Disney Pre-Show Entertainment Is Back. Which One Is Best?
In 2020, Walt Disney World’s management team did the right thing.
Park officials closed most pre-show entertainment due to its high-touch nature.
Before the pandemic, Imagineers constructed wondrous interactive features in line queues, the kind that would help guests pass the time.
A 30-minute wait feels shorter when you can play with something while standing in line.
Alas, Disney kept most of these features offline from March of 2020 until quite recently.
Now that these forms of entertainment have returned, it’s time for a refresher course.
Yes, Walt Disney World pre-show entertainment is back. Which one is best?
9) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Let’s start with the grossest one. About a decade ago, park officials introduced a new section to the line queue.
Kids could huddle under Eeyore’s Gloomy Place stick house, beat some drums, or make a bee buzz.
Of course, the most recognizable part of this area requires a great deal of touching. You can make honey drip on an interactive digital display.
Children delight in this opportunity, spelling their names or making a honey-shaped mess.
Even in the best times, you’ll want to use hand sanitizer after playing with this. It was totally out of the question during the pandemic…but it’s back now!
8) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
At one point, this line queue featured more interactivity. Still, you can admire the theming while you walk outside.
Once you enter the building section of the waiting area, you can unlock one of Walt Disney World’s best Easter eggs.
Toward the end of the line queue, you’ll discover barrels that you spin. If successful in rotating them fast enough, one of the Dwarfs appears on the ceiling.
If multiple parties work together to spin their barrels, they can unlock all Dwarfs and thereby earn the bonus. Snow White will appear in the middle!
It looks like this:
How many theme park attractions come with unlockables?
7) Expedition Everest
Whenever I discuss the ride queue for Expedition Everest, the word “authentic” inevitably comes up.
I like synonyms just as much as the next person, but it’s the best word to describe what Imagineers accomplished here.
Famed Disney leader, Joe Rohde, took an entire team of Imagineers to Asia and explored several countries, searching for artifacts.
Then, these cast members returned with several shipments, including relics from Nepal and other places.
The fictional Serka Zong looks like it’s near the Himalayas. Part of the reason why is that the items in the line queue come from there.
Many theme parks would create cheap knockoffs. Disney imported the real deal!
6) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
With some of these selections, I’m making the point that a line queue doesn’t need to be interactive to entertain.
To wit, you’ll know you’re in trouble at the Hollywood Tower Hotel the moment you enter the lobby.
Cobwebs abound, indicating that nobody has checked in here for many years. As you walk through the dusty corridors, a soulless bellhop acts oddly.
In fact, Tower of Terror‘s line queue differentiates itself by varying each visit. Disney gives its bellhops free rein to enhance the experience.
You never know when a cast member may beckon you wordlessly or warn you not to thank them yet.
Of course, the recently reopened part of the line queue is the most memorable aspect.
Rod Serling sets the stage for what you’re about to witness. You’ll genuinely believe that you’ve entered the Twilight Zone!
5) Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Hondo Ohnaka is not messing around. His pirate missions keep the nefarious parts of Batuu in business.
A visit to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run includes a face-to-face meeting with Ohnaka, who holds court from an elevated position above you.
During this encounter, Ohnaka informs you about the mission and what to expect.
This state-of-the-art Audio-Animatronic brings the seedier parts of Black Spire Outpost to life, and Disney brings this point home later.
Ohnaka will provide feedback on your performance as a smuggler. But, unfortunately, he’s…rarely kind.
4) Avatar Flight of Passage
You’ll run the gamut at Avatar Flight of Passage, at least if you pay attention to the meticulous story Rohde tells in the line queue.
At one point, the Resources Development Administration (RDA) utilized the Avatar program to mine resources on Pandora.
This glorified military base emphasized might, which makes part of the queue seem like barracks.
Later, you’ll encounter walls overrun with vegetation. This portion of the queue reflects the bioluminescent aspects of the planet.
The more subtle point involves abandonment. Generations passed after the RDA evacuated Pandora.
Later, Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) took over the base and brought back the Avatar project. Their mission emphasized science, though.
So, the new portion of the line queue features plenty of research equipment. The highlight works as a centerpiece of the room. It’s an eight-foot Na’Vi!
You can look at the process that creates avatars while you’re waiting to ride Avatar Flight of Passage!
3) Test Track
I love this one and missed it as much as anything on this list, save for the top choice.
On Test Track, you get to build a ride, one that can take the form of a sports car, motorcycle, or SUV.
You pick everything from the engine to the wheel caps, and you decide whether your vehicle skews toward powerful or environmentally friendly.
Oh, who am I kidding? Everybody skips the green stuff to level up the engine as much as possible.
Best of all, Test Track ranks your performance at several junctures during the ride! The best designers get bragging rights!
2) Peter Pan’s Flight
When Disneyland opened in 1955, Peter Pan’s Flight was one of the original rides. It was also one of Disney’s newest properties, as the movie debuted in 1953.
Over the years, park officials have hesitated to update the attraction significantly. As a result, it still tells the same story using the same unique ride cart structure.
However, Imagineers could alter something, which they did in adding interactive elements to the ride queue.
When you reach a certain point in the line, you’ll enter the Darling residence. Specifically, you’ll walk into the children’s bedroom, which is quite magical.
I mean that in a literal sense, as Tinkerbell and Peter Pan have sprinkled Pixie Dust throughout the room.
You’ll notice flittering lighting effects that represent Tinkerbell’s presence. You can interact with butterflies thanks to remarkable shadow effects on a wall, too.
This breathtaking toolbox of Imagineering tricks did something that virtually nothing else on this list that’s interactive could manage.
Disney kept parts of this pre-show available during the pandemic! As gorgeous as everything it is, none of it is high touch.
The only disabled elements involved social distancing requirements.
1) Haunted Mansion
People around the world will always remember the pandemic as one of the scariest times ever.
For Disney fans, the reopening of Walt Disney World signified that life was looking up.
Still, none of us enjoyed one of the social distancing concessions. Park officials skipped the Stretching Room element to avoid overcrowding.
Similarly, Magic Kingdom‘s version of the line queue shut down the side portions, including the interactive musical instruments and the murder mystery.
What, you didn’t know that Haunted Mansion’s exterior comes with a bit of intrigue? Yes, a family has suffered several losses.
Aunt Florence, Uncle Jacob, and Bertie are among the deceased. Of course, you know how they died, but you must deduce whodunnit for each victim.
Of course, you couldn’t do that during the pandemic, but this part of the line queue has returned! You can get justice for the twins if you just follow the clues!
More importantly, you can once again listen to the Ghost Host’s story in the Stretching Room, as this seminal scene is operational once again.
Haunted Mansion simply wasn’t the same without it.
Now that the Stretching Room is back, the attraction reclaims its status as the most entertaining pre-show entertainment at Walt Disney World!