While it’s not the most consistent cash grab strategy Disney likes to employ, the studio and has utilized an interesting strategy to help keep some of its older original rides and shows relevant turning them into movies rather than replacing them with rides based on newer IPs. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise has been a monster success, but other attempts like “The Country Bears” and “The Haunted Mansion” saw much less love. Well Disney is at it again with their latest ride-to-screen adaptation releasing this weekend, “Jungle Cruise”. While I’ve only been to Disney once when I was a kid, for my tenth birthday, its rides and attractions have long fascinated me as many of them do have potential to be adapted into a new medium with genuinely immersive backstories hidden behind their facades. So today in honor of the release of “Jungle Cruise” I’m going to look at ten rides and attractions from the Disney parks across the world that I feel are fitting of a big-screen adaptation. These are my picks for the Top 10 Disney Attractions That Should Become Movies.
For this list I looked at attractions from all of the Disney parks and picked out ones that I felt contained enough lore, detail or simply potential to evolve from a ride or show into a full-fledged movie. I obviously ignored attractions that are already based on existing IPs so while rides like “Indiana Jones Adventure” might offer unique stories inspired by existing movies I wanted to focus specifically on attractions with little-to-no cinematic origins that I think have earned the right or have the potential to become genuine franchise starters all their own. Also rides that already had movies made about them, bad or good, or attractions like “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” that had smaller straight-to-video movies released were exempt from this list because I feel like that would be a bit of a cheat although there is one specific exception which I’ll get to when I get to it. Finally I only focused on rides and attractions still operational as of 2021 (even if they are closed due to COVID) as permanently closed attractions obviously won’t be getting movies.
Anyways that was long winded, but I hope you guys enjoy my picks and, who knows, maybe one of these will, in fact, be Disney’s next ride-to-screen release. What Disney ride do you think deserves a movie? Let me know in the comments.
Also I want to give a shoutout to Attractions 360°. Most of the photos you see below are screenshots from their videos where they record the ride experience for anyone to see. I love their stuff so if you would like to see how many of these rides play out you can visit their channel by clicking here.
10. “Mission: Space”
While sci-fi as a genre isn’t near as popular as it once was, who else but Disney could breath new life into it with a sci-fi epic done right? While there are numerous candidates that could make a good sci-fi movie, I think “Mission: Space” would not only be a fun film title but a neat attraction to use as a baseline for the story. Housed in Florida’s EPCOT, “Mission: Space”, which is a ride and themed area of the park’s Future World East, simulates what an astronaut might experience aboard a spacecraft on a mission to Mars and while this concept has been done to death in cinema I feel like Disney adding its own special touch and putting the focus on a character study of the men and women on the mission while exploring deeper themes of purpose and discovery rather than actually seeing them make it to Mars could be a neat idea. The film, like the ride, could give viewers perspective into why and how astronauts do what they do and maybe remind the Disney faithful of the hidden beauty within the sci-fi genre as a whole.
9. “Kilimanjaro Safari”
This was one of my favorite experiences at Animal Kingdom when I visited the park in 1999. While the current ride is meant to replicate a photo safari through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve in Harambe, East Africa, back when the ride debuted in 1998 it featured an added narrative that included show pieces where the riders were not only enjoying a safari but also trying to hunt down poachers who had kidnapped a young elephant and its mother, names Little Red and Big Red respectively. While this narrative has been retired, I think this could make Kilimanjaro Safari a prime candidate for a film, maybe shortening the title to simple “Kilimanjaro” and focusing on a group of tourists and their guide who take it upon themselves to save the elephants from poachers while driving home a conservation message in the process. The fact that the past decade saw outrage over the killing of animals like (ironically enough) Harambe the gorilla and Cecil the lion also shows that stories about preserving wildlife could be a good sell. While I don’t ever see this happening as Disney has distanced itself from the original story pretty blatantly, it’s still fun to think of the possibilities.
8. “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway”
The newest ride on this list that ironically enough replaced “The Great Movie Ride”, “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway” is Disney’s first ride-through attraction based on its iconic mascot, Mickey Mouse, who has never had a true feature length film where he is, in fact, the main character outside of his role in a segment “Fantasia”. Most of his big-screen appearances are in bit parts or in animated shorts. The ride’s style is based on the 2013 reboot TV series of Mickey and his friends which is also formatted like the original shorts. Runaway Railway sees Mickey and Minnie heading to a picnic passing through numerous sets along the way. A film directly inspired by the story exploring the larger world of Mickey Mouse and finally bringing all of these characters together on the big screen would be a dream come true for fans of Disney. The different settings and art style have a lot of potential to pop on the screen the same way they do on the ride. How Disney hasn’t made a true Mickey Mouse movie yet I’ll never understand.
7. “Journey into Imagination with Figment”
The history of “Journey into Imagination” is a rocky one going from one of the most beloved rides in Disney’s history to one of the most despised and currently to one people tolerate in spite of its flaws. The potential is in the name as a film based on exploring the limitless possibilities of the imagination could be a colorful journey for any Disney fan to take. The film could be formatted as a live-action-animation hybrid akin to “Mary Poppins” where the legendary Dreamfinder and his trusty purple dragon sidekick Figment help a protagonist rediscover their imagination exploring different kinds of artistry or creativity. Discussing imagination in a digital age is also something rarely touched on in films today, at least effectively with any kind of depth, so the added potential of topical subtext relevant to today’s more advanced world could make this one of Disney’s most unique films of the modern era if approached properly.
6. “Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage”
One of numerous unique attractions at Tokyo DisneySea, “Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage” is, as the name implies, based on the stories of Sinbad the Sailor. The dark ride has a well-established narrative and features that could be adapted using the Disney formula including Sinbad having an animal sidekick and a memorable soundtrack worked into the story as well as a detailed start-to-finish adventure that could easily be transformed into a screenplay. This is the only ride on this list I think should be adapted as an animated film and would reintroduce young fans to the story of Sinbad which Disney has never actually brought to the big screen before. Replicating the art style of the ride, especially in CGI animation, would also make for a unique visual aesthetic and give this film its own special flair. Plus its Middle Eastern origins would fit right in with Disney’s attempts at providing more diverse animated pictures for modern audiences while keeping with the studio’s tradition of adapting legendary stories with a more modern touch.
5. “Phantom Manor”
This is where I’m bending the rules on revisiting rides that already got movies. While “The Haunted Mansion” did already get a cinematic adaptation, “Phantom Manor” is actually quite different. This is Disneyland Paris’s version of the ride and comes with its own unique story that could serve as an easy reboot of the property complete with its own unique name to set it apart from the Eddie Murphy film. “Phantom Manor’s” story has a larger connection to Disney Parks lore focusing on Henry Ravenswood, who has ties to Big Thunder Mountain, and the curse set upon his family, especially his daughter and her attempts to marry a suitor. The “Phantom Manor” movie could adapt the lore of the ride exploring the history of the Ravenswood family and the dark fate the fell upon them with an unsuspecting passerby enter the deserted home and the surrounding town of Phantom Canyon only to be tasked with ending the curse once and for all with Henry Ravenswood being a sympathetic villain. This has the potential to right all the wrongs laid upon us by the travesty that was the original “Haunted Mansion” film and I personally hope it gets its chance on the big screen.
4. “Expedition Everest”
If “Pirates” and “Jungle Cruise” can get a movie this one deserves a film too. “Expedition Everest”, a staple of Animal Kingdom in Florida, already comes with a cinema-worthy story as the riders go on a tour of the legendary Himalayas with the queue embracing the lore of the Yeti who derails the tour, quite literally, by destroying the track and forcing the train back down the mountain in reverse. While it might be a bit more adult oriented on the surface, a film adaptation could explore the Yeti’s backstory and possibly make the tourism company the villain with the Yeti’s actions being in retaliation for damaging its home on the mountain and the tourists caught in the middle. It could all add up to a narrative exploring the negative impact of tourism on the world’s natural wonders, a sadly true issue plaguing Everest itself. With enough of its own lore already established and plenty of potential to explore deeper themes relevant to modern day, the only thing that would hold back an “Expedition Everest” film is the recent wave of Yeti and big-foot themed animated movies from Disney’s competition in the late 2010s. Still, I think it would make for a fun live-action adventure.
This is a should-be film that might be too good to ever be true. “Fantasmic!” is my absolute favorite show from Disney’s parks and contains a story that could easily be expanded to cinemas. “Fantasmic!” basically puts Mickey up against an all-star cast of Disney’s most well-known villains incorporating legendary effects to bring the show to life. The idea of Mickey and his friends taking on the villains in an “Endgame” style showdown of good versus evil that sees these amazing baddies all working off of each other on the big screen…I mean why hasn’t this happened yet? This could literally be the making of Disney’s biggest cinematic spectacle ever if done right. While the lineup of villains and the show’s general flow and narrative have evolved over the years, the Disney parks should not be the only way we get to experience this culmination of Disney greats. The studio certainly isn’t shying away from using nostalgia to rake in the bucks lately, so why not make the ultimate film putting their iconic mouse front and center and having your most entertaining villain steal the spotlight? It could be the ultimate celebration of all things Disney.
2. “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
Housed at Tokyo DisneySea, the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” ride puts guests right in to Jules Verne’s legendary book and comes complete with one of the most impressive animatronics Disney has ever created in its lava monster. While the book has seen several cinematic interpretations, most recently in 2008, a Disney version has never been made despite Walt Disney himself embracing Verne’s work and the company previously making a “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” movie and tie-in ride. Seeing this adventure brought to the big-screen again with the Disney touch and a cinematic interpretation of the lava monster would be an absolute delight and could truly spark a Verne-themed cinematic universe that New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. attempted just under a decade ago. Disney is not above revisiting properties past studios have attempted, especially ones in the public domain, and I think they have a pretty good baseline for their own “Journey” film with their Tokyo ride. A movie could also open up the experience to be added to other parks in the future as well.
1. “Big Thunder Mountain”
“Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” is one of the most well-known coaster rides Disney has ever developed as well as one of the most replicated being featured in four parks worldwide. A movie based on this ride could simply be called “Big Thunder Mountain” (the name of the Tokyo and Paris versions) and follow the basic idea that inspired all the rides. The concept showcases a small mining town that is abandoned after miners encroach on a cursed Native American land. The trains the riders are on are considered to be possessed, running wild through the old mines of the town. The cinematic version could be a kid-friendly ghost story where protagonists encroach on the town to see the legend for themselves and have to escape from the spirits that haunt the land with added backstory explaining why the curse was put upon the minors, maybe adding some subtext that criticizes manifest destiny. In fact, the Ravenswood’s from “Phantom Manor” have a direct connection to this lore so this movie could open up a Disney-ride cinematic universe. I do think this is probably the most likely ride on the list to get a film in the future. With a great lore already built in and worldwide appeal thanks to its appearances at numerous Disney parks, this ride is practically already a box office hit, it just needs a script, a director, and some notable stars to bring it all together.