ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Last updated
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
The extraTERRORestrial Alien encounter.jpg
Show theater as shown in an advertisement
Magic Kingdom
Area Tomorrowland
Coordinates 28°25′07″N81°34′47″W / 28.41861°N 81.57972°W / 28.41861; -81.57972 Coordinates: 28°25′07″N81°34′47″W / 28.41861°N 81.57972°W / 28.41861; -81.57972
Opening dateJune 20, 1995
Closing dateOctober 12, 2003
Replaced Mission to Mars
Replaced by Stitch's Great Escape!
General statistics
Attraction typeSit-Down Theater with harnessed special effects seats
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
ThemeAn alien encounter
MusicSeize the Future & original score by Richard Bellis [1]
Audience capacity162 per show
Height restriction48 in (122 cm)
HostSpinlok and Dr. Femus
Audio-Animatronics3 (pre-show)
2 (1 for each main show)

The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (often abbreviated Alien Encounter) was a "theater-in-the-round" attraction located in the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort. A co-production between Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm, the attraction was a darkly humorous science-fiction experience that used binaural sound to achieve many of its effects. A warning outside the attraction's entrance alerted guests that it was intense and not intended for children under the age of 12; however, its height requirement was just 48 inches for guests.

Tomorrowland themed land at Disney Parks

Tomorrowland is one of the many themed lands featured at all of the Magic Kingdom styled Disney theme parks around the world owned or licensed by The Walt Disney Company. Each version of the land is different and features numerous attractions that depict views of the future. Disneyland Park in Paris includes a similar area called Discoveryland, which shares some elements with other Tomorrowlands but emphasizes visions of the future inspired by Jules Verne.

Magic Kingdom First of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. Owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division, the park opened on October 1, 1971, as the first of four theme parks at the resort. The park was initialized by Walt Disney and designed by WED Enterprises. Its layout and attractions are based on Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, and are dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters.

Walt Disney Imagineering Disney Parks R&D department

Disney Imagineering, some times just Imagineering or more fully Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development, Inc., is the research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation, design, and construction of Disney theme parks and attractions worldwide. The company also manages The Walt Disney Company's properties, from Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to New Amsterdam Theatre and Times Square Studios Ltd. in New York City. Founded by Walt Disney to oversee the production of Disneyland, it was originally known as Walt Disney, Inc. then WED Enterprises, from the initials meaning "Walter Elias Disney", the company co-founder's full name. Headquartered in Glendale, California, Imagineering was founded by Walt Disney to oversee the production of Disneyland. Imagineering is composed of "Imagineers", who are illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers and graphic designers.


It opened briefly for previews on December 16, 1994, on the site of the former Mission to Mars attraction, but was ordered closed on January 12, 1995, for retooling by then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who deemed it was not intense enough. It opened officially on June 20, 1995, as part of the Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland renovation. Upon its opening, some Disney fans praised ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter for its darker tone in contrast to other attractions at Magic Kingdom. It closed permanently on October 12, 2003. The attraction was replaced by Stitch's Great Escape!, which opened on November 16, 2004. It uses much of the same technology and set pieces from its predecessor.

Mission to Mars was an attraction located in Tomorrowland at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. The attraction was adapted into a film by a Disney Studio production company, Touchstone Pictures, in 2000.

Michael Eisner American business executive

Michael Dammann Eisner is an American businessman. Eisner was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Walt Disney Company from September 1984 to September 2005. Prior to Disney, Eisner was President and CEO of rival film studio Paramount Pictures from 1976 to 1984, and had brief stints at the major television networks: NBC, CBS, and ABC.

Stitchs Great Escape! Attraction at Walt Disney World Resort

Stitch's Great Escape! is an amusement park attraction based on Disney's Lilo & Stitch franchise. The attraction is a theater-in-the-round experience, located in the Tomorrowland area of Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. Designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, many of the animators who worked on Lilo & Stitch were directly involved with the attraction's development.

Attraction experience

First preshow area

Guests were ushered into the "Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center" (mentioned as such in the Tomorrowland Transit Authority narration) for a demonstration of new technology from an alien corporation known as X-S Tech. The company's chairman, L.C. Clench (Jeffrey Jones), set the attraction's subtly sinister tone with a pre-show welcome that included his corporate philosophy, "If something can't be done with X-S then it shouldn't be done at all."

Jeffrey Jones American character actor

Jeffrey Duncan Jones is an American character actor best known for his roles as Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus (1984), Edward R. Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Charles Deetz in Beetlejuice (1988), and A. W. Merrick in both Deadwood (2004–2006) and Deadwood: The Movie (2019). His career started in Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota and advanced to London and Broadway. In film and television, Jones has had many roles which capitalized on his deadpan portrayal of characters in unusual situations, often to comic effect. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his performance in Amadeus and a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the ensemble cast of Deadwood.

Before the start of the pre-show, the television monitors described other events taking place at the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center, including "The Tomorrowland Chamber of Commerce presents 'X-S Tech'" ("The galaxy's #1 authority in technological innovation invites you to experience its latest achievement"), "Mission to Mars: History or Hoax" (a tribute to the attraction that previously occupied the Alien Encounter's space), "Championship Pet Show" ("because when it comes to your space pet, what goes down must not come up"), and "The Walt Disney Company's Pan Galactic Stock Holders Meeting" (featuring a holographic transmission from "Lunar Disneyland—The Happiest Place Off Earth").

The Walt Disney Company American mass media corporation

The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Walt Disney or simply Disney, is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.

Disneyland American theme park in California owned by The Walt Disney Company

Disneyland Park, originally Disneyland, is the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, opened on July 17, 1955. It is the only theme park designed and built to completion under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. It was originally the only attraction on the property; its official name was changed to Disneyland Park to distinguish it from the expanding complex in the 1990s.

Second pre-show area

Guests proceeded into a second area where they were introduced to an X-S robot known as Simulated Intelligence Robotics, or S.I.R. for short, voiced by Tim Curry (originally called T.O.M. 2000, short for Technobotic Oratorical Mechanism series 2000, and voiced by Phil Hartman). He proceeded to demonstrate the company's "practically painless" teleportation technology using a cute little animatronic alien named Skippy. The creature's charred and disoriented appearance after being teleported a short distance across the room suggested the technology was flawed. While teleporting Skippy back across the room, S.I.R. paused the process, demonstrating how the technology could be used to suspend subjects in teleportation indefinitely.

Robot A machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically.

A robot is a machine—especially one programmable by a computer— capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. Robots can be guided by an external control device or the control may be embedded within. Robots may be constructed on the lines of human form, but most robots are machines designed to perform a task with no regard to how they look.

Tim Curry English actor, voice artist, comedian and singer

Timothy James Curry is an English actor, comedian and singer. He is best known for working in a diverse range of theatre, film, and television, most often portraying villainous characters. Curry rose to prominence with his portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), reprising the role he had originated in the 1973 London, 1974 Los Angeles stage productions of The Rocky Horror Show.

Phil Hartman Canadian-American actor, comedian, screenwriter and graphic artist

Philip Edward Hartmann, better known as Phil Hartman, was a Canadian-American actor, comedian, screenwriter and graphic artist. Born in Brantford, Ontario, Hartman and his family moved to the United States in 1958. After graduating from California State University, Northridge, with a degree in graphic arts, he designed album covers for bands like Poco and America. Hartman joined the comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 and there helped comedian Paul Reubens develop his character Pee-wee Herman. Hartman co-wrote the screenplay for the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and made recurring appearances as Captain Carl on Reubens' show Pee-wee's Playhouse.

Main attraction

Finally, guests were seated in harnesses within a circular chamber surrounding an enormous plastic cylinder, the "teleportation tube." Clench and two bumbling X-S Tech employees, Spinlok (Kevin Pollak) and Dr. Femus (Kathy Najimy), communicated "live" from across the galaxy via video screens. Initially, a single guest was to be teleported out of the chamber for a meeting with Clench. Instead, Clench was "seized" by inspiration and decided to have himself teleported into the chamber to meet the entire group.

Kevin Pollak American actor and comedian

Kevin Elliot Pollak is an American actor, impressionist, and comedian. He has appeared in over 80 films; his roles include Sam Weinberg in the legal film A Few Good Men, Jacob Goldman in Grumpy Old Men and its sequel Grumpier Old Men; Todd Hockney in The Usual Suspects, Philip Green in Casino, and Bobby Chicago in End of Days.

Kathy Najimy American actress

Kathy Ann Najimy is an American actress and activist. She is best known for her roles in the films Sister Act (1992), Hocus Pocus (1993), and Rat Race (2001), as well as her portrayal of Olive Massery on the NBC sitcom Veronica's Closet (1997–2000) and for voicing Peggy Hill on the animated television series King of the Hill (1997–2010). She was first nationally known for her feminist play The Kathy and Mo Show, which she wrote and performed with Mo Gaffney.

Clench's impatience and the unexpected change of plans caused the teleportation signal to be diverted through an unknown planet. As a result; a towering, winged and carnivorous alien was beamed into the tube by mistake, as chaos and confusion ensued and the technicians panicked. The creature quickly escaped, however, as intermittent darkness and flashes of light revealed the shattered and empty teleportation tube. A power outage then plunged the chamber into total darkness as guests sat helplessly restrained in their seats. A maintenance worker attempted to restore the power, but was mauled as the alien's shrieks resounded throughout the room and a spray of fluid flew out into the audience hitting the guests' faces. After the spray of fluid, the guests felt their seats rumble and shake as the alien made its way swiftly through the crowd, during which time the guests also felt the "breath" of the alien on the back of their necks and drool dripping from its mouth.

The power finally came back, and with assistance from the two X-S Tech technicians, the ravenous alien was ultimately driven back into the broken teleportation device, but overpowering the tube caused the alien to explode right before the tube closed. Guests were then released from their seats while the two technicians bid them goodbye and resumed their search for the misplaced Clench. On the way out, guests could see the sign "What a Way to Go" and were wished "a nice tomorrow" and exited into Merchant of Venus.

Special effects

Unlike the Stitch-themed replacement show, much of Alien Encounter took place in total darkness while the attraction operated on the guests' non-visual senses. Most of the effects came from individual units mounted on the shoulder restraints behind audience members' heads. The most common effects were binaural cues which came from the highly separated speakers arranged next to each ear. These speakers bolstered many of the other effects with foley, creating unique effects like positional audio from the monster, and created general atmospherics to keep the audience tense, including the murmuring and screams of other audience members, pink noise, and heartbeats. The theater's circular design allowed these positional audio effects to be particularly effective, as it prevented individual guests from perceiving that their experiences were not unique.

Binaural sound effects and moving shoulder restraints suggest that the alien is moving through the chamber above the audience. When the alien was meant to be traveling on the far side of the room, "several banks of 1,800-watt-per-channel servo-driven subwoofers" repurposed from the previous attraction, Mission to Mars, and transducers mounted in the seats [2] made pounding vibrations meant to simulate the footsteps of a powerful monster. Warm moistened air was used gently, to simulate the alien breathing down your neck; and forcefully, to induce a more acute reaction from the audience. Water sprinklers and air blasters mounted in the row in front (like the ones used in Disney's "4D" movie theaters) were used to simulate the dripping of either the creature's drool or blood from an attacked worker in the scaffolding above the theater (played by a cast member carrying a flashlight using pre-recorded dialog) and to simulate the explosion of the monster in the finale when the blast shield does not close in time. Soft textile tubes had air blown through them, causing them to slap against the back of the head of the audience member. This was the most direct physical effect, used in conjunction with the hot air blowers and olfactory emitters to suggest the alien's tongue was licking the audience member's head.

During lighted segments, the show used lasers, rear-projected screens repurposed from the previous attraction, Mission to Mars, and Audio-Animatronics for the alien, S.I.R., and Skippy (both normal and deformed).


Alien Encounter was proposed for Disneyland for the project "Tomorrowland 2055," as part of the "Disney Decade," started by Michael Eisner. It was to be installed in the space that housed the attraction Mission to Mars. Also proposed to join "Tomorrowland 2055" were The Timekeeper, which was to take over Circlevision 360, and also Plectu's Fantastic Intergalactic Revue, a musical revue which was to land where America Sings once was located. Due to budget cuts from the Disneyland Paris opening, "Tomorrowland 2055" was scrapped.[ citation needed ]

Original concept

The original name for this attraction was Nostromo, a reference to the spacecraft from the 1979 movie Alien . Furthermore, the monster was planned to be the titular creature, and X-S Tech was going to be the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. This idea was scrapped for two reasons: first, it was deemed too frightening for a Disney attraction. Second, the Alien series were rated R. This contradicted a rule-of-thumb that Disney attractions are supposed to be based on either G or PG. (However, Disney has since developed attractions from franchises that host at least one PG-13 rated film, such as Pirates of the Caribbean , Star Wars , Indiana Jones , Marvel , and Avatar .) As a result, the name Nostromo was taken out entirely and an original monster was created for the ride and the fictional company was changed to X-S Tech. Nevertheless, Disney had acquired the rights to use Alien, and thusly used it in The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which featured a scene aboard the Nostromo where a frightened Ripley hides behind a wall while the Xenomorph pops out of the walls and ceiling to growl at the audience. [3]

As an original story was developed, George Lucas was brought in to work on the project. This version's storyline had X-S Tech's open house being a front for exposing human guinea pigs to an alien monster they had captured. After the alien menaces the audience for a moment, it is revealed to be sentient and desires to escape its captors and free the guests as well. The X-S scientists respond by trying to destroy the test chamber and leave no evidence, but the alien holds off their weaponry, raises the restraints allowing the guests to escape. While leaving, the sounds of the alien rampaging through the pre-show facilities could be heard. The story's grim tone would lead to it being further re-worked. [4]


Tyra Banks (well known as the host of America's Got Talent ), played the female alien who greets guests in the first preshow video, although her lines were voiced by another actress. Tim Curry voiced the Audio-Animatronic robot S.I.R. (Simulated Intelligence Robotics) in the second preshow area. In the original version, the character was named T.O.M. 2000, was voiced by Phil Hartman, and had a much more humorous script. Chairman L.C. Clench was portrayed by actor Jeffrey Jones. Dr. Femus is portrayed by actress Kathy Najimy, with Kevin Pollak playing her partner, Spinlock.

Other versions

A game within the DisneyQuest indoor interactive arcade at the Walt Disney World Resort called Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter featured some of the X-S Tech mythology, with Chairman Clench offering XS-Tech produced walker vehicles to help rescue a group of colonists, although its game play bore no resemblance to the Tomorrowland attraction.

A stage show introduced in Tomorrowland (WDW) called Stitch's Supersonic Celebration (which ran from early May 2009 to late June 2009) referenced X-S Tech and the robot S.I.R, further weaving it into the general Tomorrowland world-building. [5]

References in other attractions

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