One of the things I love most about Disney is the level of detail its imagineers put into the attractions. I saw this on our Disney cruise last year aboard the ship the Dream, and now most recently I saw this at Disneyland. All theme parks have rides-some that are fast and thrilling, others that are slow and lackluster-but not all theme parks go the extra mile to interest their guests and make the rides actually “come to life.” Here are some of my favorite rides at Disneyland, specifically regarding the incredible level of detail that has gone into them. -Splash Mountain (Critter Country)
I have loved the Splash Mountain ride ever since I was seven and got to ride on it for the first time. It’s your standard log flume ride but offers more than just a big drop with a soak filled ending. For the entire ride, you’re rewarded with anamatronics and neat innovations that tell the story of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear and other characters from the 1946 Walt Disney film Song of the South (the same film that produced the timeless classic “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah”). It’s also a ride that is more than the standard two minutes long because even after the steep drop, there is still another minute or so of entertainment while floating back to the debarking area.
-Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (California Adventure) This is a ride found only at the Disneyland Resort and of all of the tamer rides (those that are appropriate for all age demographics) we went on, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure was my favorite. While a part of me attributes this to my love for The Little Mermaid movie and the fact that Ariel is the only Disney princess with red hair, the whole ride experience was fantastic. Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is relatively new to the resort and is located in a Victorian Exposition-style building. It’s an omnimover-style ride (just like the Haunted Mansion) and guests are seated in a giant clam shell. As Ariel is a mermaid after all, riders descend “below the waves” to an underwater terminal that shows famous scenes from The Little Mermaid complete with music and dialogue, including “Kiss the Girl,” “Part of this World,” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” featuring a very intimidating and extremely large Urusla animatronic. My favorite part was the “Under the Sea” scene, as it was just as colorful and bright as it was in the animated film.
-Storybook Land Canal Boats (Fantasyland) When I visited Disneyland as a little girl, I always remembered the giant whale that was part of a boat ride attraction in the Fantasyland section. Although the wait for the Canal Boats was one of the longest ones we endured (there were no fastpass options for any of the rides in Fantasyland), coupled with the waiting area offering no shade, it was definitely worth it for its uniqueness. After passing through the gaping mouth of Monstro the whale, boat riders are taken through a storybook village which shows miniature representations of famous buildings and landmarks from Disney animated movies. My favorite was Agrabah from Aladdin.
-California Screamin’ (California Adventure) With the exception of those that have riders standing up, I go on just about any roller coaster. So getting a fast pass for California Screamin’, a roller coaster that is designed to resemble a turn of the 20th century coaster, was at the top of our list upon arriving at California Adventure. From a distance it looks like an old-timey roller coaster you might see at a boardwalk, but upon closer examination you can see that it employs 21st century engineering. Riders are blasted up a steep incline to an altitude of almost 120 feet and then plunged downward. Its steel tracks cover a distance of almost 1-1/8 miles and so just when you think there are no more plunges or turns to be had, there always are.
-Tower of Terror (California Adventure) If I had to choose a favorite ride, this might be it. It’s one of those that I could go on continuously and never grow tired of. The story goes that in Hollywood on October 31, 1939, four guests and a bellhop stepped into one of the elevators at the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel. The hotel was struck by lightening and transported the elevator cart that was full of passengers into the Twilight Zone, causing an entire wing of the hotel to disappear. For most level of detail, the Tower of Terror wins in my opinion. It is 183 feet tall and features a blackened scorch mark across the front of the facade where the lightening is supposed to have struck. Even when standing in line, Disney imagineers incorporated unique elements into the waiting portion-from the 1930s era music that is playing to the darkened and dusty lobby which features a faded copy of an October 31, 1939 Los Angeles Examiner and an unfinished game of Scrabble-everything in the hotel was designed to give the look that nothing has changed since it closed down more than 70 years ago. Riders (or hotel guests as they are referred to by the ride’s staff who are attired in 1930s bellhop uniforms) are told that one elevator in the hotel is still in working condition, the maintenance service elevator in the basement boiler room. This is the elevator that riders board and that ultimately takes them to the top of the 183 foot building for not one but two terrifying plummets in the dark. My favorite part of the ride is when the doors of the elevator open at the very top of the building allowing riders to see all of the theme park before them, only for the doors to shut just as quickly and the car rapidly drops.
More in this series!