5. The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast
THE GOOD MOVIE: Ah, the Disney Renaissance… That period from 1989 to 1999 when Disney could do no wrong. Beginning with The Little Mermaid, Disney’s return to fairytale adaptations had created not just a rebirth in the company, but a reinvigoration of animation as an artform. Mermaid was followed in quick succession by Beauty and the Beast, a film that was almost-unbelievably nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (not Best Animated Picture… Best Picture).
Beauty and the Beast is remembered today as one of the greatest films of all time, and the movie that definitively secured the return of Walt Disney Feature Animation. Aside from sequels, spin-offs, merchandising, and a live-action remake that earned over a billion dollars alone, Belle was one of the driving forces behind the multi-billion dollar Disney Princess franchise! In other words, a whole lot was riding on Beauty and the Beast… yet it didn’t have a ride…
THE UNUSUAL RIDE: That is, until Tokyo Disneyland debuted The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. It’s a trackless dark ride through the songs of the film… but it’s not what most Disney Parks fans expected. In fact, the ride downplays or outright eliminates the story of Beauty and the Beast, instead featuring just three scenes, each playing nearly an entire, full-length song as guests’ tea cup vehicles dance around relatively static scenes. Here at Theme Park Tourist, we dedicated a whole article to exploring Tokyo’s odd Beauty and the Beast ride and why it just doesn’t seem to gel… In short, it’s probably telling that this is the first Tokyo-based ride that Disney fans haven’t been begging to have cloned back home.
And it's not the only Disney Renaissance film to have a lackluster attraction as its most permanent embodiment in the Parks...
6. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
THE GOOD MOVIE: For all the pomp and circumstance afforded to The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in hindsight, 1992’s Aladdin earned about as much at the box office as both of its predecessors combined. Aladdin wouldn’t remain the highest-earning film of the Renaissance (that would be The Lion King) but it would rise into the upper echelon of Disney films, inspiring sequels, spin-offs, video games, merchandising, a Broadway musical, and a billion-dollar-earning remake of its own… which makes it all the more strange that Aladdin – like so many films of the Disney Renaissance – had very little permanent presence in Disney Parks until decades after its debut.
THE "BARELY COUNTS" RIDE: At least Mermaid and Beauty have been afforded long overdue dark rides… Despite the obviousness of a magic carpet ride through the saturated scenes of Aladdin (perhaps in Disneyland Paris’ Adventureland, DisneySea’s Arabian Coast, or – don’t shoot the messenger – Epcot’s Morocco), none exists. Instead, Aladdin is relegated to three Dumbo-style spinner rides at Disney Parks around the globe. Ranging from elegantly decorated in Tokyo to backlot-style in Paris, the spinners aren’t anything to write home about. That’s why we suggested that if one ride were to simply “blip” out of existence at Magic Kingdom, we’d cross our fingers that the Magic Carpets of Aladdin would be the one… after all, it’s one of four – FOUR – spinner rides at the park.
7. It’s Tough to be a Bug
THE GOOD MOVIE: Debuting seven months before the film it’s based on – 1998’s A Bug’s Life – “It’s Tough to be a Bug” was reportedly the brainchild of then-CEO Michael Eisner, who wanted the theater inside the brand new Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life to promote the new Pixar film. Speaking of which, “It’s Tough to be a Bug” was technically the very first Pixar attraction in Disney Parks, predating Disney’s purchase of the studio by eight years.
A Bug’s Life ended up earning about as much as Pixar’s sleeper hit Toy Story had three years earlier, but it didn’t spawn the kind of franchise that cements a film as a go-to in Disney's Imagineering portfolio. Instead, “It’s Tough to be a Bug” (and in 2002, Disney California Adventure’s accessory “a bug’s land”) remained its only major installations. That’s a shame, because A Bug’s Life is a great movie that (like almost every Pixar film) earned critical acclaim and introduced some very likable and memorable characters.
THE TERRIFYING RIDE: "It’s Tough to be a Bug"? Not so much. Granted, the 3D film is smartly done. It’s staged as a showcase of bugs’ survival skills meant to impress upon us, as humans, how we may not always like bugs, but “if all bugs were wiped off the face of the planet, there’d soon be no humans around here to man it!” Each bug’s respective demonstration makes clever use of “4D” effects like air blasts, water sprays, and smells.
But halfway through, the nefarious villain Hopper arrives (via a legitimately horrific Audio Animatronic) demanding that we humans face the truth. In one of the more impressive physical effects in Disney Parks, Hopper has a 3D can of insect spray release an absolutely unbelievable amount of fog into the theater. As flashing lights and hissing fog cover everything, black widow spider animatronics rappel from the ceiling, gnashing inches above guests’ heads; hornet stingers jab guests between the shoulders. It’s absolutely nightmarish, often spending families scurrying for emergency exit doors as traumatized toddlers wail.
Everything comes together in time for a happy singalong finale, but “It’s Tough to be a Bug” is just downright mean. In fact, it’s the only attraction at Animal Kingdom to bear the “May be frightening for children” warning that even the Modern Marvel: DINOSAUR doesn’t! So maybe “It’s Tough to be a Bug” isn’t a bad ride… but it’s sure an odd fit for the movie.
8. Fast & Furious Supercharged
THE GOOD MOVIE: Though it’s easy to discount the Fast & Furious series as brainless action flicks appealing solely to the “male 18 - 39” demographic, that’s not really telling the whole story. After all, Fast & Furious is also a series that deals in serious topics like family, loyalty, and loss. Of course, more to Universal's interest, it's also the tenth highest-grossing film series of all time (which, after nine entries, still maintains a higher per-film average than the DC Extended Universe, Transformers, or Mission: Impossible) and, by the numbers, it’s Universal’s biggest franchise, period. Unlike Universal Parks’ golden goose, Harry Potter, the Fast & Furious franchise is a perpetual engine machine, with ninth, tenth, and eleventh films ranging from ready-for-release to pre-production and no signs of slowing.
THE HORRIBLE RIDE: So when Universal Orlando announced that it would close the tongue-in-cheek “Disaster!” ride (itself an update of the park’s opening day Earthquake) in favor of a Fast & Furious attraction, imaginations ran wild. Would Universal use a version of Disney’s Test Track technology to bring the high-adrenaline film to life? Would they create an indoor coaster like their own Modern Marvel: Revenge of the Mummy, with guests launching through high-speed car chases? Fast & Furious was the perfect IP for a thrill ride; one that even those who hadn't seen the films could enjoy!
Nope. Instead, Universal merely followed an M.O. that had always worked in the past: lifting single scenes from their Hollywood Studio Tour and expanded them into standalone rides in Florida. Trouble is, the projection-tunnel based Fast & Furious: Supercharged that had opened in Hollywood in 2015 was (pardon the pun) universally panned. No matter. It was copied to Florida anyway.
The West Coast tram was reimagined as slow-moving "party buses" that would rumble through the same two "pre-shows" Hollywood offered, then into its projection-tunnel finale that looks like a playable game on a PS2. It’s unclear why Universal Creative thought bringing the laughably-bad experience to Florida, barely expanding it, and making it a standalone ride people had to wait in line for would be a good idea, but Fast & Furious: Supercharged opened in 2018 to dismal reviews… Supercharged is so unpopular, Universal temporarily closed it – their newest “main” ride! – to offset capacity loss during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yikes! We definitely don't expect it to survive this decade... And maybe that's for the best.