Tom’s Top 7: Movies that Should Have Rides
If you ask a child of the 90s or a Gen Zer their favorite Disney animated movie, there’s a good chance you’ll receive an answer that is not represented by a ride at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or any of the other parks. (Unless their favorite is Toy Story, in which case boy are they in luck!)
In reviewing lists of Fantasyland-style dark rides at each Disney park around the world, one thing sticks out: there’s very little representation from the last few decades. In this post, I’ll take a look at which classic Disney movies I think have been snubbed, and offer vague ‘Armchair Imagineering’ on what a good ride would look like to me. (Note that this is specifically about movies that don’t have rides. Some of these animated films already have in-park representation via restaurants, shows or…bathrooms.)
As this is a “Tom’s Top 7” rather than a standard top 10 list, there’s little to no objectivity here. In terms of which films “deserve” rides, that could probably be determined via some complex formula factoring in box office results, home video sales, merchandise revenue, longevity, and other factors to determine in-park worthiness. I’m more concerned with which movies I’d personally enjoy as rides.
While the Disney film pantheon now includes Marvel, Star Wars, and a range of live-action movies that plenty of people (even fans) probably don’t associate with Disney, I’m going to stick to just the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar films here.
Because my focus is primarily Fantasyland-style dark rides, I think the animated libraries are the most fitting focuses of this list. I mean, I think we can all agree that National Treasure: Book of Secrets and The Ugly Dachshund need mega-budget E-Tickets in every single Disney park, so I don’t want to fixate on the obvious. With that said, here are the films I’d like to see have rides in the parks…
7. Beauty and the Beast – This is my favorite Disney animated film, but I’m putting it last for a couple of reasons. First, it already has a mini-land, restaurant, and an attraction (Enchanted Tales with Belle) in Magic Kingdom, plus a stage show in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It just doesn’t have a ride, which feels like a technicality given all it does have. Second, it’ll soon have the most lavish Disney dark ride of all time in Tokyo Disneyland.
With that said, since it is my favorite, I’m going to leverage that “no ride right now” technicality and insist that it still could use more of an in-park presence. This is particularly true in the parks where it is not represented at all but really should be, like Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. There are so many iconic scenes that individually could form the basis of a ride, and given the enduring popularity of the movie and its artistic accomplishments, it really deserves a ride…or several.
6. Zootopia – One thing I dislike about a lot of Fantasyland-style dark rides is that they end up being passive, CliffNotes retellings of the movie. The ride doesn’t immerse guests in an experience, but rather, shows them a condensed story. Attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride work, despite their age, because guests actually fly over London or go to hell, as the case may be.
I’m not as huge of a Zootopia fan as some, and I worry that any Zootopia attraction would fall into this storytelling trap. However, the film’s epic scale of world-building is so exceptional that I’d feel remiss not to include it on this list. I don’t have any good ideas for a Zootopia attraction, but I think a simple, leisurely monorail ride above these districts without any attempt at telling a story, just an experience of scenic beauty and details–would be ideal. (Perhaps it could be like Hogwarts Express?)
Alternatively, set a story in one specific district and tell a new story from that locale. Whatever a Zootopia attraction ends up being, it shouldn’t try to do too much.
5. Lion King – This is another movie that has an in-park presence via a show, restaurant, and other offerings, but still no ride. Still, it makes the list because it’s my second-favorite Disney animated film, and I think it features an excellent cast of memorable characters, great music, and some interesting options for a dark ride.
This is another one I fear could be a CliffNotes retelling of the story, since there are so many memorable scenes, each of which feature different songs and highlight different characters. Personally, I’d punt on all of this, instead focusing solely on “Circle of Life” while drawing inspiration from the film’s opening, which features vignettes of many different animals.
Use this to make this a quasi-educational attraction and it becomes a perfect fit as a much-needed family dark ride in Animal Kingdom. Or Imagineering could take it in a totally different direction–I think there’s a ton of unrealized potential for Lion King in the parks.
4. The Aristocats – If it hasn’t happened by now, the Aristocats is probably never getting a film. I realize this isn’t the most popular film, so it’s tough to say a ride is “deserved” here. Nonetheless, several of the cats are still popular and have a strong merchandise presence in both Japan and Paris. Plus, everybody wants to be a cat!
Ultimately, it’s these cats themselves that could carry a ride concept, and make for something really fun. Here, I envision a ride that’s part the scurrying around Paris of Ratatouille: the Adventure (with less screens and more physical sets) and part the finale dream sequence room from Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. In that room, a Heffalump band performs, with some characters actually in a trackless ride vehicle ‘mingling’ with guests. This would be a great climax of an Aristocats ride, complete with the Alley Cats performing a jammin’ finale…before tiring everyone out and the cats falling asleep at the end, as cats do.
3. Inside Out – This one’s probably easy to envision because we already had the most obvious attraction that comes to mind when thinking about Inside Out: Cranium Command. (The similarities become downright eery once you learn that Inside Out director Pete Docter was an animator on Cranium Command.)
For me, there’s a lot of appeal in a redux of Cranium Command that features the emotions from Inside Out, but covers entirely different ground. This is one film that could use the premise of the film for something totally different and fresh, potentially with randomized sequences a la Star Tours: the Adventures Continue. Having the 5 emotions be Audio Animatronics would also give the attraction depth, making it more than just a screen-based ride.
Alternatively, I think a Bing Bong rocket wagon ride would be the great starting point for a silly and endearing trackless dark ride. Personally, I’ll take more Bing Bong anything; any way we can get a greater in-park representation of this character (short of replacing Figment) is fine by me!
2. Tangled – This is all about the “I See the Light” floating lantern scene. That’s one of the most beautifully evocative scenes in any Disney animated film, and would be jaw-dropping brought to life. The technology is there (or almost there) to recreate this as a three dimensional scene in the finale of a Tangled boat ride.
Disney could make this happen with drones in a nighttime spectacular instead, but I think it’d be much more powerful for the guest to be in a boat with lanterns taking flight above them, reflected in the water.
1. The Princess and the Frog – Dining at Tiana’s Place aboard the Disney Wonder was actually the inspiration for this entire post. I kept thinking, “how does this movie not have a ride yet?!” Now, that’s partly rhetorical, as I realize it didn’t do the best numbers at the box office. On the other hand, that was when Walt Disney Animation Studios was stuck in a decade-long funk. If the exact movie were released today with the benefit of several successive artistic and commercial successes by WDAS in front of it, it’d perform much better. I also think it’ll develop classic status over time, especially as new audiences discover it.
I don’t really have a strong idea of what a Princess and the Frog ride would include. I’m assuming it’d be a mysterious boat ride through the bayou with voodoo effects, transitioning into a New Orleans’ setting with jazz and a jovial and optimistic spirit. For me, the mood is key and what would make a Princess and the Frog attraction a slam dunk. I already think of Princess and the Frog as something of the “anti-Frozen” when it comes to the film’s presence in the parks–it’s under-utilized and steals the show whenever else it’s featured.
There are easily another dozen movies that could be on this list, from new classics like Wall-E to older gems like the Fox and the Hound. It’s hardly a comprehensive list–and as a fan of Disney Parks first and films second, I also don’t want to see a bunch of rides based on movies at the expense of original attractions. Nonetheless, I thought it was a fun exercise, and hopefully you enjoyed it, too.
Which Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar movies would you like to see represented more in the parks? Any particular scenes from these movies you think would make for a memorable Fantasyland-style dark ride experience? Any other thoughts or questions? Share in the comments below!
Zootopia land coming to disneyworld soon already in the works the closure and reinvisioning of the splash mountain ride into THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG WILD RIDE. at magic kingdom in disney world and then dark rides made overseas will make an appearance over here maybe one day just like the 3 rides or shows we got last time like phillarmagic and the extreme stuntshow spectacular now defunct and sorin and i cant remmeber if it was 3 or 4 rides or shows but you get the picture disney did it once before it was very very popular and i know forsure they will do it again with other rides and shows. Now i want to see a roger rabbit wacky adventures into disney animations twister coaster indoors kinda like flight of fear and space mountian mixed with water parts like pirates ride and then add in spiderman ride type vehicle that you ride in and stuff so all different ways of movement in the dark indoors and some what intense but still disney and it combines many never before seen disney movies into a ride like aristocats,oliver and company zootopia and then do live action homeward bound 2 only scene small nod and then back into say hunchback sliding down chruch roof and around and down into and under flags and then into a chase into the woods in winter with fox and the hound and come imout being chased by robinhood because you swiped his gold he took for the poor and frye tuck which leads to a wild ride on a horse and buggy type romen style buggy open style like spiderman ride at islands of adventure too ride vehicle design and like vehicle ride design they use in the ride dinosaur at animal kingdom type of truck open vehicle design i want into emperor’s new groove and somehow into her lab and then wrong lever opps and wild ride which leads into the world of sword and the stone and the black Calderon and ita wicked scenes and creepy scary scenes and twist and turns and dips and drops and track dead ends and track dropouts and then the final drop out track into a steep drop also and a loop downward helix till level and then its up down up down brake run and unload station before it runs around back to load station empty and ready to go and on a moving station platform entire time to make for faster loading and dispatch.
What about the Emperor’s New Groove? There is that roller coaster ride into the secret lair which I could totally see or at least a restaurant featuring Kronk’s Spinach puffs! PLEASE its my fav movie
I think you forgot that Flik’s Flyers is being repurposed as an Inside Out ride at California Adventure.
I am late to this thread. I know this is about Fantasyland but I have been thinking about how Tomorrow land (at Disneyland and WDW at least) are due for a major upgrade. They dont really represent “tomorrow” anymore. A big part of our future is going to be conservation, so I would LOVE to see a Wall-E themed ride in Tomorrowland. Also, to Tom Brickers point, it would be cool if it were more than a passive experience. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a scene in the ride where Wall-E type robots are sorting actual park trash and recycling? Then at the end of the ride made some kind of environmental call to action? Im not talking about hitting people with Propaganda or making guests go on a ride where they feel guilty, but something that can lead us towards a better tomorrow. While on this topic, I would also LOVE to see Autopia cars converted to electric (Get Tesla to sponsor?) and restoration of the people mover in DL.
Ok: Now Fantasyland. Classic Animated films that need rides/park representation
1) 101 Dalmations
2) Robin Hood
3) I fully agree with above comments Re: Beauty and the Beast
4) Legend of Sleepy Hollow (I LOVE Mr Toad so much, and I think its cinema counterpart could use some park love)
Live Action Films that I would LOVE to see get park represenation (somewhere)
1) Dick Tracy
2) The Rocketeer (maybe the new TV show will renew interest, the 90’s film is very underrated)
That is a slew of Ideas. Sorry for the long post
I heard that the Imagination pavilion was going to be re-themed to Inside-Out, which would be great! I agree with Tangled, and I would love to see something Incredibles themed at WDW!!! I’ve always thought that a “Hawaiian Roller coaster” from LILO and stitch would be awesome too!
PULL THE LEVER, KRONK. WRONG LEVER!!!!!!!!!!!
What about Moana??? You could pretty much do another splash mountain with that story. Would never want the original replaced but I’d take a second one… say in animal kingdom? Love your blog btw!
I completely agree, I am dying for a stronger Moana presence in the parks. I also love the idea of National Treasure (didn’t realize that was Disney) at DHS or EPCOT near american Adventure) and Inside Out within old cranium command
The Incredibles needs a ride where you could be a super hero and fly or do other amazing feats just like the characters in the movie. Maybe the ride could be a virtual motion ride like Soarin’ or Pandora…
Ooo, and the queue could be like Test Track, but Edna Mode’s studio where you design your super-suit!
I really miss the original Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride. I know there is the recent mine train ride but that Scary Adventures ride had some awesome graphics and was so beautiful! Too bad they took it down in Walt Disney World. Beauty and the Beast needs a ride for sure. And a Tangled ride would be great!
My idea for a Zootopia ride would be like Monsters ride and go seek in Tokyo. You could be a rookie cop joining Judy and Nick on a search for a criminal. This would allow you to ride though all the fun town and world building while shining a flash light, looking for the bad guy.
I heard that It’s a Small World has been put up for refurbishment and will be rethemed as a Tangled boat ride.
Definitely Zootopia and Inside Out would be great rides. Lots of colors and places to go.
I love love love The Ugly Dachshund! No joke, my childhood dogs were named Chloe and Brutus. I keep hoping that when they release this Disney app that’s supposed to be the Netflix of their work, that it would include all of these old live action gems!
Why not do a whole ride that features the the “Dogs of Disney”….Ugly Dachshund, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, etc. so much could be done!
what a great article I always thought that Disney should have made a Monsters Inc ride /mini coaster all those doors, with our favorites Mike Sully and Randall.. all the guests would provide would be the screams!
They have a ride like this at disneyland!
I think you are onto something with the idea of Zootopia. There are so many ugly rooftops along the monorail I feel like you could add sooooo many scenes to ride along the rail (like on the train in Magic Kingdom). I am thinking the rooftops of Paris for the Aristocats, and rooftops for Mary Poppins, the whole ride we partake in during Zootopia, a perspective based floating Carl and Ellie’s house. MAN! That would be so fun. And all the easter eggs they could add into scenes.
Each Disney park needs to be expanded first. Disassemble any and all buildings that are right next to the parks, and use that space for more attractions. Still waiting for “Mt Fuji” roller coaster behind Japan in EPCOT.
Mary Poppins, they must be able to replicate the carousel or something from the sweeps scene.
I always thought that Aladdin should have had an indoor roller coaster following Aladdin and Abu’s escape from the Cave of Wonders on the magic carpet. It would be SUPER cool to have the ride entrance be that giant tiger (lion?) head.
Also, Monsters Inc should have a coaster that has the ride vehicles look like the doors and the track is above not below. It could even have a moment where the power “goes out” no riders must scream to get it going again.
They’re not dark rides, but I always thought Disney missed good opportunities thereâ€â™€ï¸. “Armchair Imagineering” is fun!
Though in no way am I advocating the closure of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (since it is my favorite), I always thought a great one would be a Mr. Toad’s (Really) WILD Ride that would be outdoors replacing the (sadly) outdated Autopia – and with modern special effects technology. Think of the possibilities as something that could incorporate some indoor/outdoor coaster type elements with Toad Hall, the open road with Cyril, the river bank, and all of the other options from the movie. Just a thought… Or, if not, how about the Legend of Sleepy Hollow instead?