Tower of Terror Service Elevator

Okay, ruined may be a little harsh, but there's no question some Disney ride upgrades have proven more controversial than the company intended...

News of attraction refurbishments at Disney World can prove the best or worst of news. Popular rides like Spaceship Earth, Space Mountain, and Star Tours have all benefited from excellent upgrades. Other refurbishments, however, have resulted in the cringeworthy Journey into YOUR Imagination, Stitch’s Great Escape, and The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management).

There are times when Disney does everything right on an attraction upgrade, but amid needed changes, they lose just a little bit of the magic. These aren’t cases of epic fails. However, those with a sharp eye and a spirit for nostalgia may lament these minor flubs in updates to popular rides.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean – The tale of Captain Jack Sparrow 

Captain Jack in a barrel

When Pirates of the Caribbean was adapted to the big screen, no one expected a decade-long successful movie franchise. Captain Jack Sparrow earned the adoration of fans worldwide and quickly became a Disney mainstay. It came as no surprise when Disney announced plans to update Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean to incorporate the enigmatic captain.

There’s several things to like about the update. Passing through the fog-outlined faces of Davy Jones and Blackbeard is a great moment, as is the addition of Barbossa’s voice to the pirate ship scene (granted, it is odd the ship doesn’t have the Black Pearl’s namesake black sails). As expected, Captain Jack is sprinkled liberally throughout the journey.

There’s one problem. For reasons unknown, Disney decided the best way to add Jack to the story was to have characters throughout the attraction repeat the full name “Captain Jack Sparrow” every 2-3 sentences. On a recent excursion, I counted hearing it around seven times.

Captain Jack on a pile of treasure

References to Jack are to be expected, but the additions sound very unnatural. He’s never called “Jack” or “Captain Sparrow”. It’s always “Captain Jack Sparrow”. There’s a distinct marketing vibe to the dialogue, and to make the issue worse, when we see Jack lounging atop a pile of treasure at the end, instead of sounding like his normal glib self, he’s oddly monotone-- an unsmiling, blank-eyed caricature.

While the addition of Captain Jack to the ride was a welcomed addition, the heavy-handed branding ends up distracting rather than enhancing the Pirates experience.



1. Pirates - totally don't agree with you on this one. It was the best way they could have updated Pirates and incorporated the movies while still staying true to the original. Having the new characters replacing forgettable one like the captain of the frigate and the captured prince and having Captain Jack Sparrow hiding throughout the bulk of the ride was a masterful stroke in merging the two. The last Jack fits in perfectly as he enjoys the spoils of war and I think him mumbling/singing to himself fits the character perfectly.

2. ToT - You're wrong on this one again IMHO. While ToT II indeed was a marked improvement from the initial offering the randomization of the new ToT is incredible. It makes it so you never know when the ride is really done and yes you can fall the entire 13 stories. My favorite is one sequence where you think you are done because you see the unload area but then it unexpectedly shoots you up again.

3. Test Track - totally on the mark with this one. I like the design aspect of Tron Track but miss the fun of the old TT.

4. The Great Movie Ride - on the mark with this one too. Much better whenever it was totally a spiel ride.

Some minor changes I don't necessarily appreciate:

Thunder Mountain - the cave in with the moving rocks. Not sure if this one has been perpetually broken. I heard a rumor it might have been OSHA regulations that they were too close to riders or something?

Splash Mountain - the addition of the lap bars. Just a bit annoying and less fun with them.

ToT - I miss the lap bars on this one. I think it made you feel less secure than the seat belts.

Star Tours - I LOVE Star Tours the Adventure Continues but why oh why isn't the classic Death Star trench battle not one of the choices? I know we had it for decades but still I think it should be a choice.

Universe of Energy - I miss the snake like dinosaur. It's especially awkward with the references to it in the movie following the dino diorama.

The Land - I miss the spieling in the boat ride. Not quite the same without it.

Dinosaur - This one is so minor it's almost not worth mentioning but the descriptive name Countdown to Extinction is a MUCH better name than the absolutely droll Dinosaur. I don't know who named that movie but it's a terrible name. Even the movie should have been named Countdown to Extinction. It's very evocative of what you're about to experience in the ride. It's like if Finding Nemo was called Fish, or Lion King was just Lion, or King Kong was Big Ape. Terrible naming.

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