The Complete Canonical List of the Best Animated Film Tie-Ins Ever – Part 1

Friday, November 7 will be a momentous day here at the Parkeology offices. You can probably guess why.

On that day, Big Hero 6 will be officially released into theaters, the 54th animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

There is perhaps nothing more synergistic than Disney animated features and theme parks. The parks are loaded with rides based on movies, restaurants based on movies, shops that sell merchandise from the movies, an entire attraction called “The Magic of Disney Animation” which is about the making of the movies. Without animation, there would be no Disneyland. Animation is the lifeblood of Disney parks. Animation and maybe also ice cream.

The 54 animated features are sort of like the 47 rides of Walt Disney World — something that can be methodically endured, conquered, and critiqued. Good, bad, all of the above — and in spite of all the classics, there is a surprising amount of bad on the list of 54.

For the first time in theme park history, somebody has decided to choose the absolute best park tie-in that ever existed for every animated feature. It’s something you didn’t even know you wanted, but now that it’s here, you will soon wonder how you ever lived without.

It’s going to take a few posts to get through all these. I will be going in descending order by release date. The older movies, by definition of them being older, have more options to choose from. So it will be more climactic to finish up with the original classics.

But first you have to suffer through…

#54 – Big Hero 6

Prepare to hug lifesize Baymax in a character greeting area heading to Disneyland! There’s also one heading to Hollywood Studios, but I give the edge to Disneyland, since it’s also repurposing the Captain EO theater into a preview theater. So there’s that.

See what I mean about anti-climactic? The movie isn’t even released yet! Until this movie becomes a mega-hit, we likely won’t see the closure of any classic Epcot dark rides so that we can get our own Big Hero 6 adventure. Speaking of which…

#53 – Frozen

You’ve sung the songs. You’ve worn the princess outfits. You’ve been labeled “the creepy cross-dressing man who sings show tunes.” Now it’s time to pick the best theme park tie-in to the biggest animated hit of all time.

Sure, we have that new Epcot E-ticket on the way, but that’s a few years off. Over in Hollywood Studios, they just ran an entire summer promotion centered around Frozen, complete with cardboard Olafs, an ice skating rink, and soap bubbles on Hollywood Boulevard. We also got that hastily thrown-together Frozen Sing-Along in the Premiere Theater, which turned out to be a surprisingly engaging experience (eat your heart out, American Idol).

But the best Frozen tie-in is already history. The Frozen Fireworks show used as part of the Summer of Frozen Fun had its last performance in September. Those songs! Those fireworks! That giant Sorcerer’s Hat backdrop! The show will be missed. The hat not so much.

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Photo by SpreadTheMagic

#52 – Wreck-It Ralph

Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz had their own walk-around characters, but the coolest park tie-in for this genius video game tale came in the form of … a video game.

Fix-It Felix Junior arcade cabinets made appearances at Disneyland’s Starcade and Disney Quest, where you can still play them today.

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Photo by insidethemagic

#51 – Winnie the Pooh

Thank God for character greeting areas, or some of these movies would really be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Of course Winnie the Pooh is all over the place in theme parks. For awhile, he was bigger than the princesses. But tie-ins for this somewhat forgotten feature in the Pooh pantheon were limited to the character greeting spot at the Magic of Disney Animation (recently home to Wreck-It Ralph, with Baymax landing soon).

#50 – Tangled

Here we are five movies into the list and we’ve still yet to see a bonafide attraction, except maybe the Frozen fireworks. Tangled is not the movie to break that streak. But it is with a strange sense of delight that I get to put a restroom on the list.

Rapunzel’s Tower forms the backdrop to Fantasyland’s Tangled-themed pitstop area, complete with phone charging stations and a nice little “Where’s Waldo?” game with the chameleon.

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Photo by Brett Kiger

#49 – The Princess and the Frog

Tiana and Naveen got themselves a thematically appropriate riverboat show in New Orleans Square — Princess Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee — which is the pinnacle of their park achievement. The show didn’t last very long, but like many things in Disneyland, it made great use of existing park landmarks. The characters still pop up for greetings here and there, but the song-and-dance show still takes the cake.

 #48 – Bolt

Oh, Bolt. You left us too soon. The movie wasn’t a failure, but Bolt is practically non-existent in the parks, other than as a plush toy at the Emporium. Could that possibly be the best tie-in from the movie? A stuffed animal?

No, I won’t allow out. Bolt’s biggest impact is on his card for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, the interactive game in Florida. Bolt’s power (like in the movie) is his Super Bark. Hold that card high, Bolt fans. You’ve precious little else to cling to.

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#47 – Meet the Robinsons

Yeah, this one is pretty much in the same boat. There are several park references in Meet the Robinsons, but not many Meet the Robinson references in the parks. I’m going to fall back on the old stand-by: The character greeting area.

This honor goes to Bowler Hat Guy, who by now is actually a very rare character. He’s usually only out for special events like Marathons or Overnight Villain Parties.

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Photo by Castles, Capes & Clones

#46 – Chicken Little

Screw it. I refuse to pick the short-lived walk-around Chicken Little and Abby Mallard characters, who like Bowler Hat Guy are special events only, nowadays. I don’t even like Chicken Little the movie.

It says something when the best park tie-in for the movie is the movie’s own promotional billboard. And that’s what I’m going with. They painted the side of the Playhouse Disney soundstage in Hollywood Studios to be a bright blue sky, and then painted a hexagonal tile that had fallen from it. A promotional mural. That’s the best you can do, Chicken Little.

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#45 – Home on the Range

Shoot me now. The movies are getting dreadful, and the park tie-ins are getting worse. The best tie-ins to date have been a fireworks show and a character show. And this flick about three cows (one of whom is Roseanne Barr) is not likely to blaze any trails.

Judy Dench voiced another one of the cows. Can I call her Spaceship Earth narration a tie-in? Jennifer Tilly (the third cow) played Madame Leota in the Eddie Murphy Haunted Mansion movie. Can I use that?

Okay, fine. I guess I will have to go with the Little Patch of Heaven makeover that Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch received around the time the movie was out. I think it had cows. Because theming.

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Photo by Castle, Capes & Clones

#44 – Brother Bear

Brother Bear came out in 2003. Disney — who loves any story where someone turns into a bear to hilarious effect — figured they had a probable massive hit on their hands and promptly rethemed their Redwood Creek playground area of California Adventure into the Magic of Brother Bear, complete with totems, character greetings, and an amphitheater show.

Children everywhere rejoiced and quickly made it the most popular playground in that section of the San Francisco area of a forgotten theme park.

In 2009, Disney rethemed this playground around the Pixar movie Up, which is about a 70-year old man.

If that’s not the definition of a successful theme park tie-in, I don’t know what is.

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Photo by Castles, Capes & Clones

#43 – Treasure Planet

I’m going to be honest with you. This is the first one where I could literally think of nothing. I had to google, and even still, all I could turn up was a walk-around B.E.N. character in Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris. Kind of sad, since this movie is way better than Home on the Range and Brother Bear.

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Photo by Loren Javier

#42 – Lilo & Stitch

Finally! This is the first movie on our list with some real attractions to choose from! I know you are extremely excited. Let me temper your enthusiasm by reminding you that the two attractions in question are Stitch’s Great Escape in the Magic Kingdom and the Stitch version of Turtle Talk in Hong Kong Disneyland.

I’m going to give it to Stitch’s Great Escape, since the animatronic is cool. But I do so under protest, since Stitch’s Great Escape is possibly the worst attraction in the entire Magic Kingdom.

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Photo by Express Monorail

#41 – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, your submarine passed through the lost city of Atlantis, whose tottering columns betrayed the hand of man. It was awesome.

Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with the animated feature.

I don’t know. I kind of hate this movie. So out of spite, the best park tribute is an article done by a wonderful website called parkeology. Which delightfully shows nothing remaining of Atlantis. Which is how it should be.

#40 – The Emperor’s New Groove

We end this first batch of movies not with a bang, but a whimper. Scraping the bottom of the barrel for yet another foam-head. This time, it’s everyone’s favorite mimbo, who had his own meet-and-greet outside the Animation building at Disney’s California Adventure.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Kronk. The Eighth Wonder of the World.

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Photo by ste3ve

Part 1 Summary

So yeah, you can’t wait for the rest of these, right? I mean, we covered 14 movies and the biggest full-fledged attraction we had to offer was the reviled replacement for Alien Encounter. In the process, we got rethemed playgrounds, petting zoos, a fireworks show, a trading card, a restroom, a billboard, seasonal entertainment, a video game, and 5 character greeting areas. This is scintillating stuff.

Is it any wonder Disney gets a bad rap for failing to capitalize on its recent movies?

In the next round, we’ll turn the page back to the 1990s. I guarantee you’ll remember some of those movies. The question is: Will you remember anything they spawned in the parks?

Stay tuned…

 

Ye come seekin’ adventure and salty pirates, eh?

This is it… after touring through nine of the biggest blunders in Disney theme park history we have finally arrived at the top of our list of the Top Ten Disney Theme Park Controversies. If you have not read them all click HERE to get caught up…

Keep a weather eye open, mates, and hold on tight if you please… there be squalls ahead and Davey Jones waiting for them what don’t obey…

1) PC Pirates

Pirates less rape poster

Yo,ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

 We torture we rape and we don’t fear the brig.

Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

We treat women like slaves we’re misogynist pigs.

Drink up me ‘earties yo ho!

 

 Yo,ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

 We slit your throat and then we sing with glee.

Drink up me ‘earties yo ho.

We’re murdering terrorists and proud to be.

Drink up me ‘earties yo ho.

 

 Yo, ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

 We disembowel and we eviscerate.

Drink up me ‘eraties yo ho.

We like your women but not to date.

Drink up me ‘earties you ho.

 

We’re diseased and dirty, we’re oversexed studs.

Drink up me ‘earties you ho.

We wallow in feces and have a taste for blood.

Drink up me ‘earties you ho.

 

We’re wretched and drunk and may cut off your head.

Drink up me ‘earties you ho.

Aye, but we’ll also take your sisters to bed.

Drink up me ‘earties you ho.

 

 Yo, ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

 

Um wait a second… what exactly are we talking about here?

Pirates of the Caribbean has never been politically correct. It is impossible to imagine much of the atttractcion passing through Disney’s corporate filters today.

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Looting, arson, murder and rape… now lets get a churro.

Earlier on the list we took a look Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It carries guests on an intoxicated romp through city streets and includes multiple attempts at vehicular homicide and a trip to hell. As very “un-Disney” as that attraction may seem it has nothing on Pirates of the Caribbean, a ride that celebrates looting, rape, torture, sexual slavery, arson and more.

Yet Pirates of the Caribbean is widely considered to be Disney’s top ride and in fact the greatest theme park attraction ever created. You would be hard pressed to find any ride designer, theme park fan or Disney freak who would not put Pirates at the very top of their “best of” list.

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Some concept art was even less subtle that what made it into the attraction.

Think about it. Pirates of the Caribbean is nearly 50 years old and is still one of the top draws at every park is appears in. It created an entire genre of rides and was chiefly responsible for defining what we know as a “Disney style” attraction. It was created by legendary Imagineers and has even spawned a hugely successful series of films.

Pirates of the Caribbean opened in 1967 at Disneyland and immediately redefined what a theme park attraction could be. Moreover Pirates was the last attraction that Walt Disney personally supervised to the point of final design (though he did not live to actually see its completion). It is impossible to over-state the importance of this attraction regarding the history of the Walt Disney Company, modern theme park attractions or even themed experiences in general. Without Pirates there would be no Haunted Mansion. Without Pirates there would be no EPCOT Center. Without Pirates of the Caribbean there would be no Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Simply put: Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean is the absolute pinnacle of theme park design and the most significant attraction in Disney’s or any other theme park company’s history.

The attraction boasts lavish sets, memorable songs and amazing artistry, but also a rabid legion of fans that span multiple generations and cross all cultural lines. For a group of “really bad eggs” people flat out love these pirates.

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The original “Pooped Pirate”; sexual assault at gunpoint has never been so much fun.

With this in mind it can come as no surprise that fans were outraged and livid in 1997 when the Walt Disney Company announced imminent changes coming to the beloved attraction. What may have seemed amusingly naughty in the mid-sixties was feeling a bit more ominous 30 years later. The original incarnation of the ride clearly depicted swashbucklers chasing down women with a sexual intent. Pirates could be heard offering to share the “wenches” with guests and uttered other lewd and suggestive dialogue.

Upon examination the attraction is one illegal, illicit or morally reprehensible scene after another from start to finish. The town magistrate is tortured, the women of the town are rounded up and sold at auction and eventually the entire town is burned to the ground… Pirates were not nice guys.

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Pirates used to chase the ladies…

Though the ride depicted many wretched things it did so with a tongue-in-cheek approach than softened the hard edges and created an overall tone that was lighthearted and campy. Regardless, in the mid nineties there was a growing swell of complaints that the acts portrayed on the attraction were not appropriate for a family fun park. It could be argued that Disney was actually presenting a fair and accurate representation of Pirates rendered in a more palatable manner (ironically Disney is often accused of white-washing the realities of history). One could also be reminded that Pirates were outlaws and criminals and any attraction themed around them would need to include the acts that they were known for. Nonetheless park management decided it was time for a change.

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…but then they started chasing chicks.

Originally the pirates pursued attractive woman as they scurried away in a famous series of chase scenes. One heavy-set woman turned the tables and lustfully ran after a scrawny pirate. This scene, with an apparently sexually starved woman, was also seen as offensive; critics asked why it was only the heaviest woman who not only welcomed the Pirate’s amorous attentions but actively sought it out as well? And why was it that the only woman the pirates were not interested in happened to be the overweight one? Beyond concerns of weight discrimination critics lashed out about the general premise and the overtly sexual and abusive themes.

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From lustful desire…

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…to self protection.

The first changes gave the heavyset woman a rolling pin to brandish. She was no longer lustfully chasing down an unwilling pirate lover but now fending him off and protecting herself.

More changes came later in a rather ham-fisted attempt to remove the sexual overtones from the chase scenes. A 1997 overhaul (to the original Disneyland version) added food and drinks to the hands of the fleeing damsels in distress. Disney aimed to tell guests that the pirates were now hungry, not horny. The scoundrels were not chasing the women themselves but rather the delicious delights in their possession. Not content to leave the largest women alone they oddly upped the weight insensitive suggestions by having her now chase down a pirate who was carrying a hunk of ham. No longer was she trying to bed a bandit or even trying to chase him away, rather she was so ravished with her endless need to gorge herself that she just had to get her hands on that ham at all costs. The rest of the more slender women trotted along protecting dinner from the grubby hands of the invading riff-raff.

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Must Get HAM!!!!

A short bit later another scene originally depicted a drunken buccaneer known as the “Pooped Pirate”; exhausted from his encounter with an unwilling victim he rested against a wood barrel. Guests would hear his frustrated commentary as he held a piece of her undergarments and asked for our help in finding her. The terrified woman would occasionally reveal herself. Trembling with fear she hid in a barrel near the would-be rapist. This scene was altered so that the Pooped Pirate (now surrounded by a bounty of food) complains about hunger and how he is in search of a fine pork loin (you really can’t make this stuff up). For some unexplained reason a scared cat of all things replaced the poor woman in the barrel.

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He’s still pooped but now he is bloated and in search of a pork loin as well… doesn’t he see one sitting right next to him?

Similar changes were previously made at the Walt Disney World version of the ride. There the female victims carried treasure in lieu of food and while the terrified woman remained in the barrel she held a treasure map suggesting the pooped pirate was in search of gold and not a different kind of booty.

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The original version… does adding some mugs on a tray really change the meaning?

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Just give the guy the freaking mugs already… it would make things a lot easier and he is really thirsty.

Other clearly controversial and misogynistic scenes remained largely untouched, most notably the auction scene depicting enslaved woman as they are sold to the highest bidder for the apparent pleasure of the drunken sailors nearby. The pirates are most enchanted with the busty redhead while a less conventionally attractive woman cowers with embarrassment (and perhaps concern that she will be chosen at all); another sobs with fear.

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Are they suggesting sex crimes are OK if you are really hot?

Disney may have been taken aback by the very vocal complaints these changes garnished. It was not only the fans but also even some of the original designers (mostly old men by this time) who complained. Xavier “X” Atencio, the show’s writer and composer of its catchy song feared that the changes turned the pirates into “The Boy Scouts of the Caribbean”. The mainstream press picked up on the changes too and soon newscasts were filled with stories about Disney “caving” to pressure while others criticized the changes as either not going far enough or that no changes should have been made at all (Disney could not win for trying). It was unprecedented to have such a widespread outpouring of concern and anger (on both sides of the controversy) over alterations to a theme park attraction. Late night talk show hosts made jokes, radio shows discussed the various implications and Disney was caught in a media storm it surely did not expect.

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The undertones of scenes like this were probably lost on most riders.

Perhaps Disney should have simply left the attraction alone. As George Lucas also discovered around this same time; when a classic is altered, regardless of the intent behind it, those who grew up with said classic and those who have true love and admiration for it will never accept the changes. It is as if a piece of their childhood has been ripped away from them and tossed to the side. People fear that it is a slippery-slope leading to a bland homogenization of everything they once loved. Disney was placed in a very difficult situation; the critic’s points could not be denied but the fans love of the attraction knew no bounds. It is very unlikely that proponents enjoyed the ride because it suggested misogamy and in fact most who rode probably never really understood it that way to begin with, to them it was a silly spoof.

To be fair other more positive alterations were made to the Disneyland attraction at this same time. The recently closed World of Motion ride at Epcot made many audio animatronics figures available to be re-used. Marc Davis, the same Imagineer who designed the pirates and in the same exaggerated cartoon fashion, designed these figures. In fact many of the World of Motion figures were sculpts originally created for Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney’s designers tried to incorporate these animatronics into the attraction in order to better flesh out the story and enhance several scenes.

Wolrd-of-Motion-Pirate

Look Familiar?

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Six years later Disney released “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl”, a big screen action adventure movie with very loose ties back to the original attraction. The movie starred Johnny Depp and was a massive hit, so big in fact that Disney decided to alter the theme park attractions once again. This time the stated intent was not to sanitize the more lewd aspects pirate life but rather to inject elements of the film series into the attraction that inspired it. Nonetheless it gave Disney another crack the more suggestive parts of the ride.

In 2006 a new version of the attraction debuted. Disney decided to alter the chase scenes once again. Now in the Florida version two pirates inexplicably run in a circle each holding an end of a treasure chest. In Disneyland vignettes featured newly empowered women chasing pirates who have stolen pies (man those pirates really are nasty). No longer are the pirates trying to capture the women for sexual gratification, treasure or even to satisfy their hunger. Now the women are the aggressors hunting down the befuddled and inept seaman.

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Today Mr. Depp peeks at a map while the pooped pirate tries to beat him to the treasure. The entire plot of the ride has changed.

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Johnny, Johnny everywhere!

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The pooped pirate remains but now Captain Jack Sparrow (from the films) peers from the same barrel that once hid the frightened girl. It appears as though Jack is looking over the treasure map the pooped pirate clutches. The plot of the attraction has been shifted, Pirates are now in search of Jack Sparrow and trying to beat him to the treasure, the town and its inhabitants are inconsequential. Additional figures of Captain Jack and his nemesis Captain Barbossa were added as well. Even music lifted from the movies found it’s way into the attraction. Most of the changes made in 1997 were removed including several of the World of Motion figures and the overall “Pirates are hungry” motif. Now the attraction that inspired the films had been consumed by them. Pirates of the Caribbean had been turned into a promotional synergistic corporate shill.

For thirty years Pirates of the Caribbean stood virtually untouched, then within a decade nearly every scene had been alltered in one way or another. Additional minor changes continue today (in order to insert more elements from the movies) with more inevitably to come as the film franchise marches on. Somehow through all of this the auction scene that in many ways is the most offensive of them all remains intact.

Wench-Auction

There are at least four offensive things in this image, can you spot them all?

Pirates of the Caribbean is still an awesome ride but it is a ride that now has a different tone, a different plot and a different intent from the original incarnation. It is not so much about whether it is a “good” or “bad” ride but rather about what happens when a truly beloved experience is altered (and many would argue unnecessarily so). Perhaps they had no choice? Perhaps times have changed? But Disney messed around with the crown jewel in their collection and because of that it earns the number one spot on our list.

Did we miss anything? Are you surprised? Do you agree or disagree?

Let us know and lets hope that there are precious few controversial surprises to come!

Near Misses

We have made our way through nine of the top ten Disney Theme Park Controversies (T.T.D.T.P.C.) but before we reveal number one let’s take a look at some of the other contenders that just missed the list.

To catch up with the rest of the list click HERE

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The original ticket to the coolest place ever.

• The gradual bust consistent loss of the original EPCOT Center.

We have already discussed the Figment debacle as well as the very sad fate of Horizons but what about the park as a whole, especially Future World? EPCOT Center suffers from many of the same problems as the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland; when you try and predict the future you will not only fail but also become dated very quickly. In some ways it is surprising that Disney took on the challenges of Future World give that by the late 70’s they already knew how impossible it was to keep Tomorrowland fresh. For the first 8 years or so Future World was an amazing place filled with legitimately forward thinking ideas and some actual science. Over the years things inevitably did age and in an effort to move the park to long term sustainable ground much of the futuristic elements were slowly removed.

The Energy Pavilion got a comedic makeover.

The World of Motion became a thrill ride.

The Living Seas pavilion was filled with cartoon characters.

The Wonders of Life pavilion went away completely (though to be fair this was a late-comer than never truly fit the original vibe of EPCOT Center to begin with).

Communicore became leased out advertising space and so on…

What we saw was a complete distortion of the original intent of EPCOT Center; even the name was changed to simply Epcot… no longer was this the center of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow… now it was just a meaningless made up word.

So why did it not make our list? It has taken place over many years and is still going on today… even World Showcase is now being affected (Mexico and soon Norway). It’s too broad and slow of a process to be considered one controversy… though I do feel it is sad and as a whole one of the worst things ever to happen to the parks.

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Seriously pretty

• Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage

20K as it was known was perhaps the most beautiful attraction Disney ever created. It was housed in a magnificent lagoon fed by waterfalls and filled with a fleet of incredible Jules Verne inspired (and Harper Goff designed) submarines. For a child it held real magic. As a young kid I recall visiting the parks and thinking it was so cool that in one day we could fly to Disney, then be on a monorail and a boat before we even enter the park! Once inside the Magic Kingdom we could go below the sea and a fantastic adventure… it blew my mind, it was magic, anything could happen. But 20K took up a huge piece of valuable land, it was a very low capacity ride, it was extremely expensive to operate and maintain and it had the added hindrance of not being easily accessible for disabled visitors.

Many fans were very sad when it was abruptly closed in 1994 under the guise of refurbishment (the permanent closure was made official in 1996). For well over a decade the lagoon sat unused and that made its closure even worse; it had not removed to build something new, it was removed simply to save money.

It did not make the list because there were other attraction closures that made even bigger waves… but 20K will always be a personal favorite of mine (and the first attraction I worked on way back when).

As an aside a similar fate awaited the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland. In 1998 and for the same reasons as 20K the attraction as suddenly closed. This time however the management was toying with alt’s original park and many Imagineers took personal offense at this. Quickly Walt Disney Imagineering erected a sign in the lagoon announcing the imminent construction of an attraction based on the Disney animated film Atlantis” The Lost Empire. This was a rogue action not approved by park management and with no real solid truth behind it; it was in essence a protest by the Imagineers. Atlantis tanked at the box office and the sign was quickly removed. The lagoon sat empty for 7 years but after a regime change a glimmer of light appeared. In 2007 a new version of the attraction themed after Finding Nemo opened. It lacks much of the charm of the original but the subs remain alive at Disneyland (for the moment at least) and the Imagineers can chalk this one up as a win.

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Seriously ugly

• Dinorama at Animal Kingdom

When Animal Kingdom opened there were two undeniable facts:

1) It was an incredible park with and incredible theme.

2) It was VERY short on attractions and most people barely spent half a day there before they felt that they had “seen everything” (On the other hand I spent days on end exploring the place).

They needed more attractions, especially those aimed at kids. The chief designer Joe Rohde will tell you that they also needed some kinetic movement for the park, that trees and shrubs were not enough to keep people moving throughout the lands. However the truth is simply that Dinorama provided a quick “fix” for early complaints. Much like we later saw with DCA by adding off the shelf carnival rides Disney could up the attraction count very cheaply.

Today Dinorama is an eyesore for the park. It contains two kiddy rides and some midway games. It also prevented the building of the much larger and more elaborate dinosaur excavation themed roller coaster originally planed for the Dinoland area.

Ultimately other controversies overshadow this one so it missed the top ten… I’d still love to see it go the way of the T-Rex though.

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Tickets, Apps, Reservations and rubber bands… sounds like fun

• Fast Pass confusion

The introduction of Fast Pass caused all sorts of confusion and complaints amongst guests. While fans quickly adapted to and exploited the system it took years and years to educate the average guest. In fact a decade later many first time visitors were still clueless and did not understand how to use it.

Enter Fast Pass+… an even more confusing and involved system that now requires making reservations for rides before even leaving on your trip, wearing a RFID chip embedded wrist bands and carrying a smarty phone to access a Disney mobile app. Disney claims they did this to make vacations simpler. I think they did it because it makes spending money easier. Guests now do not even need to reach for their wallets… just a wave of the magic band and you have charged dinner, or a snack or that t-shirt you kind of like to your credit card. I am sure studies have shown that this ease of purchasing raises total bills by a significant percentage. The billion dollars they spent building the system will come back in spades… if they can get people adjusted to using it.

It did not make the list because we really don’t know what will happen yet and though it has caused a great deal of confusion it has not caused that much controversy.

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Chief Wilson Matua will keep you safe… and don’t forget to recycle!

• Message of conservation at Animal Kingdom

When the park first opened Disney was intent on letting guests know that this was not a zoo and more so they were taking active efforts to educate visitors about conservation. This was evident in many ways from donations to wildlife foundations to not using plastic straws in the park. Perhaps the biggest and most controversial implementation of this idea was the original storyline of Kilimanjaro Safari.

The very first story-line not only had guests chasing down poachers but actually riding by the hulking corpse of “Big Red” the matriarch of the reservation’s herd of elephants. Before the park opened Disney decided that actually seeing a dead bloodied elephant was too graphic and so the corpse was removed. However the message of poaching and conservation remained. Many guests complained about this either not understanding or agreeing with its message. After more than a decade the conservation message was toned down and now instead of a poachers camp we see more animals and the ride ends without having any direct conservation story at all.

While this is interesting and an example of a dilution of the park’s original messages it just was not a big enough issue to make the top 10.

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The future is kind of rusty

• Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland circa 1998

As mentioned earlier Tomorrowland has always been an issue for Disney. Keeping it new feeling is a very difficult proposition. In the mid-nineties Disney was reeling from the financial failure of Euro Disney (see both DCA and Disney’s America entries on our list). Tomorrowland at Disneyland had not seen significant changes since 1968 and this had to addressed, yet management did not want to spend money on the parks… so the budget for the New Tomorrowland was slashed.

Disney tried to avoid the issue of an aging future in much the same way they did at Disneyland Paris… by making it more about the past and how the future was envisioned years ago. Space Mountain and much of the land was painted a muted copper / aged bronze look… fans hated it. Little of substance was improved within Tomorrowland; Honey I Shrunk the Audience replaced Caption Eo, the Autopia received updated cars, and Circle-Vision was closed. The general public’s take was that it was uglier and more confusing than ever before… but the biggest failure was the one new large-scale attraction being introduced.

Rocket Rods was intended to be the centerpiece of the new land. It took over the WedWay People Mover tracks and was meant as a high-speed thrill ride above Tomorrowland. Budget restraints prevented the tracks from being modified and the results were a technical nightmare. The Rocket Rods rarely worked and when they did the ride was a short, herky-jerky mess. It was closed for good in 2000 making it one of the shortest-lived attractions in Disney’s history.

Alas it missed the list because most of it has been restored or changed at this point and there is very little left of the botched 1998 redo. This is another example of how short-sided budgetary decisions cost Disney much more in the long run.

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Why?

• The Tiki Room Under New Management

We have seen it several times on the list: when they mess with classic attractions people get mad.

In this case Disney took one of the most classic attractions ever (The Enchanted Tiki Room) and removed all the songs and characters people knew and loved. They replaced them with movie tie-ins and along the way insulted the original show.

Eventually a small fire closed the attraction and rather than spending money to re-create a show no one liked Disney relented and brought back the original show (although an edited version).

It missed the list narrowly as the concept was already covered with several other entries.

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pointless

• It’ a Small World now starring your favorite Disney character!

When Hong Kong Disneyland opened it was yet again a park severely impacted by the financial troubles of Euro Disney (how could one park affect so much for so ling!). It was given a small budget and that budget did not allow many attractions to be built. Rather than taking the DCA approach of filling the park with cheap rides they simply did not build many at all. Predictably fans were not pleased and crowds failed to come. Disney once again found themselves in the position of needing to quickly add new attractions. In this case the classic It’s a Small World was chosen to be added to Fantasyland.

This was a fine idea but in an effort to introduce the Chinese to the Disney characters, many of which they had never been exposed to, Disney added several of their animated stars to sing alongside the Small World dolls.

This was generally not seen as too great of an issue… it was happening thousands of miles away, it was a new version of the ride and specifically being used to introduce Disney to a new audience… but when that same plan came to Disneyland it was not accepted with open arms.

Fans argued that adding the characters specifically flew in the face of what the ride was about. It was meant to be a celebration of children from the world over singing in unity. The characters drew attention away from the overall message and made it into a sort of “Where’s Waldo” of Disney attractions as guests hunted for the new character additions. It introduced a pure fantasy element that the original never had. While Small World was fantastical and fanciful it still was about the real people of real cultures… suddenly we had mermaids and talking fish sharing space with the boys and girls of the world.

Many fans were vocal about not liking the changes but those complaints were ignored and the characters are still in Disneyland though they have not made their way to Walt Disney World as of yet.

It was a big one but it missed the list simply because the top 10 were even bigger.

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If you look closely you may spot a puddle of my tears

Magic Shop(s):

Shane will make fin of me for this but the Magic Shops (yes there were two) at the Magic Kingdom were to me what the Swiss Tree house is to Shane. They represented a special place that I visited every trip.

I am including it here for strictly personal reasons… I am sure virtually no one else even noticed that they were removed… but it is symbolic of a monumental shift in how the parks were being run.

Prior to this (sometime in the mid 90’s) Disney allowed little shops or quiet spaces to exist in the parks. They were not churning out high dollar per square foot totals but they enhanced the over all experience. In the case of the House of Magic (which also sold masks and jokes) kids could pick up a gag and play a prank on their parents or pretend to be a monster for the day. It was another element of escapism and I have many fond memories of times spent in the shops and the results of the purchases made there. I fooled my dad into eating a super hot version of salt-water taffy on one trip. On another I learned a card trick that wowed my family (legitimately) to the point that they had me showing waiters at the various restaurants. There was always something special about the stores. They were not selling Disney shirts; they were in essence selling memories. These memories perfectly mesh with the feeling of fantasy that the park itself has.

I view the closure of the magic stores as a sign of the shift in tone for the parks. They became a little less about providing great memories and a little more about squeezing every dollar out of the parks that they could… and that to me is the biggest controversy of them all.

To see the number one most controversial move click HERE!