It used to be that Disney would take cues from some of their most popular movies and turn them into a rides for their world-class theme parks. Then “Pirates of the Caribbean” came in 2006 and changed everything. But a look back at Disney history shows “Pirates” wasn’t the company’s first attempt to make a ride leap across to movie audiences around the world. The relatively recent big box office trend has a more humble, made-for-TV movie type of beginning.
So please keep your hands and feet inside the ride vehicle at all times. Here’s a look at other Disney movies based on theme park rides ahead of the premiere of Disney's "Tomorrowland" in theaters Thursday.
1. “The Tower of Terror”
The one that started it all. This 1997 made-for-TV movie starring Kirsten Dunst set up the back story of the haunted freefall ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Funny enough, “The Tower of Terror” movie strips out all mention of the Twilight Zone, which is where riders are taken when the hotel is struck by lightning.
2. “Mission to Mars”
The 2000 adaptation of the popular Disneyland Tomorrowland attraction did not take off as expected. Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Don Cheadle, Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise,“Mission to Mars” with a lukewarm box office and poor critical reception.
3. “The Country Bears”
Well, this one was rather unpleasant. “The Country Bears” was a 2002 mess about finding your family and joining a country band (according to the trailer). Starring Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Walken and Stephen Tobolowsky, there is little else to add about this strange chapter in Disney's live-action legacy.
4. “Pirates of the Caribbean”
Don’t act like you knew Johnny Depp was capable of the best Keith Richards as a pirate impression back in 2003. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” changed all of that and renewed Disney’s interest in exploring new potential theme park rides for movie ideas. The fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie is due in theaters July 2017.
5. “The Haunted Mansion”
Oh, Eddie Murphy, what happened here? The schlocky 2003 adaptation of the beloved Disney theme park ride hid plenty of references for fans but little pleasure for everyone else. It hit the nail on the coffin for other theme park ride based movies while Disney stayed the course on their “Pirates” franchise.
Okay, the 2015 adaptation of a section of the Disney theme parks is not a ride per se, but its concept and allure to filmmaker Brad Bird and writer Damon Lindelof was so intriguing, they built upon the last section to be completed in Disneyland. Toying with the ideas and inspiration that fueled Disney Imagineers back then and today, “Tomorrowland” reflects both the future once fantasized and the future we're dealing with now.
What theme park ride would you like to see get its own movie next? Share your ideas in the comments below!