My Disney Top 5 - Disney Animated Films that Deserve Park Attractionsby Chris Barry, contributing writer
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 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
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
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
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
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.