Cynical Listicles: Dark Rides

Today I promise not to mail it in and make stuff more interesting than “is a hot dog a sandwich?”. My parents just got back from Orlando, and their attraction sensibilities are vastly different than mine. Where as I would rather skip half the attractions at the parks in favor of riding only a handful, they’d rather soak everything in, more specifically the lighter on thrills Dark Rides that Disney has to offer. After the Anti-Cynic and I chatted with them on their drive home and the subject of these rides stuck in my mind. So today, I’m going to rank them!

*Editors note: A “Dark Ride” is hereby defined for this list as an attraction which is housed entirely indoors, uses a ride vehicle that is either constantly moving at the same pace or has minimal speed changes, and animatronic characters, dioramas, or live subjects are used for the narrative. The attraction must also not be used as transportation to an exhibit (no Nemo & Friends) or as a means to get to another part of a park (no Magic Kingdom Rail Road). Additionally, there cannot be a “thrill element” for the purposes of this list, so no free fall (Tower of Terror), no extended drop (Splash Mountain), no simulators (Mission:Space or Star Tours), and no coasters (Space Mountain or Rock n’ Roller Coaster).

11. Carousel of Progress

I know. Every chance I have to bash CoP, I take it. I do so unapologetically, and it’s because there are no updates to it. Every time the thought of changing it gets floated, the most vocal of Disney faithful gets upset for tinkering with a classic that Walt built. It also hasn’t been updated in 20 years, nearly all of the middle class has better technology in their home than what’s displayed in the final scene, and the narrative jumps from the 1940’s to allegedly the future but has the same characters. There will always be people who want to hop on this attraction, but never so many unless its Christmas Day that it fills to capacity and has a wait time.

10. It’s A Small World

Yep, to some of you I’m 0-2. If you truly love this attraction, who am I to tell you you’re wrong? Oh wait, I’m a Cynic. You’re wrong. You can appreciate the Mary Blair dolls and artwork all you want to, you can even have nostalgia for it. Here’s how I’ve come to see it: Riders are forced to endure an extended song about the harmonious blending and accepting of other cultures as sung by children with no escape. I’m going to be blunt with you, I don’t blindly accept other cultures and I don’t filter my political or cultural beliefs through the prism of children. They don’t know BLEEP, and they ultimately grow up to be assholes. I’m all for tolerance of other cultures so long as they tolerate mine. I am also totally willing to wait until a shot is fired before firing back, but Jesus tap dancing Christ, grow up, recognize that adults hate each other for both good and bad reasons, and no nostalgia is going to change that.

9. Frozen Ever After

If you hate me for ranking the last two so low, I request that like Elsa you “let it go”. Like the vast majority of attractions receiving an IP update, I preferred the previous non-IP version. I also don’t like snow, ice, or Hitler’s dream of homogeneous blonde-haired/blue-eyed people. I get that Frozen is “empowering” for young girls, and god forbid that I have a daughter, I’m sure that it will be on repeat on the AppleTV, but as a male who doesn’t need to be nor enjoys being lectured about gender equality, Frozen is just not on my list of favorites. If you love the movie, have daughters, or just like having the same catchy music stuck in your head for years, by all means wait in line for two hours!

8. Journey Into Imagination

Here’s an overall problem with many of these rides. It’s not the 1980’s anymore. Journey Into Imagination had a long wait time once. Then as a society we all decided that these rides are boring, and in attempts to appease the changing preferences of audiences, Disney kept trying to tinker with this attraction. None of the changes made this attraction better, and although this version is substantially better than the second, it’s still not as good as the first. It’s also not as good as the others out there, but it’s not as long as CoP or as torturous to me as Small World or Frozen, so therefore it gets a little bit of a pass.

7. Living with the Land

This is allegedly one of Steve’s favorite attractions, but I cannot hold it as ranking high on my personal list. It’s a boat ride that summarizes the plight of the characters of Grapes of Wrath, then shows you how you can grow pot…I mean Mickey shaped pumpkins. If you’re in an ironic mood or need to kill time before Soarin’, by all means hop on board. If not, you’re not missing much.

6. Grand Fiesta Tour

I’m looking back on the past few trips, basically since I’ve been of legal drinking age. I can’t recall the last time I rode this sober. Not that I’m drunk all the time at Epcot, but I usually don’t make the conscious decision to get on this ride unless I just went to La Cava del Tequila. I liked the older version of this attraction, before they needlessly added Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros, but if you too just had a couple shots at the bar, it doesn’t hurt to take a 10 minute break.

5. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

If this was 2008, I’d count this attraction among my top 3 dark rides. As it stands now, half of the attraction is broken at any given time. There’s an inexplicable wait time considering it’s an omnimover attraction that doesn’t even have pre-show. If you love Toy Story, and I do, then you should love this attraction, but it loses points until Disney gives the attraction an extended maintenance and fresh coat of paint.

4. Na’Vi River Journey

I actually know nothing of this attraction. I haven’t been on it, nor have I even seen the Avatar movie after I found out that it’s basically Pocahontas with laser guns. I do know that it consistently has a wait time of over an hour, and Disney fans would revolt in unison on the Dis Boards if it was all around awful, arbitrarily I’m sticking it at #3. Those I know who’ve ridden it give the attraction mixed reviews, but none have said anything to the effect of “BLEEP that BLEEP“.

3. Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion cracks the top 3 for a couple of reasons. I appreciate the practical effects on display as opposed to the computer generated ones of newer attractions. They add an element of realism, or at least make me wonder how they did that. It would be just like Disney to replace the dancing ghosts with modern CG effects that my brain automatically registers as fake as BLEEP. I also enjoy the creepy factor and cast member participation. What holds this back from going any higher is that it’s watered down for “family entertainment”. Scary stuff should be scary. I’m not suggesting they should add blood splatter or a guy with a chainsaw cranking it up and chasing you, but I’m not worried about upsetting a four year old. If you have a four year old, skip something that you know they can’t handle like a good parent and don’t act like Karen with the “I need to speak to the manager” haircut. Scary is fun!

2. Pirates of the Caribbean
This would take the top spot on this list if not for its overuse of Johnny Depp animatronics and its capitulation to a movement that hadn’t even complained. I enjoy pirates being pirates, much like I enjoy mobsters being mobsters. Now that they’ve been ret-conned in society as social justice warriors with the whole red head being changed to a pirate leader thing, I roll my eyes at the idea of pirates as a theme. I’m pretty sure they’re just like the Somalian pirates Tom Hanks had to go up against, thieves, plunderers and all-around criminals that have no Robin Hood sensibilities. Give me that back, and back to the top this attraction goes. The attraction itself is a classic, but like so many classics, Disney BLEEP-ed with it too much, enough to take enjoyment away from me.

1. Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth takes the top spot on this list for a couple dumb ass reasons. Its subject matter has yet to become irrelevant, its narration updates every so often, it does an excellent job of conveying the theme without finding a way to become preachy, and it also placates my ADHD by giving me buttons and stuff to play with at the end. It also hasn’t drastically changed from my youth, meaning there’s still a bit of nostalgia tugging at me. I think a lot of people would agree that my top 3 and theirs are similar, if not in the same order, but ultimately Spaceship Earth will be on my list until I can get a chill down my spine from Haunted Mansion or an accurate portrayal of the subjects in Pirates.

My sense is you agree with me on much of the list, but maybe not as harshly as those at the bottom. As always, you’re welcome to comment below and let me know just how much of a jack ass I am. The plan is for another round of Cynical Musings tomorrow, but more Disney centered than the last one. Let’s be real, I haven’t had a chance to chastise Disney for their new ticket pricing structure, and I am licking my chops. Also, let’s also be real, I’m busier than I used to be, and I’m not going to promise the update be posted tomorrow. It may be Saturday, but it won’t be crap. Until next time!

-The Disney Cynic
“I’m all beers!”

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