Which Disney Rides Are Most Likely to Break Down?
Have you ever stopped to consider how many moving parts comprise a Disney attraction?
I’m not even talking about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, either. Well, not yet. I’m more generally referring to the set pieces and ride carts.
Why, Pirates of the Caribbean alone operates thousands of ride components, from the boats to the Audio-Animatronics to the lighting effects.
Frankly, we could accurately describe Imagineers as miracle workers for keeping the show going each day.
Alas, some attractions do suffer the occasional issue, which leads to breakdowns.
Here are some of the Walt Disney World attractions most likely to tear up, along with a few reasons as to why.
Frozen Ever After
As a public safety act, Reedy Creek occasionally publishes a list of the attractions that most often require fire department evacuations.
We’ll discuss several different ways that rides tear up, but let me be blunt. When the fire department has to save you, that’s the worst.
I’m fortunate enough to have avoided this fate thus far – knock on wood – but I’ve watched it on several occasions. It’s always tense.
Somehow, Frozen Ever After has required the largest number of fire department evacuations among all Disney attractions.
In fact, during the earliest days of the attraction, the fire department averaged a rescue a week!
Imagineers switched the ride tracks from Maelstrom for this boat ride. Apparently, some spots came with poor boat navigation and cautious sensors.
That’s just the evacuation breakdowns. The Audio-Animatronics utilize new digital mapping technology that’s known to go crazy.
Sometimes, Anna’s face looks like a Rorschach test. The ride cannot function when the immersion gets ruined to that degree.
Kali River Rapids
I mentioned that I’ve watched evacuations. Kali River Rapids caused the worst one I ever saw.
At the start of this raft ride, the vessels slide up an incline. Well, that mechanism failed, and it caused the equivalent of a 20-car pile-up.
I didn’t count the total number of stranded rafts, but it was certainly more than 10. Since these boats hold up to 12 people, there were a lot of upset guests.
Such incidents reflect the precarious nature of theme park design. When developers add to a ride experience, they also introduce uncontrollable elements.
Hardware malfunctions. That’s a fact of life. When a de facto raft escalator breaks down, well, it’s funny to watch.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Some results surprise me, and this one definitely falls under that umbrella.
The Winnie the Pooh ride at Magic Kingdom also comes with a high number of evacuations, a fact I struggle to comprehend.
The Hunny Pots go like five miles per hour. Presumably, they prove impossible to dislodge when they get stuck in place, though.
I presume that this ride features fewer good spots for emergency exits, although that’s pure conjecture on my part.
It’s either that explanation, or we all agree to blame the Heffalumps.
Peter Pan’s Flight
Now, this ride makes perfect sense. The experience causes unmistakable structural problems.
Unlike most attractions, Peter Pan’s Flight takes guests up in the air.
The ride experience should make you believe that you can fly. Since it’s evolved into an Omnimover attraction over the years, that’s the issue.
When a ride tears up in mid-air, fixing it requires a giant ladder. Seriously, if you ever watch behind-the-scenes ride footage, you’ll notice this.
Exasperated cast members offer a dejected “here we go again” look as they climb up to fix Peter Pan’s Flight.
So, this one’s among the most evacuated attractions, too. It’s a small price to pay to fly above London and soar into Neverland, though.
Pirates of the Caribbean
I mostly explained this one already. Pirates of the Caribbean features some of the busiest sets in theme park history.
Drunken pirates laze about while a dog with a key torments prisoners. Cannonballs explode from ships, and Captain Jack hides from enemies.
If, say, the wife with the broom stops chasing her husband, it’s a problem. If the boat goes off-course, it’s a full stop.
With so many things that can go wrong, Pirates of the Caribbean understandably suffers more downtime than less complicated rides.
One of my favorite Disney facts is that Space Mountain needed 10 years to build because computers weren’t powerful enough for it.
The ride required unprecedented ride sensors to keep up with each roller coaster cart’s placement on the tracks.
That’s impossible for cast members to do in the dark. So, Disney waited until processing power caught up with the ride’s demands.
Today, Space Mountain includes countless sensors, and all of them must signal that they’re in working order.
Should any sensor message the system that a coaster cart is out of place, the ride shuts down automatically.
Full resets like this sometimes take time, depending on the severity of the situation.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Everything I just said about Pirates of the Caribbean applies to Rise of the Resistance, only to the logical extreme.
I often describe the latest Star Wars attraction as four or five rides in one. Technologically, that’s not an exaggeration.
Imagineers have married several disparate ride designs under one umbrella. And each of them comes with a failure rate.
So, the closures of Rise of the Resistance come down to math. Sometimes, Disney operates the attraction in B-mode to avoid full closure.
If you ever notice the Kylo Ren Audio-Animatronic missing, that’s what has happened.
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?
A site that I respect tracks daily ride shutdowns. While I didn’t use any of their data for this article, I must share this anecdote.
By their calculations, Test Track claims a weird feat. It’s the only Walt Disney World attraction that you should expect to tear up while you’re there.
Most of the rides I discuss here will break down a couple of times per week, usually for an hour or two.
Imagineers need that time to verify that everything is safe to run again.
Test Track can go down for substantial periods because its cutting-edge technology remains challenging to keep online.
Oh, and this roller coaster shuts down for another reason beyond anyone’s control. It cannot run during inclement weather.
So, Test Track is the most likely Disney ride to tear down.
Toy Story Mania!
I’m going to say something that you won’t believe. The underlying computer technology for Toy Story Mania! runs on Windows XP.
Yes, the state-of-the-art operating system from 2001 provides the baseline for the entire ride. You can read the technical details here.
I’ll be honest that I have no idea whether Disney has since upgraded the hardware for the system.
However, based on what I know from my computer science training, many hardware systems choose not to upgrade for fear of causing software glitches.
Some missile silos still utilize floppy disks. I’m not even joking.
Even if Imagineers have upgraded, the sheer volume of 3-D computer animations will cause a drag on any system.
The ride carts must also spin and route to the correct spots, or the entire system fails. So, it’s easy to understand why this ride tears up frequently.
Feature Image Rights: Disney