Monday, January 23, 2012

Disney World E-mail Debate - Top 10 Attractions


There are very few people I know who love Disney as much as I do. My friend Annie is one of them. She’s been there many times, and puts a lot of thought into her visits.

She’s often expressed interest in my Disney-themed blogs over the years, so in an effort to bring more variety to my blog posts, I’ve asked her to occasionally discuss various topics via email… The products of those discussions will be posted here.

For the first one, I asked her simply to name her Top 10 Rides/Attractions at Disney World. Here’s our unedited (except for typos) exchange:


Well hello there, Dan! Look at me! I'm actually doing this! After literally years of talking about it. Amazing. Anyway, without further ado, my top ten rides at Walt Disney World.

My number one is easy: Splash Mountain.
This is always my answer to the age-old "If you only had time for ONE ride..." question. It has everything. Thrills? Check. Cute Disney characters singing? Check. Impressive audio animatronics? Checkity check. Granted the queue is pretty heinous in crowded mid-July and it can be amazingly stressful when the woman in front of you lets her toddler stand up for the entire ride, but the ride itself? Pure Disney perfection.

Two is Expedition Everest.
The backwards drop is so freaking cool. It's rare now but I loved when it was first built and people honestly did not know what was going on when we pulled up to that mangled
track. I'm sure they didn't think a yeti had destroyed it, but when's the last time you went on a roller coaster and were surprised by anything? I actually screamed, "AHH THE YETI" the first time I rode when they light him up near the end. It's a damn cool ride.

Three? Space Mountain.
Nuff said.

Four is Spaceship Earth.
It would've ranked higher before the recent changes. Would it be that difficult to allow riders to select which audio they want? But I digress. This ride can also be made stressful by idiot teenagers who climb around the cars during the backwards descent. Am I the only one who notices these things? And never, ever forgets them? And DO NOT call it a golf ball. I am not responsible for my actions if someone calls it a golf ball.

Five is the TOWER OF TERROR!
I never really realized until just then what a sweet name that really is. Anyway. Another example of many Disney fans' reason for loving the rides so much. It's not just a drop
ride--go up, come down--like every other theme park builds. It's got a story and it is SO COOL. When your elevator car goes forward into the Twilight Zone? Amazing.

Six is Pirates of the Caribbean.
Iconic, classic, fun. Although, I once read a probably-not-true story about how the cast member in the bridge above the drop can forget to press a button that will make the
boat behind you land on top of your boat. I assume there would be scalping. I always imagine scalping. I cannot get this out of my head, so I find myself unreasonably stressed during that part of the ride. (Wow, I didn't expect this list to illustrate how neurotic I truly am.) Would've scored higher without all the changes. I understand including Jack, though. I just don't love it.

Seven is It's A Small World.
I know, I know. But I love Mary Blair. I love the cheesy hippie dippy message. I could be wrong, but I think they haven't added the character dolls to the Disney World ride. I saw the new version in Disneyland and I'm not really a huge fan. I love when they Blair-ize the characters, but they felt out of place. I hope, in vain, that they leave the WDW attraction alone. (ramblerambleramble) Only downside is when you're stuck in a mass of boats for 12 years at the end of every ride. Also a favorite ride for Mothers who like to let their toddlers stand up and stress me out.

Eight is Soarin'.
Every time I remind myself not to look down. And then promptly look down.

Nine is Ye Olde Rock n Roller Coaster.

And ten, and it's so wrong but so right, is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
No offense to ole Snowy, but some of the Fantasyland dark rides are barely worth any wait above 20 minutes. I like this one. I like when the rain rain rain comes down down down and it feels like we're floating along. I like the Heffalumps (Woozles...meh). I like the book pages throughout. I just think it's really well done even for such a simple concept.

And there you have it. Now tear it to shreds! Let me guess your
list... "1. Spaceship Earth 2. Soarin' 3. Everest....."



Alright! This is gonna be fun. So, first... an interesting list. I think I could have predicted at least 7 of your 10. Maybe not in order...  I dunno... It's hard to say you're wrong about any of them (except I can't see putting Winnie the Pooh in any Top Ten, and my feelings about It's a Small World are well chronicled, though I at least understand the historical significance of that one.. I'll discuss more of your choices after my list..

Also, I'm not as tormented as you are by children standing up on the ride vehicles. Part of me really wants to see one of them fall out of the People Mover, or whatever, so it doesn't bother me. I've found my enjoyment of some of the attractions diminished, though, by the jackasses who take flash pictures and the other ones who don't go all the way down the row. These things make me far more angry, and they definitely alter my rankings. Little Mermaid is pretty fun until you get stuck on the edge because some family acting as though the rules don't apply to them decided to stop in the middle. I pride myself on my crowd estimating, and know exactly where to stand to get a good seat. All my planning is ruined when they stop in the middle.

Anyway, lets do this, and then we can hash it out. And you guessed 3 of my top 10 in your last sentence, but not the order..

Number 1: Soarin'
It's the same deal for me with the whole "if you could only ride one thing". I thought not as much about what ride I would choose, but what ride I'd be most bummed I'd skipped. I think that makes sense...right? Anyway, I really think that Soarin' is everything a Disney ride should be... It's technically superior to everything else like it in the world. Every motion simulator TRIES to be this good and fails. It's just an incredible feat of engineering. It has thrills, but not the kind you get at King's Island, which are cheap. Any ride can drop you or whatever, but Soarin' is exciting when you're not really even moving at all, and I like that it avoids terror and is more a mellow thrill... if that makes sense. I also love the smells. I know it's weird, but literally whenever I smell oranges, I think of Soarin'. That's a weird thing to try to explain to someone.

Number 2: Pirates of the Caribbean
I can go either way on the additions of Jack, Barbosa and the rest, but really it's a real classic of Disney creativity. It's a legendary dark ride. It's so weird too... Every time I ride it I see something new. Like... You know how you go through that room where the pirates are chasing the women, and the one woman with the rolling pin is chasing the pirate? I never noticed until this past trip that their legs actually move! I always just thought they were gliding around, and maybe they are, but the legs are definitely churning away. How freakin' awesome is that? I've ridden the thing 30+ times and I'm still experiencing it differently. That's cool.

Number 3: Expedition Everest:
Waaaay back in the Spring of 09 I wrote a blog called "Disney World for Aliens" where I decided what 5 attractions I would recommend to aliens if they were ever to visit and ask "Explain what makes Disney World great in 5 Attractions". Everest was my #1 thing. It wasn't saying that it was my favorite ride, just what attraction was the most Disney. It scored one of the two perfect 10 scores. I think I still agree... First, it's another one of those technical marvels. You have backward and forward movement, tracks that literally flip around, and enormous animatronic things. Next, the theming is right up there as one of the most intricate in the whole of the Disney Empire. Third, it has this visual impact that beats just about every ride in the place aside from Spaceship Earth. You walk in and that mountain just TOWERS over to the right. It's amazing to look at. Add to that the totally exciting ride itself, and it's a top 3 attraction any day. It still makes me feel really gross afterward though. Have I mentioned I'm not a roller coaster fan?

Number 4: The Haunted Mansion
I've come to love this ride more and more as time goes by. It's funny; it's another excellent example of theming. It's the ride I'd most want to work on if I were a cast member (Not the job I'd most want, but if I were to be a ride character). I've been known to listen to the full narration of the ride (By Thurl Ravenscroft...greatest name ever!) in my car. I tried to record it on video this past visit, but I failed miserably. I really like the updates they made to it over the past 5 years, and the new queue is a lot of fun. You'd mentioned the narration on Spaceship Earth, and I think this one is even more indispensable.  Thurl died in 2005, and there's really no way to get anyone to come close to being as snarky and creepy and funny at the same time. None.

Number 5: Mickey's Philharmagic
You know... I'm a softie, and this attraction pushes all of my nostalgia buttons. I just found out that they didn't record any new Donald voice stuff for any of the ride, but simply took old recordings of him and pieced it together. Anyway, there are a few great scenes, each re-done with pretty excellent 3D.. Especially, if I do say so, the Peter Pan scene where you fly around Big Ben.

Number 6: Spaceship Earth
You're right... it's not as good as it once was with the old Jeremy Irons narration. That was epic. There was nothing better than cresting at the top of the dome and hearing "Or will we use this power to usher in a new age of understanding and cooperation on this, our SPACESHIP EARTH." That was a magical moment... I'm not sure, though that it would beat out any of the other 5 for me anyway. And there are still some awesome things. As a Hidden Mickey fan, S.E. is a treasure trove of them. It's also infinitely entertaining to 1) make funny faces into the new cameras that put your head into the animations at the end. 2) Select a random language so you have no idea what you're choosing in the interactive portion. That shit his hilarious. I'll never forget selecting French and watching our funny faces marching around with French narration as we boarded our sea cars. It loses points by getting rid of Irons, but I love a lot of the new additions. So... it evens out for me, mostly.

Number 7: Tower of Terror!
I hadn't ridden this ride since 1994 before my visit in 2009. Let's be clear about something... I was a great big pussy for a long time. This ride fucking TERRIFIED me (fittingly, I suppose). The TM convinced me to ride it again after all that time, and i came to realize... holy crap is that fun! I've talked a lot about the theming previously, and sure enough... it's awesome. What I never realized was how much fun it was to be the heavy end of a yoyo. They've changed the ride mechanism like... five times since I rode it the year it opened, when they pretty much just dropped you once and that was it. Now it's totally random, and it drops you like 5 times. And almost bounces. It's crazy fun.

Number 8: Splash Mountain
You're totally right about everything you said about Splash Mountain. It's definitely the best incorporation of characters into a ride. It's gotta be the longest actual RIDE ride anywhere. The music will get right in your head ("Pretty good sureasyourborn") and while the drops are scary, they're not so scary that I dread them at this point. I used to, though... In fact, I remember years where I'd watch the people plummet (and there's no other word for it), and I'd straight up talk myself out of it. Not anymore. It's really, really fun. The only reason it doesn't make it into the top 5 is that I really dislike walking around with wet shoes. Trust me when I say... If you ride it once and make it off without getting soaked. STOP RIDING. The gods do not appreciate you tempting fate by riding a second time. Every time I've done it, I've paid the price with soaking wet shoes. I can't abide wet shoes, so the ranking drops just on the outside chance of shoe wetness.

Number 9: Star Tours
Never, in a million years, would I have predicted that Star Tours would crack my top ten even a year ago. It was shaky and nauseating and definitely outdated. A cool (and I believe the first) motion simulator that had seen better days. Not anymore. They've worked out every mechanical kink, so the movement is now smooth as silk, and the motion seems really, really real. Oh... and they've changed the plot. To FIFTY FOUR variations. The plot comes in these episodic pieces that they puzzle together to create a larger adventure, and each experience is different. Officially, it would take 6 hours of non-stop riding to experience all of the options. What better way to keep the thing fresh? It also has you fighting Darth Vader, and that's pretty cool.

Number 10: Finding Nemo: The Musical
It's easy to forget about this show, but if you're going to the Animal Kingdom, you HAVE to see it. It's so well performed, and the music is so catchy and clever (Written by the people who wrote Avenue Q). It also manages to pack in a really good proximity of the full Finding Nemo story in a little over 40 minutes. The tech is awesome. The puppetry is really inventive (I would LOVE to play Bruce the Shark), and the singing is, overall very well executed. After the TM and I saw it in 09, we liked it so much that she bought me the soundtrack, which lived in slot #5 in my car CD player for the next 2 years. This is easily the best show in all the parks, and one of my favorite things at Disney.

Honorable Mentions: Peter Pan, Kilimanjaro Safari, People Mover, Carousel of Progress,

So... it seems we have a lot of overlap (Splash Mtn, Everest, Tower of Terror, Pirates, Soarin, Spaceship Earth).  I mentioned above your questionable inclusion of Winnie the Pooh, so I won't belabor it, even though I could say that I think it's inferior to Peter Pan in every way, except for the duration.  I'd like for you to explain your inclusions of Space Mountain, which is, in my opinion a little boring, always has way too long a line, and is kind of painful to ride.... and Rock n Roller Coaster, which to me is the most non-Disney of all of the major attractions, even though it's really fun.

What were your "Close but no cigar" choices? I'm surprised that neither of us had Journey into Imagination, even though it's widely considered terrible. I'm also surprised there was no Toy Story Mania... Just for the newness. Strangely neither made my top 15. What about Kali River Rapids?

This is fun.



My sick obsession with reading about theme park accidents is why I stress so much about it. The People Mover has killed before! The vehicles really do not care if you are stuck underneath them, it seems. Shudder.
I commented that some evergreen smelling thing reminded me of Soarin' recently. You are not alone. I'd also like to add that Soarin' is really cool to experience as a group with other riders. I've always been surrounded by people ooh-ing and ahh-ing. (I always do single rider for this one, who cares who you're sitting next to?)

We, too, have the Haunted Mansion CD with Thurl. He was Tony the Tiger! And sang "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch!" He was actually a bonus answer at my trivia one night. (No one got it.)

I almost added Philharmagic. It was number 11. I have yet to get through the damn thing without crying though. (There go those neuroses again)

I like the new things at the end of Spaceship Earth, too. Although I made the mistake of opening my mouth for the picture so I ended up with a see-through mouth.

The first time I rode Tower of Terror I had to be helped off of it because my legs were totally jellified. And I could not wait to ride it again. Disney has a way of making things just scary enough without being too much (Mission: SPACE excluded). I am not a ride person at all anywhere else. If it doesn't make me puke, then I'll surely get a headache. At Disney, I know I can safely ride anything without risk of day ruination.

Also on Splash Mountain, if you've made it down the drop without getting wet, don't get too comfortable. That elephant sees me coming every time.
I cannot--CANNOT--wait to see the new Star Tours. Why must you taunt
me by speaking of it's awesomeness?

OMFG WITH THE NEMO MUSICAL! I still cannot believe I let you make me sit through that garbage. The puppets are really cool. Other than that? Total waste of everything. The lyrics are written by a five year old! "I'm so sad/I miss my dad". Oh, just wretched, that thing. I also cannot make it through this without crying. (Get it? Cuz it's so bad? ZING.) But it's good to know that they sold that one soundtrack that they made by accident.

Peter Pan is short and underwhelming. The concept is cool, it's great to look at, but I can never justify a 45 minute wait for 3 minutes of, "Cool! So small!" Ride vehicles are neat-o, though. You must always wave to Nana. WAVE TO NANA!

I think Space Mountain is so totally rad. I honestly get giddy every time I climb into that car because I'm about to go into space and it's SO COOL. I love the exterior as well--so 70's futuristic. I'm having trouble coming up with any explanation beyond, "CUZ ITS COOL, I LIKE LIGHTS!" The DL version is much less cool, I will say. If this were a DL list, I'm not sure that it would've made it. You know, less colors. I've waited two hours for Space Mountain before. With a FP [Fast Pass] in hand to ride it again immediately after. Maybe I have some sort of forgotten childhood subconscious thing with it. Who knows? Same with Rock n Roller Coaster, too, really. I mean, arguably Everest is no different. There's nothing "Disney" about a Yeti. Their Disney-oscity lies in their awesome-noscity.

I considered Philharmagic, Toy Story Mania (which I do think is really fun but I can't wait to not have to wait in line for 6 days just to ride it), Star Tours and MuppetVision3D. Oh, and I seriously tried to rationalize adding El Rio del Tiempo (name change? what name change? lalalala...) or Maelstrom. But that's when my brain starts going, "And
Jungle Cruise! And the Tiki Room! Andandandand!" and I remind myself that the point is to pick only ten.

Oddly, I've never ridden Kali River Rapids. I've always wanted to but there's never been a convenient time to be soaking wet. I get pretty wham-bam in Animal Kingdom. Get in, ride Everest a couple of times, Dinosaur, Rainforest Cafe, and I'm outta there. I'm a little surprised you didn't have your little safari on there, too. Or the dreaded Carousel of Progress.

This felt reeeeeeeeally ramble-y. Feel free to edit. Structure was never my strong suit.


That was a lot to take in... I'll respond, you respond (in short form) with any closing thoughts, and we'll call this one complete...

1) Finding Nemo, when we saw it, was still in rewrites. I scanned through the soundtrack and there is no "I'm so sad; I miss my Dad". So, if that was in it in 2006, it's not in there now. Either way, the tech and the puppetry is awesome. The music is catchy, and it grows on you. I love it now.

2) I wonder if that open mouth thing is what happened to me. We got a video with 2 Tofu Muchachas. It was mildly disconcerting.

3) You mention, briefly, Mission Space. I read things all the time about Top 10s and whatnot, and I very rarely see it mentioned. I've ridden it once, and it was "meh" for me. Not memorable. (I did ride the tame version). It didn't make me sick or anything, but I can see how it would. I also note no mentions at all of Test Track. I skipped it for the first time on my most recent visit. And we definitely had the time.

4) The difference between Rock'n'Roller Coaster / Space Mountain vs Everest in terms of "Disney-Osity" is the level of technology and the theming. There's nothing more inherently Disney about a Yeti than there is about Pirates, but the Yeti itself is so awesome, and well done.. ONLY Disney could do it. I've never felt the same about the other 2. There's something original about Space Mountain that I will concede, because i think it was the first indoor, dark roller coaster. I'd be more inclined to include that one, just because of the historical significance. Maybe it's the Aerosmith inclusion in the other one that sort of makes me apathetic to it. Seems to date it very specifically, and isn't Disney supposed to be at least a little timeless?

5) I feel far more "Wham Bam" about Studios than I do about Animal Kingdom, though Tower of Terror is a fairly new addition to my favorite rides and it certainly extends my stay there. AK has a bunch of "second tier" things for me. The Safari is awesome, but it’s far too dependent on the animals' moods to be truly in top 10 considerations. Dinosaur is good, but not great. Festival of the Lion King is great, but I didn't have room for 2 shows. Same with Tough to Be a Bug. I'd choose Philharmagic over it any day.  Kali River Rapids is fun, but way too short, and yeah... There's about a 50% chance of getting more than soaked. Like... completely water-logged drenched. Not worth it.

6) Carousel of Progress is part of the subject of a whole other e-mail exchange: Things that sorely need updating.

7) You mentioned also the Tiki Room... They finally brought it back to the old show, and it was awesome. It also just missed inclusion.



Well, we agreed on an awful lot, even if the placement was different. I think it's really heartening how many recent additions we both have on our lists. I think it's easy to sit back and look at all the things that have changed or that Disney is doing wrong nowadays. This list served to remind me that they still do a lot of really cool things
that stay true that what Disney once provided and what we fans have come to expect. A beginning, middle and end. Intense theming. Superior technology.

It's also nice to see that things that have barely been changed since their construction (adding Sparrow or changing audio are really small changes, if you think about it) on both of our lists. The Star Tours changes have updated a ride that was starting to feel dated and stale without changing the essence of the ride--or getting rid of it all
together. These lists have really made me feel a lot less pessimistic about Disney (as reading critical blogs can often lead you to be).

With the big Fantasyland expansion looming, it feels exciting to think about what these lists will look like in another ten years. How odd and special how Disney can balance the old with the new and manage to have guests love all of it. It's not as though it's all geriatrics on Pirates while the kids are zooming around Test Track. Well, that's enough gushing about WDW. I'm glad to have my current list archived so I can look back and it (and think, 'Really, Annie? Really?').

One last note: Seriously? Finding Nemo: the Musical? Out of everything--EVERYTHING--else, you pick that. It boggles my mind so much that I give the computer screen the side eye, wondering if you're just trolling your own brain somehow. But, sure. Tell people it's awesome. Less people in line for Everest that way.

If you were entertained and wish to follow Annie on Twitter, she can be found at @djphob
Me? I'm at @beefymuchacho (of course).


BetsyO said...

Hmmm. Well having been to DisneyLAND in the last year, I'm attempting to weigh in. You'll have to excuse my lack of Disneyworld geography and the fact I got to ride some neat stuff that's been torn down in FL. But here we go:
1) Pirates of the Caribbean- I'm glad this made it to your top few. I am familiar with your Splash Mountain but not your Everest. The last time I rode Splash Mtn it was based on Song of the South- which is no longer available except for bootleg copies because you see, it was even more racist than that whole crow bit in Dumbo. I rode Pirates at least once a day for 5 days straight and I noticed something new every time. Oh, and in Cali the Blue Bayou restaurant is in the ride near the beginning. Awesome!
2.) The Indiana Jones Ride- Temple of the Forbidden Eye. I have an inkling it is not at Disney World, but if is had been, I'd find it at the top of your list.
3.) The Haunted Mansion
4.) Space Mountain
5.) The Matterhorn
6.) Tower of Terror
7.) California Screamin' - Best metal coaster you've ever ridden. (Okay I'm cheating into the land of California Adventure, but if you're ripping out what used to be a ridiculous amount of parking space to add more theme park to your theme park, why the heck shouldn't it be styled after a traditional boardwalk?)
8.) World of Color- it's a show projected onto a water feature that puts the fountain at the Bellagio to shame.
9.) Mickey's fun wheel- Have you ever been on a ferris wheel where the carts weren't all on fixed points? Some of them have their own mini loop so as the wheel goes around, your cart swings back and forth? Nevermind the view of the 2 parks from up there- wow.
10.) You're gonna laugh- Mr Toad's Wild Ride. It is no longer a Disney World ride but I feel it is the one that started it all- the funky 4 seater cart, the jerky motion as you go from room to room in surprise. Doors opening and driving through the fireplace. I know it started 20 other similar themed rides and I *heart* it.
Now you've created a monster and I MUST go back to Disney World.

Gretchen said...

I miss Eastern Airlines "If You Had Wings..."

Cindy said...

I am so jealous that DisneyLAND has Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and DisneyWORLD doesn't. I was at DW the year it opened so I've ridden MTWR in the past and I miss it so much! I'll never forget the sensation of thinking the train is going to hit our cart.

Annie said...


I took one look at that "Fun Wheel" and went back to the margarita stand. They should call it the Vomit Wheel. Yeep.

That said, Indy is AWESOME. That was so freaking cool. I wish we had one in WDW.

The restaurant in PotC is really cool--there is a similar dining-near-ride experience in Mexico in Epcot. Why is it so cool to eat with ride boats floating by? Love.

Also re:Song of the South--It's kind of cool to me how most people have no idea what those characters are from (I asked it at my bar trivia once--no dice) but it's still a really popular ride. I don't think that the racism (which I would argue is less offensive than the Crows) is THAT intense. I mean, the only way that Uncle Remus is really offensive is because of how much darn fun he has being a slave.


I was initially really upset about Mr. Toad but I really have not missed the thing, as much as I hate to admit it. But I really have no nostalgic ties to it. I went to DL with my fiancee back in '08 and he LOVED it though, inexplicably. You can still get the hit-by-a-truck experience at Test Track. But you don't get to go to Hell, unless the Heat Test counts.

mary said...

I went to Disneyworld with Disney friends (we all worked together for Disney) a couple of weeks ago. We live right by Disneyland so it was nice to contrast some of the same rides we have. I loved Florida's Tower of Terror because it goes UP and down and ours just goes down. Haunted Mansion has a better queue and seems spookier then ours. Our Small World is beautiful and Florida's is just creepy. We all loved Rock and Roller Coaster, Test Trak, Expedition Everest (except Yeti didn't show up at the end)and adored getting to ride the People Mover once again. We miss it at Disneyland. Finding Nemo was amazing (the big shark was the best) as was Philharmagic - I love everything Donald. Disney World is huge; coming back home to Disneyland makes us realize how small our park is but I feel Disneyland is prettier. It is laid out so much better then the Magic Kingdom. There is a symetry to it that I found lacking back there. Of course, our castle is smaller but it feels more accessible. And Disneyland is home to me. I always feel like New Orleans square is my backyard. Thanks for sharing your opinions.

Beefy Muchacho said...

Mary- Thank you for making me even MORE jealous of people who know both Disneyland and Disney World. I think some of the things you talk about are especially interesting. Like the layout of DL being more elegant. I wonder if that has to do with that "Luxury of Size" Walt once mentioned. I find that when people don't NEED to be as creative to find a way to fit things in, they aren't. Disney World is huge, and even if the idea of the Magic Kingdom is ultimately the same, they just had a little more elbow room.

I've been thinking about trying to find a short Disneyland Holiday for myself some time this year. I think it's time.

mary said...

Oh, definitely come to visit Disneyland!! Disney's California Adventure will be almost finished with their renovating at the end of summer - Cars Land looks amazing and the "main street" hopefully will look like the studios in Florida's main street. That was one of my favorite places in Florida...the buildings were so pretty. But when you come, just make your inner view finder a little smaller. I think you will be charmed. October and November are the best times to visit. Hey, I'll meet you both for a cup of coffee!!

anne said...

After I visited the Avatar theme park. It has been my favorite since then. Disney World Vacation