Picture this: You just finished watching Disney’s Emperor’s New Groove for the five-HUNDREDTH time and realized, there is NO ride themed to this movie in Disney World! No “pull the lever, Kronk” moment — NOTHING!
Then you start thinking and realize you also can’t actually go on a Lion King-themed RIDE (ride, not show) or a ride-themed to Tarzan. Imagine Phil Collins music blasting as you soar through the trees — why HASN’T that been made yet?! What gives?! Why won’t Disney make rides themed to your very favorite Disney movies? We have some ideas.
Disney Has “Developed” a Lot of Rides on Movies But Many Never Came to Be
We’ve gone over quite a few rides Disney has designed in the past that never actually got built. And while some were more original ideas (not based on any of Disney’s films) some were themed to popular movies.
Sure, The Nightmare Before Christmas gets a Halloween and Holiday overlay at Disneyland in the Haunted Mansion, but did you know Disney once planned on making a ride dedicated to this spooktacular film next to Disneyland’s “it’s a small world?” Your vehicle? A FLYING COFFIN. Epic.
Rides themed to Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Herbie the Love Bug, Fantasia, and even a Dumbo dark ride were all in the works at one point or another. But these rides all got left on the drawing board. Sometimes it was because the associated film didn’t do as well as Disney hoped, or the ride may have been scrapped for a variety of other reasons. Ultimately, these movie-themed rides never came to be.
Movie-Themed Rides Don’t Get Built All That Quickly (When They Do Happen)
You might be thinking, “Okay, so Disney hasn’t built a Lion King ride, but we DO have rides themed to other Disney films.” And you’d be right! But sometimes those movie-themed rides take quite a while to become reality. Let’s look at a few examples:
- The Little Mermaid
- Movie released in 1989
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid (show) opened in 1992
- We didn’t actually get a Little Mermaid RIDE (The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure) until 2011 (in Disneyland) — that’s 22 years AFTER the film’s debut
- Movie released in 1992
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride opened in 2001 (and even that is a “lightly” themed ride, at best) — that’s 9 years after the film’s release
- Characters from the movie appear in Mickey’s PhilharMagic too, but that’s not a moving ride and isn’t dedicated just to this movie
- Beauty and the Beast
- Movie released in 1991
- It got a stage show FAST in 1991 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- And there’s a themed restaurant in Magic Kingdom (Be Our Guest Restaurant), plus characters from the film appear in Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- But the movie didn’t get an actual RIDE until 2020 in Tokyo Disneyland — that’s 29 YEARS since the film’s debut
- Movie released in 2016
- There have been some appearances in the parks of characters from this film, but no dedicated ride just yet
- The film will get its own dedicated ride when the Zootopia-themed area opens Shanghai Disney Resort — 6 years and counting as the ride still hasn’t opened
- And this is another movie that could get some more rides in the future if certain “Blue Sky ideas” shared during the 2022 D23 Expo become reality
- Movie released in 2010
- There is a Tangled tower in Disney World, but it is a photo spot mainly, as well as space for some fancy bathrooms
- We’ve also seen character appearances from the film in parades
- But Tangled will finally get its own attraction in Disneyland Paris and ride at Tokyo DisneySea — 12 years and counting as these experiences haven’t opened yet
Even if we look at stage shows, walk-through attractions, or even just portions of attractions themed to Disney movies, those can sometimes take a while to build, too.
For example, The Lion King debuted in 1994, but the stage show didn’t open until 1998 in Animal Kingdom. That’s 4 years after the movie’s release (though that may also have to do with the fact that Disney’s Animal Kingdom didn’t open until that year). And, we must reiterate, The Lion King still doesn’t have a true moving ride of its own!
With Moana, that movie debuted in 2016. The movie will finally be getting its own walk-through attraction (but not a moving ride) coming to EPCOT in late 2023. That’s 7 years after the film’s debut and it’s still not a ride. But, some “Blue Sky ideas” shared during the 2022 D23 Expo could point to a big change here! More on that in a second.
When it comes to Coco, that movie was released in 2017, but also doesn’t have a ride of its own yet. We’ve seen Miguel show up in cavalcades or other entertainment-based experiences involving Coco, and there is a Coco segment in Mickey’s PhilharMagic (added in 2021 — 4 years after the film’s debut), but there’s still no themed ride for the movie.
Again, this is another movie where some “Blue Sky ideas” shared during the 2022 D23 Expo could be indicative of big changes in the future.
But Disney Has Built Movie-Themed Rides or Re-Themed Things Faster…Sometimes
Disney can sometimes make movie-themed attractions happen FAST — keyword: sometimes.
Back in 1998, the Dinosaur ride opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was actually originally named Countdown to Extinction, and then renamed to Dinosaur to promote the Disney film with the same name. In this case, the ride beat the movie but was a direct tie-in for the film.
The Frozen Ever After ride is one ride in particular that came together quickly after the hit film debuted. Frozen debuted in 2013 (and became a global phenomenon), and the Frozen Ever After re-theme of Maelstrom in EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion opened in 2016.
That was just a 3-year difference, but there are some things to keep in mind. This was just a retheme that maintained much of the existing structure of the old ride so that could have greatly affected the timetable as compared to building an entirely NEW ride.
Why Doesn’t Disney Build More Rides Themed Around Hit Movies FAST?
After Frozen hit huge milestones or other movies showed their tremendous popularity, you might have wondered why Disney didn’t build new rides themed around popular movies FASTER, to really capitalize on that movie’s success. Well, we have a few thoughts on why that might be the case.
They might be testing the movie’s longevity
Theme park rides take a lot of money and effort to build. And those rides are built to last, so the expectation is that they’ll be open and available for guests to enjoy for many years after the movie has gotten “old” with audiences.
Disney might wait a while (a loooong while) after a film is released to see if the investment into the ride will really be worth it. Essentially, they could be testing the longevity and appeal over time that the film will carry.
If Disney builds a movie-themed ride fast, they could capitalize on the success of the film. but it might not work out in the long run if the film eventually loses popularity, and then they’re stuck with a ride for a film that people cared about before but no longer care about. It’s a risk!
There are easier/cheaper ways to incorporate characters into the parks
Shows can and have been built faster than movie-themed rides. Shows, appearances in cavalcades and parades, incorporations into existing shows, and other more entertainment-focused things likely provide an easier and cheaper way for Disney to capitalize on the success of the movie without having to spend the money and effort.
We’ve seen this with things like Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (opened the same year as the movie), Tarzan Rocks! (which was a show that opened in Animal Kingdom in the same year the film debuted), The Voyage of the Little Mermaid (opened 3 years after the film), and more. These came to be in a relatively quickly after their associated movie’s debut.
We’ve also seen this implemented in a BIG way at Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure. After episodes of Disney+ Marvel-themed shows like Loki, they’ve had characters from the episode/show appear in the parks. This has been done repeatedly as new Marvel shows or movies are released, and more new character appearances are in the works.
This is a relatively easy way to create an “immediate” reaction to the show and connection with the fans, while also keeping things relatively low cost.
We’ve also seen character meet-and-greets or just character appearances for some movie characters introduced. Raya, Mirabel, and Miguel have all appeared in select Disney parks in certain circumstances, though sometimes their appearances have been very limited. For example, Mirabel and Miguel are in the Adventure Friends Cavalcade in Magic Kingdom, but you still can’t go up and hug either of them in Disney World.
Still, simply having characters appear is cheaper and easier than creating an entire RIDE for them. And character appearances in the park could provide a good test of that character’s popularity to see if a ride involving them would be worth the money.
Disney just takes a LONG time with rides, period – movie-themed or not.
Disney rides just take a long time to build! Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was announced back in 2017 and didn’t open in EPCOT until 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic likely had a big impact on things, but ultimately that is a 5-year difference from the date of the ride announcement.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure was announced in 2020 and will open in 2024. That is just a ride overlay, which may be faster to finalize when compared to building an entirely new ride. But it still marks a 4-year difference between ride announcement and opening.
TRON Lightcycle Run was announced for Disney World in 2017, and it’ll open in the spring of 2023. Again, this is a scenario where the COVID-19 pandemic likely had a big impact, but it still marks a 6-year difference between the time of the announcement and the ride’s opening date.
One of the rides that had a faster turnaround was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which was announced in 2011 and opened in 2014 — just a 3-year difference. But even so, it’s not as though things get built in a year or even two in Disney World. Most times you can expect to wait 4 years+ between a new ride’s announcement and its opening.
And that waiting starts once the ride itself has already been confirmed and announced. That does NOT include all of the work that goes into designing the ride before it even gets the green light and gets shared with the public. Imagineers have a detailed process they go through before ANYTHING gets finalized. From working on “Blue Sky” ideas to getting it down to a concept, to looking at feasibility, and then really getting to design — there are a LOT of steps that happen behind the scenes and often YEARS of work before we even hear of the project, let alone get to ride it.
They have long-term plans already in place and are spacing things out
While we know some of what’s coming in 2022, 2023, and 2024 to the Disney parks, there’s likely a LOT more coming that Disney hasn’t discussed. Disney may not build rides for a while because they’ve already got their pipeline full of other projects and want to space things out.
If 2 new rides open too close to each other, it can detract from the newness of the rides, place them in competition in terms of attracting guests, and would draw guests in at one time.
If Disney spaces things out, then each ride can get its time in the spotlight, and Disney can encourage guests to keep coming again and again (providing Disney with the time to earn even more money — they are a business after all).
Building a ride takes a LOT of money. While the parks division is making some BIG bucks in terms of revenue, there’s still a lot of spending Disney has to do on a regular basis just to pay the bills, pay the employees, maintain current rides, etc.
Plus the money from parks may be funding (in part) other projects in the Disney Company outside of the parks division, like Disney+ (which requires a lot of investment but is LOSING money at the moment).
There’s only so much Disney may be willing to spend in any given year. And some existing rides are likely due for maintenance, so they have to decide what takes priority — the classic ride with huge audience appeal that needs a big refurb or a new ride with untested popularity.
Disney may also be splitting costs up across more months for the sake of their financial books, financial reporting, and other financial reasons.
Aside from all the reasons noted above, there may be some other practical reasons stopping new movie-themed rides from being created. There’s only a limited amount of space in some of the existing parks (though a 5th park at Disney World is constantly brought up by fans as a possibility!).
Disney also gets a fair amount of criticism from some fans who feel that there are already too many movie-themed rides in the parks and not enough rides based on original ideas. These fans call for more original rides and characters made JUST for the parks, like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Carousel of Progress, or Figment. Disney may be seeking to balance just how much of its intellectual property from the films is incorporated.
Things might be changing…a little
If you’ve been crossing your fingers and toes for NEW rides in Disney World themed to Coco, Encanto, Moana, Zootopia, or even the Disney villains, you might be in luck!
During the D23 Expo in 2022, Disney shared some “Blue Sky” ideas for lands they’ve been working on behind the scenes that could potentially come to Disney World and be focused on these movies/characters. Specifically, they teased an area in Magic Kingdom beyond Thunder Mountain that could feature lands themed to Coco, Encanto, and the Disney Villains. For Animal Kingdom, they teased the idea of retheming the existing DinoLand U.S.A. area to lands themed to Moana or Zootopia.
But keep in mind, these are just “Blue Sky” ideas. These are NOT confirmed plans. They are just plans that are in development at Disney, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll get to see them come true in the future. Josh D’Amaro shared that they are things Disney Imagineers are having very serious conversations about though, so there’s some hope.
Even just teasing these ideas shows that Disney could be moving to incorporate more hit films into the parks sooner rather than later.
Perhaps more telling is that Disney does seem to be dedicated to integrating ALL of the Disney things guests experience in and out of the parks, including Disney movies and what guests watch on Disney+.
Disney is reportedly working on an Amazon Prime-like membership that could combine streaming and park experiences. For example, with this membership, Disney could collect information about what a member has watched at home, what trips they’ve taken, and what merchandise they’ve purchased. They could then use that information to make recommendations of new Disney+ programs for that person to watch or otherwise really create a sense of synergy across Disney’s platforms.
That might lead to more intellectual property being incorporated in the parks, potentially. And we’ve already seen Disney movies incorporated into more things like fireworks with Disney Enchantment and Harmonious.
If those things are any indication of where the future is headed, we could get more Disney movie-themed rides, entertainment, or “attractions” — though it could be a while before they arrive.
So what now? Well…now we wait! Disney has some new movie-themed rides in the works and more that have been teased. Plus there are many new Disney movies coming soon, any one of which could become the “next big thing.” If history is any indication, any rides themed to future movies (or popular movies from the past) could take a while to be built. But we could get entertainment and character appearances sooner.
What do you think? Why do you think Disney doesn’t build rides faster for hit movies? Tell us in the comments!
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The post Why Disney WON’T Make a Ride Based on Your Favorite Movie first appeared on the disney food blog.