Because it's starting to loom again, I've been thinking more and more about my plan and more and more about how I want to spend my time once I'm there. The more time I've spent down there, the more creative I've got to be in order to keep finding new things... Don't get me wrong, I could do the traditional tours every day for the rest of my life and be happy, but why?
So I wouldn't call myself jaded, but certainly harder to impress. Lately I've started thinking about what it was like to be a Disney Virgin, and that led me into thinking about the iconic attractions in all of Walt Disney World.
So here it is...
The 5 Attractions I'd recommend to Aliens if they could only experience 5, and wanted to understand the very essence of Walt Disney World. (It's a working title.)
Man...this is really tough. I've consulted Annie from Fend to Blog on this as well, and she's in agreement that this is really difficult. It's almost too confining to someone who cares as much as me. I mean... I LOVE things like the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and in a way it's very Disney in that no other place would really spend that much time on what is essentially a cute time diversion, but can I really use up one of my 5 items on it? Same with something like Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at the Studios. It's a great ride, and maybe one of the 5 best rides in the joint, but does it scream Disney? I dunno... Here's what I'm gonna do... I'm going to list as many candidates as I can and rate them. Maybe as I go, I'll come up with some sort of criteria.
Whew... Okay... I'll try to be as brief as possible... (stop laughing.)
Space Mountain: The PROS: Probably the most famous Disney Roller Coaster. It IS iconic in that everyone knows about Space Mountain. It's an actually exciting ride even once you get past the gimmick of being in the dark. It's one of the oldest rides in the park (1975), so it's popularity is hard to argue with. CONS: Aside from being futuristically themed to fit into the Tomorrowland theming, there's not really a whole lot that says DISNEY here. I'll give it a 7 out of 10.
Splash Mountain: The PROS: It's really popular. It's really fun. It's AMAZINGLY themed. It's long, so you get a ton of bang for your line-waiting buck. CONS: It's based on a somewhat embarrassingly racist movie (Song of the South) and has thus been underplayed for years. Still an 8 out of 10.
Big Thunder Mountain: The PROS: Pretty much everything about Space Mountain is also true about Big Thunder, except it's not as famous. It's faster. CONS: Um... It's basically no different than Space Mountain in terms of what it brings to the table. Good theming. Good ride. Not super Disney-ish otherwise. Maybe a personal favorite, but for this a 6 out of 10.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The PROS: I mean... my god. It's probably the most famous ride at the park. It's the only ride that's spawned a movie franchise. It's a phenomenal example of Disney Theming. The historical impact of this ride (the last one that Walt directly worked on..well..the Disneyland version.) The audio-animatronics are still great. The updates they did to include the movie characters are all smooth. I approve. CONS: Um... Pirates are historically horrible people who probably shouldn't be glorified? That's about it. 9 out of 10.
Haunted Mansion: The PROS: Technologically speaking... it's incredible. The theming is out of this world. The holograms and the special effects are great. The ride cars (Doom Buggies) are one-of-a-kind. The ride incorporates the trademark humor that Disney is known for (an aside: I remember as a kid being scared of pretty much everything, and being super nervous about going into a Haunted House. By the time I exited, I was sold on Disney. It may have been the key moment for me.) CONS: Unlike Pirates, the movie it inspired was really bad. Annie pointed out that there really isn't a true "Disney" connection. It's a bit of a stand-alone. 8 out of 10.
It's a Small World: The PROS: Well... as much as I hate to admit it, this ride is truly iconic. The song alone is world-famous. Mary Blair is an Imagineering Icon. It makes a strong argument. CONS: Unless we want to drive the Aliens insane (and let's be honest, if the aliens want to know about Disney, they can't be all bad), we should probably not subject them to this ride. I've always wondered what sort of horrible thing the cast members there did to get assigned this ride. 7 out of 10. (10 out of 10 on mute, which is sadly impossible.)
Mickey's PhilharMagic: The PROS: This is the newest attraction on the Magic Kingdom list, and it really deserves some kind of consideration. The 3-D elements to this are the most well done I've ever seen. They're seemless. In terms of Disney character incorportation, it doesn't get any better. There's a great story to it. It never fails to make me a little emotional. CONS: I will admit that I absolutely hate the queue line for this ride. I've never had to wait long, because the thing seats so many people and I go early in the day, but the ventilation in there just isn't good. 8 out of 10.
The Enchanted Tiki Room: The PROS: It was one of Walts favorites. The original music (In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room!) is classic and extremely catchy. The bird animatronics were revolutionary (The birds BREATHE for god's sake.) CONS: It's not the original version anymore. Iago is annoying. It hardly has the same feel as the original. 5 out of 10.
Soarin': The PROS: An absolutely breathtaking ride in a totally unexpected way. It's as peaceful a thrill ride as you can ever find. The ride mechanics are the only ones like it in the world (aside from it's twin in California). The fully sensory experience is very Disney in that Disney's goal is to completely immerse a visitor from start to finish. CONS: Nothing really "Disney" about it, aside from a trip to Disneyland at the end. The lines can be oppressive, and while the theming isn't bad, it's a little boring. 8 out of 10.
Spaceship Earth: The PROS: It's housed inside one of the most famous landmarks within all of WDW. (The big golf ball). Some of the refurbishments are really good. CONS: Overall, the refurb took away from it a bit. I miss the music. I miss Jeremy Irons. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic. 6 out of 10.
Test Track: The PROS: It definitely falls into the "Education is FUN!" genre that Disney seems to have perfected over the years. It has one of the best queue lines around. It's definitely fun to ride too. CONS: It's been sponsored by GM since it was built in the late 90s, and let's be honest... I'm not sure what the future of the Test Track is now that GM has fallen apart. I'd be a little nervous that I'd introduce this great ride to Disney Virgin Aliens and then it'd be gone when they came back. 7 out of 10.
Journey into Imagination: The PROS: FIGMENT!!! EEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! Okay... I'm the biggest Figment the Imagination Dragon fan in the world. I love him. He's aDORable! And he's a creation of the Disney Imagineers completely. The ride never has a wait, and it's air conditioned, which makes it extremely hot-day friendly. One of the greatest theme park songs of all (I have the Sheet Music!!) CONS: Many people believe this current incarnation is inferior to the original, but the Dream Catcher was creepy to me. PUT THAT ROTTEN TOMATO DOWN!! 7 out of 10.
Honey I Shrunk the Audience: The PROS: More really excellent 3-D effects than any other attraction. The interactive quality of it with the moving seats and the smells they pipe in is really entertaining. CONS: I have a hard time ever thinking about this space without thinking about Captain EO, which is weird. It's a fairly dated attraction now. I don't think that Honey I Shrunk the Kids has the legendary status you'd like with a permanent attraction. 6 out of 10.
World Showcase. The PROS: This is probably cheating by grouping them all together, but it's just a really fantastic attraction overall, and while I don't think that any individual piece is grand enough to discuss out of context, when taken as a whole, it's amazing. You have everything... Great restaurants. Great shops. Educational, yet breathtaking movies. Rides. It's a great slice of Americana (in that it's these Americanized versions of these places, fully sanctioned by the places.) CONS: It's big? I dunno. It's the best. 10 out of 10.
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster: The PROS: As I mentioned above, it's a great ride. Probably the most exciting in terms of traditional ride types at the entire place. The theming is great. The connection with Aerosmith is really fun... but CONS: As I said... it's not really Disney. Really this is the same problem with everything at this park. This is the Park least connected to Disney (tonally) in general. 6 out of 10.
Tower of Terror: The PROS: As thrilling, in it's way, as any ride in WDW. (Especially if you like repeated plummets to certain death...which I don't.). It has arguably the most extensive and detailed theming of any ride in theme park history, and theming is what sets Disney apart from all the rest. The attention to detail is outstanding. They also created this randomized ride system that is pretty one-of-a-kind. CONS: Scary as fuck. Not really Disney. 8 out of 10.
The Great Movie Ride: The PROS: At one point, this was my favorite ride. I loved it. It has a great nostalgic feel to it that isn't really re-created anywhere else at the park. It shows a real love of the movies and movie magic. CONS: Most of the movies it discusses aren't Disney movies. The quality of the performers has significantly decreased in the last few years. 5 out of 10.
Lights! Motors! Action!: The PROS: It's probably the most advanced automobile stunt show I've ever seen. It's got some crazy good effects. CONS:.... NOT DISNEY. I mean... it's got the elements of the things Disney is famous for (the attention to details. The showmanship. The technologically superior presentation, but it's not Disney specific in terms of content (aside from a cameo from Herbie.) 6 out of 10.
Dinosaur!: The PROS: It's a great ride. It's really exciting. (Though it shakes you around pretty good.) It's got a Disney theme to it (The movie Dinosaur! is prominently featured in terms of the story), even if that theme was added retroactively. The queue line has one of my favorite in-joke "easter egg" type things I know, which is a true hallmark of Disney creativity. That's one of the things I love most about Disney... They layer so many elements into an attraction that they can be enjoyed multiple times. In this case there are red and yellow pipes running along the queue area, and they have a chemical equation on them. It turns out that the red one is labled with the chemical equation for Ketchup and the yellow one for Mustard. LOVE it! Also, the ride vehicles themselves constitute some of the most advanced ride technology ever created. If I told you, after riding that ride, and the ground is completely level, smooth concrete, you'd never believe me, and that has to do with the ride vehicles. CONS: I can't really think of any. It's kind of dark, thematically (the original title was "Countdown to Extinction", before the movie Dinosaur came out.) It can be scary for kids. 8 out of 10.
Expedition Everest: The PROS: It's the best pure ride in the park. The theming is incredible, and the look of it is beautiful. There's a term in the Disney-verse for landmarks that draw crowds from a distance. They call these "Weenies". This is the ultimate Weenie. You can see it from almost anywhere in the park, and it looks AMAZING. This is another example of exemplary ride technology as well. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a roller coaster of this type going backward and forward with this much precision. THE TRACK MOVES!! Oh, and also it has the worlds most advanced audio-animatronic figure in The Yeti. CONS: Again... pretty scary for kids, but I'm a great big roller coaster pussy and I love it. 10 out of 10.
Kilimanjaro Safari: The PROS: This is one of the most unique experiences you can have at Disney World. It's difficult to describe how cool it is to be THAT close to animals you usually would only see on TV. That's sort of the essence of the Disney experience at it's very heart. CONS: This is going to sound crazy, but the most "Disney" part of the attraction is also the dumbest part. The "Save Little Red" storyline is dumb. I think that Disney seems to get this, though as it felt pretty downplayed the last couple of times I've ridden. Some of my fellow readers will disagree about how cool this ride is, but I am going to chalk that up to we Cincinnatians being jaded to seeing live animals since we have a great Zoo here. 8 out of 10.
Festival of the Lion King: The PROS: This is probably the best live show at any of the parks. The music and characters are straight from the movie, and are so popular and so recognizable. I'm rarely moved by the sappy "Kid sees their favorite characters for the first time" bit, but this show gets to me more than most. The ability of the performers varies from cast to cast, but all are working on a high level. CONS: Um... it's hard to put my finger on, but I guess I've always felt that no matter how great a show it, it's still barely more than a diversion. That's probably why I don't have any night shows or parades listed. 7 out of 10.
It's Tough to be a Bug: The PROS: The setting (inside the Tree of Life) is extremely cool and dramatic. The theming is awesome. (I especially love the fake movie posters in the queue area). The effects are pretty good. The Hopper animatronic figure is CRAZY cool. It's fun to watch the little kids freak the fuck out when he shows up. CONS: Kids freak the fuck out. The show's a little short, so unless the wait is short too... it's hard to justify. The film could use some cleaning...it's getting old. 7 out of 10.
Phew... this has become insane..
So here's where we stand:
DEFINITELY IN (1o out of 10s)
EXPEDITION EVEREST (Animal Kingdom)
WORLD SHOWCASE (Epcot)
ALSO IN (9 out of 10)
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
That leaves me 2 spots to fill and the following choices that received 8 out of 10s:
Tower of Terror
Gosh this is hard. (That's what she said...)
Okay... so here's what I'm going to do I'm going to create 5 categories and give them a gut feeling rating (out of 10) in all 5. The 2 with the highest Aggregate Score get selected.
The Categories Are:
Icon Status: Would someone who had never been to Disney World before have the slightest idea of what this was by just hearing the words?
Uniqueness: Can a ride like this be found anywhere else?
Details: What kind of Disney-esque elements are added that set it apart from similar rides elsewhere?
Nostalgic Feelings: When I think about going to Disney on my darkest days, do I think about this ride?
Disney Essence: Does something about this ride say "Disney"? Be it characters, or technology, or theming?
Tower of Terror
So here they are Folks