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"That's Not Dory" and 8 Other BAD Voice Acting Moments at Disney and Universal Parks

5. Damsel in distress

Image: wdwinfo.com

Attraction: Fantasmic
Location: Disneyland

For most things at Disney Parks, an old idiom rings true: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." That's probably the takeaway from Disneyland's Fantasmic!, which underwent a year-long reimagining while its stage – the Rivers of America – were drained to make way for Galaxy's Edge. Sure, after a nearly 30-year run, it was high time for the show to be spruced up for the 21st century, and the "new" Fantasmic has all the bells and whistles you'd expect, like improved audio, projection mapping, and more. 

But arguably, Disney went too far in recrafting the classic, overstuffing it with effects and replacing some of its tributes to early Disney films with the same old songs and stories we've seen in every nighttime spectacular for the last decade... For example, Disneyland's Fantasmic has always benefitted over Disney World's for the use of its two, massive, real riverboats, including the Sailing Ship Columbia. In Fantasmic, the full-sized sailing ship became a living stage for Peter Pan's wire-work fight against Hook – a bright, beautiful, action-packed scene full of the color, life, and music the show's known for.

In the new show, Hook and Peter were cut for – you guessed it – Pirates of the Caribbean. It makes little sense for Mickey's frenzied descent into classic animated dreams to suddenly jump into a decade-old live action PG-13 film, but oh well... Now, the Columbia is decked in tattered sails with a gloomy blue and green fog, and Jack Sparrow seems to be in search of his Compass, while simultaneously considering saving a damsel in distress whose dialogue was clearly recorded from a sound booth where she was asked to scream, but not ad-lib; to shout, but enunciate. The result is a grating audio track that makes the worst scene in the new show even more awful. 

6. Dr. Seeker

Image: Disney

Attraction: DINOSAUR
Location: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Ah, Dinosaur. When we wrote our in-depth feature on the ride, we weren't entirely sure if the Animal Kingdom thrill should be classified among Disney's best rides, or its worst! That's in part because Dinosaur is perhaps the most uneven ride Disney's ever created thanks to the unusual history of the ride that we explored in Lost Legends: Countdown to Extinction. The victim of continuous edits to its story and tone, the ride has always suffered from its lack of clarity.

On your journey to save the last iguanodon from extinction, you're hurtled through an ancient, steaming, prehistoric jungle moments before the cataclysmic asteroid kills half of all species on Earth. It's dark. It's scary. It's loud. So how is one supposed to know what's happening? Enter Dr. Grant Seeker (get it?) who – alongside the Time Rover's on-board computer system – acts as your narrator through the journey. Seeker's narration today is a complete re-write of the ride's original narration, meant to be funny, but not distracting; expository, but not annoying; present and helpful, but well-timed between screams and roars.

That's why the ride today features audio that helps explain what's happening in the darkness ("Computer, what's happening?!" Chirp chirp. 'Loss of traction.'), remind riders of and refocus on the mission ("We've got to get in, get that iguanodon, and get out before the asteroid hits!" "Setting Autopilot on homing signal... now!" "Tracking a big dino on the scope; it could be ours!" "Still not our dino..."), and add tension rather than humor ("Forget it! Get them out now!" "You're not going to make it!"). The end result is – like so much of Dinosaur – just inconsistant... If you ask us, Dinosaur might benefit from an original score with just a few key bits of dialogue throughout.

7. Dory (but not Ellen DeGeneres)

Image: Disney

Attraction: Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Pixar Pal-a-Round
Location: Disneyland, Epcot, and Disney California Adventure

Similar to Emma Watson's obvious absense from Diagon Alley's Harry Potter rides, Disney Parks appearances by everyone's favorite fish, Dory, just don't sound quite right. Imitating Ellen DeGeneres' distinctive voice and mannerism is somewhat like trying to recreate a famous work of art; that is, it's not easy to do, and you're not likely to convince many people that you're the original artist. From the first lines spoken by Dory on either Disneyland's Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage or Epcot's The Seas, most people instantly register that Ellen's not on board. It's fair to imagine that Ellen would've requested a hefty paycheck for her appearance, but strange that Disney couldn't negotiate it... especially once Finding Dory went into production, and given Ellen's history of working with Disney Parks.

Then, when Imagineers redesigned Disney California Adventure's boardwalk amusement park into Pixar Pier, they transformed the Mickey's Fun Wheel Ferris wheel into the (nonsensically named) Pixar Pal-a-Round (which, for some reason, still has a '20s style, pie-eyed Mickey Mouse on its face). Even more strangely, they brought "Dory" back as the safety spiel voice for the new ride. 

8. Rosita

Image: Disney

Attraction: Tropical Hideaway
Location: Disneyland

When Disneyland's Tropical Hideaway opened in 2018, fans couldn't get enough of the quick service dining patio nestled in the jungles of Adventureland. Clearly part of Disneyland's pre-Galaxy's-Edge crowd control initiative "Project Stardust," the new dining area might best be described as a place for Annual Passholders to "Dole Whip and chill," helping to clear the park's infamously packed pathways. Meanwhile, it perfectly complements the Modern Marvel: Enchanted Tiki Room while simultaneously tying to the Jungle Cruise it overlooks and wrapping in the mythology of S.E.A.: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

One of the most talked-about parts of the Tropical Hideaway, though, was the rare appearance of an Audio-Animatronics outside of an attraction – in this case, the lovely Rosita, a bird whose absense from the Tiki Room has been mentioned in the show for fifty years. Given the masterful voiceover work that makes the Tiki Room so beloved, fans might've hoped that Rosita would be equally well-spoken, or even that she might sing or be live-puppeted to speak and respond to park guests...! No such luck. Rosita mostly tells jokes, and with voiceover work that sounds surprisingly amateur for such a prominent figure... 

Honestly, we might suggest that Disney just has the figure remain silent, or whistle Tiki Room tunes... 

9. The Bride

Image: Disney

Attraction: Phantom Manor
Location: Disneyland Paris

Disney Imaigneers went back to the drawing board when it came time to design Disneyland Paris, expertly re-crafting Disney classics into new forms that would be more agreeable to European tastes. While the Lost Legend: Space Mountain - De la Terre á la Lune now exists only in our in-depth archives, the park's one-of-a-kind take on the Haunted Mansion isn't just a favorite; it's a classic in its own right. Unlike its largely plotless American cousins, the Modern Marvel: Phantom Manor re-organizes the sights and sounds of the Haunted Mansion to tell a the story of Melanie Ravenswood (daughter of the founder of Big Thunder Mountain Mining Co.) and her eternal suffering when a mysterious Phantom kills her betrothed on their wedding day.

One of the things that makes Phantom Manor so unique is that it features a protagonist – Melanie – who we root for, even as she literally rots, waiting for a lover we know will never return. She's a tragic hero, whose only sounds through the ride are mournful cries and her forlorn, haunting singing with an operatic, beautiful voice. In the original Phantom Manor, our last interaction with Melanie is the last scene of the ride when – completely rotted to bone – she saves us from being sucked into Phantom Manor and its endless suffering, pointing us to safety.

In May 2019, Phantom Manor re-opened after an unprecedented sixteen month refurbishment, adding in some of those same "bells and whistles" that have reinvigorated other Disney dark rides, like improved animatronics, new lighting and sound, and projection effects. Despite a few questionable choices, the refurbishment is mostly for the better... until the last 20 seconds. Now, the bride's final appearance is via the familiar "Hitch-Hiking Ghost" effect, eerily smirking, laughing evilly, and saying "Will YOU marry me?" All at once, the last 20 seconds recast the bride not as our tragic hero, but as the same tired trope used in the American parks: a "black widow" bride... Does the simple line and its delivery recast the character as the ride's villain and undo the story fans thought they knew? Kind of... and that's a shame.

10. Woody (but not Tom Hanks)

Image: Disney / Pixar

When you hear "Dory" or "Hermione," you probably instantly recognize that the star power behind the voice didn't sign on to follow-up with the theme park attraction... 

But have you ever noticed that whenever Toy Story's Woody appears in Disney Parks, he sounds wrong? Probably not! But despite sounding pretty spot-on, most of Woody's appearances outside of the main film series and its associated shorts aren't voiced by Tom Hanks at all! Rather, they're mostly filled in by his brother, Jim Hanks! Jim has a film career all his own, but no less than twenty times, he's filled in for his brother to provide Woody's voice for specials and video games... which is to say nothing of the dozens and dozens of times Jim has played Woody for toys, parades, and theme park attractions.

Jim's appearances as Woody far outnumber Tom's, but this is one theme park voiceover that works perfectly! Still, Tom has joked about the relationship in interviews while Jim has showed off his unusually accurate imitation.

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