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8. Disney's Animal Kingdom

Image: Disney
  1. AVATAR Flight of Passage
  2. Dinosaur
  3. Expedition Everest
  4. Festival of the Lion King
  5. Kilimanjaro Safaris
  6. Na’vi River Journey

When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, the park offered just four rides – including two whose primary purpose was transportation in the enormous park. Expansions since have added a handful of rides from large-scale thrills to family flat rides, like Kali River Rapids and the Declassified Disaster: Chester and Hester’s Dino-rama. That makes Animal Kingdom a park of very few actual rides, but with most of its collection made of headliners – including the rare appearance of a show we’d give an E-Ticket designation to.

Image: Disney

E-TICKET AWARD: Frankly, three E-Tickets are in the running here. Subject of a standalone feature, the Modern Marvel: Expedition Everest takes a familiar experience (a roller coaster) and transforms it into something next level. Kilimanjaro Safaris is perhaps the park’s thesis ride, getting guests up close to the wonders of nature. But the spectacular AVATAR Flight of Passage serves as a spectacular 21st century simulator fusing some of Disney’s greatest tricks into an emotional, awe-inspiring journey.

THE WEAK LINK: When fans discovered that Pandora - The World of Avatar would offer a tranquil boat-based dark ride through the alien moon’s bioluminescent jungles, it felt like a return to form for Disney Imagineering. And while the plotless, scenic sightseeing tour through the forest is spectacular, it’s about half as long as most guests would like. While we’d call it an E-Ticket, it’s admittedly just barely making the cut.

7. Shanghai Disneyland

Image: Disney
  1. Peter Pan Flight
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure
  3. Roaring Rapids
  4. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  5. Soaring Over The Horizon
  6. TRON: Lightcycle Power Run

Not yet counted: Unnamed Zootopia attraction

The opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 was seen as a watershed moment in the legacy of CEO Bob Iger. A long time coming, Disney’s flag planted in mainland China expanded the brand to an untapped – but enormous – market. Majority owned by the Chinese government, the resort was required to feature new rides and not classics, necessitating Imagineers return to the Disneyland formula and make some of the first major tweaks ever. The result is a park where even “copies” are reimagined with new show technologies, and where most E-Tickets are original.

Image: Disney

E-TICKET AWARD: In Shanghai, it must be Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure. Among the short-list pantheon of Disney’s best modern dark rides, this new take on the Pirates formula is more reinvention than evolution. Multi-directional boats float through multimedia scenes that reflect a scale never seen before. The epic attraction is world class in every way.

THE WEAK LINK: It would be easy to list Peter Pan’s Flight or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train here, given that they’re not exclusive to the park. However, we’ll controversially consider Roaring Rapids as the weak link among E-Tickets. Disney’s other two rapids rides (California’s Grizzly River Run and Animal Kingdom’s Kali River Rapids) didn’t even make it to their respective park’s E-Ticket lists, as both as somewhat dull, meandering rides that lack animatronics or stories. But that might be preferable to Roaring Rapids, which promises – but fails to deliver – a compelling and adventurous story. Instead, it floats through barren river channels en route to an ending encounter with a very big Audio-Animatronic beast.

6. Disneyland Paris

Image: Disney
  1. Big Thunder Mountain
  2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril
  3. Peter Pan's Flight
  4. Phantom Manor
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean
  6. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  7. Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain: Rebel Mission

Though Disneyland Paris is often derided as the industry-changing park that caused decades of cop-outs, closures, and cancellations, the park itself is among Disney’s most beautiful. Somehow, it successfully merges the charm and intimacy of Disneyland with the scale and magnificence of Magic Kingdom. And while most of its E-Tickets are not from scratch, most are redesigned and reimagined to fit the more detail-oriented European park. Unfortunately, the biggest victim of Disneyland Paris' downfall might've been Disneyland Paris itself, which has been trapped in a state of suspended animation since the mid-'90s with any available resources poured into Walt Disney Studios instead.

Image: Disney

E-TICKET AWARD: The one-two punch of the park’s two mountains can't be beat. First, Big Thunder Mountain (in its world’s-best version) is wrapped into an epic Western story, connected to the Modern Marvel: Phantom Manor. Meanwhile, the park's reimagined Lost Legend: Space Mountain - De la Terre á la Lune stripped the peak of its white, Space Age styling and instead was a launched, inverting coaster through the plot of a Jules Verne novel... until its unfortunate Star Wars overlay today. That said, it still provides a one-of-a-kind, epic, and sought-after ride experience.

THE WEAK LINK: It's a real question as to whether or not Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril even counts as an E-Ticket. After all, it was merely a quick-fix solution to the park's early attendance problems, bringing in a relatively simple, mostly-bare steel roller coaster (with a loop - the first inversion in Disney's coaster portfolio!) with temple theming around it. Allegedly it was meant to be the prologue to the eventual construction of a full Indiana Jones Adventure dark ride, but 30 years later that's looking unlikely...

5. Disney's Hollywood Studios

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  1. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  2. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  3. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
  4. Star Tours - The Adventures Continue
  5. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  6. Toy Story Midway Mania
  7. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

While Disney’s Hollywood Studios has the fewest rides of any Walt Disney World park, we’ll say this for the movie park: seven of its nine rides are undisputed E-Tickets. Maybe that’s why Imagineering fans comically call Hollywood Studios “the worst park with the best rides.” Perhaps because the park has been subject to criticism since its opening as an intentional “half day” destination, it’s been fully loaded with anchor attractions, one after another, up to the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway this year.

Image: Disney

E-TICKET AWARD: Bar none, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance reigns. In fact, we argue that this brand new trackless dark ride isn’t just an E-Ticket; it’s an Ultra-E-Ticket. Utilizing three ride systems and a scale never before attempted in a theme park, the ride is absolutely among the most astounding things Imagineering has ever created. Period.

THE WEAK LINK: Conversely, fans are largely ambivalent about the other ride in Galaxy’s Edge. Smugglers Run positions guests behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon for a smuggling mission. Because the ride is clearly, intentionally positioned as “second fiddle” to the unmatchable Rise, some folks describe it as a mere "D-Ticket" aside. But whether you love or hate the divisive attraction, you can't argue that it features a wildly interesting ride system, unprecedented technology, and one-of-a-kind ride experience. In other words, by most any metric, Smugglers Run is an E-Ticket. Whether its a good one or not is the million dollar question that everyone seems to have an opinion on. 

4. Tokyo DisneySea

Image: Disney
  1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  2. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
  3. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  4. Nemo & Friends SeaRider
  5. Raging Spirits
  6. Soaring: Fantastic Flight
  7. Tower of Terror
  8. Toy Story Midway Mania

Not yet considered: Unnamed Tangled attraction, Unnamed Peter Pan attraction, Unnamed Frozen attraction

Tokyo DisneySea is a bucket list destination for thousands of Imagineering fans across the globe. The incredible park opened in 2001 at an estimated cost of over $3 billion – about five times the cost of Disney’s California Adventure the same year. It’s also celebrated as the origin of a new concept: the park as the E-Ticket. Put another way, you could spend the entire day at DisneySea, ride nothing, and still feel you’d had an outstanding experience. But of course, that doesn’t mean the park doesn’t offer incredible, original attractions.

Image: Disney

E-TICKET AWARD: Though the park famously offers two incredible dark rides connected as part of the spectacular mythology of S.E.A. - The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, the park’s anchor is easy to identify. Located inside the rumbling, 189-foot-tall Mount Prometheus volcano resides the Modern Marvel: Journey to the Center of the Earth – one of two Jules Verne literary adventure attractions at the park, and offerings one of the most amazing Audio-Animatronics on Earth.

THE WEAK LINK: Technically, probably Raging Spirits (a better-dressed clone of Disneyland Paris' Temple of Peril.) But in this park’s stellar lineup, the weak link is more of a mis-matched link: Nemo & Friends: SeaRider, an uncharacteristically-cartoon takeover of an opening day simulator called StormRider. It’s not that SeaRider is a bad attraction… far from it! It’s that it’s oddly out-of-place in the otherwise grounded, literary park. Of course, the upcoming debut of a brand new (and enormous, Pandora-scaled) Fantasy Springs land means characters are no longer verboten at the park, so perhaps we’re being too harsh.

Ah, but as expected, we’ve come down to just three parks: the three original “castle” parks in Anaheim, Orlando, and Tokyo – the 2nd, 1st, and 3rd most visited theme parks on Earth, respectively. What order do you expect they’ll be in?

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Comments

You can't omit Grizzley River Run from DCA, but include Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom. Grizzley is a much better attraction, it is longer and has an extra drop.

I didn't count either of those raft rides! I *did* include Roaring Rapids at Shanghai Disneyland (which is a clone of Grizzly River Run), but only because it feels like a more full experience due to the finale encounter with the animatronic. None really feel like "headliners" to me, and I don't think Disney has figured out how a spinning rapids ride "meshes" with their storytelling yet. But great point.

Love your posts, especially lists like these and the Possibilityland series.

I'm a tad skeptical of Peter Pan's Flight's inclusion as an E ticket though. I don't think it qualifies on scale; was it ever considered an E ticket back in the days when Disneyland still used to issue those single-ride coupons?

Good point! As far as I know, it was only ever a D-Ticket in the actual ticket book days, so maybe it should be removed... I counted it because, in my arbitrary definition, it meets two of my three made-up criteria: "A novel and extraordinary ride system" and "An exceptionally renowned, historic, or sought-after experience." I can see subtracting it from each "castle park" though depending on your definition!

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