Monday Morning Imagineer – Top Ten Disney Franchises That Need an Attraction


If you’ve seen Big Hero 6, you know the scene. Hiro is preparing his entry in the science fair that will secure his place in the “nerd school,” the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. “Eye of the Tiger” swells in the background as he sharpens pencils, opens his notebook and cracks his knuckle. And then… the music stops.

“Nothing. No ideas. Useless. Empty. Brain.”

I found myself in Hiro’s shoes late Sunday night into Monday morning. The combination of an intimidatingly complex subject(the Imagineering development process), a number of other real life distractions and a linger cold pretty much emptied my brain. To be fair, there might have been a little self inflicted damage as well, courtesy of watching Mortal Kombat Annihilation, which probably broke my spirit.

Naturally, I did what any good writer would do in my situation. I procrastinated.

There are no end of great distractions online when you’re trying to do something else. The web site TV Tropes is a really great example, or you can just hope Wikipedia links. Then there’s the bevy of social media options available online, and you can fall down those rabbit holes as well. And as fate would have it, following that particular white rabbit led me… well, not to Wonderland, but to a subject for this week. So we’ll set aside the Imagineering process for a week and I’ll give you my picks for the Top Ten Disney properties that would make for really great attractions in Walt Disney World or the Disneyland Resort.

The Rules(such as they are)

For the purposes of this list, these are just films, cartoon series or other properties that aren’t represented with a true attraction in the American Disney parks. I’m leaving out the international parks because… well, I’m not that familiar with them, and I might just be putting something on the list that already exists there.

And just for the fun of it, I’ll end with five non-Disney properties that it would be cool to see them incorporate into the parks, regardless of how hard it might be for them to secure the license.

I hope you enjoy this, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on what might make a fun addition to one of the parks. And if you don’t enjoy it, well… blame a certain really bad 90s film.

The Ten Disney Properties

1 – Mary Poppins – Last week I mentioned that a Mary Poppins themed attraction was being considered for the opening of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but never came to fruition. It’s a little shocking that it’s never happened since, either. As one of the most magical Disney films ever made, it’s a movie that remains enormously popular to this day, and its music is instantly recognizable. The combination of modern day ride technology with the bevy of memorable scenes the movie could populate a ride with, it’s amazing this still hasn’t happened.

2 – Darkwing Duck – Next up is the terror that flaps in the night, the jailer who throws away the key, the surprise in your cereal box, St. Canard’s favorite masked crime fighter, Darkwing Duck. While he’s shown up for meet and greets in the past, this Disney Afternoon star would be a perfect fit for almost any kind of attraction. Throw in an amazing rogue’s gallery and the current popularity of super heroes and it’s surprising he’s not made a comeback in a big way in the last few years. With so many of the Marvel characters unavailable in Walt Disney World due to the Universal deal, he’d be a really fun addition.

3 – Robin Hood – If any Disney film has almost unlimited possibilities for attraction design, it’s this animated classic. Based on one of the most popular stories of all time, the Disney version has memorable takes on the familiar characters and great music. You could do anything from a classic dark ride to an interactive bow and arrow style game and it would probably be a big hit. You’ve also got to admit, this would probably be a super fun gift shop to walk through as well.

4 – Treasure Planet – While this might not have been the most commercially successful Disney film, I don’t think that always needs to be a consideration for making a fun attraction. Treasure Planet offers a wonderfully detailed world, and it’s not hard to imagine the RLS Legacy or solar surfers becoming an iconic Disney ride vehicle. Seeing the movie’s amazing character designs brought to life via a dark ride or projection technology would be a thrill as well.

5 – The Incredibles – No, being part of a dance party doesn’t really count in my book. A fun, action packed film like this needs a movie that likewise brings that kind of adventure to life. Speaking of bringing things to life, it would be interesting to see how the Imagineers would handle the task of bringing the unique abilities of the family into three dimensions. If done right, it could be one of the most entertaining experiences in the Magic Kingdom.

6 – Zootopia – Of all the things on this list, this feels like it’s got the best chance of happening down the line. The film even gives a great guide map for creating one, at the beginning when Judy takes the train into Zootopia and it goes through all the various areas of the city. It’s a fantastic film that deserves to be part of the parks, and I honestly won’t be surprised if this doesn’t happen down the line.

7 – TaleSpin – It’s probably quickly becoming obvious that I’m a huge Disney Afternoon fan, but I think the series would lend itself to an attraction fairly well. In one form or another flying makes up a big component of several beloved Disney attractions, so of course any version of this would have to take place on the Sea Duck. Add in the popularity of the Jungle Book cast and this would have a good chance of being a big hit.

8 – Tangled – Just like with The Incredibles, no, I’m not counting the restrooms as an attraction. As one of the most fun Disney films in recent memory, this is one that would easily lend itself to a fun, laid back dark ride, maybe even taking place on a boat. With memorable scenes like the Snuggly Duckling and the release of the lanterns, there’s plenty of material the Imagineers could use to make a memorable experience.

9 – The Adventures of Ichabod Crane – We’re going back to the scrapped ideas for the Magic Kingdom, because I’m really intrigued by this one. There aren’t a lot of scary rides in the Disney parks, and I’m hard pressed to think of one that actually has the theme of the riders in the vehicle being chased. It would be a relatively simple concept, but one that could be a lot of fun if handled right.

10 – The Secret of Monkey Island – This is my dark horse final pick, because a lot of Disney fans probably have never heard of Monkey Island, let alone know it was part of the Lucasfilm acquisitions. While there are clear similarities to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the zany sense of humor from these classic games could make it stand out. Okay, okay, and I just think it would be awesome to pick up merchandise at Disney with tag lines from insult sword fighting like “You fight like a dairy farmer.”

The Non-Disney Properties

1 – The Iron Giant – While not a Disney film, few movies have captured the spirit and wonder of their classic tales like this Brad Bird gem. You could do anything from a dark ride to a roller coaster built by the Giant in the scrapyard, so long as the lovable hero was a major part of it. Simply put, this movie deserves a theme park attraction.

2 – We Bare Bears – One of the most adorable and hilarious shows on television right now, it would be fun to see what the Imagineers might do for Grizz, Panda and Ice Bear. It’s another property that, though created by another company, would fit seamlessly into the Disney parks.

3 – Kingdom Hearts/Final Fantasy – This is a bit of a borderline case, since Kingdom Hearts is based around Disney characters. But the games also feature cameos from Final Fantasy characters, and it would be a perfect segue to have them as part of the park.

4 – Ben 10 – This might sound like a bit of an oddball choice, but this cartoon’s concept of transforming into various aliens allows for a lot of possibilities, and it’s just the sort of thing that the Imagineers could run wild with.

5 – Mega Man – A personal bias pick here, but there’s a lot of potential for a fun, unique attraction. With unforgettable music and fun level designs that could be created in three dimensions, the Robot Masters of the Mega Man series seem tailor made for an amazing theme park attraction. And if you could figure out a way to apply the “select a boss” game mechanic to an attraction, you’d have something really special.

…you know what, I might have to come back to this one in a few weeks.

A Daily Weekly Dose of Disney

Like most Disney fans, I like to find ways to feel closer to the parks when I’m half a country away from them. Each week, I’ll highlight little ways you can bring a little Disney magic into your lives.

…And special thanks to folks who pointed out this is actually a weekly, and not daily, dose!

The Be Our Guest Podcast – I’m going podcast again this week to share one of my favorites, this time Be Our Guest. This was another show I discovered during trip planning for our Disney honeymoon and which I’ve kept listening to ever since. It’s just a fun, upbeat show that will give you just a little bit of Disney magic when you can’t be there. It’s also worth mentioning that the recently posted Episode 1009 features a trip report from yours truly, which was an absolute blast to record.

What’s to Come

Wednesday it’s back to Orlando, where this time my wife and I split our time between Disney Hollywood Studios and Downtown Disney. From Star Tours to DisneyQuest, it’s another fun filled day in Walt Disney World!

And next week, barring any mind numbing experiences with terrible films, I’ll be giving you that Imagineering Overview, where you’ll learn some terminology and get a real basic picture of what goes into designing the attractions we all love!

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