What would the Haunted Mansion be without a Ghost Host?
The Enchanted Tiki Room without Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz?
Carousel of Progress without John and Martha?
Voice acting is a major piece of great theme park attractions, lending life to Audio Animatronics, characters on-screen, and even ever-present narration! In fact, the delivery of lines can become so iconic, we created a two-part list of ride voiceover lines we bet you know by heart, from "This here's the wildest ride in the wilderness!" to "Thank the Phoenicians!"
But just as good voice acting can define an attraction for decades, a bad voiceover can tear you right out of the immersive worlds Disney and Universal work so hard to build. Especially in an era where Imagineers hope to transport guests into their favorite films, a missing voice actor, a bad line reading, or a poor imitation can totally change an attraction's feel. Here, we've got 9 of the BIGGEST voiceover mistakes in Disney and Universal parks (and one that's pretty surprisingly good).
1. Hermione (but not Emma Watson)
Attraction: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Hogwarts Express
Location: Universal Studios Florida
Unlike her Wizarding World co-stars who've mostly gravitated toward smaller-scale projects post-Potter, Emma Watson's star is still on the rise (up to and including her starring role in Disney's Beauty and the Beast). Though she's present – along with co-stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) and Rupert Grint (Ron) – in Universal's Hogsmeade land and its Forbidden Journey attraction, Watson was the first star to become suspiciously absent from the Wizarding World follow-ups in Diagon Alley.
Reportedly, Watson and Radcliffe kindly declined participation in the Diagon Alley projects on pretty agreeable grounds: it was the first evidence that the Wizarding World would continue to expand for decades, and both drew a line in the sand about being caught up in their Potter characters forever by way of theme park installations. (Notably, Rupert Grint [Ron], Robbie Coltrane [Hagrid], Helena Bonham Carter [Bellatrix], and Ralph Fiennes [Voldemort] have all managed to make themselves available...)
So when Harry or Hermione do appear in the Hogwarts Express or Escape from Gringotts, it's always via a double... and in the latter's case, a very bad voice-over. It's unusual that Universal couldn't arrange some sort of agreement for the half-dozen lines of dialogue that make up Hermione's part between the two rides, especially since she didn't even need to be on-site for any filming. Most of it probably could've been filled with archival audio! Without Watson, the single stand-in voice totally takes you out the moment in the otherwise immersive attractions, and it's a shame.
Attraction: Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
Since 1995, Disneyland's Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure has been one of the most mysterious and sought-after dark rides on Earth. A thrilling, off-road rally through the cursed Temple of the Forbidden Eye, the attraction's brilliant original story centers on a foreboding, ancient lost god called Mara. Ancient legends tell of the ancient gifts of Mara – timeless youth, earthly riches, or future sight – bestowed upon any who enter the Chamber of Destiny and successfully avoid the god's ancient, rotting gaze.
The sinister story is built up through the 1/2 mile queue and pre-shows, continuously gearing you up for your face-to-face encounter with the god. And for most of the ride's life, Mara's deep, resounding, booming bass voice (rumored – but unlikely – to have been provided by James Earl Jones) would hauntingly choose a gift for your vehicle, unlocking one of three doors and ushering you in... only to rattle the temple by exclaiming, "Foolish mortals! You looked into my eyes... Your destiny now lies beyond the Gates of Doom!"
In 2013, Disney outfitted the ride's fabled Chamber of Destiny with projection effects meant to give Mara new life... but when the ride re-opened, Mara's booming voice had been replaced by... well... fans debated whether the new voice was meant to sound like a leprechaun or an intern. Reaction was swift and merciless. After less than a month, the old voice returned – albeit, pitched up and re-cut to fit within the new projection animations. That makes it likely that the brief replacement was always meant to be temporary as the original audio files were re-synched.
3. Robert Osbourne
Attraction: The Great Movie Ride
Location: Disney's Hollywood Studios
There isn't much to say about this closed classic that's not covered by our in-depth Lost Legend: The Great Movie Ride entry... The spectacular journey into the movies was the sort of grand, 20-minute, Animatronic-packed, epic dark ride that only Disney can do, celebrating cinema from the silver screen to the greatest hits of today... er, well, the '80s. In any case, the ride (and its enviable location inside Hollywood Studios' iconic Chinese Theater) seemed to be positioned as the sort of evergreen "thesis" attraction that almost never gets closed!
Even as Disney's Hollywood Studios "evolved" to de-emphasize the "behind-the-scenes" of moviemaking and instead let guests step into the movies, the Great Movie Ride seemed like a mandatory attraction celebrating the foundation of films. It seemed like a good thing when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) entered into a sponsorship deal with Disney over the attraction in 2014... but one of TCM's first changes was to hand much of the ride's narration (previously handled by an in-vehicle guide) over to the disembodied voice of TCM presenter Robert Osbourne.
Osbourne – whose voice would be unfortunately unknown to anyone who doesn't watch TCM – only served to downplay the whitty back-and-forth that the ride's cast members had provided... something like giving half of Jungle Cruise's spiel to the voice of Dwayne Johnson played over speakers. Ultimately, TCM's sponsorship didn't extend the ride's life. It closed in 2017, with its last two years disappointingly weakened by TCM's changes and Osbourne's narration.
4. The Redhead
Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean
Location: Disneyland and Magic Kingdom
Since its debut at Disneyland more than 50 years ago, Pirates of the Caribbean has become one of the most iconic attractions ever produced by Disney. It's also had its fair share of edits over the last five decades... For fans, the last few decades in particular have been a war over the soul of the classic, with continuous edits to retrofit characters from the high-earning (and played-out) Pirates of the Caribbean film series into the ride. But for even longer, piecemeal changes to Pirates have been made in the spirit of "political correctness."
The most recent (and, as far as we can imagine, the "big finale" of those edits) were changes to the infamous auction scene, where an Auctioneer pirate takes offers for the "hearty wenches" he's trying to sell for brides. The star was the Redhead, a busty woman in a low-cut top lifting her red dress to expose her ankle while onlooking pirates chant, "We wants the redhead!" In 2018, the scene finally got the axe. The redhead was transformed into a pirate herself, now commanding the local townspeople to bring out their loot and rum (starting the not-quite-as-catchy chant, "We wants the rum! We wants the rum!").
Look – we'll leave discussions of the changed character's legacy to our list of lost Disney Parks' characters. But one thing we can all agree on? Whether you're into the change or note, this redheaded pirate sounds... well... rough. It's not just that the new redhead lacks nuance or subtlety, it's that it's instantly apparent that this audio is new and over-the-top. It just doesn't fit, and even a guest on their first ride-through would ask what the deal was.
But that's not even the worst pirate voice in Disney Parks... Read on...