Disney Imagineering is revered for how its amazing attractions over the years have transformed theme parks. The best ones still hold up through the test of time, terrific in their special effects, execution, and entertainment value. Of course, now and then, even Imagineers can swing and miss.
There is one attraction that Disney Imagineers deeply regret: Superstar Limo. One of the opening day rides for Disneyland's California Adventure, it only lasted less than a year, so many guests don't even remember it. Those who do wish they could forget.
The Disney+ Imagineering Story series has Imagineers openly calling it "the worst ride we've ever done." So how did this come to be, and what factors led to its brutal reputation?
Disney's California problems
Looking back, Disney no doubt wishes they could do California Adventure over again. The concept of a second gate at Disneyland was sound, and for a while, it was going to be "WesCOT," a take on Epcot Center. That shifted to become a celebration of California.
The issue was that a California-themed park in California itself seemed superfluous. Why guests would want Disney-faked versions of places like Hollywood, and such was an error that would get the park off to a bad foot over the years. It wasn't helped by how Disney was doing some serious penny-pinching in the late 1990s, leading to a few attractions not living up to expectations. And nothing exemplified this more than the issues with Superstar Limo.
Real-life mars the ride
The original concept wasn't too bad. Superstar Limo was designed to be a new version of such rides as Mr. Toad or Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin. Guests would be introduced by a video of Michael Eisner saying they had to get across L.A. to reach a theater and sign a contract for stardom, but only if they could avoid the paparazzi.
The cars would be sent through alleyways as they were followed by photographers and tongue-in-cheek takes on Hollywood life, including the use of celebrities from Whoopi Goldberg to Elvis. After twists and turns, guests would reach the theater only for Eisner to say their contract was terminated with the guests shown their photos in a "tabloid."
It could have been a fun and frantic adventure. But then, in August 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash while pursued by paparazzi. By that point, Disney had already built the ride building and prepared the track, so it was too late to completely rework the ride. So they decided on an alteration.