Alien Encounter ascension to cult status and its legacy: Part three of our Disney Groundbreakers Series.

Alien Encounter ascension to cult status and its legacy: Part three of our Disney Groundbreakers Series.

New Script

Walt Disney Imagineering went all-in on X-S Tech’s menacing and greedy aspect, changing the tone of the second preshow and speeding up the main show’s action. 

When the attraction reopened in 1995, gone was all the happy humor of the second preshow.  The first preshow stayed the same, but a new announcer ordered us along, using dark humor and insults.  The most significant change happened to the Demonstration Room, with S-I-R replacing T.O.M. 2000.  Tim Curry now voiced S-I-R, and his new script was full-on evil, programmed to be brutally efficient and not caring about consequences.  The lighting was also changed to make him appear a lot more mysterious.  Skippy’s first appearance was moved to the right tube, and his body language changed, more like a prisoner this time.  Here is the new dialog for the second preshow. We wrote down the revised pre-show and main presentation scripts and sequences of events, who can read here:

Behind the Scenes

The main show used groundbreaking special effects that were intimidating and dangerous given the guest’s close proximity and the critical role of a cast member in the show.  The moving tubes and cover meant that guests had to be restrained at all times. The alien audio-animatronic was hidden under the visible part of the tube, mounted on a lift. Using LN2 and darkness combined with fast movements, it was able to dissapear and appear in a flash, leaving guests amazed. The broken tube/intact tubes slide in and out as the show required, another spectacular show action equipment feat of engineering.

In addition, a tesla coil was installed in each theater, with the cast member playing Maintenance One (as seen in the show transcript above) walking the catwalk, having to acknowledge his presence.  To guarantee a safe show that is performed the same all the time, cast members who had the catwalk position required special training and sign-off from the entertainment division.  The walk up there, given the very low lighting, required a specific pattern and actions. 

The catwalk cast member wore a helmet equipped with lights and followed special marks around the tube, using a flashlight to illuminate specific spots during their routine.  In order to make the light to dark transitions more effective, powerful strobes are installed in the theaters, so the catwalk cast member had to shield their eyes at some points due to their close proximity. 

Once the segment was complete, the go-ahead for the finale was given as the cast member had to push a button acknowledging they were out of the catwalk. It was allowing the tesla coil to perform its magic and electrocute the alien at the end. 

Noise protection was required for maintenance working under the attraction due to the intense subwoofers.  Cast members in the main show were also required to wear hearing protection due to repeated exposure. 

Amazing Merchandise

The attraction received a full line of merchandise, ranging from t-shirts to action figures of the characters we saw during the experience.

All three of those figures came in the same container while the Alien who was more elaborate was sold separately.

Ride Closure

The ride premise and scary experience lead to short lines and a very polarizing attraction, with fans loving it and others hating it.  Walt Disney World’s unofficial guide books were not kind to it, for example. The author had the chance to experience Alien Encounter extensively in 2002-2003 and was present on its last operating day, attending the final public showing. In 2003, Disney announced that Alien Encounter would close on October 12.

The attraction has since become a cult classic among Disney fans, noting the ride’s scary uncompromising premise, witty, dark humor, and incredible effects.  Alien Encounter was replaced by Stitch’s Great Escape, a non-canon prequel to the popular 2002 “Lilo & Stitch” movie.  Most of the sets, Skippy, and the S-I-R animatronic, were reused.  The two Alien animatronics were removed and replaced with incredible Stitch animatronics, the highlight of the new attraction.  In addition, two large cannons that smoothly moved at a brisk speed were installed in each theater. 

The Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center became the Galatic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center.  S-I-R was redressed and reprogrammed, becoming Sergeant C4703BK2704-90210, voiced by Richard Kind.  Gone was the sinister and evil robot; sergeant 90210 was a bumbling, incompetent goof that, combined with a script that was mostly immature humor, didn’t resonate with guests well.  For example, when it is announced a level 3 prisoner is being transported to the center, he faints from shock and oil his pants.

Initially, the main show was as dark as Alien Encounter, leading again to complaints about the experience being too scary for kids, who in turns now wanted to ride the attraction a lot more since Stitch was involved.  As a result, they adjusted the lighting level, exposing a lot of the illusions.  The most verbal complaint was for the smell effect: whereas Alien Encounter used a warm, not so smelly fragrance for its Alien breath,  Walt Disney Imagineering had Stitch eat a chili dog before he proceeds to burp it up, which was a pretty disgusting smell. 

As a result, Stitch’s Great Escape was briefly popular, but lost its popularity even faster than Alien Encounter.  By 2016, the ride operated seasonally.  The ride was only open in peak season, and on January 6, 2018, the attraction performed for the last time.  Disney remained quiet on its status, but in 2020, confirmed the attraction was retired.  As an homage to the previous attraction, the meet and greet with Stitch was renamed Stitch’s Alien Encounter Character Greeting, taking place in the first preshow room.

X-S Tech lived on, with a presence inside Disney Quest, a unique indoor Family Entertainment Center (FEC) at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs.  Invasion! An ExtraTerrorestrial Alien Encounter was part of the opening day attractions at Disney Quest, opening in June 1998.  It was a unique interactive attraction where four players participated: one driver, 3 gunners who aimed at aliens inspired by the one present in the Magic Kingdom to save colonists.  As part of the queue video, L.C. Clench appeared. 

Elsewhere, X-S Tech ties in with the Guardians of the Galaxy/Marvel in-park universe, as The Collector uses X-S Tech for services related to his collection.  An invoice from X-S Tech signed by L.C. Clench is present in The Collector’s office, seen at Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! at Disney’s California Adventure.