The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Heathers and Mean Girls.
The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride.
Jumanji and Zathura.
The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.
Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
How are the two films in each of these pairings connected? Well… they're not… at least, not on paper.
And yet, these pairs of films do share a relationship! Even if they don’t have a single character in common, a shared setting, or a similar storyline, these pairs are connected “in spirit.” That’s why they’re commonly known as spiritual sequels, tied together not by a continuous story or common character, but by their shared elements, themes, and styles that make them feel connected. In some cases, the connection – however indirect – is intentional, crafted by the same behind-the-scenes creators or imitating them. In other cases, these pairs simply show how timeless tropes evolve over time, taking on new life as concepts, pop culture, and technology grow.
Whatever the reason, the unusual “spiritual” connection between these films makes us wonder… what “spiritual sequel” pairings exist across Disney Parks? Rides that – while they may not even be set in the same universe as one another – could be considered stepsiblings in story and style? While many, many connections exist, we found ten stellar examples of what happens when a ride is reborn “in spirit!”
1. The Haunted Mansion -> Mystic Manor
Scary? Surprising? Silly? It’s difficult to say exactly what genre the Haunted Mansion fits in. From grim, macabre, and unsettling first notes to a grinning, goofy, sing-along finale, the ride is simply one-of-a-kind. Whether you ride it in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square (1969), Magic Kingdom’s colonial Liberty Square (1971) or Tokyo Disneyland’s Fantasyland (1983), the largely plotless ride whisks guests past unexplainable vignettes and how’d-they-do-that special effects aboard the uniquely brilliant Omnimover ride system (which, by the way, we list among our Seven Modern Wonders of the Theme Park World).
In 1992, Disneyland Paris opened, putting a new, story-centered, European twist on classic Disney rides, and the Haunted Mansion was no exception. Paris' one-of-a-kind version – a Modern Marvel: Phantom Manor – is located in Frontierland (continuing the tradition wherein the ride never appears in the same land twice) and tied into a land-wide literary tale that connects it with Big Thunder Mountain. But Phantom Manor is more of a “reboot” than a sequel.
When Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, the itty-bitty park didn’t have a Haunted Mansion at all, and by process of elimination fans suspected that one might eventually be built in Adventureland. Instead, Hong Kong Disneyland upped the ante with a brand new, original land called Mystic Point.
The misty, distant jungles of Papua New Guinea hide the eclectic Mystic Manor – the estate of Lord Henry Mystic, a worldwide collector and philanthropist who’s part of Disney’s elaborate cross-continental frame story of S.E.A.: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The ride is commonly cited as a pinnacle of Imagineering, on par with modern wonders like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones Adventure, as guests board Disney’s trackless, LPS-guided “Magneto-Electric Carriages” to tour the international collections of the kindly Lord Mystic.
The only hiccup comes when his mischievous pet monkey Albert pulls an “Abu” and opens an ancient music box whose music is said to grant life to the lifeless. In the madness and chaos that follows, guests see modern evolutions of many concepts originally designed for an early version of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion known as the Museum of the Weird! We told the full story of Hong Kong's must-see mansion and its "haunting" origin in a full, standalone feature, Modern Marvels: Mystic Manor. With a musical score composed by Danny Elman (a frequent Tim Burton collaborator), the ride is absolutely astounding in every way, and represents a new leap forward for the “haunted house” concept.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -> Journey to the Center of the Earth
In 1959, a radical redesign of Walt’s original Tomorrowland saw the opening of the Submarine Voyage, a cutting-edge look at the wonders that waited in the ocean’s depths. By time Magic Kingdom was being developed for Florida, submarines weren’t the stuff of “tomorrow” anymore; so famed Imagineer Tony Baxter was tasked with redesigning the ride for Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. We told the entire story of the resulting masterpiece attraction in its own standalone feature, Lost Legends: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Submarine Voyage.
Brilliantly, Baxter had recast the ride as a fantasy adventure themed to the 19th century novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, part of Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraodinaires series (alongside Around the World in 80 Days and From the Earth to the Moon to name just a few) and Disney’s 1954 film adaptation.
When Tokyo DisneySea opened in 2001, it featured an entire land dedicated to Verne’s famous oceanographer Captain Nemo and his literary voyages. The iconic Mysterious Island land contained a new, technologically-advanced, 21st century version of the 20,000 Leagues ride, but it also added another... in its own right a Modern Marvel: Journey to the Center of the Earth (likewise based on another of Verne’s novels) is the park’s headliner… a stunning E-Ticket that contains an unspeakable creature we rank high on our must-read Countdown of the Best Animatronics on Earth.)
The subterranean adventure takes the fantasy, science, and otherworldly setting of 20,000 Leagues and creates the most simple, elegant, and thrilling modern dark ride in Disney’s portfolio, singlehandedly-turning DisneySea into a Mecca for theme park fans. Equally adventurous, similarly scientific, and fittingly “fantastical,” the two rides share a spirit of literary adventure.