In 1984, Eisner officially became CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and he had big plans for the Disney enterprise, which was failing at the time. Michael Eisner decided to tour each of the current Disney Parks with his family to become familiar with what was working and what was not. His teenage son, Breck, commented that Disney Parks had little appeal to teens and young adults. Of course, the new CEO decided to make some changes and add some excitement to the parks.

One of these new ideas came in the form of a terrifying show featuring the alien from the 1979 film, Alien. If you are shocked, that is probably because you have at least heard of the movie and its contents. Alien – with profanity, violence, and more mature elements – was a movie designed for adults and older teens. Many, specifically the senior Imagineers at Disney, were horrified by this idea, they believed it would not have been what Walt would have wanted for his parks or image.

The story goes that the opposing Imagineers went to George Lucas for help in convincing Eisner not to do a horror attraction with the Alien franchise. Apparently, George Lucas and Michael Eisner were good friends at the time. Lucas convinced Eisner to scratch the idea, but not entirely. Instead, Michael decided to create a similar show attraction but without using the Alien franchise. This would probably be a bit cheaper anyway, so they would not have to pay for the rights to use that IP in an attraction. It would also replace the Mission to Mars show in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, but still, utilize a lot of the same technology and tools. Eisner had the younger Imagineers – those who were generally not opposed to this idea before – develop the idea and design.

Disney released an hour-long “documentary” all about alien abductions to help promote the upcoming new attraction. The attraction was only mentioned a few times in the documentary though, and many still believe that Disney was putting this documentary out as fact.

The interactive show had a soft opening in 1994 for a few weeks for tests. Parents and other guests were generally unhappy because they believed it was too scary for Walt Disney World. Nonetheless, Eisner still wanted it scarier. They decided to make a few changes to the pre-show and queue to help weed out anybody who might feel the show was too intense. It was supposed to serve as a warning of sorts. Well, the end result was pretty alarming.


Guests enter the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center where a company called XS Tech is giving a presentation. Throughout the line were television screens advertising upcoming showcases, one of which included a nod to the attraction Alien Encounter replaced: Mission to Mars.

L. C. Clench. Chairman, X. S. Tech


A robot employee of XS Tech named S.I.R. is giving the opening presentation to guests live. S.I.R. stands for Simulated Intelligence Robot. He is demonstrating the new XS Tech teleportation technology on “lucky volunteer” Skippy. Skippy was this adorable little alien animatronic that automatically made you feel sorry for him. At first, Skippy is inside a large glass tube, and S.I.R. is going to teleport him to another large tube across the room, but Skippy seems too afraid. Still, S.I.R. refuses to let him out, pushes all the buttons, and Skippy disappears and reappears in the nearby tube. To the guests’ dismay, Skippy’s agonizing screams are heard while he is disappearing. Once he is seen again, it is obvious that his skin has been burned to a crisp. Poor guy. Hopefully, that was enough to warn all parents against bringing their young children any further.

Skippy in the pre-show


Once inside the circular theatre, guests sat down before shoulder restraints lowered for their protection. Once everyone was locked in, the show began. The main, intelligent, not-as-seemingly threatening alien is going to attempt to teleport to Earth right before guests’ eyes. Of course, something goes wrong. Instead, a terrifyingly huge, violent, and hungry alien appears inside the large glass tube in the centre of the theatre. But no worries, guests are safe as long as the glass doesn’t break right? Well, this alien is strong and determined. He destroys the glass in a matter of seconds, the lights go out and screams are heard throughout the theatre. With the sounds of people being eaten, water is sprayed on guests’ faces to give the illusion of real blood or saliva, and air blows on guests' necks so that they feel like they must be the next victim. Thankfully, the alien is recaptured and guests make it out alive.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter show

The Inevitable Closure

There are several reasons behind the 2003 closure of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Some of which are pretty obvious: that it was too scary for Disney. While others, might not have been so obvious. For example, the actor who played one of the main alien characters of XS Tech on the attraction, Jeffrey Jones, was arrested for unspeakable things, which we won’t elaborate on here. Anyway, Disney did not want to be associated with that. And finally, the hit movie Lilo and Stitch was released in 2002. Disney had their own kid-friendly alien character now. The attraction became Stitch’s Great Escape – which was equally despised among park-goers.

It is interesting now that ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter has such a cult following these days. It seems like it might have had better luck and reputation had it opened today. We will never know for sure, as Disney is not likely to bring it back.