One of the greatest things about Disney rides is that they’re never just rides. Walt Disney and his designers have always taken great care to inject stories, thrills, and visual effects to create an entire experience.
Some of those rides are already based on existing movies and television shows, but did you know that they sometimes go the other way around? Disney has also made several movies that were based off existing rides across their many theme parks.
Jungle Cruise is the latest to join the ride-based movie ranks, but previous to this new film, there were already eight rides that had made the jump to the screen. How do these movies stack up, and which one comes out on top?
9. The Country Bears (2002)
This movie is certainly unforgettable, but that isn’t always a good thing. Even a plethora of celebrity appearances and a stellar performance from Christopher Walken couldn’t make it a success.
It was based on the Country Bear Jamboree attraction — which seems like an odd choice. Sure, it has its fans, but it definitely doesn’t have the widespread appeal of basically any other characters from Disney. The animatronic stage show itself at Disneyland closed before the movie was released, though it does still exist at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
8. The Haunted Mansion (2003)
The Haunted Mansion is one of the last attractions left that Walt Disney was personally involved in, and it definitely has a big fan base. Personally, it’s one of my must-ride attractions when I go to the park.
I supposed that’s why everyone expected more out of this film. Spoiler alert: it’s wildly disappointing. It’s a horror-comedy that is neither funny nor scary, and it just sort of limps through the 90-minute runtime.
Luckily for foolish mortals (aka Haunted Mansion fans) like myself, we may finally be getting the film we deserve! There is a Haunted Mansion remake in the works, and it’s shaping up to be a hauntingly good time.
7. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, or The Wind in the Willows (1996)
Okay, this one is a movie based on a ride that was based on a movie that was based on a book! The dark ride at Disneyland is loosely based on a 1949 animated package film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad — which was an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s novel The Wind in the Willows. Disney then created the 1996 film The Wind in the Willows based on the Wild Ride attraction, but later changed the name to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when it went to VHS. Confused yet?
The movie itself stars members of Monty Python in little to no makeup, even though they’re all playing anthropomorphic characters. It’s both charming and annoying at the same time.
6. Dinosaur (2000)
If you didn’t know that 2000’s Dinosaur was based on a park ride, you’re not alone. It was inspired by and somewhat developed simultaneously with the ride Countdown to Extinction (no relation to the Megadeth album) at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. After the movie was released, the name of the ride changed to Dinosaur to help promote the movie, and the attraction was slightly reworked.
The film is visually stunning, but the plot is remarkably generic and bland. On top of that, the photorealistic dinosaurs are undermined by the addition of dialogue.
5. Mission to Mars (2000)
This movie does have a few great things going for it. The Mission to Mars cast includes Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Tim Robbins, and Gary Sinise. It was directed by one of the greats, Brian De Palma. It was visually impressive (by 2000’s standards).
The storyline does feel a little shallow and silly, but it probably deserved more appreciation than it got. It didn’t help that Tomorrowland’s Mission to Mars ride had already closed several years before the movie was made — and it was already dated prior to that.
4. Tomorrowland (2015)
This film wasn’t inspired by a single ride, but rather by the entire futuristic-themed section, Tomorrowland. It’s also the first to acknowledge or include Walt Disney himself — he’s a member of a secret society of futurists called Plus Ultra, and they create Tomorrowland. The movie also features the ride, It’s a Small World.
With stars like George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and Britt Robertson, you’d expect a lot more than what Tomorrowland brings to the table. And while it is visually stunning and exciting, the story is choppy. It feels like it’s just on the edge of greatness, but never quite reaches it.
3. Tower of Terror (1997)
Clearly indicated by the name, this made-for-television movie was inspired by The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. While you can still check in to the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ride at Disney California Adventure closed permanently in 2017. Released in 1997, this movie was one of the first of Disney’s films based on an existing ride.
Tower of Terror still has a little of that made-for-TV cheesy feel to it, but overall it’s pretty entertaining. Don’t expect a scary flick or anything. It’s a ghost story, but it’s still a Disney film after all!
2. Jungle Cruise (2021)
Nearly everyone who’s been to Disneyland since 1955 has been on Jungle Cruise, a riverboat that travels down a waterway and puts animatronic animals on display. It certainly isn’t as thrilling as newer attractions, but it’s an old classic that brings plenty of nostalgic joy to parkgoers.
This film is new enough that I don’t want to post any spoilers that might give something away, so I’ll leave it short and sweet. Overall, Jungle Cruise sets sail as a fun, family-friendly voyage. And it moves a bit faster than the ride’s 2.49 mph.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
No list of Disney ride-inspired movies would be complete without Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, the movies have been so popular and successful that some have even forgotten that it was a ride first.
It’s true, though! This 6-movie franchise was spawned from the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride. If you’ve visited the park since the movies came out, you’ve likely noticed that the ride was revamped to mirror the movie a little more. Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was added throughout the attraction in 2006.