If you’re a Disney Parks fan who “grew up” at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, you’re probably really familiar with the versions of Disney classics like Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean at your "home resort". It can be quite a brain drain to travel to the other resort. For example, if you’ve ridden Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion all your life and then you travel to Disneyland for the first time, you’d probably be speechless about Californian version! They’re so alike, but so different!
But what about traveling outside of the U.S.? Below, we’ve collected seven classic Disney attractions that look VERY different on the other side of the ocean. Some of our favorite rides take on entirely new identities in the Disney resorts of Paris and Tokyo. It’s enough to make a first-time visitor think they’ve stumbled on some sort of evil twin! Which of the unique takes on Disney classics would you be most excited to try out?
1. Pirates of the Caribbean
Location: Disneyland Paris
Four "copies" of Disneyland's original Pirates of the Caribbean are spread across the world: in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris. But the French version of the ride is far and away the most unique. Put simply, Disneyland Paris' version of the ride is more or less backwards compared to the story most of us know.
The ride begins by drifting past a jungle-outpost restaurant called Blue Lagoon (equivalent to Disneyland’s Blue Bayou) before an old cargo lift draws the boat up to the top of a ruined fort city that’s on fire. There, a group of jailed pirates are trying to lure a dog to bring them the keys. Yep, if you’re used to the American versions, you’d be preparing to disembark. In Paris, you're just getting started.
The boat falls through a hole in the fort formed by a rogue cannon ball and slides down its first drop, into the lagoon outside the city where the Wicked Wench pirate ship is blasting the fort’s walls. The boats then pass through the village scenes from the original, enter an ammunitions room where an explosion leads to the ride’s second drop into the haunting waterfall grottos that are the ride’s opening scene elsewhere. The infamous skull-and-crossbones who warns that "Dead men tell no tales" in the U.S. gives a safety spiel on how to exit the boat...! The "flow" of the ride that feels second nature to American Disney fans is so changed in Paris, you might be genuinely surprised by each twist and turn!
Location: Disneyland Paris
AKA in the USA: Tomorrowland
Between Disneyland and Magic Kingdom alone, Tomorrowland has had quite a few identities over its lifetime. Even so, a prominent image remains at its heart: a Space Age, optimistic, technological future of white and silver, marked by swirling rockets, sleek, aerodynamic Googie architecture, and mid-century modern styles and ideals rooted in the Space Race...
... All images that would have zero resonance with Europeans.
That's why designers in charge of the Parisian park went back to square one, working to sever the inherent Americana from Disneyland. One radical change? Tomorrowland was eliminated completely. In its place stands Discoveryland – an organic, glowing, golden seaside port that's more fantasy than science fiction. Discoveryland turns back the clock and represents a future as it might've been envisioned by great European fantasy writers like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, or Leonardo da Vinci; a future of zephyrs, bubbling lagoon, astrolabes, submarines, and lighthouses.
Image: Jack Spence
Discoveryland not only gave Disneyland Paris a sensational, conceptually brilliant new kind of Tomorrowland; it also proved something massively important to Disney executives: that they could indeed solve the "Tomorrowland Problem" that continuously left the land looking dated by failing to keep up with the real future. By its very nature, Discoveryland had no interest in actually predicting the future; it was about a literary, retro-futuristic view from the past – an important new direction that would create Magic Kingdom's sci-fi alien spaceport Tomorrowland in 1994 and its Lost Legends: Alien Encounter and The Timekeeper.
Though Magic Kingdom's "timeless" New Tomorrowland would squeak through, the disastrous financial opening of Disneyland Paris caused then-CEO Michael Eisner to squash any other big-budget projects happening in Disney Parks. As such, when Disneyland recieved its own New Tomorrowland in 1998, it wasn't the ambitious Possibilityland: Tomorrowland 2055 that was once imagined... Instead, elements of Discoveryland (primarily, its brown and gold colors and its grounded Astro Orbitor) were cobbled together in California with the Declassified Disaster: Rocket Rods as the only noteworthy new addition... Needless to say, that dreaded New Tomorrowland '98 crashed and burned and has mostly been undone.
3. Tower of Terror
Location: Tokyo DisneySea
AKA in the USA: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Forget everything you know about Hollywood 1939, a beacon for the showbusiness elite, five people stepping through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare, and a rogue lightning bolt striking the Hollywood Tower Hotel... Sure, that tried-and-true trip through a living episode of The Twilight Zone has delighted guests in Orlando and Paris (and formerly California, by way of the Lost Legend: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror version) for years, it's not quite the same elsewhere.
Even though you may know the story of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone all too well, Japanese Disney guests didn't. So instead, Imagineers turned to their own storytelling skills and S.E.A.: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers – the cross-continental continuity Imagineers created to connect multiple rides and attractions across the globe. Turns out one globetrotting member of S.E.A. traveled the world stealing priceless treasures and hoarding them in his New York City hotel... a hobby that turned deadly when one particular cursed artifact decided to put an end to the millionaire en route to his penthouse...
Naturally, we couldn't resist taking our own tour of the shuttered Hightower Hotel – closed since that fateful New Year's Eve 1899 accident – in its own full-blown, in-depth feature: Modern Marvels: Tower of Terror – a must-read for Imagineering fans.