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Frozen – Live at the Hyperion

Everyone has a favorite Disney Parks show. Maybe you’re consistently wowed by Indiana Jones’ explosive stunt spectacular, or maybe Belle’s over-glittered ballgown gives you nostalgic 90s flashbacks during the finale of Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage!. Perhaps you have a special fondness for the princess power ballads of Mickey and the Magical Map or have gained a new appreciation for the calming lotus floats of Rivers of Light.

Whatever your preference, the point of these rankings isn’t to tell you what your favorite Disney show is or should be. It’s to determine which Disney Parks production does the best job of combining innovation, special effects, and longevity. Will it be the phenomenally-crafted Frozen – Live at the Hyperion or the eternally-popular Festival of the Lion King? What about the endearing puppetry of Finding Nemo – The Musical? Let’s find out. 

(Note: A few parameters were applied to these rankings: Shows are only listed from Disneyland or Walt Disney World and all feature live players. Those that depend heavily on character/audience interactions (Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple), exclusively feature Audio-Animatronics (Country Bear Jamboree), or lack a clear storyline (fireworks and parades) have been omitted, as they’re too different to compare fairly. These rankings solely reflect the opinions of the author and do not represent those of Theme Park Tourist.)

14. Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire (Magic Kingdom)

Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire

Image: Diana Kelly, Flickr (license)

Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire is fine for what it is—a simple stage show that spotlights the latest Disney princesses with a song and a dance—but it’s not breaking any new ground or showcasing any special effects we haven’t seen before. And it’s not going to stick around as a permanent feature of Disney entertainment, either… at least, not if it goes the way of Dream Along with Mickey.

13. Rivers of Light (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

Image: Disney

Perhaps part of the problem with this show is that it was hyped up for so long before it made its debut. It’s not a bad show, per se, but simply the victim of high expectations. That said, it does get a few things right, making creative use of luminescent lotus floats and vivid water projections to achieve a kind of Fantasmic!/World of Color hybrid. Like Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, however, it’s difficult to see this becoming a can’t-miss classic.

12. Red Car Trolley News Boys (Disney California Adventure)

Red Car Trolley News Boys

Image: Jeff Kern, Flickr (license)

Speaking of creative shows, this little homage to turn-of-the-century newsboys is as original as they come. The seven-member cast utilizes one of the Red Car Trolley ride vehicles to set the stage, further grounding the show on Buena Vista Street as they transport guests to California’s Roaring Twenties (through period-specific songs and dances, that is, not magical ride vehicles). While the newsies’ musical revue and acrobatic dance moves are impressive, there’s little to suggest that this is the best Disney has to offer. The News Boys may be fixed characters in Disney California Adventure for years to come, but the small scope of the show and lack of special effects leaves them toward the bottom of this list.

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