For a century now, Walt Disney Entertainment has been inspiring the world by dreaming up some of the most beloved films to ever grace the silver screen. Not only has the Company directly contributed to defining the standards of classic film in general, but they’ve also established a precedent for what it means to successfully operate some of the most iconic theme parks in the world.
Not surprisingly, there are many rides and attractions throughout Disneyland Resort in California, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and Disney Park locations all over the globe that draw inspiration from various Disney films. What is surprising, however, is the number of iconic Disney film classics—new and old alike—that still do not have permanent rides associated with them at any Disney Park. Here is a look at 10 well-loved Disney film examples that we feel really ought to have their very own inspired rides.
10. Mary Poppins (1964)
When it was first announced during the 2019 D23 EXPO that an attraction inspired by the Disney classic Mary Poppins (1964) would be coming to EPCOT, fans couldn’t have been happier. About time, right? The only other Mary Poppins-related inclusions of any kind at Disney World had been previously showcased in the former Great Movie Ride attraction over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There were very few details revealed about the new Mary Poppins ride, except that it would be based rightfully within the United Kingdom Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase.
Yet now, many years later, the project appears to have been laid to rest permanently, much to the dismay of diehard Disney fans who were eager to see it emerge. Once you tease something as big as a Mary Poppins attraction—something that many fans have long felt is overdue—you can’t just take it back. Disney should really determine to get to work in bringing at least some form of a Mary Poppins-inspired attraction to fruition. If the intended dark ride we were all hoping for doesn’t work, how about something small like the earlier, once-rumored spinner ride depicting that “Jolly Holiday” scene?
9. Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)
On a similar note to Disney teasing—and then walking back—a new attraction concept is the storied rumor that an experience inspired by Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph franchise would be coming to Disney World. According to sources, the new Wreck-It-Ralph attraction was set to occupy the existing space that housed such former experiences as Alien Encounter, Mission to Mars, Flight to the Moon, and the more recent and infamous Stitch’s Great Escape! The intention was to reuse the round theater setup with video game-style controllers that would enable the audience to play an interactive role in whatever experience the attraction was intended to present.
Work was set to begin in this overhaul transformation in Tomorrowland back in 2020. But then came the closures, and any work for moving forward with the idea was scrapped altogether. But that doesn’t mean it can’t resume sometime in the future. I personally see plenty of potential in still making the Wreck-It-Ralph vision come to life.
8. The Jungle Book (1967)
Much like Mary Poppins, it’s a rather shocking notion when you consider that such an iconic Disney film classic as The Jungle Book (1967) has never had an equally iconic ride that’s had a permanent presence at either Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort (or both). It’s also surprising that the live-action remake from 2016 didn’t jolt a renewed interest for the Disney Imagineer team to get to work in considering such a possibility.
A ride inspired by The Jungle Book would indeed be a most welcome addition to the Disney Park scene, but the question remains on how exactly they would go about creating an experience that is authentic enough. A boat ride attraction, for example, would be too redundant of Disney’s similarly named Jungle Cruise. And with Pirates of the Caribbean already fitting the bill of a prominent boat ride, Disney would definitely have to carve out a more creative presentation. That’s why I feel the best course of action for any ride themed after The Jungle Book would best be presented as a trackless ride that utilizes the same technology presented in the DINOSAUR attraction over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. An alternate idea could be a high-speed roller coaster presentation, but I personally see more originality and creative possibility in a trackless ride vehicle that offers a bumpy jungle adventure.
7. The Lion King (1994)
Here is another wild film franchise that surprisingly doesn’t have a riding experience to its credit. It’s odd enough that one never came about when the first animated installment premiered back in 1994 and odder still that the live-action remake from 2019 didn’t inspire Disney Imagineering to get to work. All inceptions of The Lion King have certainly been popular enough. But at best, the only really permanent attractions that were inspired by the films to date have been Rafiki’s Planet Watch over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and The Festival of the Lion King show.
I feel that The Lion King deserves its lion’s share of a ride, truth be told. Even a nicely themed Omnimover ride that takes Guests through a storied retelling with animatronics and great musical numbers incorporated would work nicely. It’s proven successful in such attractions as The Haunted Mansion, the namesake Finding Nemo ride within the Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion, and even with Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. It would undoubtedly make a great little addition to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
Then again, perhaps The Lion King is big enough to inspire a themed roller coaster experience, assuming it’s kid-friendly enough for all ages to enjoy. Could such a coaster even find a place in Africa on location at Animal Kingdom Park?
6. Pocahontas (1995)
Pocahontas is easily one of the most underrated Disney Princesses, and I personally feel that she hasn’t ever received nearly the credit or Disney Park presence due to her. It’s been nearly 28 years since the animated film first came to theaters, and in all that time Disney still hasn’t provided anything permanent in the way of an inspired ride.
Where I was adamantly against such an attraction for The Jungle Book, I do believe in the case of a Pocahontas-themed attraction that a nice boat ride experience would do nicely. Because the fan base for the film includes some younger viewers, a docile ride-through with animatronics and beloved songs from the film would make an excellent tribute. Think Frozen Ever After meets Na’vi River Journey.
5. Mulan (1998)
Here’s another titular Disney Princess who has been worthy of her own attraction ever since the animated film Mulan first came out back in 1998. And with the live-action remake, you’d think a renewed interest would have come about by now.
For Mulan, I see two viable possibilities for a themed attraction. One would be more of an interactive theater experience that would involve a revamping of the current Reflections of China presentation shown at EPCOT’s China Pavilion. For this, they can redo the internal theater to include moving seats that would sway along with the depicted Circle-Vision 360° presentation—one that has been updated to a Mulan action-based experience. It would also be neat if these new swaying seats had sensitizers and tactile effects installed, like wind elements to go with the scenes and even aerial shots that make you feel like you’re riding on the back of a horse during a battle scene. The possibilities are exciting just thinking about them!
A second idea would involve bringing a roller coaster ride to the China Pavilion. Perhaps a Mushu the Dragon-themed coaster?
4. Encanto (2021)
A tentative future expansion to Magic Kingdom Park was teased during the most recent D23 EXPO with concept art revealing three possible new themed lands to be added to the mix. One of those lands was said to be inspired by Disney’s 2021 animated hit Encanto.
While the land concept was only hinted at, we didn’t exactly get a whole lot to go by in the way of potential attractions to be featured in said Encanto Land. But knowing what we know about the film, we can only imagine the possibilities. I for one see plenty of opportunity in creating an interactive Casita feature of some sort. Perhaps it could be a simulated riding experience that puts the Guest in the center of the action of this most ingenious of all smart houses. And Disney is known for so many innovative effects that I have full confidence in their abilities to bring something like this together.
3. Coco (2017)
Another tentative concept presented at the 2022 D23 EXPO was a Coco-inspired section. Again, we don’t have too much to work with in the way of pitched attractions, but we do have the 2017 film to reflect back on, giving hint to some possible creative concepts. I’d love to personally see if they could bring to life the idea of riding through the Land of the Dead on the back of an Alebrije (spirit animal guardian). Perhaps they could revisit the same methods used in bringing about the banshee ride for Avatar Flight of Passage for inspiration.
2. Zootopia (2016)
There was another tentative idea being floated about at the most recent D23 EXPO. It was an indication that a possible Zootopia-themed reimagining may take shape at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Of course, nothing is set in stone, and the Zootopia idea wasn’t the only possibility presented. Still, fans have been crying out since the 2016 theatrical release that Disney was in need of a Zootopia attraction.
The question remains about what kind of riding attraction would best personify the Zootopia theme. Well, if it were up to me to decide, I think Disney should revisit that long-ago scrapped bullet train idea that was once supposed to be part of the World Showcase’s Japan Pavilion. Intended to be a simulated train with changing window effects denoting passing scenery, I do believe something of this model would be great in recreating Judy’s train ride into Zootopia. They could even look into the application of tactile effects, like the hot and cold effects in EPCOT’s Test Track, to enhance various drive-by scenes.
1. Disney Dogs and Classic Cats
While this isn’t a concept that’s limited to a specific Disney film, it cannot be overlooked that there is a serious shortage of attractions about classic Disney animal protagonists. From 101 Dalmatians (1956) to Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Aristocats (1970) to Oliver and Company (1988), it would appear that Disney is long overdue in providing perhaps a cute kiddie dark ride attraction that entails one (or even all) of these film examples as a feel-good family-friendly endeavor.
There are countless possibilities for other awesome attraction ideas that could easily be influenced by many an iconic Disney movie. And the fact remains that myriad ideas may still be forthcoming, given the fact that Disney magic is forever growing and expanding to bring about new hopes and inspiring dreams.