Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 10 Best Themed Attractions

When it comes to attractions in The Mouse, two ingredients go hand-in-hand to create a typical, top-notch Disney experience: story and theme. Even in big "thrill" rides, the "thrill" is essentially secondary to theme, or else it would simply be a Six Flags or Busch Gardens ride. Disney has mastered the art of mixing incredible theme and just enough thrill to satisfy almost everyone. Today Around The Mouse counts down the top 10 best themed Disney World attractions.

1. Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom

The dining hall. The stretching room. The ghost host. The ghost writers. The wallpaper. The blinking eyes on the wallpaper. The hitchhiking ghosts. The attic scene. The pet cemetery outside. The glow of the windows on the front of the mansion at night. This place is incredible. And the concept of the Haunted Mansion comes directly from Walt himself. Attraction theming simply doesn't get better than this.

2. Expedition Everest, Animal Kingdom

If realism is the goal of theming, then Everest is the ultimate example. From the Yeti museum to the shrines and intricate wall carvings along the queue line to the mountain itself, no detail was spared here to sell the experience. In a park that is probably the best-themed Disney park in general, this is the best themed attraction. That speaks volumes.

3. Tower of Terror, Disney's Hollywood Studios

If we could have two attractions tie for second place, it would be Everest and the Hollywood Tower of Terror. But we had to pick one, and Everest got the ever-so-slight edge. But attractions like Tower was the true inspiration for rides like Everest: a massive thrill ride with ultra-realistic detail-oriented theming that is out of this world.

4. Kilimanjaro Safari, Animal Kingdom

The sheer size of this beautiful attraction lends to the engrossing, all-encompassing feeling of being in the middle of an African safari. The queue to the actual ride is also very well themed as you pass through ticket booths and offices along the way with promotional anti-poaching TV programs being broadcast for your enjoyment and education.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean, Magic Kingdom

Huge attraction (and Walt-inspired original) that is awesome both in the queue and during the actual ride. The aged authenticity of the Castillo del Morro is incredible with its weaponry, iron work and stone architecture. And, of course, the ride's dark dioramas are amazing.

6. Muppet Vision 3D, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Hilarious inside jokes, gags and puns everywhere in the pre-show room - you can get lost in there looking around at the little things. The theater is a wonderful recreation of the Muppets theater and includes the Waldorf and Statler AA's in the balcony. I always consider the courtyard and merchandise store as part of the attraction and those are also hilarious and worthy of adding to the theme of this attraction.

7. Star Tours, Disney's Hollywood Studios

The outdoor Ewok Village with the AT-AT may alone nominate this attraction for best themed attraction. But add to that the attention to detail of all the droid parts strewn about, C-3PO and R2D2 audio-animatronics and the Star Wars-style "airport" feel to the rest of the attraction, and this one still holds up (unlike its simulator movie).

8. Toy Story Mania, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Wonderful and whimsical come to mind when walking through this attraction. The classic games and toys blown up to giant size (in order to make you feel like you're the size of a toy in the bedroom) along the queue is great fun to experience. The theming doesn't let up once you're in the shoot-out portion of the game, or even in the car itself.

9. Kali River Rapids, Animal Kingdom

Kali is another attraction that makes the theming of the Asia section of Animal Kingdom incredible from top to bottom. It's the direct precursor to Expedition Everest, as is evident from the relics and art present along its amazing queue line. The thick trees and vegetation along the ride path and the logging scene with the fire erupting also create a sense of awe and can rattle the nerves a little bit. Quality theming in a type of ride (water tubing) that can be very difficult to theme effectively.

10. Space Mountain, Magic Kingdom

This probably wouldn't have made the cut if it weren't for the latest refurb; even if some people don't believe they did enough to the actual ride track itself, there's no denying that they hit a home run with the theming. It is now a comprehensive story that even ties in other Disney attractions (Horizons) with some cleverly placed nods to the past. The games along the queue tie into the story and the new graphics along the ceiling are top-of-the-line. Even if the ride itself is the same as before, the theming is far, far superior.

Honorable Mention:
Maharajah Jungle Trek, Animal Kingdom
Spaceship Earth, Epcot
The Seas With Nemo & Friends, Epcot
Splash Mountain, Magic Kingdom
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Magic Kingdom

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