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The Rides That Came before the Rides You Love

Snow White’s Scary Adventures

This one’s kind of a twofer. Snow White’s Scary Adventures at Magic Kingdom was a duplicate attraction of the opening day ride at Disneyland. The Walt Disney World version had a rocky history. Imagineers had tried to differentiate it as Snow White’s Adventures.

Don’t let the name fool you. It was a darker version of the concept, one that confused guests due to the absence of Snow White. There were skeletons and poisons and misshapen trees. Guests never warmed to it, forcing Disney to re-theme it more in line with the original version. For 23 years, Snow White’s Adventures disappointed. Then, Snow White’s Scary Adventures felt derivative for most of its 18 years.

When Disney decided to create New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, the Snow White attraction had to go. Its former park space is now home to Princess Fairytale Hall, a character meeting spot. Many of the Audio-Animatronics from the Snow White attraction were carried over to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

The roller coaster features a ride cart that tilts on its axis, causing an unprecedented sensation. It’s a gleeful experience that leaves a smile on the faces of all who are lucky enough to ride it. Out of all the attractions on this list, I suspect that Snow White’s Scary Adventures is the one that people miss the least. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is simply better in every way.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

In the annals of theme park history, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has carved out its own niche. History will remember it as one of the greatest themed attractions ever built. While Disney officials have mastered the art of turning their own intellectual properties into brilliant attractions, Twilight Zone is a different story. It was a third-party property that they licensed because they wanted to anchor Disney’s Hollywood Studios with an entertainment-based attraction.

For all of the great moments in Haunted Mansion, Disney’s not viewed as a master of the macabre. Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, on the other hand, is the most famous television program to explore the unknown regions of the human psyche. While Tower of Terror easily could have been a Stephen King or Mel Brooks-based attraction (seriously), park officials correctly chose Twilight Zone as the basis for this chilling drop tower ride. 

Image: DisneyThe genius of Tower of Terror led to its duplication at three other Disney parks. The first of those was Disney California Adventure (DCA) in 2004, a decade after the original version. Since DCA was still a mess during those early years, The Twilight Zone attraction stood out due to its heightened quality. Still, it never fit the park’s overriding theme and felt like what it was, a Hollywood Studios attraction duplicated at Disneyland Resort out of desperation as much as anything else.

When park officials committed to a new vision for DCA, the writing was on the wall for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Disney wanted Pixar and Marvel as the backbone of the latest iteration of the theme park, not a third-party property. They caused headlines everywhere with the announcement that the Hollywood Tower Hotel would close forever in California. Its replacement would have a Marvel theme.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! is a much different kind of drop tower dark ride. Its bounces are more measured, part of a mood-setting tone that fits the temperament of its superheroes. The Guardians of the Galaxy defeat bad guys by accident as much as skill. Their attraction is theatrical and musical, with cinematic sequences set to six different unforgettable rock songs. Gothic is out, and silly is in.

To Disney's credit, the reception of the Guardians attraction has been largely positive, a considerable accomplishment in light of the outcry against the re-theming during the early days. I don't think anyone would argue that it's the superior version of the ride concept, but it's a terrific standalone attraction. In the long term, that's better for DCA than a clone.

World of Motion

During the early days of Epcot, sponsorships mattered. When a sponsor asked for something, Imagineers honored the request. It led to some rather whorish attractions such as World of Motion. It was oddly similar to Spaceship Earth in design, as ride carts passed through set pieces that displayed moments from the history of mankind.

I’m not sure why a car ride started in caves and felt the need to show elephants and rafts, but they fit the premise. World of Motion told the story of humanity’s transportation-related inventions. Horse-drawn carriages, a triangle-shaped wheel, and some hysterically low-budget animation were all integral parts of the ride experience.

Even by 1980s-era Epcot standards, this ride was cheesy. And guests remember it fondly anyway. I’m one of them. I have a vivid memory of the first time boarded World of Motion as a kid. It had that kind of impact for its time.

Image: DisneyStill, World of Motion never stood a chance with modern audiences. After only a decade, it seemed like a relic. Disney closed the ride for good in 1996, and it was replaced by the first version of Test Track. Technically, that ride would qualify for this list as well since it was so different from the current iteration.

Test Track is now a combination of a dark ride and roller coaster, although it's technically called a slot car attraction. Disney's the global leader in this sort of attraction, with Radiator Springs Racer and Journey to the Center of the Earth also in the same style.

The idea that Test Track came from World of Motion is patently absurd, as it's one of Disney's best thrill rides. Any thrills that anyone got from World of Motion were purely by accident. This, too, is an example of a terrific change by Disney. How many of the titles on this list would you argue are changes for the better? Leave a note in the comments.

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