How I Rank All 50 Disneyland Attractions
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How Everyone Else Ranks Disneyland Attractions
Since Disneyland first opened, people have always debated about the "best" and the "worst" Disneyland attractions. There have been countless rankings of Disneyland attractions over the past 64 years of the park's operation, but these rankings are rarely of any use to other guests, because they are primarily based upon subjective considerations (you can recognize this type of ranking when phrases such as "my favorite" or "I like" are used). Therefore, I have created a very different (and much more useful) ranking of Disneyland Park attractions.
Why I Rank Disneyland Attractions Differently
Because I work at Disneyland, I have the luxury of visiting the park as often as my schedule permits. Due to my frequent visits, I don't feel the same pressures that other visitors to the park might be under. I don't feel the pressure to ride all of the attractions in one day, or the pressure to ride only the attractions with the shortest wait time. Instead, I ride attractions because they tell a story. I ride attractions because they help me escape from reality and enjoy an immersive environment unlike anything I can find elsewhere.
How I Rank Disneyland Every Disneyland Attraction
Not surprisingly, however, there are a lot of different attractions at Disneyland Park (fifty different attractions, to be precise), and some attractions are much more immersive than others. That's why I've ranked them for you, starting with the Least Immersive Attraction and ending with the Most Immersive Attraction. Unlike other "favorite" rankings, this list covers the pros and cons of each attraction's immersion, and doesn't leave out a single attraction.
Some of the results might be unexpected (for example, you'll probably be surprised at #46), and others will likely come as no surprise (for example, you probably won't be surprised at #50). However, don't expect newer attractions to necessarily rank higher on the list than older attractions.
It is my hope that the following list will help you decide what to do on your next visit to the Disneyland Resort.
1. Disneyland Monorail.
Pros: The monorail doesn't need a story, because it tells the story of the entire resort. This attraction makes no attempt to veil itself in a complicated theme or plot line, instead focusing on the beauty of the parks from an infrequently-enjoyed perspective. By passing over Autopia, Finding Nemo Submarines, the Small World plaza, the Matterhorn, the Esplanade, Buena Vista Street, and Downtown Disney, the monorail connects otherwise-disconnected segments of Walt's Dream into a great mosaic of color and imagination.
Cons: The monorail can be boring. It can also be extremely repetitive. Unless you get a good seat facing the right direction on a day without direct sunlight shining through the window, it can be difficult to see what you are passing over. Most importantly, though, the monorail is extremely non-immersive. It breaks show multiple times by passing over and through backstage areas.
2. Disneyland Railroad.
Pros: This classic attraction is like the Disneyland Monorail, only better. Instead of showing guests backstage areas or simply boring them with a disembodied narrator, the Disneyland Railroad has some surprises in store for guests. The Grand Canyon diorama is simple, yet beautifully engaging. The pass-through of Splash Mountain is unexpected, but welcome. The train trestle bridges are perfectly themed to the landscapes in which they are found, and the trains themselves have a style that never seems to go out of style.
Cons: Despite its universal appeal, the Disneyland Railroad seems a bit out of place when passing over the entrances to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and when pulling into the Tomorrowland Station. Behind Autopia, guests can glimpse peeks of backstage areas as they roll past, and the almighty narrator detracts from letting guests figure out where they are headed on their own. Even with the addition of narration, there is no cohesive narrative to this simple attraction.
3. Astro Orbiter.
Pros: Guests sit in small rockets which "launch" and then "orbit" rotating planets, within view of the rest of Tomorrowland.
Cons: This ride is not technically inside Tomorrowland (let alone any other land of the Disneyland Park), and it gives you a great view of Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle, both of which should NOT be visible from a futuristic ride. The ride has no story, and the queue is exceedingly boring and devoid of shade, which is not very futuristic.
4. Main Street Vehicles.
Pros: As opening-day attractions, these small attractions serve an unusual purpose...that of transporting AND entertaining! Except for their brief foray into The Hub, the vehicles feel right at home on Main Street, U.S.A. In fact, the vehicles are part of the atmosphere, lending both period-appropriate theming and kinetic motion to the land.
Cons: When the firetruck, double-decker bus, motorcoach, or horse-drawn streetcar passes in front of the entrances to Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Frontierland, they look remarkably out-of-place.
5. Frontierland Shootin' Exposition.
Pros: Guests fire guns in the Old West, just like their Western cowboy heroes did. Guests are wrapped up in the twangy western music playing in the background. Guests are in the middle of Frontierland, with Rancho del Zocalo visible nearby. Enough said.
Cons: These are not real guns. They are not even pop-cap guns. They are infrared guns, which "shoehorns" a modern technology with a time period that didn't have such technology. Disparities such as this are rampant in this attraction. By simply turning their heads, guests can see all the way to New Orleans Square and then into Disneyland's Hub. The attraction costs money to play, which rightly should not be considered an "attraction" so much as a retail experience, akin to Savi's Workshop Custom Handbuilt Lightsabers.
6. Fortune Tellers.
Pros: Normally, splitting an attraction between two locations would be detrimental to its immersion, because it would not be able to take advantage of a single themed location. However, in the case of Disneyland Park's two Fortune Tellers, this is actually a huge benefit. Fortune Red, located in New Orleans Square, is tucked outside Pieces of Eight near Pirates of the Caribbean. Being a pirate, she perfectly matches the theme of the surrounding land, retail location, and attraction. Esmeralda works fairly well in the Penny Arcade on Main Street, U.S.A., because she represents the magic of technology which was captivating American audiences around the turn of the century, much as the Penny Arcade demonstrates the magic of animation.
Cons: These Fortune Tellers are simply audio-animatronic mannequins sitting inside large windowed boxes which print out a ticket with your "fortune" on it for a $.25 fee. Because Guests cannot experience these Fortune Tellers in person, the immersion is broken. By paying for the experience, Guests are further removed from an immersive experience, since they are reminded that they are at a pay-to-play theme park. Although Fortune Red works well in New Orleans Square with her pirate theme, it would be much better if the mystical and mysterious aspect of Esmeralda were emphasized by placing her nearer the Haunted Mansion.
7. Star Wars Launch Bay.
Pros: This is Star Wars, but strangely so. It has a mash-up of things that die-hard Star Wars fans will enjoy--replica props from the movies, scale models of starships, a partial model of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, a video, video games, and meet-and-greet experiences, all concluded with a large gift shop that sells a variety of clothing, phone cases, comic books, artwork, statues, and toys.
Cons: In its current sate, this is barely an attraction. It might possibly be compared to the Disney Gallery, except that the exhibits never change and haven't even been updated for the latest Star Wars films. Star Wars Launch Bay has meet-and-greets with some popular Star Wars characters, but the setting is patently fake--just some cardboard background props. Other areas feel unfinished, such as the Cantina which hosts exactly nothing, or the LEGO video game area which still has the same video game from two years ago. In its current configuration, this attraction centers around the gift shop, which make this much less of an "attraction" and more of a retail experience. The gift shop isn't even completely Star Wars, however, as the customizable magnets and phone cases permit guests to select designs that span the vast array of Disney stories. Perhaps worst of all, this attraction is housed in a building clearly not designed for such an experience. The former Carousel of Progress and then Innoventions needed a large, round area. This attraction feels strangely spread out and awkwardly arranged.
8. Goofy's Playhouse.
Pros: As the home of one of the most-loved Disney cartoon characters, this walk-through attraction fits well within the wacky and zany world of ToonTown. Young guests will find their imagination stoked by the "goofy" elements and details throughout the attraction, which perfectly represent Goofy.
Cons: Like much of the rest of ToonTown, all of the kid-friendly play features of this attraction have been removed, such as the ball pit. This makes this attraction much less of a playground and much more of a boring walk-through. Like the rest of ToonTown, this attraction suffers from a lack of maintenance, upkeep, repairs, and tender loving care from the Imagineers. In addition, it is very small and compact, without much to explore. In short, it utterly fails to live up to its original purpose as a playground.
9. Chip 'n Dale Treehouse.
Pros: As the home of two of the most-loved Disney cartoon characters, this walk-through attraction fits well within the wacky and zany world of ToonTown. Despite being out-of-the-way, it very much works in the ToonTown neighborhood. The ability to walk through the tree adds a lot to the experience, as guests can see small touches of realism throughout.
Cons: At the top of the treehouse, guests can see into backstage Galaxy's Edge (such as the backside of the spires). Like much of the rest of ToonTown, all of the kid-friendly play features of this attraction have been removed, such as the ball pit. This makes this attraction much less of a playground and much more of a boring walk-through. Like the rest of ToonTown, this attraction suffers from a lack of maintenance, upkeep, repairs, and tender loving care from the Imagineers. In addition, it completely lacks foliage (a serious oversight, considering that Tarzan's Treehouse has plenty of fake foliage), which causes it to look a bit out-of-place among the real trees in ToonTown, depending on the time of year. In short, it utterly fails to live up to its original purpose as a playground.
10. Donald's Boat.
Pros: This walk-through attraction gives young guests plenty of room for imagination, and its location in the middle of ToonTown isn't out of place, since ToonTown is a ridiculous mash-up of cartoon characters' homes. The surrounding lagoon, waterfall, and wooden dock add to the sea-faring atmosphere.
Cons: At the top of the boat, guests can see a fair distance, including onto the non-themed rooftops of ToonTown buildings (white air-conditioning units, etc.) and backstage (this is only true during construction of Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, but while the "hills" of ToonTown are down, it is possible to see the cast member cafeteria and the administrative office building). Unfortunately, most (if not all) of the kid-friendly play features of this attraction have been removed. This makes Donald's Boat less of a playground and more of a boring walk-through. Like the rest of ToonTown, this attraction suffers from a lack of maintenance, upkeep, repairs, and tender loving care from the Imagineers. In short, it fails to live up to its original purpose as a playground, and what it is lacking clearly shows.
11. Sailing Ship Columbia.
Pros: This attraction should be commended for its attention to detail and dedication to realism. Although this ship never sailed the seven seas, it is built to a realistic size, it really floats, and the rigging is about as complicated as a real ship (albeit with some extra safety lines for actors performing during Fanstasmic!). This boat is the perfect match to the Pirates of the Carribbean attraction, and also complements both the Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes. Guests may also explore both above and below decks, which helps them imagine what it would have been like living aboard a similar vessel.
Cons: The Sailing Ship Columbia's "captain" does not actually steer the ship. The large ship's wheel at the stern does not actually turn the boat. Instead, the Sailing Ship Columbia follows a hidden track that is located underwater. This reduces the realism, albeit while increasing safety for both passengers and observers. Adding insult to injury, the ship never unfurls its sails. It is instead propelled by not-so-well-hidden gas outboard motor mounted just below the waterline at the stern. As if the noise and wake of this motor was not a worse enough crime against realism, there is also a recorded narration on board that heightens the sense of "fake." In addition, many areas of the ship are roped off, such that nearly 30% of the ship is inaccessible to guests, which of course reminds them that this is merely a working replica masquerading as a museum, not a real ship. On such a small ship, the lack of shade provided by the sails, the droning narration, and the roped-off areas induce claustrophobia rather than nostalgia. Even worse than all of this, the Sailing Ship Colombia fails to blend in well with most of the Rivers of America. It looks a little too old for Frontierland, definitely out of place for New Orleans Square, and a bit unusual docked outside Splash Mountain.
12. Gadget's Go Coaster.
Pros: This compact roller coaster fits perfectly into the zany world of ToonTown. The kid-sized thrills and imaginative decorations match the overall child-friendly theming of the land in which it is located. The cartoon characters are a good choice for the coaster.
Cons: At the top of the lift hill, guests can see into backstage Galaxy's Edge (such as the backside of the spires). Disappointingly, many of the wacky water features have been turned off, and a great deal of maintenance has been neglected, causing the coaster to lose much of its appealing friendliness and bright color scheme.
13. Autopia. In an unusual twist for this list, I will first be discussing the "Cons" of this attraction's immersiveness, followed by the "Pros."
Cons: When this attraction first debuted, it didn't need a particular "theme," as the very concept of expressways, overpasses, and futuristic modes of transportation was more than enough to draw huge crowds of guests. Unfortunately, not much has changed over the years. Even the current sponsorship from Honda has only applied a thin veneer of "futurama" to the attraction in the form of sculptures and statues placed along the vehicle pathways. Although a drive through Autopia can be pretty, it can also be extremely frustrating, as guests are forced to wait for slow drivers in front of them, or speed up for impatient drivers behind them. Thus, guests must essentially wait in a queue just to wait in a queue! To make matters worse, the attraction permits views of many other defunct or non-immersive attractions, such as the People Mover, the Monorail, the Matterhorn, and the Disneyland Railroad.
Pros: All of the things described above could be said to detract from Autpia's immersion theme, except that Autopia doesn't have a theme to begin with. Therefore, in a bit of reverse phsychology, we can confidently state that Autopia is actually quite immersive, since its goal is to show you what driving a car is like. And driving a car involves seeing many dissimilar things in a random order. In this respect, Autopia is a remarkably accurate simulation of modern transportation.
14. King Arthur Carrousel.
Pros: This carousel doesn't pretend to be anything but a simple attraction, and it is refreshing as a result. The cheerful, upbeat theme matches the old-world village feel of Fantasyland with the many horses, nods to medieval jousts and fairs, and the "sword in the stone" located out front.
Cons: Obviously, carousels didn't exist in medieval times. Neither did calliope music, or calliope music playing Disney tunes. In many ways, this attraction breaks all levels of immersion, because it barely pretends to be immersive at all. In fact, the name is itself anti-immersion, because King Arthur never rode or owned a Carrousel. As guests ride the carousel, they can catch glimpses of many things that don't fit the "old world" theme, such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Casey Jr. Circus Train, and the Storybook Land Canal Boats.
15. The Disney Gallery.
Pros: Because this attraction shares space with the lobby of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, it makes sense that it benefits from many of the same things that make Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln great. The upscale old-time atmosphere has the feeling of a museum, and therefore it puts guests in the right state of mind as they observe items of historical, cultural, and popular interest. Some of the permanent items on display directly relate to the gallery space, as we learn that Walt Disney let all children watch the show for free, since he wanted everyone to learn about one of America's greatest presidents. When a temporary exhibit is on display, the ambient music is often changed to perfectly complement the theme of the items being displayed.
Cons: The rotating exhibits displayed in the Disney Gallery often relate to movies that have been recently released. Although displayed in a tasteful manner, the sculptures, video, artwork, and props often clash with both the era and the atmosphere of the Disney Gallery. Even many of the permanent exhibits regarding Disneyland break the immersion by their very existence, since referencing Disneyland within Disneyland is to admit that all of your surroundings are artificial representations of the real thing.
16. Minnie's House.
Pros: Much like Mickey's House, Minnie's House is a walk-through attraction that leads to a meet-and-greet location. The wacky, distorted shape of the house accurately mirrors the strange cartoon world of ToonTown, and the many interactive elements of this attraction makes waiting in line much more bearable. The house's paint palette perfectly complements the pinks and pastels that Minnie prefers to wear, immersing guests in her colorful world. The addition of a back patio complete with heart-shaped arbor makes the experience complete.
Cons: When compared to Mickey's House, Minnie's House is neither as lengthy nor as elaborate. In many ways, guests do not have nearly as long to prepare themselves for meeting Minnie, as they attempt to put themselves into the mindset of a famous and fabulous mouse.
17. Mickey's House and Meet Mickey.
Pros: As the home of Disney's most famous cartoon character, this walk-through attraction is a perfect fit within the wacky and zany world of ToonTown. Every room of the attraction is packed with subtle and not-so-subtle nods to Mickey's many big-screen exploits, and the furniture manages to be goofy while still looking usable. There are many interactive elements to this attraction, including a playable piano and a watchable television, which enhance the lived-in feel of Mickey's House. Mickey's Movie Barn (located behind his house) is also well-themed, and the over-sized movie props really "sell" the cartoon setting of the entire attraction.
Cons: Much like much of the rest of ToonTown, many of the kid-friendly play features of this attraction have been replaced with less-delicate concrete furniture and props. This makes this attraction much less of a playground and a bit more boring. Like the rest of ToonTown, this attraction suffers from a lack of maintenance, upkeep, repairs, and tender loving care from the Imagineers.
18. Mad Tea Party.
Pros: The shrubbery, vines, and hanging lanterns make this more than the traditional spinner ride. Much like the Alice in Wonderland attraction next door, this attraction's theming closely matches the the Mad Hatter retail location around the corner and even manages to blend in with the Storybook Land Canal Boats.
Cons: Although this attraction suffers the same sight line problems that Alice in Wonderland faces (due to its outside location permitting views of Small World, the Matterhorn, and even the Monorail), it has significantly less to offer in the way of theming. In fact, the attraction makes no attempt at even telling a cohesive story, which could potentially be considered to pair nicely with the nonsense world of the Mad Hatter.
19. Alice in Wonderland.
Pros: Since getting a facelift a few years ago, this classic attraction is even more wonderfully wacky. The new animation sequences projected onto the 2-D set pieces add to the cartoon style of Wonderland, and the theming of the attraction pairs nicely with the matching restrooms next door, the Mad Hatter retail location around the corner, and the Mad Tea Party spinning teacups just outside.
Cons: Although the show effects are a welcome improvement over classic Fantasyland Dark Rides such as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Pinnochio's Daring Journey, the outside loading station and outdoor section of the attraction permit views of Small World, the Matterhorn, and even the Monorail, which severely detract from the feeling of being transported into Alice's world of Wonderland.
20. Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Pros: Although this attraction's ride mechanism is nearly identical to the Astro Orbiter, the theming is much better, since it has a shady, circus-themed queue that blends in perfectly with the Casey Jr. Circus Train and King Arthur's Carrousel.
Cons: This attraction is located entirely within Fantasyland, yet it does not match Fantasyland's Old World Village theming and decor. This attraction also has very little story at all, even failing to explain why you are flying on the back of Dumbo in the first place. The attraction makes yet another massive story mistake when it fails to explain why there are dozens of other guests all flying on the backs of other Dumbos (of which there should only be one). Clearly, this attraction plays loosely with the story of Dumbo.
21. Casey Jr. Circus Train.
Pros: This attraction's cheerful, upbeat, and colorful theming perfectly matches Dumbo the Flying Elephant next door. In fact, it shares the same story as Dumbo, too!
Cons: Unfortunately, the Casey Jr. Circus Train has an origin story from an entirely different era than the Old World Village that brings together the rest of Fantasyland. There were no trains back in the days of princes and princesses. Also, the train does not accurately match the appearance of the train from the original animated motion picture.
22. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Pros: This attraction is located within Tomorrowland, next to the Astro Orbiter, both of which contribute to the "futuristic" theme. The indoor queue is sparsely themed with Toy Story references, but just enough to make it feel acceptable. The exit of the attraction appropriately sends guests into Little Green Men Store Command, which perfectly matches the colorful, wacky Star Command vibe of the attraction.
Cons: As Imagineers slowly return Tomorrowland to its straight geometric lines and shining white vision of the future, this attraction increasingly seems out of place with its retro green-and-silver approach to the future. Much of the queue is located out-doors, with anti-immersive views of Star Tours, the Hub, the Castle, and even Pixie Hollow. It is not within sight of Pizza Planet (which is a major oversight). This attraction, with its cartoonish signage and obvious reference to the Toy Story franchise, belongs in California Adventure Park's Pixar Pier, rather than in Tomorrowland.
23. Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Pros: Over the years, a number of upgrades to the queue have improved the theming of this attraction immensely. The authentic-looking wood carvings and paintings complement the music. The misty, white rockwork helps guests suspend disbelief for a brief moment in time, imagining they are in the Swiss Alps rather than Southern California.
Cons: With the sheer size of the mountain housing this attraction, one would suppose there is plenty of room for creative storytelling. However, the only story guests receive is a suggestive peek at a crashed airplane and a few close calls with an angry yeti. Are the guests explorers? Hunters? Plane crash victims? We may never know. To make matters worse, the Matterhorn is a towering edifice, visible from many locations in the park that do not match its theme. Guests on the ride itself can see many disparate attractions from their great height, further reminding them that this attraction is not real.
24. "it's a small world."
Pros: The queue theming is rather light, mainly consisting of white-washed walls and manicured topiary. However, the overall theme of Small World's exterior is a striking, white aesthetic, so a simple, zigzag queue is not completely out of place, and the shade trees make it somewhat bearable. Inside, the attraction's theming is uniformly excellent, as hundreds of animatronic creations sing, spin, swim, and dance to the repetitious song. The Christmas version is even better, as every square inch becomes flush with snowflakes, snow drifts, and seasonal set-pieces. Small World is a classic, and for good reason; There is enough to see that warrants at least a second ride-through.
Cons: The attraction certainly does not benefit from being located right next to ToonTown and the Mickey and the Magical Map Theater. It also breaks immersion to have the Disneyland Railroad pass through the facade of the attraction, in full view of guests.
25. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
Pros: It doesn't get much more immersive than this! Guest board a small, cramped, and claustrophobic submarine built last century. Craning their necks to peer through tiny portholes, they descend into the deep, where they explore all the wonders of the ocean. The most realistic and immersive thing about this attraction is the fact that guests are actually embarking on a real submarine for a real voyage through a real lagoon. Guests can always tell when something is real or fake, and the real water, real props, and real sparkling-clear water is what brings guests back time and again. Guests aren't on a rollercoaster, in a motion simulator, or in a theater; they are actually underwater! This attraction is one-of-a-kind, and its realism is demonstrated by the sheer amount of maintenance and upkeep that must be performed in order to keep it operating.
Cons: Sadly, the very existence of Nemo and friends breaks the immersion of this otherwise-excellent attraction. Talking, cartoon fish with over-exaggerated features clearly do not frequent actual submarine voyages. If guests were already doing something that required the suspension of disbelief (for example, riding on the back of a sea turtle), this might be forgiven. However, this submarine voyage begins with absolutely no reference to Nemo and friends; thus, guests are somewhat interrupted when Nemo shows up. The screens which Nemo and his friends are projected onto, while well-disguised, are clearly fake. It would have been better to use audio-animatronics underwater.
26. Main Street Cinema.
Pros: Much of what can be said about Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln can be said about this classic attraction. The Main Street Cinema pairs perfectly with the surrounding Main Street period decor. Although technically a multi-use space, the Main Street Cinema specializes in showing old black-and-white Mickey shorts, which keep alive the memory of both Walt Disney and his most beloved creation. The realism of having a piano playing vaguely honky-tonk tunes to the shorts only enhances the experience of visiting an old-time theater. While the air-conditioning may not be entirely period-accurate, the Main Street Cinema is a perfectly simple and immersive attraction in its own right.
Cons: This attraction is stylized as a kind of reverse theater-in-the-round, where a number of screens are spread around a large, circular room, and guests must traverse the perimeter in order to observe each short. Due to this inconvenient setup, guests are unable to sit still for very long, and must shift positions regularly in order to see each separate picture. Old theaters never showed films in this way. A much better setup would be a miniature Mr. Lincoln's theater, with a loop of Mickey cartoons.
27. Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough.
Pros: Located entirely within Fantasyland, Imagineers were wise to ensure that this indoor walk-through attraction does not have any windows that would break the immersion of being deep within Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Instead, guests are treated to simple re-telling of the classic Disney fairytale with surprisingly advanced special effects. The cramped corridors and steep stairs that guests are required to traverse enhance the feeling of being involved in Sleeping Beauty's story.
Cons: This walk-through attraction leaves much to be desired, especially when compared to Tarzan's Treehouse. Many of the show scenes are flat, 2-D dioramas, which contrast badly with other, more-immersive scenes like the dungeon, stained-glass window, and rattling door. Many aspects of the attraction require a suspension of disbelief, such as finding a dungeon halfway up the stairs of a castle.
28. Tarzan's Treehouse.
Pros: Incredibly expansive and lush, this walk-through attraction is both beautiful and detailed. Guests really feel as if they are climbing through the branches of a gigantic, living tree as they pass by various scenes, many of them with an audio and video element. One of the genius features of this attraction which helps it blend in perfectly with its surroundings is the tall bamboo forest outside the Jungle Cruise and the Indiana Jones Adventure. The leaves of the bamboo merge with the branches of the treehouse, making it impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.
Cons: Located on the edge of Adventureland, this towering and sprawling walk-through attraction permits guests to see many things that break immersion: Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Sawyer's Island, Galaxy's Edge, and even the Mickey and Friends Parking Garage! It is also concerning that many of the scenes, locations, and props found in Tarzan's Treehouse have absolutely nothing to do with the animated film after which it is named. Because it is merely a re-skin of The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, this attraction suffers from what feels like a "cheap" and "inauthentic" treatment of an otherwise deeply treasured film.
29. Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island.
Pros: Not only does this attraction serve as the single-largest walk-through attraction at the parks, but it does so in a remarkably immersive way. There are no rules regarding how guests must experience this adventure, and the myriad of pathways, bridges, caves, tunnels, stairs, and buildings to explore present guests with an overwhelming number of options for exploration. This, perhaps more than anything, is what helps "sell" the immersiveness of Tom Sawyer Island. Guests fail to look out across the Rivers of America towards the contrasting areas of the park because they have so many choices near at hand. Of course, Tom Sawyer Island is also quite detailed, planted with a multitude of real foliage, crisscrossed with mostly unpaved dirt trails, and bursting with tie-ins to both Tom Sawyer, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Sailing Ship Columbia. Cast members dressed as pirate musicians occasionally wander the island as well, lending an air of reality to this playland. Finally, the rafts that are required to transport guests to and from the island really "sell" the immersion of this remarkable attraction. The long wait to board and precarious crossing help guests get a taste of what living like Tom Sawyer must have been like.
Cons: The northern portion of Tom Sawyer's Island is off-limits to guests, and the large fort, now repurposed as guests restrooms, seems a bit out of place. In addition, due to the fact that the island is located squarely in the center of the Rivers of America, guests can easily see things in other lands and areas of the park, often by simply turning their heads. For example, guests can see Frontierland on one side and Critter Country on the other. They can also see the Sailing Ship Columbia go by one minute, and the Mark Twain the next. This hurts immersion, as the time period guests are supposed to inhabit is not positively reinforced by their surroundings.
30. Snow White's Scary Adventures.
Pros: Third of the four Fantasyland dark rides, this attraction is getting a massive overhaul, which may draw guests deeper into the story of Snow White. As the ride currently stands, the queue, though simple, does feature several story elements which set the dark tone of the ride for guests. The show building itself looks a bit like a castle, and features the Evil Queen peeking out of an upper window. When one considers that this attraction is physically connected to Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the setting appears complete. Although the ride system is a bit outdated, the set piece and sculpted figures are remarkably high-quality. A great number of this attraction's props move, transform, or make noise, greatly adding to the dimensionality and immersiveness of what would otherwise be a very flat, 2-D experience.
Cons: The ride vehicles for this attraction make very little sense. They are vaguely reminiscent of sleds, except that there is no ice to slide on, and no wheels to roll on. The ending of the attraction is abrupt, and we never see Snow White anywhere. Of course, it is assumed that the Guest is Sleeping Beauty, but because the guests are not told this, they cannot be expected to understand. In most attractions where guests take an active part, they word "you" is used to specifically refer to the Guest as they are, without taking on a completely different identity, let alone a different gender or age. Therefore, this attraction certainly is unique in that it expects Guests to become Snow White. However, this understanding is crucial to being immersed in the attraction.
31. Peter Pan's Flight.
Pros: Second of the four Fantasyland dark rides, this attraction remains massively popular, probably because of the immersiveness of the ride itself. The unique ride vehicles shaped like flying pirate ships actually hover over the sets, allowing guests to look down and admire their surroundings without mechanical elements cluttering it up. This lack of a visible track beneath the ride vehicles also adds an element of surprise to the attraction, as guests cannot know beforehand where they will be headed next. With the addition of the Disney Play App, the queue for this attraction is now a bit more immersive, permitting guests to answer trivia related to Peter Pan and also search for meaningful emblems hidden throughout the wait line.
Cons: This attraction does not fit in Disneyland's version of Fantasyland. Although the show building's theme matches the "Old World" style of Fantasyland, the ride itself is actually set in London, England. Clearly, there is a missing link between where the ride is located and where the story is set. Guests are also treated to a remarkably boring queue, which has nothing except for a Disney Play app game to make it bearable.
32. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Pros: First of the four Fantasyland dark rides, this attraction serves as a testament to how ground-breaking many of Disney's original attractions truly were. Interestingly the sheer number of hand-painted set pieces and the incredible amount of detail packed into such a small space practically make up for the fact that there are very few sculpted characters. The design of the show building resembles Toad Hall, which is a perfect segue to the events of the ride itself, which involve a mad-cap ride in a motorcar. The ride vehicles are motorcars, which places guests both literally and figuratively into the driver's seat of this attraction.
Cons: This attraction features many scenes which were not shown in the original animated film The Wind in the Willows. In addition, the set pieces and props are both outdated and a bit crude. The dark lighting is done well, but the obvious shortcomings of this method of illumination create a ride that is quite dim. The storyline of this attraction, if there is one, is very poorly presented and only understood by those who have read the book and watched the film. In addition, the ending sequence is so over-the-top as to be almost completely unbelievable. Since it is at the end of the Old World section of Fantasyland, the outdoor extended queue for this attraction permits guests to see into Storybook Land Canal Boats and The Mad Tea Party.
33. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Pros: The ride vehicles are honeypots, a whimsical way to immerse guests in the world of the Hundred Acre Wood. The voices, music, and effects all match characters and storylines found in the original animated classic.
Cons: The queue is not nearly as immersive as its counterpart in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, primarily because it was built on the site of the former Country Bear Jamboree Theater. Although the outdoor queue's rustic decor matches Splash Mountain and the Hungry Bear Restaurant, it does not properly prepare guests for the story of Winnie the Pooh. Like many Disneyland dark rides, the attraction is meant to be viewed from a very limited point of view. Looking up or behind results in an immediate loss of immersion. The story of the attraction is a bit confusing, and fails to follow a cohesive plot.
34. Pinocchio's Daring Journey.
Pros: Last of the four Fantasyland dark rides, this attraction is strikingly similar to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in the construction style of the various props and story elements. In fact, the attraction follows a very similar storyline as well, in which guests go on a wild caper and then suffer a terrifying punishment as a result of their misbehavior. However, this attraction is especially immersive because the story here is told far better than any of the other three Fantasyland dark rides. Even guests who haven't seen the film will be able to understand the basic story of Pinocchio by riding this attraction, and they may find the ending to be absolutely delightful. Despite the simplistic design and repetitive ride system, this attraction is captivating and charming enough to immerse guests in the remarkable story of Pinocchio.
Cons: Much like Peter Pan's Flight, the queue is boring and lacks story elements. Much like Snow White's Scary Adventures, the ride vehicles for this attraction are vague and nondescript. Like the Snow White attraction, guests could assume that they are playing the part of Pinnocchio. However, this is contradicted by the appearance of Pinnocchio himself. This results in a rather confusing experience in which guests desire to be immersed in the world of Pinnocchio, yet they are forced to be passive observers through no fault of their own.
35. The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
Pros: The light theater theming throughout this attraction does an excellent job of convincing guests that they are inside a theater of the type that Mr. Lincoln himself might have frequented. The red velvet cushions and marble columns are enough to sell the viewer on the time period, but if that isn't enough, the waiting lobby contains an astonishing model of the U.S. Capitol building and historic-looking oil paintings of historic events from our nation's past. All together, the Theming is done well, and perfectly matches the turn-of-the-century feel of Main Street, USA.
Cons: Because this is one of the oldest attractions in the park, it has begun to show a considerable amount of wear and tear over the years. The carpet is beginning to wear down, and the fake marble and white-washed wall paneling is beginning to crack. This reduces the feeling of opulence that the attraction is supposed to present.
36. Star Tours-The Adventures Continue.
Pros: The interior is heavily decorated to look like a space port for space tourists departing for distant destinations. The number of Star Wars references is spectacular. Even though the ride vehicles are about as boring as the inside of an airplane, that's exactly what they are supposed to look like! Since the attraction is ostensibly just an every-day commercial flight company, the cabins don't need to be particularly well-themed. The 3D images make the events occurring outside the front windscreen much more realistic, and the gift shop at the end feels just like all of the duty-free stores found in airport terminals.
Cons: This attraction is housed in an incredibly plain-looking building in Tomorrowland. Also, the 3D glasses detract from the immersion, since true space travelers would never be required to put special glasses on for a trip through space.
37. Space Mountain.
Pros: Due to the fact that much of this attraction is entirely indoors, it is no surprise that the level of immersion is quite high. The long, sloping corridors with sharp angles and claustrophobic ceilings help immerse guests in life aboard a space station, with intercom announcement further selling the immersion. The ride is pitch-dark, reducing the chance that guests could see any show-breaking details such as structural steel or roller coaster track. The accompanying soundtrack, in particular, helps carry riders through the attraction in a cohesive (albeit unexplained) manner.
Cons: Several small details are missing from this attraction that are necessary to "sell" immersion to guests. To begin with, guests walk straight into the space station without only an abrupt transition to a space-age hallway. There is no pre-show, transitional transport shuttle, or other method to explain how guests get into outer space without needing oxygen masks or a teleporter. In addition, the loading station clearly shows that the attraction is a rollercoaster, which somewhat ruins the immersion of boarding a spaceship.
38. Haunted Mansion.
Pros: Located at the edge of New Orleans Square, the Haunted Mansion presides over the mossy oaks and old Americana with aplomb. The architecture, though striking, does not strike one as out of place--perhaps only a bit spooky. The current story for the attraction takes into account its neighboring attractions (such as Pirates of the Caribbean) and has a massive amount of hidden details in the graveyards outside. The cast members for this attraction are far more in character than any of the other omni-mover attractions at the resort (think Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters or Ariel's Undersea Adventure), and the creepiness is never broken within the attraction.
Cons: This classic dark ride, though a classic, is showing its age. Many of the "spooks" are mildly funny, at best, and some of the illusions are clearly visible, such as Madame Leota's levitating crystal ball. Despite having a detailed background and story, the attraction fails to explain any of this to guests, instead hustling guests through a series of disconnected rooms and then sending them up a steeply-slanted moving sidewalk at the end (seriously, why does a Haunted Mansion have a moving sidewalk?). Guests exiting the attraction may have the unfortunate opportunity to glimpse Splash Mountain.
39. Jungle Cruise.
Pros: Found deep within Adventureland and with a story tying it into both Tropical Hideaway and Indiana Jones Adventure, the Jungle Cruise is certainly one of the most immersively-themed attractions at the resort.
Cons: The Jungle Cruise takes guests on an exploration of several different continents and biomes, which would not be possible on an actual waterway. The tour guides joke in such a way that often breaks the fourth wall, taking guests out of the river adventure and reminding them they are at Disneyland.
40. Storybook Land Canal Boats.
Pros: This attraction benefits greatly from being located near Fantasyland: the Mad Tea Party and Alice in Wonderland attractions are located near the entrance to the ride, which helps set the stage for fantastical adventures. The integration of the Casey Jr. Circus Train with the Storybook Land Canal Boats is also a stroke of genius, as it reminds guests that there are many more Disney stories than can be seen on this boat ride alone. The humorous and entertaining live narration on this attraction is also reminiscent of the opening and closing narration present in many of Walt Disney's early fairy tale films. Because most of the attraction is located within a large berm that encircles it, blocking it off from the rest of the park, guests are immersed in a magical world without visual or audible interference from other attractions. This is a similar technique to the much larger berm that encircles all of Disneyland Park, creating a buffer between the real world and the world of make-believe. The concept of "portals" is used to good effect here, with guests passing through the dark mouth of Monstro the whale before emerging into the light once more. This symbolizes the beginning of a new adventure, which is mirrored at the conclusion of the ride with a pass-through of Aladdin's Cave and Ariel's Grotto before disembarking.
Cons: Located near the edge of Fantasyland on the Parade Route, this attraction suffers from a poor location. The bustle of crowds or the noise of parades often intrudes on the peacefulness that the attraction attempts to create, and many out-of-theme attractions are clearly visible all around, such as the Matterhorn, Small World, the Monorail, and Autopia. In addition, the queue is quite short and has absolutely no attempt at theming or protection against the elements, unless you count the old ticket booth shaped like a lighthouse.
41. Pirates of the Caribbean.
Pros: Besides serving as the perfect segue between Frontierland, Adventureland, and New Orleans Square, this attraction also manages to immerse guests in a remarkably complete storytelling experience. The outside of the attraction is an unassuming example of period architecture, while guests stepping across the threshold find themselves in a completely different world. The ride's many drops, twists, and turns in a dark, enclosed environment completely shut off from reality ensures that guests have absolutely no idea of where they are. This forces guests to surrender to the illusion of actually having been transported back in time to the days of Pirates of the Caribbean. In many ways, Pirates is actually simply a better version of Space Mountain. Let me explain. Guests approaching Space Mountain can clearly see that their adventure will take place in a large, white domed structure. Even though guests may feel somewhat disoriented by the initial queue, they are re-oriented as their rockets climb up several lift hills to the very top of the dome. Despite experiencing their ride in almost complete darkness, guests always know that they are in a large, white domed structure. Pirates of the Caribbean, on the other hand, is a far better iteration of this design. Although being in darkness, Pirates gives guests something to focus on, so that they do not notice the bits of structure that peek through. Pirates also completely disorients guests from start to finish, due to the fact that the show building is completely obscured and somewhat underground. The Louisiana swamp and Blue Bayou restaurant at the loading station of the attraction also present guests with a reality that they desperately want to be true; therefore, instead of forcing the suspension of disbelief, guests are willingly drawn in.
Cons: Pirates of the Caribbean, more so than many other attractions, suffers from extended wait times as guests attempt to de-board. This means that guests have far too much time to contemplate what they have just seen, as well as sit in their boats and realize that their surroundings are not as immersive as they may have first thought. Pirates depends upon continual motion to "sell" the immersion, and the back-up of boats at the end of the ride often ruins this. Also, the large show scenes often have one or two details that break the immersion. For example, the pirate ship/fort fight scene has an extremely tall ceiling that is supposed to represent the night sky. However, due to the fact that there is nothing obscuring the ceiling, guests can easily see the ceiling tiles and ventilation vents above them. In the Spanish villa, many of the dancing, running, or chasing mannequins are simply being rotated on a turntable. This is clearly not a realistic method of simulating motion, as the mannequins do not even attempt to move up and down at the same time as they move laterally. This clashes with the other audio-animatronics, which are remarkably realistic in their movements.
42. Mark Twain Riverboat.
Pros: Let's get some of the obvious, yet essential, items out of the way. The Mark Twain Riverboat is a real stern-wheeler. It really floats. It is really run by steam power. It has a real, working whistle. It was built to accurately resemble actual Mississippi paddle-wheelers. Though actually somewhat small in comparison to actual stern-wheelers, this boat manages to pack a mighty punch of nostalgia through pure historical recreation. In addition, the Mark Twain manages to fit nicely in with the theming of Frontierland, the Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain. Overall, the boat is one of the iconic focal points of the entire park, partly because it plays its part so very well.
Cons: The Mark Twain's "captain" does not actually steer the sternwheeler. The large ship's wheel that privileged guests can turn does not actually turn the boat. Instead, the Mark Twain follows a hidden track that is located underwater. This reduces the realism, albeit while increasing safety for both passengers and observers. Also, the recorded narration on board only heightens the sense of "fake," since a real ship would have no narration, or a narrator speaking in a much more conversational tone. It is also a bit distressing to see the Mark Twain so often visible from the Pirates of the Carribbean attraction. The two different eras seem to clash harshly.
43. Splash Mountain.
Pros: This attraction is nestled in a wooded area that complements its rustic theming. The rockwork is convincing, and the mechanical elements of the attraction are well-hidden. The expansive show scenes and continuous repetition of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da" draw guests into the world of Brer Rabbit and his misadventures in the Briar Patch. In many ways, this is quite simply one of the most impressive attractions at Disneyland, due to the cohesive way that everything comes together. The attraction's imposing appearance manages to do something that most others cannot: draw the gaze of guests away from non-immersive surroundings to focus on the attraction itself. And it doesn't hurt if guests happen to catch a glimpse of the Mark Twain Riverboat as they wait in line or prepare for the final drop, since a sternwheeler matches both the show scenes and the time period of this attraction.
Cons: When standing in the extended queue or preparing to take the final plunge, guests have an excellent view of the Rivers of America. Although the foliage and greenery of the scenery is complementary to this attraction, the Sailing Ship Columbia and Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island are not.
44. Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.
Pros: This excellent attraction is literally the focal point of ToonTown. Its excellent theming matches "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" while also looking like something Mickey Mouse and his pals could interact with. The theming isn't found just within the attraction itself; the entire queue feels like an attraction all by itself, with so many hidden easter eggs just waiting to be discovered. Happily, the theming extends far beyond the show building itself, as well. Many of the other buildings in ToonTown simply exist for "show," without serving any other function. This is a commendable example of theming.
Cons: A few immersive effects have stopped working in this attraction, including the bubbling liquids in the queue and the running sewage in the ride. This makes this attraction feel a bit run-down and neglected, much like the rest of ToonTown. As ToonTown's only significant attraction, it seems a shame that important details such as these are being overlooked.
45. Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes.
Pros: It is indeed disappointing that this attraction is so rarely open, because it is perhaps one of the most immersive attractions that Disneyland Park has to offer. Before you consider the cons, consider this: all of the most immersive attractions in Disneyland require guests to participate. It is this very act of participation that causes guests to buy-in to the story of the attraction and to embrace the adventure upon which they have embarked. In addition, the act of participation requires concentration, which inherently blinds guests to non-immersive things that may be going on around them. Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes require a large group of guests to board a canoe, pick up a paddle, and engage in a spirited interaction with each other and their canoe guide (who, by the way, is not only dressed in remarkably authentic-appearing clothing, but is also the only cast member permitted to wear moccasins). Along the way, guests get much-needed exercise, an up-close and personal view of the Rivers of America without boring narration, and a first-person experience of what it may have been like to explore the wild places of America. In many ways, this attraction is a massive improvement on the Jungle Cruise. Remarkably, this attraction also pairs well with both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia, since guests can easily put themselves in the place of both explorers and Native Americans.
Cons: In this attraction, guests are led by a guide who often breaks immersion by cracking jokes or referencing things that do not have to do with 1800s exploration. Also, guests can easily see things that don't match their adventure, such as New Orleans Square, if they choose to look.
46. Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.
Pros: Located squarely within Adventureland and well-integrated with the Tropical Hideaway, this attraction is uniquely immersive, especially considering its small size. While guests wait in the outer courtyard, they are treated to a short pre-show introducing them to the Hawaiian gods and goddesses of myths and legend. The lush foliage, flowing water, plus light, sound, and motion effects draw guests into the South Pacific even before they enter the Enchanted Tiki Room. Once inside, guests are treated to a 360-degree light, sound, and water show put on by singing statues, birds, and flowers. Even the windows of the Enchanted Tiki Room are immersive, as rain and lightning can be seen outside. The bamboo walls and furniture only further solidify the tropical theme present throughout this attraction. Despite being one of Walt Disney's original creations, this remains one of the most immersive attractions at Disneyland.
Cons: Because this attraction is located near the entrance to Adventureland, it is possible to see a bit of the Hub when entering the attraction. Also, the Enchanted Tiki Room has a cast member who introduces the show as "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" and "wakes up" the birds, which is a little out-of-character because it reminds guests that this is simply a show at Disneyland.
47. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Pros: This attraction is heavily themed with Old West artifacts and landscaping, and is located directly in the center of Frontierland. Nearly everywhere one looks, the theming is immersive, such as Rancho del Zocalo being visible at the end of the ride.
Cons: Unfortunately there is very little story presented to guests as they board the mine train (Why are guests here in the first place? Why are they boarding this train?). Even worse, the train ride itself has very little continuity, with the dynamite scene being the only true example of storytelling). The outside lift hills permit guests to see other lands (such as Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge), partly pulling them out of the immersion of the ride, and the Sailing Ship Colombia can also be seen on occasion, which seems a bit out of place.
48. Indiana Jones Adventure: The Temple of The Forbidden Eye.
Pros: Not only does Indiana Jones Adventure have a thorough backstory and immersive theming that perfectly complements and ties in with the rest of Adventureland (especially the Jungle Cruise), but it is still the gold standard of immersive queue theming. Despite the fact that this attraction is nearly 25 years old, it was not easy for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to match the attention to detail. This attraction's location far back in the park lends itself perfectly to a long walk through a temple, caves, and forbidden ruins.
Cons: Some pieces of immersion that were originally present when the attraction first opened were in-queue physical interactivity. Sadly, these show elements have been neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair. Although the Disney Play app now has an excellent game that allows riders to decode the message located throughout the queue, using your smartphone while in the queue decidedly reduces the immersion of the attraction, since explorers on archaeological expeditions did not have smartphones.
49. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
Pros: Because the entire ride is indoors, it remains firmly in-theme the entire time. Located within the land of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, this attraction is actually a story-within-a-story, which only enhances the level of immersion. The storyline for this attraction is very firmly in place, and clearly communicated to guests via the in-character cast members and three pre-show areas Even the exit of the attraction is extensively themed. The in-queue "datapad" game that can be played on one's smartphone is a clever way of further developing the storyline of the attraction without breaking immersion. In addition, the attraction is designed so that guests only see one Millennium Falcon, one waiting room, and one cockpit. They feel like they had an authentic experience.
Cons: The extended outdoor queue for this attraction actually takes guest backstage, which is entirely unacceptable and completely unprecedented elsewhere in the Disneyland Resort. In the elevated queue above the Millennium Falcon, guests are able to see the very top of the Mickey and the Magical Map Theater, which breaks show a bit. Also, guests can see the highest peak of Big Thunder Mountain from the attraction's queue.
50. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Pros: Much like Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run, this attraction has an easier time at maintaining "show" because it exists within the highly-themed land of Batuu. However, the attraction is remarkable in its own right, even if we ignore the external queue. The internal queue matches, in many ways, the level of detail in the Indiana Jones Adventure. The datapad app allows guests to learn the story surrounding the adventure they are about to embark on, and the app references items found in the queue. Speaking of queues, the three different lines for Standby, FastPass, and Single Rider all have different pathways with different levels of theming. The attraction is designed with all cast members "playing" a part with a level of immersion unseen anywhere else. Guests feel like they are they only ones being "broken out" of their holding cell, since the attraction is designed in such as way so that guests cannot see anyone else except their own group during the attraction.
Cons: When compared to Indiana Jones adventure, there are no physically-interactive elements in the queue or elsewhere throughout the attraction, since everything is done on the smartphone "datapad" app. Also, the Standby queue does not have the same sense of kinetic energy as Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run, which has a vast maintenance bay to explore.