The rising tide lifts all boats. The creation of Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida is arguably one example of that. Prior to the resorts opening in 1971, that region of the state simply wasn’t the diverse tourism powerhouse that it is today. So it’s fair to say that there are amusements in that area that owe their existence to Walt Disney World. However, there are also a couple that owe their downfall to Disney World as well.
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Disney had a trick up their sleeve and that trick was the three-day passport. At $15 a day, it would cost an adult $30 to spend two days at Disney, with a day at each park. However, for just $5 extra, you’d get an entire third day. Needless to say, it was a great deal, and it was a deal that worked. According to the Orlando Sentinel, industry analysts believed that the new 3-day ticket accounted for as many as a third of all sales within just a year or so.
The problem, for Disney’s competitors, was that for many families every extra day spent at Disney was a day not spent elsewhere in Orlando. This was a fundamental shift in the way vacations were seen in the region. Slowly but surely Walt Disney World was changing from being just one stop along a string of stops in the area, to being the stop.
In 1975 Six Flags was in the process of growing, and part of that growth was trying to diversify with smaller amusements to compliment their larger theme parks. Walt Disney World was still growing in popularity at that point, and so they established one of those smaller amusements in Orlando with the Six Flags Stars Hall of Fame. It was a wax museum that offered over 200 wax figures across nearly 100 different scenes that depicted famous faces of Hollywood and the films they were most known for. It wasn’t a massive crowd magnet, but it wasn’t trying to be one either. Attendance was what could only be described as fair, that is until EPCOT Center opened. The figures were never published, but with 1982 being admittedly their worst year since opening, Six Flags threw in the towel and put the entire venue up for sale for $3.3 million dollars.
Opened in 1974 by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Circus World was meant to be a theme park that doubled as the touring circuses winter home. It was unique in that when it opened, much of the theme park portion didn’t exist yet. Eventually it did get those rides however, such as a wooden coaster called the Roaring Tiger and a ferris wheel called Jumbo, the giant wheel. In fact by the end of its life, it offered 31 attractions.
Rather than profiting from Disney’s second park, Circus World was estimated to have losses of up to $4 million dollars in 1983. By that year attendance had dropped to just under 900,000 guests and shortly after in early 1984 Mattel gave up and decided to sell the theme park. Ultimately it’s flaw was that in a space dominated by Disney, it simply didn’t offer anything unique enough to stand out. Generic rides. Generic shows. It was simply forgettable.
It would change hands multiple times over the following few years to new owners, who attempted to improve it’s situation to no success. It finally closed in 1986 and was rethemed to a new park called Boardwalk and Baseball. However it was mostly a rehash of the previous park, just without the circus theme. Not having learned the lessons of Circus World, it too would close just three years later in 1990, this time for good.