Most Disney fans can list a few attractions that Disney made based on an existing film. But can you name the seven Disney theme park attractions that were made into movies? OK, there are six that have already been released and one has been delayed until July 2021. Plus here’s another clue – one is not based on an attraction per se but an entire land.
Four of these movies, and one franchise, are available for viewing on Disney+ right now. These are great movies to watch before you go to Walt Disney World (and hopefully Disneyland soon). Or, watch these in your resort in Disney World on an early evening. Finally, you can watch these at home for an instant bit of Disney Magic.
The Tower of Terror (1997); the first Disney attraction made into a movie
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was so exciting for our six-year-old that when it opened that we started a family practice of taking a picture of Stu and Pat walking down Sunset Boulevard towards the tower. In the years since it opened the ride has never disappointed. We aren’t alone. The Tower of Terror remains one of the most popular in Walt Disney World.
It’s not surprising that Disney chose the relatively new, blockbuster thrill ride as the subject of its first movie adaptation of an attraction. The Tower of Terror, starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst was released as part of the “Wonderful World of Disney”. Guttenberg plays a tabloid reporter trying to recover credibility by discovering what happened to a family of five that disappeared in the tower sixty years prior.
Part of the joy when Disney attractions are made into movies is seeing what parts of the attraction make it in. Disney fans will revel in the details present in the attraction and a brief cameo of the attraction itself.
Not currently on Disney+ but the DVD, Blueray and even VHS tapes are available on Amazon. (Affiliate link).
When Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 the Countdown to Extinction was the only indoor dark ride available. Not familiar with the ride? It was renamed Dinosaur after Disney’s second attraction based movie was released in 2000. The attraction takes you back in time to the end of the Cretaceous period where guests are to assist in the capture of a friendly iguanodon just prior to the meteor storm that caused the dinosaur extinction.
The computer animated Dinosaur takes up where the ride left off. Aladar (D.B. Sweeney) leads his adopted family from the destroyed remains of their forest to the nesting ground. As in the ride, carnatours stalk and attack the small heard threatening them with, well, extinction. In a bid to promote the movie “Countdown to Extinction” was renamed to “Dinosaur.
With multiple scenes of animated Dino on Dino violence the film is a little dark for young ones. Dinosaur is available on Disney+.
The Country Bears (2002)
The Country Bear Jamboree has been a mainstay of Walt Disney World since 1971. But it the attraction goes back farther than that – it was originally planned by Walt Disney himself as an attraction at the never built Mineral King ski resort. It’s therefore fitting that the Country Bears came full circle for the Walt Disney Studios for it’s theatrical release in 2002. The movie reminds me of the slap stick silly live action comedies Disney produced in the early 1960s. And, it reminds me of the humor of the Country Bear Jamboree.
The Bears are reunited by Beary Barrington (Haley Joel Osment) to perform one more concert to save Country Bear Hall from the evil Reed Thimple (Christopher Walken). There’s music, dancing lighthearted humor and a boatload of cameos.
Stay to the end, the cameo interviews during the credits are some of the funniest in the movie. Then go to Walt Disney World and enjoy the “live” show. The Country Bears is currently showing on Disney+.
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
An icon of Disney Parks since 1969, The Haunted Mansion is an attraction that fans return to year after year. A single visit to the 999 happy haunts can cement a relationship for future doom buggy trips.
The 2003 Haunted Mansion movie tells the love story behind the mansion. Eddie Murphy stars as real estate agent Jim Evers who’s wife (Masha Thomason) is the doppelganger for the mansion owner’s fiancé. But the real star is the mansion and 999 haunts as they faithfully recreate sections of the ride, Disney fans can’t help but smiles as groaning doors and singing statues fill cross the screen.
The Haunted Mansion is currently available on Disney+
Pirates of the Caribbean; Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
There is an ongoing debate as to which version of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is the best; Disneyland’s or Walt Disney World’s. But one thin is sure, a pirate’s life has been one of our favorites since we watched Walt Disney tour the attraction one Sunday night during the Wonderful World of Color.
The movie was originally conceived in the early 1990s but lingered through various directors and cast until the next century. Could you imagine Christopher Walken as Jack Sparrow? Curse of the Black Pearl was the first of the Pirate Franchise and many believe it was the best. This film was the closest to the attraction featuring several recognizable scenes. The film franchise was so popular that the attractions were overhauled to feature Captain Jack Sparrow.
As far as ‘Disney Attractions Made Into Movies’ go the pirates were so successful they are talking about rebooting this movie franchise.
The Pirates of the Caribbean; Curse of the Black Pearl is currently available on Disney+.
When Disneyland opened in 1955 Tomorrowland represented Walt Disney’s hopes and dreams of the future. Unlike the other Disney locations on this list Tomorrowland is more than a single attraction; it’s an entire land. And unlike the other movies on this list, Tommorowland, the movie, is not about a single location but the enduring hope for mankind that Walt Disney shared with us.
One of the neat things about the movie is that it begins at the Worlds Fair in New York in 1965 where Walt Disney introduced the world to It’s a Small World, , Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Ford’s Magic Skyway (the mechanical precursor to the Peoplemover) and the Carousel of Progress. Another neat idea is that Tomorrowland is in a parallel dimension whose soaring design element are familiar to anyone who has visited this dimension’s version.
Tommorowland will be available on Disney+ in September 2021.
The Jungle Cruise (2021) – the next Disney Attractions Made Into a Movie
Next year Disney will release “The Jungle Cruise” starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Emily Blunt. The Rock, Skipper of the Jungle Cruiser and Blunt will travel the amazon in search of the mystical tree that heals all. The tree can also waken great evil and they are chased in the amazon by a submarine. The movie promises great action and Jungle Cruise humor. It seems like a another great partner to a an iconic attraction.
So there are the seven theme park attractions that Disney made into movies. These feature ride unique to the minds of Disney Imagineers. What other unique attractions can you see in the future? Thunder Mountain? The Hall of Presidents? Unfortunately a long planed Magic Kingdom epic from Jon Favreau seems to have been abandoned.
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