Exceptional customer service and beloved classic attractions aren't the only things that Disney Parks have become well-known (and well-loved) for. In fact, peeling away the characters and attractions completely, there's something exceptionally simple about what makes Disney's theme parks different: their commitment to cleanliness, order, and beauty.
From Disneyland to Animal Kingdom, Imagineers know how to put the park in theme park, with spectacular landscaping and dazzling environments. It's Disney's commitment to show that makes their parks so different from their competitors'. And even back when Disneyland's competitors were simple boardwalks and coaster parks, Walt knew that the park's idealized, romantic style would set it apart. That's why, when Imagineers cooked up concepts for a Haunted Mansion on the edge of New Orleans Square of decaying siding, shattered windows, tattered curtains, and overgrown gardens...
...Walt famously rejected the idea, instead offering the legendary line, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."
But don't misunderstand: sometimes, Imagineers do have a very peculiar job: to dispense with Disney's usual order and perfection to instead make something look old, ancient, broken, ruined, or haunted. Below, we've got a list of attractions that defy Disney's usually-orderly style and actually get dirtier, older, messier, more cluttered, more lived in, and more rusted when refurbished!
1. Jungle Cruise
When Disneyland opened in 1955, the Jungle Cruise was there – arguably, as the park's original headliner! In the early days, the Jungle Cruise was staged as a self-serious tour meant to complement Disney's "True-Life Adventure" docu-series. Guests road in pristine, white boats with pastel accents, charcoal-black smokestacks, and elegant awnings of white-and-red or white-and-blue or white-and-green stripes. However, when Walt overheard a group of guests say they'd skip the Jungle Cruise since they'd already ridden it last time they visited, he leapt into action and requested his designers "plus" the ride!
Walt brought in Marc Davis (animator and later Imagineer) to add some of his signature humor and his trusted comical characters to the ride's overly serious sets. Naturally, that's when Jungle Cruise gained some of its more famously funny vignettes and switched to a knowing, comedic narration from on-board Skippers – enough to make the ride different every time, turning it into the multi-generational eternal classic we know.
But it wasn't the last change that the ride would undergo...
Perhaps the next most signficant was in 1994. That year, Disneyland's Jungle Cruise was transformed. A new, two-story Boathouse queue appeared, broadcasting classic jazz tunes throughout Adventureland and added animatronic animals to the queue. What's more, the ride's boats were totally transformed... and not in the way you'd expect.
Now, each tramp steamer is rusted, with "repairs" to their hulls, draped cargo nets, belching rusted tin smokestacks, and tattered, worn, poorly-patched canvas roofs. Why did Disneyland's ride suddenly lose its modern cleanliness and get aged back to the 1930s? Because of a famous new neighbor...
2. Indiana Jones Adventure
In 1995, the Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure opened just next door, with the Jungle Cruise's new boathouse doing double duty to also serve as Indy's queue. Although not expressly explained as such, what Disney was doing with Disneyland's Adventureland is just like what they had debuted in Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland the year before: an early attempt at uniting each of the castle parks' literary lands with internal logic and overarching storytelling, drawn into one land-wide frame story.
For Adventureland, the story was simple: it's the late 1930s. We, the guests, are the nouveau riche of European high society, lured out to this lost river delta by sensationalized black-and-white news reports offering us an escape from our dreadfully boring lives. The main draw? The so-called "Temple of the Forbidden Eye," the newest discovery of famed archaeologist Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones. We've been promised that, by entering, we'll earn timeless youth, earthly riches, or visions of the future... if we avoid the dreaded gaze of the lost temple god, Mara...
The brilliance of the story is that when we arrive to this remote jungle outpost, we find we've been bamboozled! The "world famous" Jungle Cruise, the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and the dilapidated bazaar of the land are merely a tourist trap, lacking the elegance and exoticism we've been promised. Still, our tour through the temple is aboard "troop transports" reclaimed from the Great War, which skid through the landscape as sputtering generators try in vain to keep power running through the land. When Indiana Jones Adventure undergoes a refurbishment, mud is splattered against the ride vehicles!
3. The Haunted Mansion
Walt's famous standard of care for the Haunted Mansion came to be, even if he never lived to see the final ride that his Imagineers came up with. And true to his insistence, the stately white plantation house in Disneyland's New Orleans Square and the red-brick colonial manor in Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square are both finely kept with well-manicured lawns and carefully-cared-for exteriors.
Of course, inside the manors is something very different. Inside, the mansions are layered with dust and cobwebs, the latter of which is made of a "proprietary formula" and applied at regular intervals to keep the attraction's interior lookingly convincingly spooky. Don't worry – Cast Members have special instructions explaining what to clean, and what to leave a mess. The Haunted Mansion is undoubtedly the first Disney attraction where a layer of grime actually adds to the story, so whenever this classic goes down for a refurbishment, fans eagerly anticipate it re-opening... with more dust, cobwebs, and flickering lights than it had before!
By the way, when the Haunted Mansion was duplicated at Tokyo Disneyland, designers used the Magic Kingdom version of the exterior... but since the ride was placed in Fantasyland (befitting Japanese cultural tradition around ghosts), it was adorned with more "storybook" elements and more tell-tale signs of a haunting like – you guessed – broken windows and tattered curtains. Similarly, Disneyland Paris's spin-off – the Modern Marvel: Phantom Manor – is located in a rickety, wooden manor that looks as haunted as it is... Disney Legend and Imagineer Marc Davis commented on the Parisian ride (designed by his own protege-turned-peer, Tony Baxter) by saying "Walt would never approve of it.”
Makes us wonder what he'd think of the next ride on our list...