innoventions before it was completed at DisneyQuest. A key player in the development of this attraction was Randy Pausch, who joined Disney Imagineering to help create this attraction. He is better known as the professor who provided The Last Lecture during his battle with cancer. There is an homage paid to him near the Mad Tea Party in the Magic Kingdom as well with a quotation on it.

Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Randy once said, “You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.” I guess Disney finally has a plan for this physical space. DisneyQuest was to do to arcades what Disney Vacation Club had done to timeshares. It was to change the market. That day never really happened, as the business model didn’t work outside of Walt Disney World. But there is still a big space in my virtual heart for this attraction. And I think it will for many others for years to come.

Souvenirs for Your Organization:

Here are some takeaways from this experience that can help your own organization. Based on what I shared here and in my Facebook Live event, ask yourself:

  1. Do I have a solid business plan in place before I start digging?
  2. When I measure, am I sampling the right audience?
  3. If leadership at the top isn’t invested, are we going to be successful?
  4. Where do I draw the line for that which isn’t going to be done “on my watch”.
  5. Do I have a plan in place when I need to change it?

If there’s any good news about DisneyQuest closing, it is that Disney keeps moving forward. One of the best examples of that is the new Pandora: World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The best guide to visiting Pandora can be yours when you subscribe to Club Disney at Work. This can be done by subscribing on the Disney at Work homepage. Join us today!

J. Jeff Kober

2 thoughts on “The Day DisneyQuest Died

  1. Fellow worker at Disney Quest here. Great article and insight into DQ and how detailed the building was. I knew all expect the the part about Hong Kong, which was surprising. Also Cheesecake did not make the choice to leave the building. They wanted to stay. However they had a 10 year lease with the building and when it up for renewal Disney said no. I knew the manager and was told many times they would have liked to stay. It was one of the many ways Disney said it didn’t want the building anymore.

    1. Great insight. Thanks. I mistakingly made the assumption on Cheesecake. Bummer Disney had them leave. I would rather we have a Cheesecake Factory than an NBA restaurant in its wake.

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