Top 10 Ride Reimaginings Needed at Disney World

During the next decade, Walt Disney World is going to reimagine rides in Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom. Probably several that are overdue for replacement as well as opening day originals in need of updates. This lists the attractions that are prime candidates to be overhauled and what we’d like to see if or when that occurs.

For starters, we know more ride reimaginings are on the horizon because Disney has said so. While the company has plans to invest $60 billion in Parks & Resorts over the next 10 years, CEO Bob Iger said the spending would be backloaded. But he also indicated that a menu of new things will start opening in 2025, and there’ll be a cadence every year of additional investment and increased capacity from then through the 2030s.

Similarly, Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro has made comments that they want to grow the footprints of the parks by building beyond the berm while also improving utilization within them. Both of these things necessarily mean ride reimaginings. One, because improving utilization is “code” for reimaginings (or shenanigans like Genie/NextGen, but Disney has learned from those mistakes).

There’s also the fact that the company has yet to put shovel-to-soil, so it’d be impossible to open anything on a regular “cadence” starting in 2025 or 2026 that is not a ride reimagining. None of this should be a huge surprise. We’ve all seen how “quickly” Disney builds new lands and attractions. The bad news is that proper expansion at Walt Disney World will likely arrive closer to 2030 than 2025.

The good news is that there are a dozen-plus attractions that are at phases in their life cycle when they need to be updated. Well, maybe this isn’t a positive from your perspective–nostalgia is a big part of the Disney experience and change to fan-favorites can be difficult to accept.

Not only that, but not every past ride reimagining has been progress–some have been downgrades or lateral moves. Ride reimaginings also are not nearly as “sexy” as park expansion. A blank canvas is much more exciting for its endless possibilities than even the incremental improvements of a well-executed reimagining.

I get it, but I also disagree with that sentiment. I think it’s the same type of thinking that fuels fans to keep clamoring for a mythical 5th gate rather than, you know, fixing and expanding upon the current 4 parks, 3 of which still need a lot of help. (And the other of which has a really great expansion pad!) As exciting as a fifth park is on paper, so much of the budget would be blown on infrastructure and other things that are not attractions.

It’s a somewhat similar idea with ride reimaginings. When I look around Walt Disney World, there are easily a dozen attractions that are outdated and could be dramatically improved. This could be done faster and cheaper than fully-fledged expansion, too. In a world where time and money are finite and even $60 billion won’t go nearly as far as some fans might think, reimaginings are key.

Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks and cover the prime candidates for reimaginings at Walt Disney World…

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – I am fully convinced that this will happen in the next few years. Reimagining Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is not just the safe move, but it would be money well spent. It presents an opportunity for Imagineering to easily inject new life in an attraction that’s inherently popular as a thrill ride, and would give the company something to market between now and 2026.

In our post, Will Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Be Reimagined?, we cover possibilities for the new theme as well as why we strongly believe it will happen at some point soon. There are several reasons for this, including the reputational liability presented by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who has now been named in two sexual abuse lawsuits in the last two years.

Also worth noting is that Walt Disney World has nothing on deck for 2025 as an indirect “answer” to Epic Universe. Unless Disney is just going to ‘give up’ and let Universal have 2025 (a strategy that we pointed out might make some degree of sense in Is Universal “Beating” Disney?), they need to start moving on something soon.

Enter a redone Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Few attractions have as much untapped marketing potential and could be done in under a year and would be a colossal draw with mainstream audiences. Even though Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is already pretty popular, I can’t think of any other rides that hit the ‘sweet spot’ of an efficient reimagining and a marketable one.

While I still think that there are a variety of viable reimagining themes, none has as much potential as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: Taylor’s Version. The curmudgeons out there are going to immediately scoff at this, as hating the popular thing has become a personality for some. I’m no Swiftie (she wouldn’t crack my personal top 50 musicians), but I recognize that Taylor Swift is a juggernaut. (And also, not everything needs to be aimed squarely at me.)

Love or hate her, there’s no denying Taylor Swift’s popularity–she transcends pop stardom. Disney already brought “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version)” to its Disney+ streaming service, so there’s already an established relationship. There are also rumors she’ll have a future role the MCU. (Perhaps Disney could kill two birds with one stone, making this a Marvel and Taylor Swift roller coaster?!)

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: Taylor’s Version is the one attraction overlay that would bring an entirely new audience to Walt Disney World. Just look at what happened with the NFL, as Swifties watched “learned football” and watched entire games just for glimpses of the superstar. This reimagining alone could be a legitimate answer to Epic Universe in terms of drawing power, which is sorta depressing, but it’s also accurate.

Stitch’s Great Escape – There are several attractions I debated including on this list that likely won’t make it to see the 2030s–including Star Wars Launch Bay, Disney Junior Dance Party, and several other theater and stage show spaces–the problem is that most of them will be fundamentally transformed into something else, and thus redeveloped rather than reimagined.

It’s a similar story here, but the difference is that Imagineering is boxed in with the former Stitch’s Great Escape space given what’s adjacent and above it. So the building won’t be torn down, and there’s a good chance that the next occupant utilizes a similar layout to make the most of the limited footprint here.

As for what could replace Stitch’s Great Escape, there are a variety of options. The most boring of which would be importing Stitch Encounter from one of the international parks. It’s basically Turtle Talk, but with Stitch (who is an alien, not a turtle). Another option would be something similar, but with Baymax instead of Stitch. There’s also Pixar’s Elio in 2025, which is a science fiction film and thus could conceivably fit into Tomorrowland. The problem with Disney sci-fi films, though, is that they have a 50/50 shot at flopping.

DINOSAUR — Walt Disney World fans will debate the demise of Dinoland and Dino-Rama for decades to come. Fans are already sad about the likelihood of losing DINOSAUR, which seems like an inevitability at this point even if it’s not 100% official. I also suspect that, over time, an after-the-fact fondness will form around Dinoland as a whole–fans will miss the extinct area even more when looking back through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.

The thing is…these folks are sorta right! Scientifically speaking, dinosaurs are the awesomest animal of all-time, edging out hammerhead sharks and the T-800. There are dozens of slam dunk ideas involving dinosaurs in theme parks that would’ve been wondrous to behold. None of them have happened or will happen, which I think is truly a shame.

With that said, DINOSAUR just isn’t it. The ride has so much squandered potential, and even its diehard fans will realize this once Indiana Jones Adventure opens. As a lover of dinosaurs, I would’ve loved to have a DINOSAUR with the quality of Indiana Jones Adventure. But that’s not what we got, and as such, DINOSAUR is due for a reimagining.

I just hope sometime down the road, Disney gives Imagineering the budget and freedom to create a dinosaur land that really wows. Jurassic Park and Universal don’t have a monopoly on the concept. Imagineers could create an original theme park IP with dinosaurs that knocks our collective socks off!

Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival – There are also several different films in EPCOT that could make this list, but the only one that should be an urgent priority is the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. The material here is passable and worth watching, making it a decent option if you’re craving air-conditioning or looking to escape a storm. But at the end of the day, these are literally just Disney and Pixar cartoon shorts that you could watch on Disney+ at home.

Even though it’s better than some EPCOT films, the reason a reimagining should be prioritized here is as part of a bigger-picture Imagination pavilion overhaul. The #1 entry on this list is, spoiler alert, a reimagined Journey into Imagination with Figment (and Dreamfinder). That ride plus a redone ImageWorks plus something worthwhile in the Magic Eye Theater could breathe new life into this corner of the park.

As for what should replace the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, the obvious candidate is an Inside Out show. That would give the pavilion an original character in Figment for the fans, plus IP drawing power for casual guests. It doesn’t need to be a lavish production–another 3D film could conceivably work–but I’d love to see a Bing Bong Audio Animatronics figure.

Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage — This stage show retelling Beauty and the Beast in condensed form is literally as old as the animated movie itself. It’s enjoyable, doing an adequate job with choreography, performances, and dramatic styling. Sometimes simple-but-good is more than enough.

The problem is that Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage just feels old. Everything about it just gives off 1990s vibes. It’s the totality of it all, and how it contrasts with newer adaptations of animated movies that gives it away. So many more modern productions have come and gone at Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line that could be plugged into DHS and would be a breath of fresh air, comparatively speaking.

To that point, I’d love to see this replaced by one of those DCL productions. My favorite is Tangled: The Musical, which would also be a great option given how underrepresented Tangled is in the parks. But even the newer Beauty and the Beast or Frozen musicals from DCL would be fantastic. I’d prefer that to a montage show, but am not necessarily averse to something like Mickey and the Magician, which is an incredible production.

Peter Pan’s Flight – This ride’s enduring popularity and the fact that it commands some of the longest wait times in all of Walt Disney World means it should not be replaced by an entirely new ride concept. Flying over the streets of London and Neverland is a timeless lightning-in-a-bottle experience that should never go away.

As much as I love the new Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure in Fantasy Springs, I wouldn’t want to lose the simple charm and delight of Peter Pan’s Flight for it. (Not that it matters, since Never Land Adventure would never fit in such a small footprint and I can’t see Disney spending “OLC money” on somewhat similar attraction when Peter Pan’s Flight is still so popular.)

Instead, Peter Pan’s Flight should be plussed with projection mapping and other lighting effects–as has been done in Anaheim, Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Updating infrastructure so the flight is less jerky and smoother would help with suspension of disbelief. If we’re really daydreaming, replacing the ride system entirely with larger vehicles to improve hourly throughput would be glorious. (That’s probably a stretch, though, as it’s the type of update that would trigger safety and accessibility changes.)

Imagineering got it right with Peter Pan’s Flight decades ago, so this is more a modernization than a fully-fledged reimagining. Over the years, Imagineering has done exactly that with Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, plus other Fantasyland classics at Disneyland. It’s time Peter Pan’s Flight left its datedness in the dust and got a chance to fly higher. (If recent ride refurbishment rumors are to be believed, this one is going to happen…to some degree.)

Spaceship Earth — The last attraction standing from EPCOT Center’s original slow-moving dark ride slate. Spaceship Earth was scheduled for reimagining back in 2020, which was overdue even then. The track is in rough shape and the descent gives off abandoned mall vibes. The current version of the attraction, (partially) redone in 2007, is now the longest-running incarnation of Spaceship Earth.

The way this ride communicates to guests–especially in the finale–likewise feels antiquated. Ironic and disappointing given that it’s an attraction about communication. Humanity’s shared story is a compelling one and the ride’s location inside EPCOT’s iconic geodesic sphere is really cool, but Spaceship Earth squanders so much of its potential. Especially the clunky conclusion that fails to inspire.

The “Story Light” reimagining that was slated to occur in 2020 was controversial, with many purists cringing at the possibility of character IP being added. Whatever happens at this point would be a different concept than that, and honestly, I’m willing to roll the dice. The current state of the second-half of the attraction is embarrassing, the script is tired, and the cheesy screen-based ending is atrocious.

Spaceship Earth deserves better, and diehard fans shouldn’t have to fear a reimagining because the end result might, somehow, be even worse. Personally, I’d be totally fine with a fiber optic light trail ‘leading’ the way through the current scenes, plus the addition of an all-new finale. No need to reinvent the wheel (or movable type printing press?), just add clarity to what’s communicated and an exclamation-inducing finale.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – I love the idea of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin as a shooter ride that actually uses physical show scenes to make it engaging for guests who want to enjoy the attraction passively. Some of the staging, props, and Audio Animatronics are really cool. The interactivity is fun, and Walt Disney World could use more attractions like this. I personally prefer gamified attractions like this–ones that are enjoyable whether you play or not, as it adds multigenerational appeal.

Unfortunately, this tired dark ride hasn’t been modernized in over two decades. It’s still a reimagined ride of another reimagined ride (with some remnants of its predecessors, Delta Dreamflight and If You Had Wings, still in place). The parks in Anaheim, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai have all since iterated upon and improved the Buzz Lightyear shooter ride, and it’s long past time for Magic Kingdom to follow suit.

While the most logical move is replacing the blasters and some targets, I’d honestly like to see this ride reimagining go a step further and become something different entirely, a la Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle at Hong Kong Disneyland. Walt Disney World already has another Toy Story interactive game ride–and heck, an entire land. Make this Stitch’s Slimers (or Plasma Blasters) or retheme it to some obscure Marvel character to whom Universal doesn’t have the rights in Florida. Another option is waiting to see how the Wreck-It-Ralph shooter that’s replacing Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters at Tokyo Disneyland turns out. Cloning that could make sense!

Tomorrowland Speedway – Perfect for those who want to enjoy the stench and cognitive impairment of vehicle exhaust, Tomorrowland Speedway is noisy, stinky, and simplistic. The flip side is that Tomorrowland Speedway is a rite of passage attraction for kids that is deserving of its place in Magic Kingdom.

Back before we had a kid, I felt like I “needed” to defend Tomorrowland Speedway in order to be balanced and not one of the dreaded, out-of-touch Childless Millennial Disney Adults. Now I’m free to say what I really think under the cover of parenthood: Tomorrowland Speedway is a waste of precious real estate. There’s nothing Disney can do to differentiate it from dime-a-dozen go-cart rides. It’s time to replace Tomorrowland Speedway completely.

Tokyo Disneyland “traded” their version for Fantasyland and Tomorrowland expansion featuring a Beauty and the Beast E-Ticket, indoor theater, and Baymax flat ride. There isn’t that much space here, but Disney could still do so much to make Fantasyland and Tomorrowland flow better and modernize this stretch of the park. The Baymax flat ride plus another major Fantasyland headliner could replace it, while also making TRON Lightcycle Run flow better with the rest of the park.

I’m skeptical Disney has the desire to rip out Tomorrowland Speedway, so at the very least, modernize the fleet and add better show scenes. Use that sponsorship with General Motors to make Tomorrowland Speedway less embarrassing.

Journey into Imagination with Figment — Now back in meet & greet form and soon to have his own feature film, Figment is more popular than ever. It just makes sense to reimagine Journey into Imagination. It would generate goodwill among WDW diehards and forge new fans in the process.

It’d be something that would define the EPCOT transformation, tying it together into a more cohesive project. Figment would become the face and mascot of the new-look EPCOT, elevating the otherwise underwhelming central spine in the process. Oh, and it’d be a license to print money–just think of the merchandising potential!

Figment is popular not for the existing attraction in its current sorry state, but thanks to the original Journey into Imagination. If anything, the fact that the ride and its star character still have a powerful hold on adults of a certain age decades after they disappeared speaks volumes about the indelible impression they left on the youth of the 1980s and 1990s.

The original Journey into Imagination was mesmerizing. Above all else, it was imaginative, as cliche as that might sound. As a young child, I was spellbound by the original, its characters, and the evocative scenes they inhabited. It was a timeless attraction that captivated guests, sparked their imaginations, and forged lifelong Walt Disney World fans. Recapturing that lost magic and spirit of imagination would have the same impact today, proving that rides don’t need movie IP to be massive successes. That the theme parks, themselves, are a form of intellectual property.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Do any attractions at Walt Disney World strike you as being prime candidates for ride reimaginings? Anything you think our list “snubbed” that should be slated for replacement or at least an update? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

34 Responses to “Top 10 Ride Reimaginings Needed at Disney World”
  1. Stephen June 10, 2024
  2. Christy May 28, 2024
  3. JB in KS May 27, 2024
    • Tom Bricker May 27, 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *