Last time I made a list where I armchair imagineered several attractions, I based them off already-standing attractions in existence. While those suggestions were by no means inexpensive, they were helpful suggestions to seriously breathe new life into attractions in Walt Disney World attractions. But as a Disney fan, sometimes you just want to go full blue sky. What if…what if you could build a whole immersive attraction, cut from whole cloth, with no budgetary concerns? Now that being said, here’s the caveat: what Disney films could you base them off of? Especially if you went for the Disney properties that haven’t been touched all that much in the parks?
With Encanto, Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced 60 full-length animated features, but most people can barely name 20. And there’s even fewer that have rides attached at the theme parks. Some, like Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story, Dumbo, and Beauty and the Beast, have multiple rides based off them. But on average, when the average person thinks of a Disney ride, they think of classic dark rides in Fantasyland, like Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, or Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Sometimes C-tier titles like The Wind in the Willows, Dinosaur, and Song of the South get their own rides, and great films like Aladdin get little more than a stage show and a spinner. It’s a bit inconsistent, is what I’m saying.
So let’s do this. What if we could scrap budgets and available real estate? Animatronics, digital effects, set designs…if money were no object, what would an awesome ride for any of these movies look like if we let them unleash their full power? And by using the Disney animated properties that haven’t really gotten the honor of having their own ride? Let’s brainstorm!
Theme park presence so far: Mulan and her friends starred in their own parade at Disney-MGM Studios in 1998, back when every 90’s movie release warranted its own extravaganza, like the Aladdin parade, the Toy Story parade, and the Hercules parade. Afterward, Mulan hasn’t appeared outside of standard meet-and-greets, even though a whole pavilion in Epcot is dedicated to her home country. Her pal Mushu fared only slightly better, hosting the Drawn to Animation show at Magic of Disney Animation from 2004 to 2015, as well as the same show over at Disney California Adventure, and also shows up as a meet and greet.
What the ride would be like: Easily the best way to get us inside by having the ride be the setting of the emperor’s palace, and who better to escort us in than Mulan’s pint-sized pal, Mushu? Of course, Mushu, the anachronistic and opportunistic one, is leading us on a tour of the palace, where he boasts about the great war hero Fa Mulan. Naturally, our ride vehicles look like giant Mushus.
As we coast through the grand hallways on the palace, Mushu is happy to play tour guide. However, not long into the tour, we get hints that something isn’t right. Before long, we see Shan-Yu and his men is breaking in. Mushu, of course, panics and sends us down various corridors (And of course he doesn’t quite know the layout and we get trapped a few times.) However, there is hope. As more of Shan-Yu’s men (Yes, I know they’re the huns, but given the problematic racial aspect, I’m trying to avoid using the word.) prowl the halls, we see Yao, Ling, Chien-po, and Shang rush to our rescue. And of course it wouldn’t be a true Mulan adventure if the heroine herself doesn’t appear at the climax, shown taking down Shan-Yu herself. At last, the final scene shows the gang of three, Shang, Mulan, and the emperor escorting us out to safety, with several bad guys locked away and very unhappy.
While the “Open House” format of ride experience is kind of a trope of its own, it is a trope for a reason: it works. You walk in of your own volition, get shown a cool setting, and you’re in the exact mindset you normally would be if something went horribly awry. It uses the setting as a primary draw, allowing us to get lost, and we remain in our role as tourists. Plus, we’re already both active AND passive in our role, so it involves both engagement and going along for the ride.
This format also showcases everyone perfectly, with the anachronistic Mushu segueing us to the more culturally appropriate setting, and we see just how awesome Fa Mulan really is. And above all, this ride’s existence depends entirely on whether or not they get Eddie Murphy back for the role.
9. Wreck-it Ralph
Theme park presence so far: Having only been a Disney character since 2012, Ralph and the gang have not had the time to really be established as a worthwhile investment in the long run. Although it’s safe to say Ralph is definitely a popular character, popular enough to get a sequel six years later, and have meet-and-greets with him and Vanellope. However, to coincide with the release of the first movie, several arcade cabinets were installed in the entry port for DisneyQuest, so fans could play the “original” Fix-it Felix Jr. video game. In recent years, as Stitch’s Great Escape was clearly fading away, rumors sparked up that a Wreck-it Ralph attraction was set to move into its space, but with the pandemic, it’s unknown how real this rumor was, much less if it will ever materialize.
What the ride would be like: In my other article, I opted for the Tomorrowland speedway to be turned into a Hero’s Duty/Sugar Rush amalgamation. And frankly, that idea’s still in the running. Mostly because a ride based of Ralph Breaks the Internet will instantly date the attraction. So let’s plan it out:
Now indoors, the ride advertises itself as the newest in VR simulation technology. Thus, the queue takes this opportunity to scan you and upload you into the system. The first preshow (Now a “tutorial”) is Vanellope and Shank getting us hyped for the cool new racetrack they got set up in Hero’s Duty. We climb in our cars and away we go!
However, it isn’t long before we hear something upsetting: Ralph was supposed to keep cybugs under lock and key. And one of them skittered out. Now Calhoun is forced to track it down and kill it before someone gets hurt. To make matters worse, the cybug is chewing up whole sections of track, making the racing all the more dangerous. As the track gets more and more perilous, Vanellope has an idea: for us to game jump over to Sugar Rush so they can get rid of the bug without you in the game. As the cybug starts to come down on you, the cars speed through a tunnel that pops them out near Fantasyland, where it is clearly Sugar Rush. A final screen shows Calhoun destroyed the cybug, and a guts-covered Ralph mumbles a sheepish apology, promising to get it right next time.
Honestly, this just writes itself. The only conflict I foresee is determining the passive or active engagement. On one hand, of course it’s active: you’re playing a video game and you’re racing. But on the other hand, if you’re driving, you shouldn’t be distracted by show elements, even if you’re still driving along the guided rail like it is now. Maybe they can get around it by saying this game is in beta mode and they haven’t enacted the player controls yet. Or use the button system like they do in Mission: SPACE.
8. The Sword in the Stone
Theme park presence so far: If you’ve ever been to Fantasyland, surely you’re familiar with the famous Excalibur by the carousel. At various times, park guests can try to pull the famed blade from its foundation and maybe you might succeed in drawing it out. For some time, Merlin himself presided over the Magic Kingdom event, the Sword in the Stone Ceremony, from 1994 to 2006. Merlin got a significant boost in 2012 when he led young sorcerers throughout the Magic Kingdom to combat Hades in Sorcerers of the Magic Kindom, which ended last year.
What the ride would be like: I really don’t want to copy/paste rides because I’d like to try this as a creative exercise in seeing what the best way to make a ride. Of course, if the shoe fits…
Set not long after the end of the movie, with
Wart Arthur as king of all England, guests enter Camelot in the queue, winding and twisting down the cavernous corridors, where portraits of the scrawny, seemingly a bit overwhelmed kid adorn every wall. As the guests corral into Merlin’s eccentric study, Archimedes the owl huffs as he gives the riding instructions. Merlin appears, delighted to see us. He wants to show off some of his future findings (A great bit where Merlin tries to show us a smartphone, a blender, and a bubble wand.) When he pulls out a Da Vinci flying machine model, he gets so excited as he beckons us to the dining hall. Here, guests collect into the loading area where Merlin directs us into the ride vehicles. Once we’re settled, he casts a spell to allow our vehicle to float around with the model. But Merlin doesn’t even get a chance: the wall crashes in a Madam Mim, healthy again, and back to being a purple dragon, is back for a second round of a wizard’s duel.
Yeah, if you couldn’t tell already, it’s basically Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey from Universal, right down to the use of the KUKA arm robotics. I admit it’s lame, but now we get an up-close-and-personal look as Mim and Merlin battle it out, as they change into various animals, and we have more than a few close calls. of course, while Mim keeps jumping out of the shadows as a hot pink lion, bear, eagle, and other savagely dangerous animals, Merlin tries to stay smart and keep turning into smaller creatures to escape. Merlin struggles to keep us out of harm’s way as we bob and weave around the battle, and Mim keeps trying to fight dirty and take us down, too.
Of course, Merlin succeeds, and in the tradition of many attractions, thanks us for helping out. (Our ride vehicle would have played a role in her defeat to have it make sense, of course) finally Merlin promises we can come back anytime, when all this is cleaned up and he’ll get the model flying.
7. Lilo & Stitch
Theme park presence so far: Of course we all know Stitch did have his own headliner attraction, Stitch’s Great Escape, a ride so reviled it dominated top ten lists of worst Disney attractions for years. Plus, since the ride’s closure in 2018, Stitch has had a pretty diminished appearance in American theme parks. In Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai, an interactive show with the blue furball has guests actually communicating with Stitch. In Tokyo, Stitch even took over the Enchanted Tiki Room with Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai! And of course, Stitch, Lilo, and his girlfriend Angel (From Lilo and Stitch: the Series) have been incredibly popular in their meet-and-greets and merchandising.
What the ride would be like: So motion simulators have come a long way since the days of Star Tours and Body Wars. But the biggest qualm I had was whether the ride should take place in tried-and-true outer space (where it can be an action-based ride) or on the Hawaiian islands (better scenery and less utilized, but calmer). I think there can be a way around this, though.
Going back to my “tour” template, Pleakley and Lilo welcome us aboard. The two have combined their use of alien technology and their love for Hawaii to give us tourists the greatest flyover tour of the island, piloted by Dr. Jumba Jookiba, and Stitch as his co-pilot. Of course, things start out okay, as we breeze by several iconic locations, smelling the pineapples and salty sea air. However, there’s trouble (Because of course there is). Former Captain Gantu is more determined than ever to grab Stitch, and is taking the fight in the skies in a dogfight. Stitch, of course, hops over onto Gantu’s ship, and the ensuing plasma cannon fire, bucking, and explosions cause our own ship to have its own turbulent ride.
By incorporating both calm, languid scenery of the Hawaiian islands and the kinetic action of Stitch fighting off Gantu, we can finally have a quality Stitch ride we’ve all been waiting for.
6. The Jungle Book
Theme park presence so far: The Jungle Book has always been considered a classic Disney film, but it’s often relegated to B-tier status: classic enough for everyone to be familiar with, but not popular enough where you can really count multiple people who claim it’s their favorite. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they tried to give the characters their own musical stage show when Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, called Journey into the Jungle Book, before the Asia section of the park was even finished. The show closed less than a year later when Tarzan Rocks! took over. Today, it’s the Finding Nemo musical. Baloo and Louie still greet guests, and Baloo was even a headlining kite from the atrocious Kitetails debacle last year. Kaa appears as a statue in Disneyland Paris, and of course, has his own section in Disneyland’s Fantasmic!
While not the same movie, as Animal Kingdom was gearing up for its debut of Rivers of Light, they took advantage of the simultaneous release of the 2015 live action Jungle Book movie and created The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic nighttime show on the waterfront by Expedition: Everest. The show only lasted a few short months and was used primarily as a synergetic production.
What the ride would be like: For as crazy and wild as Disney likes to sell The Jungle Book, it’s a pretty laid back movie. For as raucous as King Louie and his underlings are, well, we grew up watching the Genie from Aladdin, so…
And since one of the most iconic images from the movie is Baloo and Mowgli floating down the river, so despite it inevitably ripping off the Jungle Cruise, I’m gonna have to assign this ride as a boat ride. We start with the queue, which looks like an Indian Man-village, the perfect jumping-off point seeing as how the movie was pretty much devoid of human influence (Mowgli and Louie’s temple notwithstanding… ), so we get ready for our trek at this remote outpost. As we launch, Bagheera is seen lounging on a tree branch, concerned for our safety as we float into the Jungle. After all, predators like Shere Khan are rarely far away when humans are near. We press forward, unyielding.
As jazzy music arises, we hear Baloo and Bagheera bicker. Baloo, thrilled that a bunch of party animals (us) are here, he wants to get us dancing. However, Bagheera is begging Baloo to shut up and stop drawing attention to them. Here “The Bare Necessities” is the featured song, of course. Before we leave the show scene, a deep, soft chuckle is heard from the bushes.
Next, Hathi and his troops are demonstrating their readiness by saluting us as we float under them. Of course, no Jungle Book elephant encounter is complete without Hathi Junior playfully spraying the boat, giggling. Baloo urges us to take a tributary to a hangout of his, and we divert from the main river and follow the bear. This leads to Louie’s temple, the biggest set of the ride so far. We see monkeys dancing, “I Wan’na be Like You” popping off, Baloo and Louie cutting a rug…until one of the vultures informs us all Shere Khan’s been seen nearby. Everyone panics, and we float into a cave for safety.
The cave starts dark, of course, but when we hear Kaa chuckle and smack his lips, the whole cave turns into a projected psychedelic trip and a half, making this arguably the most visceral part of the ride, as Kaa tries to hypnotize us. Only when Baloo yanks Kaa out of his tree do the projection lights stop, and we emerge back into the sunlight. Unfortunately, Shere Khan has found us, poised on a rock and ready to pounce. Our boat suddenly speeds up as we head into some rapids, forcing Shere Khan to reconsider his attack.
After a brief scene of Baloo and Bagheera trying to hold off Shere Khan, a rumble of thunder rolls…and a bolt of lightning zaps a dead tree, and a huge flaming branch falls to the ground, standing between us and the tiger. The tiger howls in impotent rage, while the bear and panther nervously shoo us back to the outpost to safety. The vultures – Flaps, Buzzy, Ziggy, and Dizzy – bid us farewell in their own Bri’ish way.
Yeah, I’ve put a lot of thought into this one. Your point?
5. A Goofy Movie
Theme park presence so far: Of course Goofy has been a part of Disney theme parks since the earliest days of Disneyland, but that’s as Mickey’s pal, not the suburban father we millenials grew up with. However, after the release of his Disney Afternoon series Goof Troop, son Max became a meet-and-greet in his own right, and he remains one to this day, still looking like his preteen self from the TV show. On occasion, however, Max has been seen strutting on stages in his Powerline costume, making it the only real connection to the movie in the parks.
What the ride would be like: Okay: hear me out on this one, but I think this one shouldn’t be in any of the parks. I think this should be its own experience as you enter the parks. See, at least at both Disneyland and all four Walt Disney World parks, the walk from your car to the front gate is agony. So what if another front gate entryway was added at the TTC or the parking garage, and getting from your car to the front gate was a ride? Hear me out:
Goofy and Max are headed to Disney! And he wants to take you along for the ride! As you go through the garage and into the station wagon, Goof takes the wheel, and away you go! Of course, you got a whole country to get through, and Max is in emotional agony through most of it. Just imagine gunning through a variety of American destinations: New York City, New Orleans, Texas, San Fransisco, the Everglades, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Lester’s Possum Park, and even a Powerline concert…before you inevitably wind up…at Disney!
Between Goofy and Max’s commentary, the sight gags that can be used in all of these locations, and its grand finale, this could be a winner. And of course there needs to be a scene where we zip by Bigfoot, he chases us, and we accidentally lead him to Pete’s grill and camper. It could even be done relatively cheaply, as it’d need screens instead of animatronics to maximize its high-speed zaniness.
4. The Emperor’s New Groove
Theme park presence so far: Kuzco, Kronk, and Yzma have made appearances in the parks, though almost never stateside. Aside from that, absolutely nothing has been put in the parks celebrating the 2000 movie. Yzma and Kronk, however, were temporarily allied with Hades in Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom from 2012 to 2021.
What the ride would be like: This one is stupidly obvious: a roller coaster. To Yzma’s lab. Plus I also pitched the idea in the previous article, that should Dinoland U.S.A. at DAK be turned into South America, Chester and Hester’s should be made into Kuzcotopia. This could be literally anything, but because of the water slide Kuzco stated, there needs to be a water rapid ride.
We could say Kuzco opened this and the roller coaster to Yzma’s “secret lab” to the public, much to Yzma’s seething ire. Her coaster would probably be a mini coaster, and her chemistry set in her lab would probably a great interactive area for kids, either by making the instruments musical or doing “What would you look like as an animal” sort of interactive game. But on the water slide, we could have the story where Yzma is constantly trying to kill us with a variety of Looney Tunes-type traps…and not just failing each time, but also making the ride even more fun, like dropping an anvil to cause a wave surge for us to go faster, or underwater bombs that just splash us, you get the idea. At the end, we can even hear Kuzco thanking Yzma for making it fun, only leaving her sulking in bitter, bitter resentmemt.
Theme park presence so far: Simply put, with a movie as recent as Moana, less than six years old I type this, Moana and Maui have had nothing beyond character appearances at the parks yet. However, Epcot’s Future World is getting an upgrade currently, with a section called World Nature, and will include Journey of Water, which sounds to me it will be less like an attraction and more of a leapfrog fountain interactive area.
What the ride would be like: Well, for starters, this has to be a boat ride somewhere in Adventureland.
As we shove off on one of Moana of Montunui’s boats, we are off to visit the princess, we just have to cross the open sea first. But it’s okay…we got a qualified pilot: the self-important Maui is here to pilot us there! Aren’t we lucky?
It isn’t long before remember just how bloodthirsty the ocean can be. And Maui, thrilled to get some action, leaps into every affair to clear our path, from the Kakamora to Tamatoa. Of course, his frequent reckless bouts cause our boats to float off-course numerous times, like when we get caught in a whirlpool, or when we stumble into Lalotai and brush with the vainglorious giant crab…until Maui rushes to our rescue again.
Of course, it all ends placidly as we arrive on the shores of Montunui, and Cheif Moana is there with her village and family to greet us. Of course, Maui assures her getting us her was no trouble at all, though he makes us swear to never tell her about the trip’s sidetracks.
Theme park presence so far: After the syngergy-tastic Hercules Zero to Hero parade in 1997 at Disney-MGM Studios, Herc, Meg, Phil, and Hades have had only rare theme park appearances. However, Hades proved himself to be trouble personified as the primary antagonist to Merlin in Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Not to mention having a brief appearance in Fantasmic!
What the ride would be like: Like The Emperor’s New Groove, we don’t have to be bogged down with period-specific technology or anything, as Hercules‘ setting was designed to be entirely anachronistic. So that being said…
We start out at Hercule’s arena, where he and Phil have set up an obstacle course for us to endure. Of course, it’s “easy”, says Phil, and we can drop out at any time, but he wants us to stick it out. So, like Despicable Me’s Minion Mayhem, we gear up and start running…and it’s pretty obvious shortly that “easy” still entails sharks, swinging blades, and other obstacles We Should Not Try This At Home with.
Of course, who should be spying on us but Hades and Pain and Panic. Before long, Hades seeks to steal us away, and it’s up to Wonderboy to get him to unhand us. The bad guys keep trying to steal us away to the Underworld, but Herc keeps stepping in, using barbells, swords, and other miscellaneous props to fight with.
It’s a pretty simple setup and execution, but given the great basis for action, adventure, and excitement, it has a ton of potential for an immense amount of scale and danger.
1. The Lion King
Theme park presence so far: What was once the highest-grossing animated film of all time was once a huge bonanza at the theme parks…but they never got an actual ride. There was Legend of the Lion King, which lasted from 1994 to 2002 in the Fantasyland Theater before getting replaced by Mickey’s PhilharMagic. From 1995 to 2018, Circle of Life: An Environmemtal Fable ran at Epcot, preaching dangers of global warning before it became mainstream. And ever since 1998, the pride lands rocked Animal Kingdom with Festival of the Lion King, a perennial guest favorite.
Say nothing of the parade in 1994 (Which reused floats for Festival) and their appearances in Mickey’s PhilharMagic, the Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, Sorcerors of the Magic Kingdom, and so much more…but no ride.
What the ride would be like: A) Just like The Jungle Book, this ride would have to somehow be devoid of human inclusion for it to feel right, and B) I’m again basing it off another ride: Kilimanjaro Safaris. Because this ride needs that National Geographic realism coupled with its regal grandeur. Like, after you board your jeep, you turn a corner, and boom…there it is. Pride Rock. Perfectly scale. Possibly with real lions lounging around it. This needs to be life size, outside, and of course, with “Circle of Life” blaring over the jeep’s speakers.
As far as story goes, our driver informs us that we’re visiting the “real-life” set from the 1994 classic. And that we can’t get involved in the affairs of the kingdom, lest we risk harm to life and limb from any of the locals. But after the majesty of Pride Rock, we scan over the Pride Land savannah, the Jungle with Timon and Pumbaa, and before we dip into a gorge to avoid being spotted. Naturally, we almost get run over as a herd of African Cape Buffalo threaten to flatten us. We escape with our lives…until we wind up in the Elephant Graveyard. At last, we get directly confronted by Shenzi, Banzai, Ed, and the rest of the hyenas. We again gun it to find a way out, all the while the scavengers try to take us down. At last, the King appears, and he belts out a terrifying roar to frighten off the hyenas, and Simba escorts us back to Pride Rock. He assures us things are fine…just please avoid the Graveyard next time, okay?
I also planned something similar just by having the same ride and show scenes, but having Timon and Pumbaa driving the jeep, as they are the only characters in the franchise known for mingling with humans, but I worried the setup was too similar to the Mulan entry. Still, hearing their typical banter throughout the ride and them screaming in abject terror as we struggle to stay ahead of the buffalo and hyenas would be hilarious. It’s just too bad there wouldn’t be a real feasible way to insert the “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” sequence anywhere or have Scar anywhere.
I hope these ideas sound fun. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see these implemented…but knowing Bob Chapek, that’s unlikely.
But what about you? What Disney movie needs its own ride? Hit me with your ideas! Now exit through the gift shop and grab me a t-shirt on your way out! I’m an XL.