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ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Opened

June 20, 1995

Closed

October 12, 2003

Land

Tomorrowland

Designer

Walt Disney Imagineering

Show length

18 minutes

Height requirement

48" (122 cm)

Seats

162

Preceded by

Mission to Mars

Replaced by

Stitch's Great Escape

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (often abbreviated Alien Encounter) was a "theater-in-the-round" attraction in the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom themepark at Walt Disney World Resort. It 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 unintended for children under the age of 12.

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. It opened officially on June 20, 1995 as part of the Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland.

It closed permanently on October 12, 2003. The attraction was replaced by Stitch's Great Escape, which uses much of the same technology and set pieces.

While The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was short-lived, it developed a cult following among Disney fans. Some praised it for its sophisticated tone, in contrast to other Tomorrowland attractions such as Space Mountain and Astro Orbiter.

Attraction Description[]

Guests are 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), sets the attraction's subtly sinister tone with a pre-show welcome that includes his corporate philosophy--if something can't be done with X-S (excess), then it shouldn't be done at all.

Other events in the pre-show include "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").

Guests proceed into a second area where an X-S robot known as Simulated Intelligence Robotics, or S.I.R. for short (voiced by Tim Curry and temporarily voiced by Phil Hartman) 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 suggest the technology is flawed. S.I.R. then demonstrates how the technology can be used to suspend people in teleportation indefinitely, another hint at the attraction's dark nature.

Finally, guests are 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), communicate "live" from across the galaxy via video screens. Initially, a single guest is to be teleported out of the chamber for a meeting with Clench. Instead, Clench is "seized" by inspiration and decides to have himself teleported into the chamber to meet the entire group.

Clench's impatience and the change of plans cause the teleportation signal to be diverted through an unknown planet. As a result, a towering winged, carnivorous alien is beamed into the tube by mistake. The creature quickly escapes, however, as intermittent darkness and flashes of light reveal the shattered and empty teleportation tube. A power outage then plunges the chamber into total darkness as guests sit helplessly restrained in their seats. A maintenance worker is mauled and blood pours onto the audience.

With assistance from the two X-S Tech technicians, the ravenous alien is ultimately driven back into the broken teleportation device and destroyed. Guests are then released from their seats while the two technicians resume their search for the misplaced Clench.

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 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).

Sources & External Links[]

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