Top 5 Most Overrated Disney Dark Rides

OK so it pretty much goes without saying that Disney are consistently kind of...well, excellent when it comes to dark rides. Even the worst Disney dark rides are usually better than the best good/great non-Disney (and Universal) dark rides. They're legendary in their field and as a company are solely responsible for the development of the medium as we know it today, and for that I will eternally be in awe of them as a company. But that said, that doesn't mean some Disney dark rides don't need taking down a peg or two and that's exactly what I plan on doing today! Sometimes I feel as theme park fans we place Disney rides on this 'untouchable' pedestal and are afraid to call out when a ride just isn't the excellent experience we have (rightfully) come to expect from Disney. 

And as always, disclaimer here that these are my opinions based on my own riding experiences of these attractions - if you disagree with me that's fab let's have a chat about it in the comments. It's also worth noting here that 'overrated' doesn't necessarily equal 'bad' - it simply means the thing gets more praise than it's maybe truly worthy of, because we're blinded by that Disney factor. Bear that in mind as we dive in. 

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This attraction gets put up on a pedestal so much and I can kind of see why. Firstly, the building is absolutely stunning and probably one of the most gorgeous Disney has ever created, so it's easy to be distracted by its beauty and have that put a rose-tinted lens on the rest of the experience. This is also the only Tower attraction to not operate under and IP, and somehow in theme park fan world that automatically means it's better somehow (fun fact: it doesn't). But the truth is, under the shiny exterior and super fun and innovative original storyline, the ride itself just...isn't that fun? Hear me out. 

Prior to riding this my only experience of Disney Tower rides had been ones accompanied with the 'spooky/creepy' Twilight Zone IP and general vibe, so from the minute you see the intimidating towers itself (usually from outside of the park gates) your anticipation of the terror you're about to experience on the attraction proper begins. Everything about the design of the attraction building, the storyline, the music, everything, is leading into one thing - to terrify you. Hell, the word TERROR is in the NAME of the ride! So when a ride calling itself terrifying fails to do exactly that surely something isn't really adding up? 

The Twilight Zone versions of the attraction have the added 'hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck' factor that comes hand in hand with the more traditional ghost story style of its storyline, therefore by the time you're plummeting multiple stories at high speed all of your senses have been primed for this to have the maximum impact on you and you leave the attraction jelly-legged and veins coursing with adrenaline - the same way you feel leaving the cinema after a particularly jumpy horror movie. 

Because of the culture in Japan such an IP and approach would not work so I understand WHY Disney chose to change things up in this way but unfortunately for me the elements don't align quite as gloriously as the Twilight Zone versions do and whilst I absolutely adore the lore and design that come hand-in-hand with this attraction I felt the actually drop sequence and feeling of the ride experience was lacklustre and I came off feeling a little let down by what I was convinced was going to be the best thing ever. I much prefer the original Tower of Terror in Orlando. 

I won't go on too long about this one as I think it's well established that I'm no fan of this attraction but I am convinced that something went awry during our ride on Flight of Passage as our entire group came off feeling less than enchanted with our flight across Pandora - surely anybody who rode the same thing we rode could truly think this ride is the official BEST THING EVER? I think the HYPE had a lot to do with my disappointment on this one and I wish I had ignored it as much as I've ignored Galaxy's Edge to allow myself as much space to carve my own true opinion of the ride as possible without too much outside influence but alas. 

The thing for me with Flight of Passage is the way people were going on about it as if it were some kind of life-changing ethereal experience? When in reality we've done this before - we've done it on The Simpsons Ride, on Soarin', on Star Tours. And yes obviously the screen tech used here is leaps and bounds ahead of those but truly the difference for me personally was minimal. BUT THE BANSHEE BREATHES BETWEEN YOUR LEGS! Yes, but after the first time that happens and yes it's quite cool it just became annoying and a little...distracting? I don't know, I just found the whole thing kind of...a re-hash of stuff we've already seen when I was lead to believe it was going to be something completely out of this world. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Na'vi River Journey is better. 

This feels a little sacrilegious to say and maybe a little bit of a curveball because the truth is, I do love this ride. It's a spooky haunted house in a Disney park, OF COURSE I'm going to love it. BUT, Phantom Manor is overrated in that it makes no fucking sense whatsover and the final scene, whilst fun and some cool ghost train gags, never ceases to have me muttering 'what the fuck' under my breath as we exit our Doom Buggies onto the moving walkway. Because Disney are awesome they always do this thing when designing and building new parks of adapting and changing old classics in an attempt to have them make more sense in whatever setting they find themselves. There would be no Liberty or New Orleans Sq. for Disneyland Paris and a beaten down ol' mansion wouldn't seem too out of place for a frontier town amidst a gold rush so thematically sure, shove it in. 

I think when you've been on the classic Haunted Mansion, the (better idc what you say) Orlando version and the entirely-reimagined-but-still-a-haunted-mansion Mystic Manor it's hard to see where Phantom Manor fits in the line-up. And that's mostly because of the Frontierland stuff they've tried to shoehorn into the story. Mainly in that aforementioned end scene. We have the classic story of the bride and a wedding day gone slightly wrong and all the fab classic Haunted Mansion imagery that we love like the ballroom scene and singing busts and what have you, then we end inexplicably in a wild west literal ghost town with ghost games of cards on the go and skeleton sheriffs and...what the fuck? It is SO RANDOM IT HURTS ME and whilst I love Phantom Manor for being the spooky, kitschy joy ride that it is I just cannot forgive that end scene. 

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Oh god I remember back in the early 2000s where every discussion of 'best dark ride in the world' was dominated by this yellow bear and pals over at Tokyo Disneyland. The excitement about trackless dark ride technology had me too, and I couldn't wait to experience the immeasurable joy that had captured the hearts of so many riders before me. But there's two things that I need to talk about with this one. Firstly, everybody seems to forget that trackless dark rides are SLOW AS SHIT. I think my first ever trackless dark ride was the excruciatingly boring Antarctica - Empire of the Penguin at Sea World Orlando - a ride so shockingly bad I exited with my jaw agape (and not at the majesty of the penguins). My next was Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy in Paris which I adored because the snail's pace of the vehicles was disguised with the fast-paced action of the screen content. Basically if you don't have fun and fast-paced screen content to distract your riders then you better come up with something good to keep them occupied because JESUS. 

The next is something I realised probably half-way through my ride on Hunny Hunt - I fucking hate Winnie the Pooh. When it comes to Disney characters I've always been drawn more to the villainous side of things as opposed to the sickly sweet but generally speaking I enjoy a good character interaction with the cute and fluffies, but I simply can't stand Pooh. He's too cute, not in an 'omg you're so cute I want to squish you' kind of way but in an 'omg I literally want to stab you in the face' kind of way (see also: Duffy and friends). The Pooh characters are just intolerably wholesome and with that ANNOYING so combine that seething hatred with a stupidly slow and gimmicky ride system and urgh. Trackless technology is absolutely impressive and I am excited to see where it goes in the future and with the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland we're seeing more interesting ways of how this can be implemented but good lord until then give me the zaniness of Snow White's Scary Tales or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride over that snoozefest any day!

Let me start this one off by saying I LOVE EPCOT. It's one of my favourite parks in the entire world, specifically because it's weird as hell and theoretically shouldn't exist - the only reason it exists is because of the love a group of people had for the madman that spawned the idea in the first place and the entire park is so rich with weird and wonderful history that I just...yh, I love EPCOT. I particularly love its crusty old 'educational' rides like Living with the Land which have sadly slowly but surely disappeared over the years. When all the EPCOT update announcements started to come out of D23 I was pumped, finally my beloved park would get the attention it deserved, but with that I slowly came to realise that the 'weenie' attraction of the park would not particularly be altered all that much due to it being too much of a fan favourite and the Imagineers not wishing to cause a riot in the auditorium. I speak of course of Spaceship Earth, AKA the dullest ride at EPCOT (which truly is saying something). 

I feel like Spaceship Earth gets a free pass simply because it is housed inside an icon of Disney World, but this ride BLOWS. The only reason I really go on this ride is for a sit down and some aircon. And don't get me wrong, I love the janky older Disney rides - give me the Enchanted Tiki Room or Carousel of Progress all day. But nothing about Spaceship Earth has ever grasped me as whimsical or nostalgic - it's simply just boring and even a little bit creepy/scary at times? It's not even comically boring like Living with the Land or the Hall of Presidents, it's just dull with no catchy theme song to distract me. Honestly I'd love for them to just tear out the ride and replace it with a Figment and Dreamfinder meet and greet or something, anything would be better than what is currently there. 

Nobody's perfect of course, Disney included, and it's fun to be ultra pedantic from time to time wouldn't you agree? What are your most overrated Disney dark rides? 

Talk later xoxo,



3 comments

  1. Completely Disagree about Pooh's Hunny Hunt.

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  2. It does kind of feel like you let your hatred of Pooh as a character dictate your hatred of the ride. I find Hunny Hunt to be a lot better than the other Pooh attractions in the world, the best of the trackless rides, and I think it actually uses the trackless technology better than Mystic Manor. But to each their own.

    I agree that Phantom Manor is overrated and that the story makes no sense, but I'd actually prefer if it was MORE different from the Haunted Mansions. While overall I think they did a good job on the refurb, they did add in a lot more audio from the original Mansions and...no. For me HM audio in PM just takes me out of the experience and makes me wonder why they didn't just build HM if they wanted to quote the audio from it so damn much. The ending, the score, and the differences are what makes it interesting for me.

    I really like the theming and preshow of the Tokyo Tower. Too bad it's let down by the world's weakest non-S&S drop tower.

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    1. Yes you've got a point there about Phantom Manor - if they'd gone completely original and severed ties with the Haunted Mansion storyline it might be a bit more forgivable! And yes I share your thoughts on Tokyo tower, the actual drop sequence shocked me how tame it was...

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