My Disney Top 5 - Disney Animated Films that Deserve Park Attractions

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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When Walt Disney set out to build his dream family amusement park, he wanted to go several steps further than anyone else had ever gone in that industry. He wanted a place that would literally bring you into the stories that his company was busy telling on the silver screen. Not everything was going to be based on a movie or intellectual property, not that that was even a term back then. The idea was to immerse the guest in another world. The people he turned to in order to make this dream come true were his filmmakers and craftsmen from the studios. They created attractions and lands that allowed us to feel like we were actually walking into films and stories. He was bringing fiction and fantasy to life.

Many of the original Disneyland attractions and those created since for Disney parks around the world are based on the classic animated films in the Disney canon. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Alice in Wonderland are just a handful of classic films that spawned classic theme park attractions. That tradition has continued with attractions based on The Little Mermaid, Toy Story, Monster's Inc., and Cars. And we all know what's headed our way once Toy Story and Star Wars get their own full-blown lands in Disneyland and at Walt Disney World in the near future.

Attractions don't all have to be based on films. Indeed it has become more of a trend lately that the films are being spawned from the attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean, Tomorrowland, and the upcoming Jungle Cruise film are but a few examples of the reverse being true. I'm all for attractions coming from a whole other source of creativity like Space Mountain, Test Track, and Soarin' Around the World. They certainly don't all have to come from the Disney films, but too me, it's extra special when they do.

That said there are still films in the Disney catalogue that are underrepresented in the Disney theme parks; films that I love and I'm sure that many of you love that would make great theme park attractions, restaurants, or even entire themed lands. There are plenty of possibilities but, as always, there needs to be a narrowing down. So let's take a look at my Top 5 Disney Animated Films that Deserve Theme Park Attractions.

5 – Inside Out


The emotions from "Inside Out" could guide us through a new attraction. © Pixar Animation Studios.

The world created inside Riley Andersen's mind is a Disney attraction just waiting to happen. Personally, I think it fits perfectly somewhere in Epcot's Future World. Riley's different "islands" could be visited. The Train of Thought could be the ride vehicle. There could be a whole interactive portion with the different emotions and core memories. "Help restore Riley's core memories before it's too late." There could be different endings based on the different emotions. It's rife with possibilities. And who wouldn't want to see an animatronic Bing Bong come to life in front of their eyes?

4 – Zootopia


In my opinion, Zootopia characters Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps should be the stars of their own attraction. © Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Here's a perfect idea for a new land at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World—Zootopia. Imagine entering a world completely based on the animal metropolis in the film. One of my favorite things about this new Disney classic was marveling at the backgrounds and the totally immersive world that was created for Judy Hopps' adventure.

Your ride could begin out in Bunny Burrow as you board the train to Zootopia. Along the way all of the amazing lands that surround and encompass the metropolis of Zootopia could unfold in front of you, culminating in actual disembarkation in the city itself. Shops and restaurants could mimic those found in the film. They could find a way to incorporate real animals throughout the land. It's got tremendous possibilities. Think of what they're doing with Avatar and Star Wars and what Universal has accomplished with Harry Potter; now think of what they could do with the amazing world created in Zootopia.

3 – Wreck-it-Ralph


Ralph and Vanellope greet guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The backgrounds and model car hint at just how awesome a full-blown attraction could look. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There are two different worlds from Wreck-it-Ralph that I would love to see recreated in a place like Walt Disney World. The first is Game Central Station. As someone that grew up in the golden age of video gaming, this would be a dream come true. It would be a great place to stage a pre-show or a boarding area for the attraction. The ride must be a Sugar Rush version of Radiator Springs Racers. The candy-coated realm in Sugar Rush brought to life in front of your eyes as you whiz by in Vannelope's race car is just too tasty to pass up.

There have already been rumors out there of a Wreck-it-Ralph VR ride simulator similar to Star Tours coming to the Magic Kingdom. While that would be very cool, imagine how much cooler it would be to be racing around a real life version of Sugar Rush in a real life ride vehicle. Please, please make this happen.

2 – Atlantis: The Lost Empire


"Atlantis: The Lost Empire" is a forgotten Disney classic in my eyes. © Disney Enterprises

I chose one of Disney's least popular films as my number two choice on this list. I've always been a big fan of this unique Disney animated film. It was a risky move on behalf of the company at the time. It didn't look like anything else Disney had ever done before. I know it wasn't a big success, so much so that at times it seems like Disney has pretty much forgotten this film was even produced. However, I think there's a lot here to work with and I think it could have been a huge hit as an attraction.

Atlantis was supposedly on its way to having its own attraction. The classic Submarine Voyage ride at Disneyland was supposed to be relaunched with an Atlantis theme, but due to the film's underwhelming box office performance that idea was scrapped and ultimately replaced with a Finding Nemo theme. I'm glad that happened because I think Atlantis deserved a bigger and grander attraction.

A ride pre-show could have taken place in the Jules Verne-esque world where the film's star Milo Thatch lives. We could then plunge under the water perhaps literally like on the classic submarine ride or figuratively like in The Little Mermaid attraction. From that point on there are many avenues of adventure that the ride could have taken and all could have been a wonder to behold culminating in a visit to the lost world of Atlantis itself. I would love to have seen what the Imagineers could have done with this film as a backdrop. But alas, the world of Atlantis has all but disappeared from Disney's radar.

1 – Tangled


The "Tangled" rest area of Fantasyland is beautiful but I want more. Photo by Chris Barry.

One of my all time favorite spots in any Disney park is the Tangled rest area in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. It's a beautiful representation of Rapunzel's world. For me, it's not enough though. I would love a classic Disney dark ride but on a larger scale, think Splash Mountain but floating through the different scenes from the film. The ride could start in the hidden realm where Rapunzel's tower soars into the sky. It could then pass through the forest, into the Snuggly Duckling pub for a song and some awesome animatronic thugs. After that the ride could take on a more chaotic vibe as we plunge through the flooded cave scene.

Most of all I so badly want to be gently floating on the lake where the lantern scene takes place. Flynn and Rapunzel animatronics would be nearby in their rowboat singing "I See The Light" and the room could just be bursting with floating lanterns. Just think of what a beautiful job they could do with that. The whole thing could wind up in the kingdom of Corona for the celebration of the princess' return. Tangled has everything a classic Disney attraction needs—a well-formed story, beloved characters, endearing music, and a distinct look. It definitely deserves much more of a presence in the Disney parks than it currently has.

The Disney animated films inspire all of us. And one of the things that we as fans enjoy most is watching those films come to life as we walk through our beloved Disney parks throughout the world. It's my personal opinion that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has seriously upped the ante as far as theme park design and the creation of totally immersive worlds. The Star Wars Experience and Pandora – The World of Avatar seem like they are going to take the challenge laid forth by Universal and run with it.

It's my hope that more and more Disney films, both old and new, can continue to come to life in front of my eyes and can continue to inspire millions of guests just as much as they have inspired me. These five are where I would start. Anyone else out there agree? Or do you have your own selections? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Comments

  1. By davidgra

    I've been wishing for a Wall-E attraction for years. I doubt it'll ever happen, but it's my favorite Disney film that doesn't have an attraction. I think Inside Out would make a great update to the Imagination pavilion in Future World.

  2. By jms1969

    Agree with just about all - not sure if an Atlantis attraction would offer anything beyond being "under the sea", which is already well done by the Nemo attractions. Other than the location, there's nothing particularly memorable about that world or movie to me.

    I love the idea of #1 - the lantern scene is one of the best moments in any Disney film.

    Finally, you could make a case that Inside Out was loosely based on (or at least definitely shares much of the theme of) the old "Cranium Command". If you agree with that premise, an Inside Out attraction would be an attraction based on a movie that was based on an attraction. Kind of makes everything come full circle, doesn't it???

  3. By MonoAutoRail

    The number one TV series needing an Attraction are the Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears. The Quick Tunnels are a ready-made concept for a family ride with mild thrills in amazing scenery. Further, Gummi Beary Juice should be the next Butterbeer.

  4. By DisneyGator

    Inside Out could totally be the next 3D attraction at Epcot and at California Adventure. There's a lot they could do with just film sequences and few special effects.

    Zootopia would be a good replacement for Conservation Station. Imagine people actually WANTING to got to that area of the park. Plenty of space.

    Perhaps Sugar Rush could be the attraction that replaces Star Tours when they close that down at Disneyland in favor of Star Wars land. No, I'm not espousing Star Tours going down...but if they do, Sugar Rush might work there.

    As for Tangled, that would be awesome. My thoughts (which might be a bit crazy): at the Magic Kingdom, finally build Small World at the size it deserves and move it towards New Fantasyland. Then take the old Small World pavilion and turn it into Rapunzel's Adventures. Since that's right next to the Tangled Rest area, it would be a perfect fit.

  5. By mkelm44

    The thing to remember about rides at Disney is that by the time you design and build it, the ride has to exist for 20 years to get it's "money's worth" so whatever you choose has to be relevant for that long as well as different from what you already have. Of your list, I think Tangled and Zootopia would be too similar to other experiences already at Disney World. Wreck-it Ralph doesn't have anything like it, but I'm not sure how you'd turn it into an interesting ride. Atlantis could be different, but it wasn't that successful of a movie (I bet many casual fans have already forgotten it) and outside of reviving the submarine ride concept, I'm not sure how you'd do it. I think Inside Out has the most upside and would fit in well as part of a new Future World exhibit- either as part of the Imagination Pavilion (if Figment wants to share) or better yet at an updatd version of the Wonders of Life Pavilion. Some of this was touched on with the old Cranium Command Ride, but I think it could be a really fun show.

  6. By DwarfPlanet

    Tangled should be a log flume type ride. That way you can float by the picturesque scenes and have some waterfall splash and dash areas like the flume in the movie.

  7. By worldlover71

    I like the idea of a Tangled water/dark ride but do not like the idea of it being a flume ride for two reasons. First, we already have Splash Mountain and I think they would be too similar. Second, there are a lot of people who can not or will not ride a flume because of the drops. My mother loves the show scenes in Splash but cannot go on it any more because it is too wild for her. I prefer rides that the whole family can experience together.

    Wall-E has been a no brainer for Tomorrowland for years. I'm not sure what type of attraction it should be but we need that little guy. And imagine-he actually fits the theme of the land!

    Sugar Rush is another obvious choice to replace Autopia/Grand Prix Raceway. In WDW it abuts Fantasyland so why not? Maybe move the entrance so it's not in the middle of Tomorrowland and finally electrify those cars.

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    I've been wishing for a Wall-E attraction for years. I doubt it'll ever happen, but it's my favorite Disney film that doesn't have an attraction. I think Inside Out would make a great update to the Imagination pavilion in Future World.

    Wall-E was almost on this list as well. I'd love to be able to actually go inside the Axiom!

  9. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by jms1969 View Post
    Agree with just about all - not sure if an Atlantis attraction would offer anything beyond being "under the sea", which is already well done by the Nemo attractions. Other than the location, there's nothing particularly memorable about that world or movie to me.

    I love the idea of #1 - the lantern scene is one of the best moments in any Disney film.

    Finally, you could make a case that Inside Out was loosely based on (or at least definitely shares much of the theme of) the old "Cranium Command". If you agree with that premise, an Inside Out attraction would be an attraction based on a movie that was based on an attraction. Kind of makes everything come full circle, doesn't it???

    I think the look at feel of the actual city of Atlantis has possibilities, but this film barely exists on anyone's radar.

    The lantern scene has dark ride written all over it!

  10. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by MonoAutoRail View Post
    The number one TV series needing an Attraction are the Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears. The Quick Tunnels are a ready-made concept for a family ride with mild thrills in amazing scenery. Further, Gummi Beary Juice should be the next Butterbeer.

    Ducktales could make an exciting Indiana Jones/Dinosaur kind of ride.

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyGator View Post
    Inside Out could totally be the next 3D attraction at Epcot and at California Adventure. There's a lot they could do with just film sequences and few special effects.

    Zootopia would be a good replacement for Conservation Station. Imagine people actually WANTING to got to that area of the park. Plenty of space.

    Perhaps Sugar Rush could be the attraction that replaces Star Tours when they close that down at Disneyland in favor of Star Wars land. No, I'm not espousing Star Tours going down...but if they do, Sugar Rush might work there.

    As for Tangled, that would be awesome. My thoughts (which might be a bit crazy): at the Magic Kingdom, finally build Small World at the size it deserves and move it towards New Fantasyland. Then take the old Small World pavilion and turn it into Rapunzel's Adventures. Since that's right next to the Tangled Rest area, it would be a perfect fit.

    The Inside Out character meet and greet at Epcot always seemed busy this past summer, so perhaps they'll stick around long enough to see an attraction.

    They could even incorporate what's currently in Conservation Station now into a new Zootopia land.

    I'm hoping that Sugar Rush would get a more fleshed out attraction rather than simulator. I'd love to see that come to life.

    Ambitious plans for Fantasyland there Gator.

  12. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by mkelm44 View Post
    The thing to remember about rides at Disney is that by the time you design and build it, the ride has to exist for 20 years to get it's "money's worth" so whatever you choose has to be relevant for that long as well as different from what you already have. Of your list, I think Tangled and Zootopia would be too similar to other experiences already at Disney World. Wreck-it Ralph doesn't have anything like it, but I'm not sure how you'd turn it into an interesting ride. Atlantis could be different, but it wasn't that successful of a movie (I bet many casual fans have already forgotten it) and outside of reviving the submarine ride concept, I'm not sure how you'd do it. I think Inside Out has the most upside and would fit in well as part of a new Future World exhibit- either as part of the Imagination Pavilion (if Figment wants to share) or better yet at an updatd version of the Wonders of Life Pavilion. Some of this was touched on with the old Cranium Command Ride, but I think it could be a really fun show.

    You bring up valid points for sure. I agree. Relevance is key, but then again generations of guests have never seen Song of the South and yet Splash Mountain is still tremendously popular. That's because it's an amazing attraction. Build an amazing attraction and they will come!

    I think, as I said in the article, a Sugar Rush version of Disneyland's Radiator Springs Racers has huge potential. I know Test Track is already in WDW, but this would be a very different themed experience and I would love to see this go in and replace the Speedway.

  13. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by worldlover71 View Post
    I like the idea of a Tangled water/dark ride but do not like the idea of it being a flume ride for two reasons. First, we already have Splash Mountain and I think they would be too similar. Second, there are a lot of people who can not or will not ride a flume because of the drops. My mother loves the show scenes in Splash but cannot go on it any more because it is too wild for her. I prefer rides that the whole family can experience together.

    Wall-E has been a no brainer for Tomorrowland for years. I'm not sure what type of attraction it should be but we need that little guy. And imagine-he actually fits the theme of the land!

    Sugar Rush is another obvious choice to replace Autopia/Grand Prix Raceway. In WDW it abuts Fantasyland so why not? Maybe move the entrance so it's not in the middle of Tomorrowland and finally electrify those cars.

    My daughter is the same way about Splash. Loves everything about it except the big drop. It prevents her from riding. My rationale - "It's a 12 minute ride with a 5 second drop." But I never win that argument! I would like to see it be more than a Tangled version of the Little Mermaid dark ride though...

  14. By MadasaHatter

    I know that this is definitely a space issue but with the popularity of PETER PAN I don't understand why there aren't one or two more flying Dark rides!!!

    LION KING- Zazu
    HERCULES- Pegasus
    ALADDIN- Magic Carpet
    TANGLED- Lantern
    RESCUERS-Wilbur (that was the Albatross' name, correct?)

    My personal votes would Be for
    TANGLED
    HERCULES
    LION KING
    ALADDIN
    INCREDIBLES
    with INSIDE OUT as an ALSO RAN...

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