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11 Disney Classics Where NOTHING "Goes Horribly Wrong!"

8. Test Track

Image: Disney

When the original version of Walt Disney World’s fastest ride opened at the dawn of the New Millennium, it wasn’t just a technological leap forward for Imagineering; it was a major hint of what Epcot would become, trading “brainy,” informative, educational dark rides for technological thrill rides with… significantly less to say about human ingenuity and innovation. 

While the original is detailed in our Lost Legend: Test Track feature, it essentially placed guests in the role of crash test dummies, putting “prototype General Motors cars” through the paces – testing extreme temperatures, hairpin turns, anti-lock brakes, and a climactic set-up for a crash barrier test that memorably turned into a 65-mile-per-hour speed course in a brilliant optical illusion. Unless you count the entire premise of being in a crash-test-ready car as something horribly wrong, the ride was a kinetic and energetic thrill with nothing bad happening.

The same remains true today, since a TRON-esque aesthetic overtook the pavilion in 2012. Now, the formerly industrial interior has become a sleek digital one, hiding the old “testing facility” story and instead emphasizing the engineering design process. The ride vehicles stand in for guest-created custom cars, and most of the ride’s trials have been cleverly reimagined. Test Track proves that even a highly-produced, 21st century E-Ticket thrill ride can exist without something going horribly wrong!

9. Peter Pan’s Flight

Image: Disney

Don’t think that just because you’re a Fantasyland dark ride based on a cherished story, you’re exempt from the risk of “something going wrong.” After all, you’re captured by Stromboli on Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, sentenced to beheading on Alice in Wonderland, nearly killed by the Evil Queen on Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and literally sent to hell on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Conflict is a massive part of Disney stories, so it’s often a part of rides inspired by them.

Then there’s Peter Pan’s Flight. The perennial favorite of Fantasyland’s classics has been one of Disney’s signature rides since 1955, with guests in pirate galleons sailing through the Darling children’s nursery, right out the window, over London, and on to Neverland. Maybe the simplicity of Peter Pan’s Flight is what makes it feel so endlessly repeatable and evergreen. It’s dreamy, cheerful, and beautiful, with no interruptions. 

10. Space Mountain

Image: Disney

The Modern Marvel: Space Mountain ranked high on our must-read list of Classic Disney Rides That Would NEVER Be Built Today (and Why). We imagined that if someone at Imagineering bothered to propose such a ride today, executives would ask, “It’s a roller coaster in the dark? … That’s it?” But that’s just it. For all the emphasis that today’s Imagineers place on ‘story,’ Space Mountain dates to an era when that’s just not how things worked.

What’s the ‘story’ of Space Mountain? Well… there isn’t one! Instead, the ride is about the thrill of flight; the wonders of the unknown; the feeling of racing through infinity! If proposed today, it wouldn’t pass muster with designers (or fans!) that a roller coaster taking us to space has a slow, steady lift hill. What’s more, today’s standards would doubtlessly require that somewhere in the middle of the ride, an on-board explosion or distress signal would lead to the ride’s zipping, dipping, wild coaster course (which is essentially what happens on the Star Wars-based Hyperspace Mountain overlay).

Though Disneyland Paris’ Lost Legend: Space Mountain - De la Terre a la Lune successfully infused a launch and a “plot” to the experience (with a spectacular Jules Verne style to boot), it still kept to the ride’s simple origins: swirling through the darkness and twisting around fantastical starscapes. It’s proof that, even as it evolves for the times, Space Mountain stands as an icon of an era of Imagineering when raw emotion was the driving force – no “oh no!” announcements or mid-ride mistakes necessary. 

11. Na'vi River Journey

Image: Disney

Well into the development of Pandora – The World of AVATAR, it became known that the land would contain two major attractions. Naturally, Flight of Passage was quickly understood as the land's starring E-Ticket – a breathless simulator on the back of the moon's banshee dragons. But for many Disney Parks fans, the ride that most captured their attention and interest was the second: a slow-moving boat-based dark ride through the moon's glowing jungles... 

Fans eagerly debated what exactly the attraction might entail. Would it have drops? A plot? Animatronics? The answers were no, no, and YES, respectively. Na'vi River Journey is exactly the kind of ride Animal Kingdom needed – a stirring, contemplative, tranquil dark ride the entire family could enjoy. It's an almost-mystical trip through the glowing forests of Pandora showcasing the otherworldly flora and fauna with their bioluminescent features. The natural sounds and songs of the planet crescendo with the finale: an encounter with the Na'vi Shaman of Songs – one of the most incredible animatronics ever. There's no tension. No threat. No fear. It's simply a beautiful, reflective journey.

About the only complaint people seem to have about Na'vi River Journey is that it's simply not long enough at only about four minutes. Just as you begin to fall in love with the music and sights of Pandora, the ride's over. Would a drop or a "threat" have improved the ride? Doubtful. But a little more time in the magical realm might've. Na'vi River Journey is exemplary because is avoids having "something go wrong" and instead provides pure, magical wonder.

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