Have you ever been on a ride at Disney, kicking back and enjoying yourself, when it suddenly screeched to a halt? Have you ever had the dubious fun of being stuck in the middle of It’s a Small World, debating whether to swim to shore after 45 straight minutes of listening to that song?
Although it might seem chaotic, everything that happens during a ride breakdown is a carefully choreographed dance that Cast Members must be proficient in before they are allowed to operate their ride. Here’s a look at the 8 basic steps of a Disney ride breakdown.
The Four Keys to Disney guest service are Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency, in that order. When something happens, the top priority is to make sure guests remain safe at all times. The second priority is to treat guests with respect by communicating what to expect. The announcements that you hear during a ride breakdown might seem repetitive, but they are crucial to maintaining the first two Keys to guest service.
Different recorded announcements are played according to exactly what the situation is. For example, you have probably heard some variation of, “Please remain seated. Your ride vehicle will begin moving momentarily.” This is the most commonly heard announcement, and is often used when a ride is stopped for a disabled person to board, as well as when there is a very short delay in normal operation. If the delay will be longer, cast members have other recorded announcements that let the guests know they will need to wait. If the breakdown is complicated or will take a long time to fix, Cast Members might replace the recorded announcements with their own situation-specific updates.
Most of the time, a ride breakdown can be fixed with a simple reset. Like your home computer, the computers that control the complex ride systems sometimes have minor glitches. In addition, there are safety systems all along the tracks. If the computer sees something potentially dangerous, such as an unlocked vehicle door or something in the space immediately around a ride vehicle, it will automatically stop the ride. In these cases, removing the offending object or opening and reclosing the door will allow the ride to resume. Cast Members are trained to understand all the information that their computers provide, and they know how to fix most problems with minimal disruptions to the guests.
3. Element shutdowns
Sometimes a particular part of the ride experience has technical difficulties that cannot be easily fixed, but the ride can operate without that element. An example is the Yeti in Expedition Everest. When it moves, it is truly spectacular, but the ride storyline works even when the Yeti is not moving. If an element breaks down while guests are on the ride, however, cast members might need to do a reset for the ride to start functioning again. At other times, they might need to turn on the lights, shut off the music, or stop the audio-animatronics in order to perform a necessary fix. Cast Members will turn off only those things that must be turned off to fix the problem, but will generally leave everything else running to entertain guests who are stuck on the ride.
4. Cycling with guests
After a reset, it is sometimes necessary to cycle all the ride vehicles through the rest of the attraction before turning all of the effects back on. In this case, you might experience an unusual version of the ride, like finishing Space Mountain with the lights on or flying with Peter Pan with no sound effects. If you receive an incomplete ride experience, you will be offered the chance to ride again immediately, with everything working properly, unless the ride has to be evacuated.