One Fun Fact about Each Walt Disney World Boat Ride
Nobody does boat rides better than Disney. Since day one, Imagineers have mastered the craft of water-based attractions, rides that cool you off while entertaining you. Currently, Walt Disney World hosts nine of them, and I’d like to teach you a bit about each one. Here’s a fun fact about every boat ride at Walt Disney World.
1. Frozen Ever After Killed Maelstrom
Here’s one quick ground rule. The ride must take place on a boat. Simply having a nautical theme isn’t enough. So, you won’t find The Seas with Nemo & Friends or Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid here. Everything else is fair game.
Frozen Ever After is one of the two unplanned attractions on this list. Everything else here was a boat ride that park officials plotted far ahead of time. At the World Showcase, the situation was different.
The previous attraction at the Norway Pavilion, Maelstrom, had become one of the shortest lines at Walt Disney World. Then, Frozen became the most popular original Disney film in ages. With Frozen Fever in full effect, park officials sought a quick solution to satisfy the overwhelming demand for all things Anna & Elsa.
Some enterprising individual had the epiphany that Imagineers could re-theme Maelstrom. The rest is theme park history. Frozen Ever After instantly became the most popular ride at Epcot, with waits of five hours throughout its first months of operation. Sadly, Maelstrom had to die so that Frozen Ever After could live, a regrettable fact.
2. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros Also Killed a Ride!
This fact ties into the last fact! Believe it or not, Frozen Ever After wasn’t the first converted boat ride at Epcot. It wasn’t even the first one at the World Showcase!
The opening day attraction at the Mexico Pavilion was El Rio Del Tiempo, which remained there until 2007. Like Maelstrom, it suffered diminished appeal during the 21st century. And just like Frozen Ever After, Disney upped the desirability of the boat ride by adding an intellectual property (IP).
Only three months after El Rio Del Tiempo closed, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros debuted. It’s a themed version of the same attraction, only with Donald Duck and the rest of the Three Caballeros providing the laughs. Whenever you hear someone complain about Disney changing too many attractions to IPs, let them know that it’s been happening for decades now!
3. It’s a Small World Had Worse Music at First
Do you love the song, It’s a Small World? Some folks adore it while others bemoan its repetitive nature. Believe it or not, a much worse version of It’s a Small World exists, one that would drive you crazier than the tune you know.
The problem with the first version of It’s a Small World is that it overreached. The Sherman Brothers talked with Walt Disney about the theme of international peace. With so many nations and cultures represented, the Shermans decided to join them together.
Every section of the ride played a different national anthem. Due to the open environment of It’s a Small World, guests could hear several anthems at once. And it was excruciating, a cacophony of conflicting music notes. Disney and the Shermans immediately went back to the drawing board to come up with It’s a Small World, the most played song of all-time.
4. Jungle Cruise Is Why There’s Plussing
How many of your favorite Disney rides have evolved over the years? The answer is all of them, and that’s specifically because of Jungle Cruise.
Walt Disney understandably took tremendous pride in all of the attractions during the early days of Disneyland. He was particularly fond of Jungle Cruise, which embodied the ideals of Disney’s television nature shows of the era.
You can imagine Uncle Walt’s frustration when he heard an off-hand comment from a guest. Disney eavesdropped when a group discussed riding Jungle Cruise. One of them overruled the others by saying that there was no point in going back. After all, they’d already ridden it before.
At that moment, the creator of the Happiest Place on Earth had an epiphany. He understood that attractions would gradually lose their appeal over time. It’s the same explanation for the diminishing returns at Maelstrom and El Rio Del Tiempo.
Because of this conversation, Uncle Walt developed the concept of plussing. He decided that no ride would ever be finished, instead requiring frequent updates to maintain freshness and originality.
5. Kali River Rapids Has a Powerful Message
To most guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Kali River Rapids is the place to get wet and thereby cool off on a hot day. What few people realize is that it’s one of the most environmentally-focused attractions in Disney history.
The concept of Kali River Rapids is that illegal loggers have ruined a lush forest. Their destruction of trees has caused a formerly safe boating path to become a reckless white water ride into the unknown.
You can actually see the theme in action just before the ride grows exciting. When you’re on your raft, watch the path ahead of you. You’ll notice a spot where logs are missing. This needless, reckless man-made gap unintentionally opens the wrong path.
6. Living with the Land Provides Food You Can Eat
This Future World attraction shares a commonality with Gran Fiesta Tour. During certain parts of both rides, you can see an adjoining Table Service restaurant. At the Mexico Pavilion, it’s San Angel Inn. At The Land Pavilion, Living with the Land shares the same space with The Garden Grill.
The remarkable fact about Living with the Land actually involves The Garden Grill. Believe it or not, some of the foods that you see developed on the ride are actually served at the restaurant! The same is true of Sunshine Seasons and even some Epcot festivals. Living with the Land doesn’t merely show the process of food harvests. It also practices what it preaches by serving these flavors onsite.
7. Na’Vi River Journey Takes You on a Quest
Did you know that you embark on a quest every time you board this boat ride? It’s true. The premise of Na’Vi River Journey is that you’re in search of someone. Specifically, you’re looking for the Shaman of Songs.
According to Disney, the Shaman of Songs is a hermit who tries to avoid needless social engagements. She simply wants to be at one with nature on Pandora while singing her songs. Your entire ride is a journey in search of a blue woman who is 10-feet-tall.
When you find the Shaman of Songs, she’s happy to see you. It’s not like she’s a jerk who hates people. It’s just that she would prefer to spend her time intensifying her connection with Pandora’s life force. To prove that she’s friendly, she’ll share her gift with you by playing Way Tiretuä, the Shaman Song.
In other words, when you ride Na’Vi River Journey, you’re on a quest that can’t possibly fail.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean Was Walt Disney’s Last Ride
So many aspects of Pirates of the Caribbean are worth mentioning, but the most important one happened before the ride opened. This attraction was the last one that Walt Disney worked on before his death.
Already in poor health, Disney asked his Imagineers to construct a harness system throughout the waters of Pirates of the Caribbean. He wanted this series of hanging pulleys so that he could experience the ride the same way that park guests would. Since the waters weren’t ready for boats yet, the temporary harness system was the only way to visualize the ride.
Tragically, one of the most influential rides in Disney history wasn’t ready in time for the company founder to enjoy it. Walt Disney died three months and three days before Pirates of the Caribbean opened.
9. Splash Mountain Is Named after a 1980s Movie!
You’ve confused this ride with the wrong Disney movie for your entire life! Yes, the final boat ride fact is the mind-blowing one.
Splash Mountain celebrates the music of Song of the South, a movie that’s buried deep in the Disney vault due to its dated take on racial themes. Had the attraction followed the original plan, it would have been called Zip-a-Dee River Run.
Even though Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah provides the soundtrack at the end of the ride, Splash Mountain takes its name from a different Disney movie. In 1984, director Ron Howard followed up his decidedly un-Disney comedy, Night Shift, with a romantic film. It starred a rising actor named Tom Hanks, whose character fell in love with a dolphin played by Daryl Hannah.
Yes, Splash Mountain is named after the movie, Splash!