11:00 am EDT, May 22, 2015

The good, the bad, and the ridiculous: Movies based on Disney rides

It's a small world after all.

You know, Tomorrowland has really got us thinking: how many movies have been based on Disney attractions?

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The answer? More than you can remember. Not all of the adaptations had the success that Pirates of the Caribbean did, so you probably don’t remember a few of them, but they happened.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of which movies were based on attractions and which attractions were based on or inspired by Disney movies. (After all, “Peter Pan’s Flight” at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is so charmingly ancient.) So, to help you distinguish between the two categories, here’s a list of movies based on Disney rides or attractions.

Related: Ryan Gosling to star in Guillermo del Toro and Disney’s Haunted Mansion

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’ (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean

Everyone knows this one. This was Disney’s first really successful attempt at adapting one of their rides into a film (and, subsequently, into a billion dollar franchise). In fact, Pirates has been so successful that they’ve started to renovate the ride and add movie elements to it, so now we’re in a sort of never-ending adaptation circle. We’ve mentioned before how Pirates of the Caribbean was our first fandom, which is a testament to the quality of this adaptation. It’s fun and action-packed while also maintaining the certain wonder and mysteriousness of the ride itself. If you don’t like Pirates of the Caribbean, we don’t know what to do with you.

‘The Haunted Mansion’ (2003)

The Haunted Mansion

We know it’s been said before, but The Haunted Mansion (starring Eddie Murphy) in no way does justice to the ride. We love that ride so much and so you can imagine how disappointed we were when the movie failed to capture its spirit. As a refresher, the 2003 film centers around a family who visits the mansion and finds out that it’s haunted with a murderous spirit. The family must work together to escape the house blah blah blah. Sorry, but the premise is so overdone and predictable. While the ride is mysterious and spooky with a bit of humor to it, the movie was sold as an all-out family-friendly comedy. A Disney movie should definitely have those elements, but a movie like The Haunted Mansion shouldn’t be defined by them. Fingers crossed that the upcoming Guillermo del Toro movie based on the attraction will be much closer in tone. (It’s Guillermo del Toro, so we have a lot of faith that it will be.)

‘Mission to Mars’ (2000)

MIssion to Mars

Not many people realize that this was one of the few movies based on Disney rides. In fact, we didn’t realize it ourselves for quite a while. “Mission to Mars” was a ride that was located both Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. The ride would give visitors a glimpse of what it was like to be launched into space and fly around Mars. Due to the opening of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and other factors, both “Mission to Mars” attractions were closed by 1993. (However, a similar ride in EPCOT, “Mission: SPACE,” opened in 2003 and prominently features one of the Mission to Mars actors, Gary Sinise.)

The movie is similar to the ride(s) in that it deals with a manned mission to Mars. However, as you can imagine, the mission goes mysteriously wrong and a rescue team goes after any survivors. The movie itself was subpar at best, but it’s still worth seeing if you liked “Mission to Mars” or if you enjoy “Mission: SPACE.”

‘Tower of Terror’ (1997)

Tower of Terror

While most made-for-TV movies are adequate at best, Tower of Terror is so much fun. In fact, if it would have been released in theaters at that time instead of on TV, it could have done pretty well for itself. The premise of the movie is simple and ties nicely into the popular Disney attraction: On Halloween night 1939, five people were on their way to the top floor of a swanky hotel when the elevator got stuck and then collapsed. The bodies of the passengers were never recovered. The ghosts then wander the halls of the hotel until the Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst can free them. It’s a really fun movie that has the same look and feel of the ride’s queue. Tower of Terror is a must-see.

‘The Country Bears’ (2002)

The Country Bears

We’re obligated to mention this one seeing as it’s a relatively popular Disney park attraction, “The Country Bear Jamboree.” It’s most likely that popularity that caused Disney to think it would be a good idea to adapt the attraction for the movies. To be fair, at this point, there was no precedent for movies based on Disney rides. In fact, The Country Bears was Disney’s first theatrical movie based on a ride (the second movie overall with Tower of Terror being the first). Basically, the premise of the movie is that Beary Bearington (most original name ever), a bear raised by humans, helps get the “famous” Country Bear Band back together for a benefit concert to save the Country Bear music hall. Essentially, it’s The Muppets with more bears and less fun.

‘Tomorrowland’ (2015)


At this point, it’s difficult to say how Tomorrowland will rank among the rest of the movies based on Disney rides. It could go the way of The Country Bears or it could be something ground-breaking like Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a bit too soon to tell. However, we do have quite a bit of hope for this movie thanks to the trailers we’ve seen so far and the fact that both Brad Bird and E.W.’s Jeff (Doc) Jensen have had large hands in the making.

Walt Disney was all about a “great big beautiful tomorrow” and we think that this movie could really deliver on that, especially since it’s all about the main protagonists trying to unearth the secrets of Tomorrowland and make elements of Tomorrowland reality. From what we’ve seen so far, the aesthetics are really true to the feeling of Disney’s EPCOT and Tomorrowland parks. We can’t wait to see it!

We couldn’t help but mention and briefly comment on the movies based on Disney rides that are currently rumored to be in the works…

It’s a Small World — This could be interesting, but if this movie plays “It’s a Small World” for its duration, we will riot.

Magic Kingdom — It only makes sense that one of Disney’s flagship parks (not to mention our favorite park) is in consideration of getting its own movie. Plans for the movie have been on hold for a while though, but if Jon Favreau and writer Michael Chabon are still up for the job, we say let them do it! (After all, they want to do it like Night at the Museum in Disney. We’re so down for this.)

Untitled Explorers Project a.k.a. The Hill (TBA) — There’s not much about this movie that we know yet, beyond it being based on the Matterhorn ride and about a group of explorers on a mountain who encounter yetis. We’re hesitant about it, but willing to be open-minded.


Which of the movies based on Disney rides is your favorite?

Related: Do’s and Don’ts: Hypable’s guide to Disney World

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