Next weekend is the release of Jungle Cruise, the Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt Disneyland Ride-Turned-Movie. It seems like it could be a lot of fun, in an over-the-top, charismatic, yet almost cartoonish way that Pirates of the Caribbean. There have been many movies that were once rides at Disney, but most of them didn’t turn out to be any good.
Tower of Terror
This ride opened in 1994, and we talked about the ride at length when the Disneyland version got a Guardians of the Galaxy facelift. Unlike most Disney rides, this was actually inspired from a Non-Disney IP (Intellectual Property), specifically The Twilight Zone, which ran from 1959-1964, and was incredibly popular.
So popular, in fact, that Disney thought for the first time that they should make a movie based on the ride, to be released three years later in 1997. The movie was made for TV, and starred Kirsten Dunst and is about “A disgraced reporter [that] investigates an abandoned luxury hotel where five people mysteriously disappeared sixty years earlier.” It has a 6.2/10 rating on IMDb. Fun fact, apparently many scenes were actually filmed in the ride itself.
Of course, as with many ’90s Disney properties, they are already discussing rebooting it, with Scarlett Johansson as the lead.
Mission to Mars
One of the original rides of Disneyland, Mission to Mars was originally called Rocket to the Moon, and was part of Tomorrowland. It was more of a 4D show than an actual ride, as you sat in a Control Room, and then the cockpit of a rocket that takes you to Mars and back. The ride closed in 1992.
The 2000 movie stars Don Cheadle, who is stranded on Mars and waiting for a rescue team to bring him home. It is a very similar plot to the Matt Damon movie The Martian. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as good, only getting a 5.7/10 on IMDb.
These two were so closely released, that I cannot help but believe it was intentional. The ride was originally called Countdown to Extinction, but it heavily featured an Iguanodon and Carnotaurus, which were also the primary characters of the film. The ride opened in 1998, and is a dark ride, Indiana Jones type where you ride in a Jeep, and are transported to the day the asteroid hits, and kills all dinos.
The movie, which was released in 2000, follows an Iguanodon, on his journey after a devastating meteor shower. Not the one that kills all dinos, but a very similar story nonetheless. The film has a 6.5/10 on IMDb, and the design for the dinosaurs matches the animatronics for the ride.
One of the last attractions that Walt Disney was working on before his death, Country Bear Jamboree features a band of animatronic bears, singing country music. The ride closed in 2001, after 30 years, however the Disney World version is still open.
As a way to commemorate the closing of the attraction to make room for a Winnie the Pooh ride, a movie was made, featuring the bear Beary Barrington, who wants to be a member of the famous All-Bear Country Rock band, the Country Bears, which were of course the characters from the original Disneyland show. Unfortunately, the movie was not good, getting a 4.2/10 on IMDb, and making only $17 Million box office, out of its $35 Million budget.
Pirates of the Caribbean
The most popular of this list, is of course the Jack Sparrow of it all. This was the very last ride that Walt Disney had a hand in helping design, opening just three months after his death in 1967. The ride is incredibly popular, still being open today, and even having an expanded version at Shangai Disneyland, which won the Best Dark Ride for 2019 by The Amusement Today Golden Ticket Awards.
The film series was equally popular, starting a film series that is now five films deep, with more on the way. Due to the films popularity, the ride actually received a few updates, removing a scene where tied up women were being sold as brides, auction style, as well as the inclusion of a few Jack Sparrows. The first film is rated an 8.0/10 on IMDb.
One of the first ride ideas Disney had, before he even created WED Enterprises (which would later be called Imagineers), the ride went through redesigns and new plans constantly, and didn’t actually open until three years after Disney’s death. This ride was also incredibly popular, with an incredible amount of lore, both in the story of the ride, and the creation of the ride itself. Fans of the ride are familiar with tales of the “Hat Box Ghost” or Madame Leota, just amazing bits of technology created specifically for this ride.
However, even though this movie came out the same year as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, this movie was not nearly as good. This Eddie Murphy movie has a 5.1/10 on IMDb, and was panned by critics for being neither funny, nor scary, and is just a lifeless ghost of a film.
When Disneyland first opened in 1955, it featured different areas, such as Main Street, USA, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, this park was the last to be completed, where on opening day it seemed lackluster compared to the rest of the park, due to budget cuts and time restraints. However, within just a few years they were able to complete their designs, and the area became just as popular, eventually getting rides such as the famous Space Mountain.
However, yet again, the film adaptation is just not as good. George Clooney plays an inventor who goes to an alternate, futuristic, dimension. The movie overall lost money, making less in the box office than the film cost to make and market. On IMDb the film has a 6.4/10 and only stood out for it’s production design.
Lastly, another original opening day Disneyland ride, was originally more supposed to be a nature documentary style safari, and even at one point was to include real life animals as opposed to animatronics. It wasn’t until 1962 when jokes were added, and now the ride is more of a place to rest in between adventures, hear some intentionally bad puns, or “Dad Jokes,” and just sit in the shade and giggle.
The movie, which comes out next week, stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and seems to be trying to balance the over the top comedy that the ride is known for, with a bit of classic adventure we see in Pirates of the Caribbean, the golden child of 2000s Disney Live Action.