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10 Gasps-and-Goosebumps-Inducing BIG Scenic Reveals in Disney Parks

8. Looking back at our Spaceship Earth

Since it opened in 1982, Epcot has changed quite a bit. Gone are the days of each of the scientific pavilions of Future World being anchored by epic, educational dark rides through the history and future of industry. Yet even as Guardians of the Galaxy, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille move in, brainless thrills replace fan-favorite dark rides, and Disney debates how to keep Epcot nostalgic but futuristic, one thing has remained: Spaceship Earth.

Positioned as Epcot's pavilion dedicated to communication, the eponymous dark ride inside remains an epic, 15 minute journey through the history of human communication from the stone age to the digital age and beyond. It's not just a throwback to the way Disney used to do design Epcot's rides (lofty, intellectual, and packed with Audio-Animatronics); it's also a modern classic, regularly and lovingly updated to keep current with our rapidly changing world. Still, though, the emotional climax and the ride's big reveal happen when the slow-moving Omnimover vehicles finally reach the height of their continuous ascent through Spaceship Earth.

At the top of the geodesic sphere, riders gaze at our own planet floating endlessly among the stars. It gives life to the attraction's fabled narration that says, "Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time, and for a brief moment we have been among its passengers."

9. Racing toward broken tracks

Attraction: Expedition Everest

One of the most well-known Disney roller coasters on Earth, the Modern Marvel: Expedition Everest has elevated itself into the ranks of Big Thunder Mountain or Space Mountain – that is, it's recognizable even to those who've never been to a Disney Park. Everest is perhaps the most imposing of the Disney Mountains thanks to its raw statistics and the surprises it holds in store, like a backwards portion that even thrillseekers admit packs a forceful punch.

But for fans of Imagineering, the real artistry is how well Everest melds its promise of thrills with masterful ambient storytelling and design. After a suspenseful build-up in the immensely detailed queue, the ride's initial jaunt through the lowlands of the Himalayas leads to an ascent through an ancient city into the snowy valleys of the Forbidden Mountain... Then, as the train coasts through caverns and misty beds of snow... 

Image: Disney

The track ahead has literally been torn from its ties, mangled and twisted in a sign of aggression by the fearsome guardian Yeti. After pausing at the foot of these broken tracks for a moment, the train is released, dropping backwards into the mountain's dark caverns. It's really almost too bad that the broken tracks are one of the most recognizable and iconic of Everest's features... when the surprise is truly unknown to first-timers, it gains that powerful gut-punch moment of awe.

10. Making it back to "home sweet home"

Attraction: Splash Mountain

Appropriate for last on our list is the big finale of Splash Mountain. The ride's story – though it may be nearly incomprehensible if you don't know it beforehand – follows the critters who live in the prickly Briar Patch at the base of the mountain. There, the mischievious Br'er Rabbit packs a knapsack and decides he's leaving the Briar Patch behind to seek out new adventures and the fabled "Laughin' Place" where animals play all day without an ounce of work. 

Sound too good to be a true? Of course it is! The wiley Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear have set a trap, cleverly capturing Br'er Rabbit, carrying him to their hideout at the top of the mountain, and threatening to cook him into rabbit stew. But Rabbit's got a plan. "Mr. Fox, you can skin me or eat me alive, but whatever you do, please don't throw me down into that there Briar Patch!" Br'er Rabbit reverse psychology works, with Fox throwing him (and you!) over the edge and down into the prickly briars... and right back to his home!

Image: Disney

While most flume rides might end with the big splash, Splash Mountain circles back around to the ride's biggest scene yet: a welcome home party for Br'er Rabbit, featuring dancing and singing critters on a rocking riverboat just as the sun sets. "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay! My, oh, my, what a wonderful day! Welcoming back Br'er Rabbit today; we always knew that he'd get away. He's had enough of moving on now; it's where you're born and breded; the Briar Patch is where he's headed! Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay! Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!"

But perhaps the ride's prevailing moral is taught by Br'er Rabbit himself as he relaxes back in his burrow, imparting what he's learned on riders. "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, home sweet home is the lesson today! Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, I'm glad to be home now, 'cause I'm here to stay!" After the spectacle of the massive finale packed with dancing figures, the moment with Br'er Rabbit is a charming goodbye from a larger-than-life ride.

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