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The 8 Best Limited-Time Disney Ride Changes

3. Pirates of the Caribbean

This overlay is another one from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which means it’s possibly part of a coming trend. Park planners may entice guests to pay for ticketed events in exchange for giving them exclusive versions of the attractions. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but three of the overlays listed here are pay to play.

Easily the best of them is the least predictable one. The “overlay” at Pirates of the Caribbean doesn’t change the ride at all. Instead, the interactions occur throughout the attraction. Starting in 2018, Disney added live actors to the experience. It’s a new type of theming that I hope becomes standard at some attractions.

The storyline here is that guests are warned about Gunpowder Pete, the “Notorious Pyrate” (sic). During the line queue and even the ride itself, cast members perform a kind of improv, explaining why Gunpowder Pete is bad and what park guests should do if they encounter him. Some of the live actors are in jail, others are town criers, and the most important one is Gunpowder Pete. He tends to appear toward the end of the ride, explaining why he did what he did.

The beauty of this overlay is that it’s unique each time. Theme park tourists are encouraged to engage in back-and-forth with the cast members. You may even make them laugh, a pleasant role reversal. It’s the most exciting of all the overlays listed here since anything can happen.

2. Jingle Cruise

Be honest. Do you have a large portion of the Jungle Cruise script memorized? If so, you’re not the only one. I’ve been on boat rides wherein I’ve watched guests recite the dialogue in tandem with the Skipper. Sure, there’s some variance here and there, as Skippers have their choice of several jokes at given moments. For the big stuff, however, most long-time Disney visitors have hyper-familiarity with the jokes.

Jingle Cruise is refreshing because it flips the script. The new concept is that the Skippers are homesick during the holidays. They’re in the middle of nowhere, missing the festivities back home. To remind themselves of home, they have decorated the line queue with holiday ornaments, wreaths, and even a Christmas tree. The boats get new holiday-related names like “Mistletoe Millie” and “Sleigh Ride Sadie”.

The best part is the dialogue. Regular animal puns are out, and Christmas puns are in! It may not sound like much, but the cast members relish this rare opportunity to tell a few new jokes for a while. As with Pirates of the Caribbean, every ride on the holiday overlay is slightly different and a welcome respite from the well-covered territory of the regular Jungle Cruise.

1. Haunted Mansion Holiday

The most detailed and beloved holiday overlay is obviously the only choice as the best one. The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is also the longest running overlay, and I mean that a couple of different ways. It debuted in 2001 and has run ever since. It also starts in September and lasts through the end of the year, understandable since the movie combines Halloween and Christmas.

You may not know this, but Haunted Mansion Holiday plays out as a kind of sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas. The setting is the aftermath of the film. Jack Skellington has embraced his love of all things Sandy Claws and wants to pass the yuletide spirit along to the 999 haunts in the mansion. He lights up every room with special holiday decorations, one of which is the infamous roulette wheel that Oogie Boogie spins.

Haunted Mansion Holiday embodies the best of Disney. It somehow unites a film, two holidays, and a wonderful attraction into a single thematically appropriate overlay. It’s the rare holiday plussing that feels like a standalone ride. You’d totally believe that the attraction was always based on The Nightmare Before Christmas if you didn’t know better. The integration is that tight and smooth. It’s easily the most entertaining of all Disney park overlays.

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