These are the Best Disney Ride Overlays!
What’s the quickest way to renew interest in a theme park attraction?
At Disney parks, the answer is simple. Imagineers add a ride overlay to create some novelty.
Most of these changes occur during the Halloween and Christmas seasons. So, this seems like the best time to ask.
What are Disney’s best ride overlays?
11) Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree
The first thing you should know about attraction overlays is that they come at various levels of detail.
Disney outdoes itself with some rides, while others qualify as fun distractions more than anything else.
You’ll find two examples of the latter category at Disney California Adventure during each Halloween season. They’re fun, but the changes are modest.
Disney describes Mater’s Graveyard JamBooree as “a haunted hootenanny featuring high-spirited Haul-O-Ween music.”
Other than some zombie wrap on vehicles and some spooking lighting in the attraction queue, you won’t notice much difference.
Once the ride begins, you’ll hear Mater sing Halloween classics like Monster Mash, and that is a LOT of fun.
10) Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween
I always feel a bit ridiculous describing Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween as a ride overlay because that’s stretching the truth a bit.
Sure, Disney describes the attraction that way, but it’s an overstatement.
In truth, all you’ll notice that’s different at the ride is a sponsorship sign and a few rubber tire pumpkins in the attraction queue.
The “overlay” here is actor Tony Shalhoub, the voice of Luigi, singing a special Halloween song to the tune of Funiculì, Funiculà.
People really like that song, though. And its name is…Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween.
9) Tomorrowland Speedway
Some ride overlays are only visible to party guests at ticketed Magic Kingdom events.
Tomorrowland Speedway falls into that category, as it’s a temporary ride overlay during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Disney adds ornamental decorations around the track. So, you’ll enjoy a festive atmosphere as you take a lap around Tomorrowland.
The Christmas trees and snowballs are a nice touch, and the brighter backdrop adds to the nighttime holiday ambiance.
8) Mad Tea Party
Some holiday overlays are modest in nature, but they still change the complexion of a ride.
With Mad Tea Party, Disney creates a dark atmosphere but then surprises and delights guests with holiday lanterns.
Typically, you’ll only experience this holiday overlay at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, but it’s the better version of the ride, in my opinion.
7) Alien Swirling Saucers
Speaking of holiday overlays, you’ll find one of the most charming offerings at Toy Story Land.
As this somewhat bumpy ride video shows, Disney alters Alien Swirling Saucers for Christmas.
Aesthetically, you won’t notice anything different, but you’ll recognize the change once the ride begins.
Disney adds holiday music to your saucer swirl! It establishes an exuberant holiday tone that feels perfectly in keeping with the charm of the Little Green Men.
6) It’s a Small World Holiday
What’s the only thing that can make It’s a Small World more magical?
This one’s not a trick question. The answer is Yuletide decorations.
As a Walt Disney World fan, I know that I have it good and don’t feel jealousy toward Disneyland attractions. But this one is definitely an exception.
Just look how shiny and upbeat it is! Disney creates a backdrop that immediately immerses guests in holiday cheer.
Also, I know I’m in the minority here, but I personally like hearing all sorts of Christmas music rather than It’s a Small World on a continuous loop.
5) Soarin’ Over California
Here’s a weird example of a former attraction turning into a ride overlay.
That happened because Disney re-themed the concept by making it more global. Now, we have Soarin’ Around the World.
During the park’s Food & Wine Festival, it hosts Soarin’ Over California again, though.
More recently, EPCOT has done the same. In fact, you can watch Soarin’ Over California during the Disney100 event.
I happen to love the California version, but it still feels like a cheat to describe this one as a ride overlay. It’s more like a ride re-run.
4) Hyperspace Mountain
Here’s an attraction overlay that doesn’t have a holiday basis.
Well, I say that, but some of you may consider May the 4th an unofficial holiday, which is fair.
Anyway, Disneyland Park sometimes enhances the existing Space Mountain ride with a Star Wars theme.
Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom actually hosts multiple overlays as well.
At times, Disney turns the attraction pitch black and thereby mimics the somber emptiness of space.
In other instances, Disney adds strobe lights and holiday music.
Both of these experiences are different in their own ways, but the Star Wars one somehow fits the best. The franchise is set in outer space, after all.
3) Jingle Cruise
While all the overlays listed thus far will provide plenty of joy, the reality is that a gap exists between them and the top three.
I say this because Disney has truly outdone itself with its best attraction overlays.
The first of them is somehow the laziest yet also the most charming.
Ostensibly, all Disney does with Jungle Cruise is throw up some Christmas decorations on the boats and in the line queues.
Then, the Jungle Skippers recite new dialogue that replaces ordinary puns with Christmas ones. And I’m a total sucker for it.
Seriously, my Christmas holiday season typically starts on November 1st when I hear Jingle Cruise for the first time.
I count down all year for that moment.
2) Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
A few years ago, Disney performed the seemingly impossible by re-theming Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Since the ride building sells the theme of an abandoned hotel, nobody expected Disney to create a Marvel ride here.
That’s somehow exactly what happened with Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
During the Halloween season, Disney re-themes it yet again with Monsters After Dark.
During this version of the story, a horror film unfolds as Rocket searches for Baby Groot.
Meanwhile, a giant monster seemingly appears out of nowhere at random unfortunate moments.
You can tell from the ride video that the drop ride as a horror movie plays VERY well.
Frankly, it’s tough to believe there’s a better ride overlay, and yet…
1)Haunted Mansion Holiday
Come on, you knew what to win this.
For more than 20 years now, Disney has re-themed Haunted Mansion each holiday season…and I mean both of them.
Disney switches the already supernatural Haunted Mansion by introducing a Nightmare Before Christmas theme.
The result is a raucous exploration of the vision of Tim Burton at a Disney theme park. I honestly don’t understand why we don’t have more of that.
Then again, Haunted Mansion Holiday may be enough, as it gives us Oogie Boogie in all his splendor.
Other residents of Halloween Town appear and provide charming reminders of why we love this movie so much.
Cast members spend most of the year inventing new ideas to make the experience even better than previous versions.
Their effort and enthusiasm are unmistakable each time, and I always feel excited to compare the yearly changes.
My favorite part of Haunted Mansion is how it encompasses multiple holidays.
Disney debuts Haunted Mansion Holiday each year to take advantage of Halloween, but then the overlay remains through Christmas.
So, the overlay mirrors the film itself, which marries Halloween and Christmas perfectly.
The same is true of the ride, which explains why Disneyland fans remain so passionate about the overlay after more than 20 years. It really is the best.
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