What Did Disney Just Win?
Do you remember The Golden Ticket Awards? I understand if you don’t, as we’ve endured two grueling years since the last time they happened.
As a reminder, The Golden Tickets embody the best in theme park design.
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) hands out these awards each year.
Winning any award is extremely prestigious, as it’s the most significant honor in the industry.
Well, the 2021 Golden Tickets were just handed out. So let’s talk about the winners.
About the Golden Tickets
Disney has claimed many Golden Tickets over the years. In fact, the company effectively retired the category of Best Outdoor Night Production.
The TEA operates the Golden Tickets under the theory that if anyone wins a category for ten straight years, that award ends.
That’s precisely what happened with IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Disney won for this presentation each year from 2005 to 2015. So, the category went away.
However, Disney doesn’t dominate the way you might expect. In fact, it rarely does that well.
The TEA voters prefer to laud less-heralded theme parks and attractions. As such, Disney only won with one attraction.
Yes, you can guess which one it is.
The Big Disney Winner This Year
Of course, I’m referencing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the groundbreaking hybrid attraction that has redefined theme park design.
Some might go so far as to say that Rise of the Resistance has perfected the theme park attraction.
TEA voters agree as this attraction won in three (!) different categories. In the process, Disney claimed an unlikely feat.
The new Star Wars attraction won the title of Best Dark Ride at the Golden Tickets. Disney has now claimed victory in this category for five straight years.
That’s not the weird part, though. Disney has won Best Dark Ride with three different attractions.
From 2016-2018, Twilight Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios reigned supreme as the Best Dark Ride.
In 2019, the last time the TEA held the Golden Tickets, a new attraction usurped it when Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure won.
Obviously, the TEA took 2020 off due to the ongoing pandemic. However, now it has returned in 2021, it has lauded Rise of the Resistance as Best Dark Ride.
So, Disney absolutely dominates the race for Best Dark Ride.
However, Rise of the Resistance didn’t stop there. The attraction also earned the titles of Best New Family Attraction and Best New Ride Installation.
I can understand why some might not view Rise of the Resistance as THE greatest family attraction since it skews a bit older than most Disney rides.
Still, there’s absolutely no disputing the fact that the Star Wars dark ride is the Best New Ride Installation. It’s a technical marvel that has redefined expectations.
Imagineers somehow combined several of the most challenging theme park elements into a single attraction.
In fact, Rise of the Resistance is so all-encompassing that the pre-ride experience is better than most actual rides!
More about the 2021 Golden Tickets
Authorized TEA members and invited guests to participate in the Golden Tickets voting. As such, they tend to take Disney for granted.
Less heralded companies earn more attention since they don’t operate with the same resources as Disney.
For this reason, some other Florida theme parks and attractions did better than Disney.
To wit, Universal Orlando Resort (UOR) won the title of Park of the Year. I suspect that its early return in May of 2020 had something to do with this vote.
In fairness, UOR operated more than any other theme park during the voting, which is commendable during such turbulent times.
The VelociCoaster also won the title of Best New Roller Coaster of 2020/2021, almost by default. Disney didn’t even have a contender here.
Most theme parks sat out the past 18 months. So, that win is almost by default.
For perspective, the VelociCoaster only finished 18th overall in the category of Best Steel Roller Coaster.
Meanwhile, SeaWorld Orlando claimed the title of Best Wildlife/Marine Life Park. Mako also finished 17th for Best Steel Roller Coaster.
Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa fell only a few spots behind at 22nd. Cheetah Hunt also finished 41st.
Also, in a vote that annoyed me, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure somehow fell to 33rd. WTF?
Finally, White Lightning at Orlando’s Fun Spot America made its regular appearance as one of the top Wooden Roller Coasters in the world. It finished 29th this year.
The Other Golden Ticket Awards
Here’s the complete list of Golden Tickets winners for 2020/2021. Remember that the TEA combined some of the awards due to the pandemic.
- Best Amusement Park – Europa-Park
- Best Water Park – Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort – New Braunsfels, Texas
- Best Family Park of 2021 – Dutch Wonderland
- Best Wildlife/Marine Life Park – SeaWorld Orlando
- Best Water Park Ride – Wildebeest at Splashin’ Safari
- Best Wooden Coaster – Phoenix at Knoebels Amusement Resort
- Best Steel Coaster – Fury 325 at Carowinds
- Best Kids’ Area – Dollywood
- Best Guest Experience – Dollywood
- Breakout Family Entertainment Center of 2021 – Fun Spot America Atlanta
- Best Halloween Event of 2020 – Six Flags Fiesta Texas
- Most Beautiful Park – Dollywood
- Best Christmas Event of 2020 – Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood
- Best Food of 2021 – Knoebels Amusement Resort
- Best New Show of 2021 – Rock the Night at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
- Best Water Ride – Valhalla at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- Best Dark Ride – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Best New Attraction Installation of 2020/2021 – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Best New Roller Coaster of 2020/2021 – Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- Best New Family Attraction of 2020/2021 – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Best New Water Park of 2020/2021 – Cheetah Chase at Splashin’ Safari
- Best Innovation of 2021 – The Gravity Group