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Classic Rides That Would FOR SURE Have Character Overlays If They Were Built Today

7. Space Mountain... with Wall-e

Image: Joe Pennison, Flickr

You may recall that Space Mountain was featured on our list of 8 Classic Rides Disney Would NEVER Build Today, and we bet you can see why. Today's executives would probably be bamboozled by the proposition of a roller coaster in a dark, offering neither any substantial thrills, technological wows, marketable characters, or even a story. But of course, it's immortalized in an in-depth behind-the-ride feature – Modern Marvels: Space Mountain – precisely because it transcends that all. Equally as relevant today as it was in the Space Age it was designed for, the ride is about free-flight; the unknown; wonder and fun.

Image: Disney / Pixar

If Disney were going to build a ride of similar stats today, maybe Wall-e would be a suitable intellectual property to make it happen. We can practically picture the ride (which, by sheer numbers alone, is one of the more tame family coasters out there) filled with projections of Wall-e and Eve zipping alongside the trains, with fantastic saturated nebulas and starfields all around. 

But another unusual truth is that if Tomorrowland were making its debut today, space probably wouldn't factor in much at all... "Space" feels central to Tomorrowland because of the time the land was most memorably designed (the late '60s and early '70s) but built from scratch, a Tomorrowland of today would probably find more adventure inside a computer than in outer space... which is perhaps why the Modern Marvel: TRON Lightcycle Power Run was built instead of Space Mountain in the future-forward Shanghai Disneyland... and why it's a little odd that TRON will be next to Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom come 2021. 

8. The Enchanted Tiki Room... with Moana

Image: Disney

Like the Country Bear Jamboree, The Enchanted Tiki Room doesn't seem like the kind of attraction that Disney would be interested in starting up today. But even if the age of animatronic shows passed by a long time ago, there's something special about this one. Maybe it's that the Enchanted Tiki Room is one of only two attractions in the world to bear the "Walt Disney's" tag in its name. If you're interested in the full story of the attraction, make the jump to our Modern Marvels: The Enchanted Tiki Room feature.

The Tiki Room is also unique because it has undergone a number of character overlays. In Tokyo, the original attraction was briefly restylized as a modern Las Vegas influenced musical revue before taking on its current form, which involves the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Stitch crashing the party. In Orlando, the attraction infamously became the subject of a Declassified Disaster: The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management in the '90s, with Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King coming on board to "spice things up." With all due respect to '90s kids who grew up with the "Under New Management" version and find Walt's now-restored original to be boring, they're wrong.

Image: Disney

In the lead-up to the 2016 film Moana, many fans began biting their nails. Not only was the gorgeous animated film set in Polynesia, but it also featured spectacular singalong musical numbers and... uh oh... a very dumb chicken. Would Disney try another modern overlay to the Tiki Room? So far, no. A slightly edited-for-time version of the 1963 original still plays in both Anaheim and Orlando. Will it forever? Time will tell. But at least we can be sure if that the attraction were built from scratch today, Moana – and Hei Hei – would be on full display.

9. Kali River Rapids... with Up

Image: Pandatrot

Kali River Rapids was the first attraction added to Disney's Animal Kingdom after the park's opening – the anchor of the then-new Asia continent. It was also Disney's first time building a white water rapids ride; the kind you'll find at many amusement parks that can freely spin as they smash through waves, pass alongside (or under) waterfalls, and sometimes drift into the path of onlookers firing water cannons or triggering geysers.

In Kali River Rapids (and Disney's other two uses of the ride system – Grizzly River Run at California Adventure and Roaring Rapids in Shanghai), Imagineers seemed to recognize that the frantic, distracting, and rotating ride system isn't exactly great for telling a story. Animal Kingdom's does the best of the three by at least sending the rafts through Asian ruins and into a smouldering clearing of downed trees, giving some indication of the menace of deforestation, logging, and human encroachment on habitats.

Image: Disney / Pixar

While characters were once unheard of in Animal Kingdom except when presented in in-universe, artisan, local storyteller styling, the introduction of the "Wilderness Explorers" from Pixar's Up as a cross-park badge-gathering game for kids, then (much less successfully) as the draw for Asia's "Up! A Great Bird Adventure" show, it may well be time to fold 'em and turn Kali River Rapids into a Wilderness Explorer journey down Anandapur's rivers, keeping the authentic and layered Asian details, but adding Russel and Doug in simple animatronic forms along the water as they search out Asian wildlife and study the ruins – perhaps to some comedic effect. The addition of the cartoon characters might actually be a "plus" for this 20-year-old ride that isn't really seen as a headliner, especially in a park with so few attractions.

10. Gran Fiesta Tour... with Coco

Image: Disney

Despite Imagineers' plans and fans' dreams, Epcot's World Showcase has always been woefully short on actual rides. For most of the park's life, there were only two: the Lost Legend: Maelstrom in Norway, and the El Rio del Tiempo in Mexico. Tucked away in an unassuming corner of the dark and beautiful Mexico pavilion, the latter was an eight minute boat ride through the history of Mexico from its native people to the bustling modern Mexico City of today in a fireworks-filled finale.

The ride closed without much fanfare in January 2007 and – after a flash three-month refurbishment – was re-opened as Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros, based on Disney's 1944 animated film. Very few physical changes were made to the ride's sets, instead swapping screen footage to have two of the animated trio (Panchito Pistoles, José Carioca, and Donald Duck) en route to a big concert in Mexico City. While the 2015 addition of Audio Animatronics of the trio (salvaged from the Mickey Mouse Revue) was a brilliant touch, the fact remains that the ride isn't exactly an anchor attraction...

Image: Disney / Pixar

Enter Pixar's 2017 film Coco, an emotionally gripping and spectacular film about young guitarist Miguel and his coming-of-age alongside Mexico's Día de los Muertos celebration, Latin music, and the power of family. Surely, if Epcot's Mexico pavilion were opening today, a Coco attraction would be at its heart. And in fact, at 2019's D23 conference – amid a laundry list of changes coming to the park over the next few years – a stylized model of the Mexico pavilion was present... with a guitar leaning prominently against it. While no formal announcements were made, it's almost certain that a Coco overlay to the Gran Fiesta Tour will happen... 

And as further evidence of our hypothesis (that any attraction built today is sure to have a high-earning intellectual property at its core), think of the changes confirmed for World Showcase: the already-open Modern Marvel: Frozen Ever After, a Beauty and the Beast singalong in France, a Mary Poppins ride in the U.K. pavilion, and a clone of Disneyland Paris' Modern Marvel: Ratatouille – The Adventure

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