Kyle’s Top 5 Disney World Rides

Disney Everest
Promotional Image of Expedition Everest courtesy of WDIG.

Earlier this week Kim made a post about our recent excursion to Disney World and Sanibel Island where she talks about her love of Space Mountain. Space Mountain is great and all (I knew Kim would love it), but I’m going to throw the gauntlet down now and say that it doesn’t even make my top 5 rides across the 4 core Disney World parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Sorry Kim – we’ll have to agree to disagree.

So, here’s my top 5 Disney World rides (keep in mind, I’m only talking across the 4 parks listed above).

1. Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)

From a purely technical standpoint, Haunted Mansion is an awesome ride. I know that it has been updated a handful of times and it certainly still contains some stupidly hokey set dressing (I’m looking at you, dumb plastic heads that pop up from behind gravestones in the cemetery section) and that the ride is certainly not intended to be that scary, but this ride is a classic for me. The introduction consists of you standing in a room as a disembodied voice sets the tone for the ride and the room stretches around you, revealing that the semi-pleasant pictures on the wall are spookier than you thought.

Then, you board a tram to ride through several spooky environments. Highlights include the attic full of pictures of brides who murdered their husbands (again, the pictures shift as you  pass them, leaving the husband headless), the ballroom where ghostly specters flit in and out of existence as they waltz about (a brilliant use of projection technology), the fortune teller’s room and the singing statues in the graveyard. This ride should not be missed. It’s not scary, but it’ll capture your imagination regardless of your age.

2. Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)

As far as I’m concerned, this coaster is king at Disney. Everest is billed as an adventure through the Himalayas on the hunt for the mythical Yeti. You climb into an old train that zips you upward into a facsimile of Everest’s peaks where you reach a point high up where someone (or something) has ripped up the tracks. Thankfully, you’ll stop just in time before pitching backwards into some caves. I won’t spoil the rest, but you’ll switch directions again before zooming through more twists, turns and drops as you pass in and out of the caverns pocking the mountain’s face.

Like many of the rides on this list, Everest does some clever work with lighting and projection technology.

3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)

Rod Serling’s classic narration accompanies you as you make your way through this Twilight Zone inspired attraction (okay – a combination of Rod Serling narration combined with an impeccable sound-a-like named Mark Silverman). While the story is cheesy, the atmosphere is perfectly set as you board your service elevator… to DOOM!

You’re lifted up the tower and moved horizontally through the structure. Suddenly, the front of the building opens up, giving you a view of the park before you suddenly drop. Be ready, because they’re going to bring you back up to continue this gleefully hellish elevator ride. As you drop, you’ll feel almost weightless as your butt rises slightly from your seat to meet your restraint. If you’re looking for a thrill, Tower of Terror nails it.

4. Test Track (Epcot)

Test Track is a newer ride and the line can still get a bit long. I’m going to warn you that if you do end up in the line, don’t get turned off by the fact that this ride is VERY CLEARLY sponsored by Chevrolet (though, you’re in Disney World, so product placement should hardly shock you). Before you board the actual ride, you design your own concept car on a terminal. At first, this might seem like just a cool way to distract you via interaction while they get the people in front of you through the ride. It turns out, that they’re going to compare your car to the cars of your peers in your ride vehicle based on a number of factors.

This is a great thrill ride as you zig-and-zag around the track, passing through sections representing handling, control and other aspects upon which new vehicles are judged. At the end of each segment, you are shown the cars of every other rider in your group and how they stack up against each other. This now turns into an awesome competition. The best section is the one judging power – you’ll burst out of the dark room into the bright Florida sun as you fly around an outside portion of the track. At the end, you are given the opportunity to compare your concept ride overall to the test vehicle and any other riders’ test vehicles.

5. Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom)

I’ve never been a huge Brer Rabbit fan, but I love this log flume ride – the cheesy songs and goofy characters included. The antics of the Brer crew are funny and entertaining and the smaller drops give you just a few thrills as you ride. Finally, you’ll reach the big drop. You’ll plummet out of the mountain under the brier patch and into a pool. Try to sit up front if it’s a particularly hot day and you’ll get a nice, refreshing face full of water. Overall, you won’t get soaked and it doesn’t really matter where you sit – everyone gets a refreshing amount of water. This ride is nostalgic and culminates in a great thrill and a nice splash (hence the name) which is perfect for the sometimes ungodly hot Florida weather.

There you have it – my top 5 Disney World rides. While we’re on the topic of Disney’s rides, let’s talk about how these attractions are executed real quick. Full disclosure, I’m not a Disney World die-hard, but examining the structure of many of their rides, I can see the draw. I’m not even talking structure as in architecture (though that contributes). Some of you may have seen some variation of the following graph in your English or Creative Writing course.

Basically, the idea is that in movies, games, books or any other media, you should build your audience up to an enjoyable climactic event by using a structure of alternating peaks and valleys of tension that slowly build in intensity. While not all Disney rides are perfect, more often than not, they come as close to nailing this experience as possible. They are super good at slowly building tension so that when you get off the ride, you feel like it was worth whatever wait you had and the ride was extremely entertaining. Most theme parks miss this mark with the majority of their rides being either complete thrill rides that end in 30 seconds or slower rides that don’t vary much or at all. They basically flat line at a given intensity level which can be fun in it’s own right, but I’d argue that building tension to that final climactic moment is far more entertaining. I feel that there is a lot anyone in any media profession could learn from the overall experience of a Disney ride when it comes to pacing so if you find yourself there, really pay attention to everything about the ride from the moment you get in line. Pay attention to everything from the speed of the ride car and its overall path (the number of turns or drops) to the set dressing. I promise you that you will learn a lot about pacing your own experiences to entertain your audience.

Places

Magic Kingdom

1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Animal Kingdom

2901 Osceola Pkwy, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Epcot

200 Epcot Center Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32821

Disney Hollywood Studios

351 S Studio Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Magic Kingdom

1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Animal Kingdom

2901 Osceola Pkwy, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Epcot

200 Epcot Center Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32821

Disney Hollywood Studios

351 S Studio Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

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