One of the biggest controversies in the theme park world over the last few years (other than the use of virtual queues) has been the evolution of the screen-based dark ride. Of course, screens are nothing new, but ever since The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man revolutionized how screen and projection technology was used inside attractions, many have complained of diminishing returns inside this sub-genre, with attractions like Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, and Fast and Furious: The Ride, failing to excite theme park tourists.
While Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway does use some familiar screen based "tricks" that guests will notice right off the bat, this attraction does feel like an evolution of this medium in some critical ways, and is a solid addition to Disney's Hollywood Studios, even if it doesn't exactly feel as "timeless" as the Great Movie Ride that preceded it inside the Chinese Theater show building.
FYI: we're going to be discussing SPOILERS in this article, so if you want to experience this attraction without knowing anything about it, stop reading here!
If you don't mind spoilers, continue on (and check out our filmed ride-through here!)
Perfecting "2 1/2 D"
When Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway was first announced Disney said it was going to use "2 1/2 D" technology to transport guests inside the zany world of the Mickey Mouse shorts. And this attraction really succeeds with this, with massive floor to ceiling screens that create a backdrop upon which physical sets are built and projection-powered animatronics move, filling up the "frame" of your field of view with plenty of depth, immersing you in this "real" cartoon world.
The scope starts small as passengers board trackless vehicles behind a train conducted by Goofy. As you might expect, things go wrong immediately, and the four trailing vehicles behind the locomotive separate not only from the train's front but also from one another, moving independently in a careful choreograph through a series of scenes with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and even perennial badguy Pete!
Setpieces are wildly varied and include a wild twister, a desert, an island paradise, a wild carnival, a dance studio, and a crazy factory! And while the transitions between these areas can feel a little rough (and the story can feel a little lost in translation), this ride is fun through and through, and really captures the spirit of the new Mickey Mouse shorts.