Think of theme parks as living creatures. After all, they grow. They change. Paths and navigational signs are their skeleton, shows and entertainment are their fancy plumage, and restrooms are their... well, the point is, rides are the heart, lungs, and lifeblood of theme parks. Sure, we love the extras like shows and streetmosphere, and we'd never claim that those don't matter. But when you dream of a Disney Parks vacation, it's probably a ride that comes immediately to mind.
Just for fun, we've counted each of the ride line-ups at Disney's parks to compare here. Are rides all that matter? Of course not! A park with lots of them isn't necessarily the best, and a park with only a few may not be missing anything! But it is fun to step back and take a good look at these parks we know and love and narrow it down to the numbers.
For our purposes, we'll define a "ride" as an attraction that moves. So excluding shows, animal encounters, interactive walkthroughs, and the rest, here are some very basic, just-for-fun statistical looks at how Disney Parks stack up to each other. Which parks would you guess have the most rides? Which resorts do you think will come out on top? Which of these numbers surprised you and why?
12. Disney's Hollywood Studios
Ride Count: 5
Allegedly, Michael Eisner oversaw the opening of The Disney-MGM Studios Park with the intention of providing a half-day of experiences. Modeled after Universal Studios Hollywood's formula (and hoping to emulate it before Universal could manage to open their own Floridian park), the key attraction was to be a multi-hour Studio Tour that whisked guests on trams through the park's real production facilities and warehouses, and around live sets and special effects demonstrations. The working studio didn't last very long, though the tram tour stuck around (in shorter and shorter variations) until it closed at the end of 2014.
While the five remaining rides at Disney's Hollywood Studios are nothing to sneeze at, being presented with that bare number sure reveals the insecurities that Disney Parks fans tend to feel about the place. Sure, you'd expect a park theme around a movie studio to focus on shows, and Hollywood Studios does (it has no less than five) but in terms of rides, the count is short. Is Disney's Hollywood Studios the half-day park it's often accused of being? Depends how you like to fill your day... and how long the waits are.
What's Next: It all began when Disney's CEO Bob Iger accidentally let slip that Disney's Hollywood Studios would be recieving a new name in what many expected would be a California-Adventure-sized rebuild from the ground up, dispensing with the tired '90s "studio" motif. Then, early 2015 saw the systematic closure of a half-dozen of the park's attractions, and a complete park rebirth seemed assured.
In August 2015, Disney delivered, revealing most of the cards they'd been holding for the park. While it's still years off, Disney did confirm the construction of a Wizarding-World-rivaling Star Wars land that will contain two (count 'em, two) stunning E-tickets. The same day, Toy Story Land was announced for the park, too, containing two new (albeit, smaller) attractions of its own: a family roller coaster and a spinning flat ride. It'll be quite a few years before either opens (with construction only beginning in earnest in late 2016) but once the two lands come online, the park will have 9 rides. So, it'll still have the fewest rides of any Disney Park (tied with Animal Kingdom), but at least it'll have some flashy ones.
11. Disney's Animal Kingdom
Ride Count: 7
Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 with a very new kind of formula. With a seemingly limitless budget, the park was massive and filled with unimaginable details: entire collapsed Asian ruins, lived-in African villages, and live archaeological digs packed with nooks and crannies. It was easily among the most well-themed parks on Earth. Even in its 600 acres, what it didn't have were rides. The park opened with only three or four, and hasn't grown a whole lot since then. Just as Hollywood Studios makes up for its miniscule ride count with shows, you'd expect Animal Kingdom to augment its lineup with animal attractions, and it does. Still, the massive park feels a bit sparse on moving rides.
Two of the park's seven rides are actually thanks to the cooly-recieved Chester and Hester's Dino-rama subland, putting a whacky, carnival spin on a simple family flat ride and traveling-fair coaster. Another of the seven is the park's backstage train offering shuttle service to Rafiki's Planet Watch. To be fair, anything helps. Without those, the park would have four rides. Yeesh!
What's Next: Expect to add at least two more rides when Pandora – The World of Avatar opens as Animal Kingdom's newest land sometime in 2017. "Flight of Passage" will be the land's star (using an evolved version of Soarin' Over California's signature flight simulation), but the one we're most excited to see is the "Na'vi River Journey" dark ride through the bioluminscent forests of the alien planet. When the path to Pandora finally opens, Animal Kingdom will have 9 rides.
10. Walt Disney Studios Park
Ride Count: 10
When Walt Disney Studios Park opened as the second gate at Disneyland Paris, it earned well-deserved flak from Disney Parks fans for its size. On opening day, the miniscule park had three rides. Yes, three: a family flat ride, a clone of Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and a Studio Backlot Tour even more pointless than Hollywood Studios' version. While the park remains itty bitty today in terms of acreage, its ride lineup has tripled. For what it's worth, the park does have more rides than Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom, but Disney Studios' rides are, on average, less grand. A large chunk of that lineup thanks to family flat rides.
Most prominent is the brand new, trackless, LPS-guided ride based on Disney / Pixar's Ratatouille and the beautiful, not-studio-themed land built around it, both revealing the slightest glimmer of hope for the park. Of course, it's still desperately lacking in every department and could use a billion-dollar rebuild from the ground up just like California Adventure if it's ever to be a real compliment to Disneyland Paris. And given the state of financial affairs at the European resort, don't hold your breath!
What's Next: Give the park a bit of time to soak in the success of Ratatouille: The Adventure. As the Paris resort still struggles to get ahold of its finances, we're unlikely to see any massive shifts or builds for quite some time...
Ride Count: 10
Epcot has a grand total of 9 rides. Perhaps that's okay since conceptually, the park is more of an interactive, educational, immersive World's Fair than an amusement park. However, in the park's earliest years, it used classic, lengthy, informative dark rides to immerse guests into Future World, and plans for the park included many more fantastic dark rides in the park's cultural World Showcase. Those dark rides have slowly closed, become woefully outdated, been stuffed needlessly with Disney characters, or been replaced. Altogether, the Epcot you visit today has earned the contempt of fans who cling to the once-cutting-edge park and its more magnificent roots.
What's Next: Still fresh off the opening of Frozen Ever After (an impressive dark ride that replaced a Lost Legend: Maelstrom) and the debut of Soarin' Around the World (to replace the long-running Californian original), you'd expect Epcot's growth to stall. But we still foresee a radical transformation in the park's future, breathing new life (and perhaps a new foundational identity) into its aging Future World. Like it or not, rumors suggest that that facelift might come in the form of Marvel's super heroes, potentially pulling the plug on Epcot's once-sound pavilion concept (Energy, Ocean, Life, Land, Transportation, Communication... Guardians of the Galaxy?) once and for all.
8. Shanghai Disneyland
Ride Count: 13
It's rare for Disney to break new ground on entirely new resorts, but Shanghai Disneyland became the sixth Disney Parks Resort in the world when it opened in 2016. The mainland China park comes more than a decade after the itty bitty Hong Kong Disneyland opened its gates. Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the resort, it actually doesn't have that many rides at all, with a lucky thirteen.
What the new Chinese resort does have going for it is that each of its rides is unique with only a few familiar concepts and names. A brand-new, technologically-boosted Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, an epically-sized and advanced Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure, and the long-rumored Soaring Over The Horizon are just a few of the park's highlights. Even beyond that, the traditional Space Mountain was replaced with any entirely new TRON: Light Cycle Power Run; Fantasyland's Storybook Castle is home to a brand new dark ride called Voyage to the Crystal Grotto; and the park's version of Adventureland features the Roaring Rapids inside the stunning Mount Apu Taku, complete with an unforgettable finale encounter with a massive, menancing reptilian animatronic who makes our must-read countdown of the best animatronics on Earth.
What's Next: While Shanghai Disneyland's isn't exactly packed with attractions, its modest lineup is mostly made up of groundbreaking additions, and each of the park's rides is sprawling and grand. Then there's always a looming "Phase II" expansion that may or may not come to pass, with rumors of a Toy Story Land and Expedition Everest on the horizon. (By the way, the park itself dispenses with the tried-and-true Disneyland-style layout in favor of new lands in new positions within the park's border... Pretty cool!)
7. Hong Kong Disneyland
Ride Count: 17
When Hong Kong Disneyland opened, it was easily the smallest Disneyland-style park in the world in terms of size and lineup. For example, its Fantasyland had only one dark ride compared to Disneyland's six or Magic Kingdom's four. A conscious effort was made to expand the park in an all-at-once growth spurt. The move succeeded, building a new, secondary loop outside of the park's train track berm, creating a new and unprecedented layout for Disneyland-style parks. The new lands – Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, and Toy Story Land – aren't exactly brimming with rides themselves, but they do help to fill out the park's lineup, which was also augemented since its opening with "it's a small world," Autopia, and others.
What's Next: The biggest thing in the pipeline for Hong Kong is the Iron Man Experience ride being added to Tomorrowland. Seemingly using the same motion simulator technology behind Star Tours, the Iron Man Experience will fill a nice niche in the park's lineup as it continues to grow. It will also be Disney's first major installation since their acquisition of Marvel.