disney rides ranked

This is a banner week for the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. This Friday, Walt Disney Pictures releases the new entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Dead Men Tell No Tales; it’s the fifth film based on the classic 1967 attraction. Also Friday, at the Disney California Adventure theme park in Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort, Marvel will make its presence known in the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission – Break Out! attraction, taking over from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. But wait, as they say: there’s more. This weekend, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World gets a whole new land, Pandora, themed to James Cameron’s Avatar. This combination of theme-park and movie-centric unveilings is the inspiration for the following, admittedly massive ranking of every single movie-inspired or movie-adjacent Disney attraction.

Get comfortable. We’re going to be here for a little while.

A few caveats: first, there are two notable, newer attractions omitted from this list: Frozen Ever After in Epcot’s World Showcase and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. There’s a simple reason why: I haven’t been back to Walt Disney World since these attractions opened. Whatever opinions I may have of, say, putting a Frozen ride in Norway (hint: they’re not positive), I can’t fairly place it or the Seven Dwarfs roller coaster on this list without riding them. Second, this list is not just a ranking of rides, but some of the stage shows as well, those of which focus on a specific film. (So, for example, the wonderful nighttime experiences Fantasmic! and World of Color don’t show up here.)

51. Stitch’s Great Escape! (Tomorrowland — Magic Kingdom)

Lilo & Stitch is a fine throwback for Disney hand-drawn animation, but the use of Stitch in the theme parks has always been shaky, if not awful. Unfortunately, Stitch’s Great Escape!, at the entry point of Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland, is on the negative end of that extreme. The attraction has been in place for nearly 13 years, replacing The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter ride but maintaining its basic setup: guests are recruited to be prison guards and watch a demonstration of an alien prisoner being beamed in for incarceration when said prisoner (guess who?) wreaks havoc on the strapped-in attendees. The ExtraTERRORestrial effects were meant to be intense – closer to the Alien movies – but the re-theming in Stitch’s Great Escape! is woeful. The good news is that the attraction isn’t open year-round anymore; the bad news is that there’s a reason why.

50. Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable (Future World — Epcot)

This film’s message is undeniably valuable: we must save our natural environment before it’s too late. Utilizing characters from Disney’s massively popular The Lion King is a fair way to marry education and entertainment. However, the attraction opened in Epcot’s The Land pavilion in January 1995, so it’s shown its age for a while. There are slighter, equally noticeable, distractions throughout: Matthew Broderick doesn’t voice Simba, though Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, and James Earl Jones appear. Plus, the grafting-on of elements from The Lion King, specifically its music, is a reminder of how shoehorned-in the characters feel, as Timon and Pumbaa try opening a resort in the Pride Lands. (Yup.) The message is vital…or was more so in the 1990s. As successful as The Lion King is, it’s time to replace this with something more apt to modern times.

49. Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (A Bug’s Land — Disney California Adventure)

There’s nothing inherently wrong about Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, one of many toddler-friendly attractions in A Bug’s Land in Disney California Adventure. It’s a pleasant, calm ride through some Imagineer-designed versions of human food that would appeal to the Teutonic-voiced caterpillar Heimlich. Part of the problem is inherent to the land: as much as A Bug’s Life may be a fun, enjoyable early Pixar film, it doesn’t merit an entire land in the same way that other films may. So the theming here is fine, but unnecessary (especially when there are similar food-related props you can see while walking through A Bug’s Land). Also, a little of Heimlich’s humor goes a long way; even though this train ride is short, by the end, the humor is stretching the breaking point of enjoyment.

48. Francis’ Ladybug Boogie (A Bug’s Land — Disney California Adventure)

Much like Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, Francis’ Ladybug Boogie is low on the ranking because it’s themed to a film that hasn’t stuck around in the cultural consciousness nearly long enough. Essentially, this is an updated version of an attraction we’ll discuss later, Mad Tea Party. This time, it’s not teacups in which you spin, but ladybugs. It could be argued that the theme makes sense: Francis may be a ladybug, but his major trait is defensiveness at seeming less than masculine. Surviving a spinning ride is tough, especially since you can choose to spin these ladybugs as much as you want. (Plus, the attraction is designed in a Figure-Eight style.) The roughness of the ride, coupled with the minimal theming here, is enough to put it low on the list.

47. Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Beauty and the Beast is one of the great animated films of all time. It’s also been a staple of Broadway for over two decades, as well as having had various touring productions around the world. Because of that, and because this attraction on Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been around literally since the film’s opening day, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage is simply old hat. Of course, this is also a heavily condensed version of the film with a mostly pre-recorded soundtrack: it’s just 25 minutes long and only the actors playing Belle and Gaston speak and sing live. (Guess what? It’s very, very noticeable.) A couple years ago, Disney changed out its Aladdin stage show in Anaheim – it’s high time this Beauty and the Beast stage version got removed for something more timely.

46. Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

A truncated stage version of a wildly popular and beloved Disney Renaissance film, housed in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Where have we seen this before? Oh, right, the previous entry. So what is it about Voyage of The Little Mermaid, which is shorter and reliant on video effects, that makes it slightly better than Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage? The theming of the indoor theater, along with the in-show effects and puppetry, is just enough to make this stand out. Because the theater is indoors, too, there’s more effort to make the entire environment feel like it’s straight out of The Little Mermaid, even extending to the nautically-themed queue. Voyage of The Little Mermaid is long in the tooth and well past ready to be replaced, but it’s a bit more magical.

45. Flik’s Flyers (A Bug’s Land — Disney California Adventure)

Flik’s Flyers is close to the best actual ride in A Bug’s Land (even if it’s not the best attraction). From the outside in, it’s a low-rent version of the Silly Symphony Swings attraction in Paradise Pier in DCA: there are a couple handfuls of ride vehicles, shaped like open, empty boxes of food, a suitably wacky piece of music from A Bug’s Life playing on the soundtrack, and Dave Foley’s upbeat performance as Flik accompanying it. If not Silly Symphony Swings, this is the A Bug’s Life version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant (with a different ride apparatus). However, because the view you get within the surprisingly sizable vehicles is…that of A Bug’s Land, and because the theming to a nearly-20-year old film is unavoidable, Flik’s Flyers remains low on the list.

44. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (Cars Land — Disney California Adventure)

Cars Land, to the Imagineers’ credit, is a very well-themed area. Unlike A Bug’s Land, the land feels much more immersive and fully realized in the way that a great themed area in Disneyland or Walt Disney World can. One of its attractions, in spite of being similar to another Disney thrill ride, will rank fairly high on this list. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree isn’t that attraction. Arguably, the non-thrilling attractions in Cars Land aren’t as impressive in part because the theming of the queues and rides themselves aren’t as impressive. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is a riff on the setpiece in Cars where he and Lightning McQueen tip tractors, which has a certain charm…presuming you like that kind of humor. If not, the attraction is merely a time-killer in an otherwise decently designed environment.

43. Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies (A Bug’s Land — Disney California Adventure)

What does Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies have that the other rides in A Bug’s Land don’t? As Walt Disney would say (though not about this attraction), the blessing of size. Make no mistake: the attraction is basically just bumper cars, an old-school kind of attraction you don’t typically find at Disney theme parks. But the space in which the bumper cars live is, or at least feels, larger than the rest of the rides in A Bug’s Land. This is by no means the best overall attraction in A Bug’s Land – we’ll get to that in a bit – but its queueing area and general layout makes it slightly more palatable than the rest.

42. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (Adventureland — Magic Kingdom)

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin is little more than Dumbo the Flying Elephant with a different theme. It would be wrong to say it’s nothing more than that, though; the big difference is that you can watch people get startled by a spitting camel perched at the front of the attraction. The Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland in Orlando is, generally, a wonderful themed environment and is home to some of Walt Disney World’s finest attractions, from The Jungle Cruise to Pirates of the Caribbean. So The Magic Carpets of Aladdin serves its function as a way to siphon young kids away from some of the other attractions, but it’s not exactly remarkable. Dumbo the Flying Elephant may not have a spitting camel, but…well, there’s a good reason why.

41. Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (Tomorrowland — Magic Kingdom)

Monsters, Inc. is one of Pixar’s funniest movies, ending with a stand-up set performed to a delighted youngster. So, it’s logical that Disney created a movie-themed mini-comedy club with shows every 20 minutes or so. However, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, more than another interactive experience appearing later on this list, is hit or miss depending on the audience energy and reaction. On a larger scale, there’s the question of why this attraction is in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. Monsters, Inc. doesn’t take place in the future; the other Pixar-themed attraction in Tomorrowland, at least, has a direct science-fiction vibe. The location is a large part of why this attraction lands so low; plus, the actual laugh floor is exceedingly, oppressively bright and loud. It’s just too much.

40. Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters (Cars Land — Disney California Adventure)

Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters, taking the place of Luigi’s Flying Tires, is a mild step above Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. The queue is a bit more expansive, with quaint details suggesting that you’re walking through an Italian-inspired auto shop. The ride itself, now trackless, isn’t terribly remarkable; the original version was more of a headache, as it required riders to understand how to commandeer their tire-shaped vehicle while riding the attraction. (Flying Tires was inspired by the Flying Saucers attraction from Disneyland back in the 1960s, itself known for causing guest consternation.) Rollicking Roadsters’ queue doesn’t count for a ton when you’re in the ride. But it’s something.

39. King Triton’s Carousel of the Sea (Paradise Pier — Disney California Adventure)

Paradise Pier, in its original and current iterations, hearkens back to the turn of the 20th century, when midway-style games made their home on outdoor boardwalks like those in California. So, naturally, there’s a carousel, King Triton’s Carousel of the Sea. The theming to The Little Mermaid is as well-done as can be (especially considering the film takes place nowhere near California), and the carousel is a suitably pleasing ride for young children. However, it also feels like a bit of a leftover from the much tackier version of Paradise Pier, and has long since been supplanted by a dark ride at the front of Paradise Pier as the better Little Mermaid-themed attraction at DCA.

38. Tarzan’s Treehouse (Adventureland — Disneyland)

A version of this attraction will show up later in the list, but Tarzan’s Treehouse still lags behind its counterpart at the Magic Kingdom. Originally called Swiss Family Treehouse to tie into Swiss Family Robinson, Tarzan’s Treehouse has been themed to the animated film since its release in 1999. A number of the tableaux you get to explore, themed to events in the film and with the setup that you’re reading from Jane’s diary, are well designed and intricate. That said, while it was a very successful film, Tarzan hasn’t stayed in a lot of people’s minds long enough for it to merit standing next to Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland. At this point, Disney would be better off bringing back the Robinson family.

37. Mad Tea Party (Fantasyland — Disneyland, Fantasyland — Magic Kingdom)

Spinning around in large tea cups straight out of Alice in Wonderland is one of the more unforgettable experiences you can have in a Disney theme park. Depending on the constitution of your stomach, it can also be one of the more sickening. The theming here is well done (though I’d vote for the Disneyland version over the Walt Disney World version, if only for its location), but it’s a ride where you spin around over and over, and that’s if you’re not whipping the wheel at the center of the ride vehicle around to spin even faster. Mad Tea Party certainly lives up to its name, but if your stomach is shaky, it’s more of a warning.

36. Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros (World Showcase — Epcot)

For the past decade, the Mexico pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase has been the home of the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride, featuring Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, and Panchito Pistoles, the Three Caballeros. The story of the attraction is fairly silly: Donald has gone missing in advance of a big concert, and someone has to find him! Donald and the others show up primarily via video screens placed carefully through each scene of the attraction, evoking elements of Mexican culture from food to outdoor activities, and so on. The original version of this attraction, El Rio del Tiempo, was cheesy but felt more worthy of its placement. Gran Fiesta Tour is pleasant enough, but no less cheesy and a bit more distracting because of its Disney-fied nature.

Continue Reading All Movie-Themed Disney Rides Ranked >>

Pages: 1 2 3 4Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: