In the annals of Disney park dark rides, perhaps the most reviled, the most confusing, the most short lived was Superstar Limo. An opening day attraction at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland Resort, the ride didn’t even last a full year.
And I am one of the few who rode it. Let’s talk!
First, to set the scene: it’s the summer of 2001. My mom is speaking at a conference in San Diego. My dad and brother and I all tag along ’cause hey, California, right? We go to the zoo, and Sea World, and then one day we drive up to Disneyland.
I’ve related this part of the story once before, but here’s the gist again just real quick: we approached a ticket booth and asked for tickets to Disneyland. Don’t go there, the ticket attendant told us; it’s a Magic Music Day in the park and it’s crazy crowded. Why don’t you go to Disney’s California Adventure instead?
In retrospect, I suspect this was at best a lie grounded in a sliver of truth, and actually Cast Members were encouraged to steer would-be Disneylanders toward the floundering baby DCA. Sadly, we didn’t know any better, so we agreed.
Obviously I don’t know what Disneyland looked like that day, but I can tell you that DCA was plenty crowded enough itself. The California Screamin’ roller coaster (aka Incredicoaster) was closed the entire day. Lines were just about everywhere.
Luckily we quickly picked up on that hot new system, paper Fastpass, with which we managed to knock out some popular attractions like the OG Soarin’ and Grizzly River Run. But we did have to kill time between Fastpasses, so we did other stuff. You know, low hanging fruit like that movie with Whoopi Goldberg about the history of California, or the bread tour with Colin Mochrie.
And we were very surprised that there was one ride – DCA’s only dark ride – that was a complete walk-on. That’s right, there was a 30 minute wait to ride the swings inside an orange peel, but you could breeze straight through the queue without stopping for… wait for it… SUPERSTAR LIMO!
For those of you who have never heard of this much-maligned piece of Disney history (for my Trek nerds, you could call this Disney’s “Threshold”), the basic premise is this: you are racing across Hollywood to make it to your big movie premiere. Your agent yells at you along the way. Also you are star-spotting as you go. There’s a whole complicated history of how it came to be which we can get to shortly, but first: What I remember.
We didn’t even hate it at the time. I think we were just exciting to find something we could ride in a reasonable amount of time without a FastPass. But I also remember distinctly that it was, like, dissociatively weird. It wasn’t that the ride was straight up bad as it was bizarre. Half the celebrities were bobbleheads and the other half were cardboard cutouts, the net effect being that it felt like hanging out inside the opening credits of “The Girls Next Door.” I can’t believe Hef didn’t get a cameo. (I can.)
There was also the agent element, which was bizarre. You got yelled at for being late the whole way through the ride by a hard-nosed caricature of an agent. Think Estelle on “Friends,” only a dude.
In between, you were also somehow kinda but not exactly doing one of those celebrity neighborhood tour things? You didn’t just see what passed for animatronics; you also got an explanatory spiel. Much like impressions, it’s not a great sign when you have to explain what you’re looking at.
Overall the aesthetic was so over-the-top cartoonish and the plot so broad that we were more confused than angry. It’s a shame California didn’t have legalized weed at the time; this thing could’ve been a sleeper hit after the fashion of Alice in Wonderland‘s revival.
Also I vaguely remember a baggage claim area in the unload area? Or maybe it was queue decoration. Or maybe I’ve gotten to the point where my brain has run out of memories and is trying some falsies on for size.
I don’t know. To be clear, what you’ve heard is correct: Superstar Limo was bad. It definitely needed to be replaced. However, I almost feel like it was so bad, it circled back around to being awesome? You have to have a certain sense of humor to know what I mean. Here, watch what on-ride video survived the turn of the century and let me know what you think:
And if you’re curious about how, exactly, this monster was ever greenlit in the first place and/or enjoy a good Princess Di conspiracy theory, this video from Defunctland does a great job summing it up:
It’s a funny badge of honor, having ridden what is quite possibly Disney’s shortest-lived attraction of all time. OF ALL TIME! I feel almost special. Not only was a born at the exact right time to experience the Disney Renaissance in real time, I have also partaken of its worst output. It can’t be bought!
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