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The little touches are what make Disney’s team of Imagineers world famous. They understand that the key to the Disney theme park empire is constantly emphasizing the differences between rides and attractions. Some places offer Gigacoasters and g-forces to thrill theme park tourists, and that’s great when you’re in the mood for it. When you visit Walt Disney World, however, you want to celebrate iconic characters through attractions that embrace all the accompanying aspects of their stories.

Disney makes movies, and then their parks reimagine those ideas into heart-warming renditions of the same concept. In order to accomplish this, Imagineers constantly work to discover new ideas to keep Disney’s iconic characters fresh and original. Their four Orlando parks in particular exemplify the mastery of theme park design. Here are the seven rides with the best special effects at Walt Disney World.

7. Peter Pan’s Flight

Image: Disney (license)

Again, the noteworthy aspect of this ride, at least with regard to special effects, occurs at the start. In early 2015, Disney added a new interior line queue featuring the Darling house’s nursery. This colorful sequence includes several children’s rooms in one larger room that is the line queue itself. In this area, guests can interact with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in amazing ways.

For starters, Tinkerbell’s magic is pervasive throughout the room. The wall projections cause several elements to react on a timer, creating the effect of Tinkerbell ensorcelling a boat to rock, a trunk to unlock, and the walls to glow festively. The showstopper involves a wall where your shadows can “touch” bells to make them ring. You can also make motions to chase characters away. You can even swat at butterflies or pet them, depending on your mood during your wait in line. Don’t forget to free Tinkerbell from her cage before you exit the area, though. You can watch this video to see how much Imagineers have added to Peter Pan’s Flight by enhancing the (always long) line queue. 

6. Toy Story Midway Mania

Image: Disney (license)

I’ve previously discussed this ride in detail. The Toy Story attraction at Hollywood Studios employs 3D (Disney refers to it as 4D) to create the rootinest, tootinest carnival experience at any major theme park. The ride gets whipped along a path where screens display interactive shooting galleries. There are no physical projectiles employed yet you’ll feel like you’re firing the world’s smallest cannon at hundreds of plates, balloons, and other carnie staples. There’s even a ring toss segment.

People get so swept up in the competitive element of Midway Mania! that they forget the stunning achievement of the ride design. Disney Imagineers transform ordinary walls into thrilling mini-games. Thanks to the 3D goggles, riders completely suspend reality as they slide down the moving path. The entire design scheme of the Toy Story attraction is a special effect, and it’s one of the most immersive ever created for a theme park. Toy Story Midway Mania! marries three things that children (of all ages) love: videogames, Disney characters, and amusement park rides. It does all of this so effectively that you might start to take it for granted after a while. That’s the best special effect of all.

5. Turtle Talk with Crush and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (Tie)

Image: Disney (license)

Generally speaking, these are not titles you would expect on a Best of Walt Disney World list. Sure, they’re charming, but the fact that there is rarely a line for either one speaks to their overall perception. Don’t let be fooled about the underlying technology, though.

A behind-the-scenes moderator creates a responsive conversation with various members of the audience. Popular Pixar characters from Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. are the puppets through which Disney cast members crack up the crowd. While the broad strokes of each show are similar, the improvisational aspect guarantees a unique show each time. And if you ever watch a child’s face as Crush asks them for their name, you’ll understand why Disney was so proud of this technology.

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Comments

It's not a ride, but the mirror in Fairytales with Belle is AMAZING!! At the end of Small World, the signs pick up your names from your magic bands and say good bye! I also love Haunted Mansion when the hitchhiking ghosts sit atop your Doom Buggy...holding a newspaper from your HOME STATE! Now THAT is creepy!!

While this arrive may have been about new age effects, there are 2 attractions that deserve a tied spot. Indiana Jones, and Dinosaur do deserve a spot. Both have very convincing effects, that STILL hold up.

Yes, the hitch hiking ghost is amazing! I was riding alone. Some how we switched heads!!!

There is no #4!!! We have fastpasses to #s 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 for our upcoming trip, but we're wondering what #4 is!!

In reply to by Jane Gambucci (not verified)

#5 was a tie. Usually when stating a tie, they use the higher number, which in this case would be #4. But since they were counting backwards, they used #5. So depending on how you feel about it, #5 would be Turtle Talk and #4 would be Monsters Inc, or vice versa.

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