Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

11 Disneyland Rides From Terrible To Awesome

Our man jack is King of the Pumpkin Patch, Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King now!

11. It's A Small World: Burn it down when it's full of church youth groups.

10. Splash Mountain: Some kind of offensive/idiotic Old South/Slavery thing going on here, very loosely based on the disappeared Disney cartoon feature Song of the South. The set pieces only serve to remind you that this supposed thrill ride is a long, lame experience that's never worth the wait.

9. Autopia: The charming idea of a miniaturized Pasadena freeway from the brief golden age of California car culture is ruined by the gasoline industry propaganda and cancer-spewing go-karts that consistently die on the track. Why aren't the little cars powered by batteries or hybrid systems, the way so many cars in the Disneyland parking lots are powered by batteries and hybrid systems? Because then Chevron couldn't use the ride to brand pre-schoolers' minds with the need for endless war to procure oil supplies in Central Asia and the Middle East.

8. The entirety of the California Adventure park: Not even the elaborate new Cars ride can help California Adventure. Raze the whole thing and put the new Star Wars theme park (maybe an entire Tatooine?) here instead. (The Cars desert backdrop could hold the new pod-race ride.)

7. Anything branded with Koch Brothers' nature-raping corporate signage: All of the unloved "Critter Country" seems to be covered in Koch Brothers' branding, including the Bounty paper towels and Dixie paper cups advertisements on every surface. It's supposed to replicate the pristine nature of early America, this "Critter Country," and yet everything is sponsored by the opera-loving high-rise dandies who plunder the nation's resources from public lands so that landfills can be stuffed with paper cups and paper towels.

6. Frontierland canoes: This is not really a "ride," because you actually row the canoes. It's the only Disneyland attraction powered by the humans who pay money to go to Disneyland—as such, it is rarely crowded even on very busy days at the park. The guides will complain the whole time because nobody knows how to row a boat, but it's still fun and relatively quiet and you get to slip between the Huck Finn rafts and the Mark Twain riverboat and that pirate ship. Like the rafts to Tom Sawyer's island, the canoes aren't attached to any kind of underwater track or pulley. You're on your own, and could actually fall out and drown in the dyed-green five-feet-deep water!

5. Jungle Cruise: The Indiana Jones ride is right next door, but this old attraction does the 1930s colonial adventure even better. The dock terminal is a perfect set of rope and wood and old junk, and the swamp boats look and feel as old as they are—the ride opened when Disneyland opened, in 1955.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Even the Jack Sparrow/Johnny Depp add-ons haven't harmed this eerie classic boat ride from New Orleans to the pirate isles. It was the last ride that Walt himself oversaw, and despite being 45 years old it's still the richest and most immersive world in the whole theme park.

3. Star Tours: It re-opened a year ago with various new features, with the biggest improvements in the line. Now everyone gets to laugh as moronic TSA robots mistake blasters for hair dryers and insult the children. Just like a real airport, but funny instead of tragic, and the TSA robots don't rectally probe you like at JFK or LAX. The flight-simulator 3D ride itself is a near-perfect parody of flying on Southwest Airlines.

2. Haunted Mansion: The holiday version based on The Nightmare Before Christmas is fun, but it's the classic Disney Haunted Mansion that remains amazingly creepy and satisfying. If, like me, you grew up coveting the mysterious and majestic mansions of New Orleans' Garden District, the exterior is as good as the ride itself. And the ride itself—which actually happens in a separate, hidden building—is a wonderfully sinister occult experience that would've never been green-lit in the Moral Majority/Christian Right hysteria of the 1980s or Fox News world that has existed since the late 1990s. Good thing this ride's "doom buggies" first took passengers in 1969, the age of America's insane and too-brief Occult Revival.

1. Space Mountain: If you want to see what the future looked like to people of the late 1970s, this is your portal back in time. Beyond the hokey Star Wars ripoff space-station environment with its crumbling stucco rooftop waiting area and faded plastic spaceship model hanging over the boarding room, this is also a frantic indoor roller coaster where "outer space" means a lot of cold-air fans and no lights.

Related: Is It Acceptable To Have Children?

Ken Layne has small children and a Disneyland "SoCal Select" annual pass, so he is right about all of this.

22 Comments / Post A Comment

s. (#775)

I would pay a lot of money for a things-we'd-like-to-see-burned-down-themed Weekend Companion. Like a five-thousand entry listicle.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

"It's A Small World: Burn it down when it's full of church youth groups." Hmm…this is actually feasible, because there are times when the entire park is full of church youth groups – they at least used to be called things like "Joy Night!"

Good thing (the Haunted Mansion's) "doom buggies" first took passengers in 1969, the age of America's insane and too-brief Occult Revival.

It was very disappointing when they remodeled Tomorrowland and removed Jack Parsons's Wild Fulminate of Mercury Ride.

The Hollywood Hotel of Terror is the best ride. I can't believe you left it off. It is in California Adventure though.

Brunhilde (#1,225)

Where does the Matterhorn fall in this lineup? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? I think the most people have died on BTMR.

jfruh (#713)

I went to Disneyland annually from like 1979 to 1994 (when my grandmother's apartment building was flattened in the Northridge Quake and she moved back to Long Island) and endorse most of this list! Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean: don't know if it still exists, but I used to really like going to the restaurant, which was inside the ride on a sort of fake outdoor porch looking over the fake bayou and the people riding by on boats. It was kind of New Orleans-y type food, I think? No idea if it was any good, as I was a child, but my dad seemed to like it.

I believe the anamatronics in Splash Mountain are scavangened from America Sings!, which was not so much a ride as a theater production except instead of humans all the singing and dancing was done by anamatronic robots in various sets on a rotating stage. But other than that you just sat in the seats and watched it. I *loved* this as a kid but can't really remember much about it. I think it had pretentions of being a retrospective of American vernacular music, especially Southern, but I have no doubt it was probably super racist.

Also, I was really obsessed with the Mission to Mars and Fantastic Voyage rides in Tomorrowland, which I think are both gone now. They revamped Tomorrowland in the '90s when we realized the space age was never coming and turned it into some kind of self-aware retro-future-from-the-perspective-of-the-50s, right? At least Space Mountain has not been layered with irony, from your description.

hockeymom (#143)

@jfruh 1. I probably did live shots outside your grandmother's apartment. I apologize for asking you how you felt and parking a giant satellite truck in the neighborhood. (seriously, that earthquake was awful. I'm sorry for your grandmother.)

2. Tea Cups. -1 Billion on the list. WORST RIDE EVER. Exists only to make me so dizzy that I can't keep track of my children and child number 1 runs off, gets lost and is later found by Disney Security at Pirates of the Caribbean. Damn teacups.

melis (#1,854)

@jfruh The Blue Bayou restaurant! The food is fine but eating in there feels MAGICAL. You have to make reservations, though. And of course, just outside there's a blue door with a mysterious 33…

Hot Doom (#238,614)

@jfruh BEAR COUNTRY JAMBOREE …I think is where some of the animatronics came from. The only jamboree where I wanna be.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

I'm outting myself as a person who has been to Disneyland Paris…but Space Mountain in Paris is actually a better ride!

BadUncle (#153)

@Tuna Surprise Friends love Disney Paris. You can drink and smoke. And it's supposed to be really seedy and unwashed.

Bittersweet (#765)

#6 sounds incredible and makes me actually want to go to Disneyland, just to see how much standing up, boat rocking and backward paddling I could get away with.

deepomega (#1,720)

Mostly right, although can't we agree that Big Thunder &c is the platonic ideal of outdoor Disney coasters?

Aurora F (#214,618)

The canoes were oddly my favorite, but nobody in the family would ride them with me except my mom.

Also, people HAVE drowned in the water between Tom Sawyer's Island and the mainland (I hear). Apparently there are submerged nets that can catch you.

BadUncle (#153)

@Aurora F I always wanted to do the canoes, but my family just rolled their eyes. Meantime, I'd be more worried about those animatronic hippos than drowning. You know they attack when their ears wiggle.

Word. This is a perfect list.

And a couple of young guys drowned in the Rivers of America–one kid because he hid on the island until after the park closed and tried to swim back to shore with his brother on his shoulders. Another kid stole a boat and then fell overboard. Don't be dumb, young men!

@Michelle Bruton-Delgado : Don't be dumb, young men!

Tides, cease your movement!

BadUncle (#153)

The perfection of this list is marred by dissing It's a Small World. Like The Tiki Room, IASW would be a boring exercise in anachronistic twee – without the proper seasoning. I highly recommend psychedelics in general – and mushrooms in particular – to really appreciate tiny puppets singing a repetitive song. It's magically hilarious!

Also, for personal reasons, I love the New Orleans district. When I was a kid, my grandfather had some kind of VIP pass into the only bar in the Magic Kingdom, which was in an unmarked restaurant hidden in an alley behind the Haunted Mansion. As an adult, I'd sell my soul to Merciless Wotan for a cocktail in Disneyland.

Hot Doom (#238,614)

@BadUncle 33 Club! It's still there, but you have to be employed by one of the parks' original 33 sponsors. The only one I know of is Bank of America, because I used to work for them. I never used it, so now I just sneak in flasks.

BadUncle (#153)

@LolaLaBalc That would make sense. My grandfather was with a now-defunct SoCal bank.

PoignancySelz (#238,693)


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