Seven Best Attractions Walt Disney Developed
What’s the first Disney attraction that comes to mind when you think about the classics?
Which rides do you view as iconic, and which one do you believe is superior to the rest?
These questions are challenging, especially since so many of us weren’t around when Disneyland opened in 1955.
So, let’s have a bit of fun this week. Let’s debate the best classic Disney attraction.
7) Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
The only rule here is that Walt Disney had to work on the ride in some way. If Walt didn’t touch something, it’s not an old school classic.
This requirement takes some fantastic attractions off the board, but it leaves at least one surprise on the board.
More impressively, we have three opening day attractions that have stood the test of time.
Yes, Walt Disney had a hand in three different 1955 rides that people still love today. And that’s why we still love Walt today.
Out of the seven, I’m ranking Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at the bottom, which breaks my heart. I prefer it to three of the others listed here.
Still, the honest evaluation is that Magic Kingdom officials care so little for this attraction that they closed it all the way back in the 1990s.
So, while I love the cheeky humor and the shockingly dark ending, I must accept that mine is the minority opinion.
6) It’s a Small World
Quantifying the quality of multi-generational attractions counts as an impossible task. You’ll disagree with many of these selections/rankings.
For instance, I possess a love/hate vibe about It’s a Small World. I ride it virtually every time I visit Magic Kingdom.
However, I wouldn’t say that I love it. Perhaps admiration summarizes my feelings better.
Walt Disney somehow put this ride together in less than a year and while facing impossible circumstances.
He built the happiest boat ride ever in the midst of the Cold War.
In fact, the planning of It’s a Small World happened only months after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Uncle Walt emphasized a stubbornly optimistic theme, and he wanted it to feel inclusive to all countries.
More than 50 years later, the joy of It’s a Small World remains.
I guess I just outgrew puppets at some point, but it thrills me to know that many haven’t.
4) Jungle Cruise
I went back and forth on the next two selections. Both of them are exceptional, yet each one dates back to Disneyland’s opening day.
I don’t think I could offer Walt Disney higher praise than that. We’re 65 years past that date, yet the wait for Jungle Cruise often passes an hour.
People never grow tired of the puns that weren’t part of the original plan for this boat ride.
Cast members ran Jungle Cruise seriously at the start, but nobody could keep up that illusion for long. So, they started mocking, and people loved it.
In recent years, rumors have persisted that Disney might change the ride, especially with The Rock and Emily Blunt’s Jungle Cruise movie coming.
Whenever this discussion comes up, people loudly espouse their feelings on the subject. And the consensus opinion is that Jungle Cruise is perfect as is.
4) Peter Pan’s Flight
Okay, I think that slotting Peter Pan’s Flight ahead of Jungle Cruise qualifies as my least popular decision. I put a lot of thought into it, though.
Peter Pan’s Flight represents more than just a movie turned into a theme park attraction. It’s also one of the most brilliant ride mechanics.
Thanks to a bit of Pixie Dust, you get swept in the air and carried to Neverland.
Imagineers respect this style so much that Soarin’ does the same thing, only with a different approach.
Peter Pan’s Flight gives frequent flyer mileage to two guests, while dozens of people soar each trip around the world.
Cast members also proudly refer to Avatar Flight of Passage as Soarin’ on Steroids, making Peter Pan’s Flight its grandfather.
That’s the reason why I favor this ride over Jungle Cruise in terms of being the best.
3) Haunted Mansion
Oddly, that was the toughest call, though. The top three are pretty obvious.
None of them technically opened while Walt Disney was alive, though. That’s the only wrinkle here. However, he worked on each one.
Haunted Mansion was famously supposed to be a walkthrough attraction or possibly even a Museum of the Weird.
Then, many legendary Imagineers fought through a schism regarding the tone of the ride. Some wanted silly, while others prioritized scary.
That divide helped perfect Haunted Mansion, which works because it blurs the line between hysterical and horrifying.
Do you laugh when The Bride references the deaths of her former husbands? Yeah, that’s pretty messed up.
If the ride were serious throughout, we wouldn’t find it funny. And after more than 50 years, we’re still laughing.
2) Space Mountain
Okay, here’s the one that requires a bit of explaining.
Yes, this attraction opened in 1975, nine years after Walt Disney’s death. However, he is often credited with coming up with the ride concept.
Ever the showman, Walt wanted a space-age equivalent to Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Unfortunately, computers were the size of a small office back then. So, the technology wasn’t available yet.
Imagineers had to wait for nearly a decade before they could build the ride sensors they needed for the futuristic track.
Sadly, Uncle Walt didn’t live to witness the output of his idea, but the results speak for themselves.
Space Mountain redefined the roller coaster concept, elevating the premise into something unforgettable. It’s undeniably the ultimate Disney coaster.
Sure, other thrill rides provide a better experience today. Still, none of them possesses the history and significance of Space Mountain.
Alas, one classic Disney attraction is still better.
1) Pirates of the Caribbean
Was this the ride you would have picked? I’m genuinely curious.
I think a consensus opinion here would be hard to form due to all these Disney attractions’ lasting quality.
However, I have to pick one, and I quickly settled on Pirates of the Caribbean as the best of the bunch.
This ride seems synonymous with Disney and theme park attractions alike, and it’s fitting for another reason.
Walt Disney barely missed the opening of this attraction. His health declined rapidly, but he had the highest of hopes for Pirates of the Caribbean.
To experience the attractions as millions would after his death, Disney “rode” a contraption of pulleys that carried him over the water.
He could only imagine how the sensations would differ on a boat as guests gazed at the pirate sets. Still, at least he knew his Imagineers had built something special.
Over the years, Disney has plussed the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction multiple times, but the core remains the same.
You get in a boat and listen to Yo, Ho! (A Pirate’s Life For Me) as you watch the silliness of drunken pirates getting into trouble.
This charmer’s unmistakably Disney and probably the greatest dark ride of the 20th century. It’s also the best classic Disney attraction, in my opinion.
If you feel differently, I totally understand. Tell me your choice in the comments!