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.

22 COMMENTS

  1. This comment will be off topic of EPCOT, but I was watching your "Revisiting Disney World" series and got some ideas not to take away, but to add to Galaxy's Edge. Imagine a ride like Flight of Passage, but your on a speeder bike on Endor. You would wear a light weight VR helmet that puts you on a chase scene against the Empire. Or maybe you could even choose if you wanted to be a Rebel or Imperial. Your bike would be able to lean side to side as you steer and you could shoot down the enemies. I feel that after the success of Pandora, Disney could use this as another type of this ride.

  2. In the theme park industry, everything just MUST be Disney's fault. When I was a child in Phoenix a western themed park called Legend City failed after about twenty years and the business bemoaned the closeness of Disneyland in California. Yeah, I'm sure that's the reason.

  3. This is becoming my favorite Disney YouTube channel. Can you do a video on the history of California adventure and how it's start was bad and how they changed it up from a park that at first was not that great to a park that now has alot to see and do. Thanks for all the great content and looking forward to more videos.

  4. I'm reminded of episodes of animated sitcoms involving smalltown people trying to shut down brand markets because they hurt smaller local stores.

  5. Circus World was just a boring, badly run park…that’s why it reallly died..I was dragged there by my parents in 1978 because my folks had free tickets and we Hated it!

  6. I keep hearing you talk about how you miss Horizons, and how you want it to come back. But do you know the real reason it closed? The ride was closed due to safety issues. it turns out the foundations for Horizons were sinking and that is why the tracks continued to go out of alignment and caused rade shutdowns. So they closed the ride down and that's when the sinkhole swallowed half the ride area.

  7. I bet today it costs an extra $50 to get that third day on a Disney ticket. Their prices are starting to border on insane.

  8. As an employee of Opryland USA in TN many years ago, yes, I do believe Disney had an impact on our park closing. Disney was a bigger draw. Nashville is on FIRE now though!

  9. I always wondered why Circus World closed. Our family took us there as kids a couple of times. It wasn't thrilling, but it was worth the visit.

  10. Businesses that don't continually modernize or are just lame to begin with are doomed. No matter how well Epcot did or didn't do. I mean, do you really want to get your face painted like a sad clown and go climb on a jungle gym, and is that really Epcot's fault?
    Still I every much enjoy your videos and pondering your premises.

  11. Isn't this basically just the same story as when a "big box" store opens up? Sure, it brings lots of people to the area, but rarely, if ever, does that help the smaller local shops.

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