Theme Park Insider

Weekly Top 10: Attractions That Surpass Their IPs

March 9, 2015, 6:30 AM · Theme park attractions can't all be Star Wars and Harry Potter. That is to say that not every ride or show introduced to elite parks around the world has the luxury of being based on a near-universally celebrated intellectual property (IP for short, you know – movies, TV shows, books and the characters and settings they contain). To respectfully disagree with The Lego Movie, when it comes to theme park IPs, not everything is awesome. 

The standard-bearers for theme park greatness, Disney and Universal, have been fortunate to bank on IPs that have proven remarkably durable. Many of Walt Disney Studios' animated features remain rites of passage for youngsters. Snow White and Peter Pan remain relevant even thought their movies might have been released before the kids' grandparents were born. Universal can't claim that sort of longevity yet, although they've made smart moves by banking on Jurassic Park, The Simpsons and, of course, Potter, which still loom large on the pop culture landscape. Meanwhile, Disney's continued to stay current with Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar.

But sometimes an attraction outperforms the source on which it was based. There's been talk of this lately, with Disney and Universal releasing details for park installations based on Avatar and King Kong, respectively. Despite forthcoming films in each franchise, will guests still care about Pandora and the giant ape when they come to the parks? They'll probably care enough... if the attractions are worthwhile.

That's because quality rides have sometimes outlived the relevance of their IPs, becoming more famous than the original inspirations. Sometimes brilliant attraction interpretations outmatch the corresponding IPs from the get-go. And sometimes, the world's best log flume comes from a movie that remains an un-releaseable embarrassment to its parent company.

Here are 10 attractions that are more fun to experience than their IPs.

10. Journey to the Center of the Earth
Tokyo DisneySea

Journey to the Center of the Earth

The marquee attraction of DisneySea's Jules Verne-inspired port of call, Mysterious Island, is based loosely on the French author's adventure story (it keeps the giant mushrooms and underground sea but trades Professor Lidenbrock for Captain Nemo and dinosaurs for a lava monster). The 1864 novel remains a classic, but it can't quite compete with the glorious theming of this attraction, or the sensation of being spat out of Mount Prometheus.

9. Men in Black: Alien Attack
Universal Studios Florida

Men in Black: Alien Attack

The zany action/comedy blockbuster is bettered by this creatively executed shoot-'em-up, the largest Universal dark ride when it debuted in 2000. Between 120-plus animatronic figures (not just computer animation on screens), great Easter eggs (an alien Spielberg!) and a variety of endings (depending on your skills at being a galaxy defender), Men in Black is more fun than the movie... maybe all three of them.

8. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Disneyland

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

How much more famous is this Fantasyland classic than the animated film from which it was derived? Type "Mr. Toad" into Google and it will assume you want to search for "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." Although the attraction remains at only one Disney park, multiple generations have grown up with a better reference for this prototypical dark ride than the 1949 source material, much less the 1908 "The Wind in the Willows" novel.

7. Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges
Universal's Islands of Adventure

Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges

For a sailor introduced the same year as the Great Stock Market Crash, Popeye has shown an amazing amount of staying power (must be all that spinach). Yet, most of the kiddos ready to board a Bilge Rat Barge are less excited about the greens-gulping hero than the idea of getting totally soaked in the Orlando heat. And that's exactly what happens on this top-notch river rafting adventure.

6. Pooh's Hunny Hunt
Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt

You might be surprised that an IP as continually beloved as Winnie the Pooh would make this list. Consider this: when Tokyo Disneyland first deployed game-changing trackless ride technology, they did it on what could have been a pretty straight-forward dark ride. Instead, Pooh's Hunny Hunt is one of the most enchanting, unpredictable and thoroughly immersive ride experiences ever stuffed with fluff.

5. Revenge of the Mummy
Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore

Revenge of the Mummy

Stephen Sommers breathed new life into the Universal monster with the 1999 film, but that special effects bonanza hasn't aged gracefully – certainly not in comparison to the ride it spawned. The hybrid of spooky dark ride and killer coaster is a thrilling combo, made even more impressive by the gargantuan theming in the Singapore edition.

4. Dinosaur
Disney's Animal Kingdom

Dinosaur

Here's an instance in which an attraction predated the release of its IP. Dinosaur, then named Countdown to Extinction, debuted a full two years before Disney put out the computer-animated Dinosaur. But this movie tie-in never really needed its movie. While the EMV attraction is a scary, swerving thrill ride (and, arguably, Disney's most frightening attraction), the film is a forgettable Land Before Time retread with computer graphics that look prehistoric 15 years later.

3. Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Singapore

Waterworld's reputation as a disaster of Hollywood excess has softened a bit in the past 20 years, but back in 1995, the idea of a Universal Studios attraction based on the Kevin Costner epic was borderline ridiculous. Yet this fantastic stunt show was able to take everything that's worthwhile about the film (amazing sets, action on land, sea, and air) and distill it into 16 minutes. That's 119 less than the movie, and the stunt show is a lot more fun.

2. Transformers: The Ride
Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Florida

Transformers: The Ride

The Waterworld math gets even better when applied to the Transformers film franchise and its accompanying ride. Instead of sitting through four (soon to be five) bloated movies festooned with soulless CGI, we get a perfect four and a half minutes of rock-'em, sock-'em robots. Plus, no Shia LaBeouf.

1. Splash Mountain
Disneyland, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain

Finally, the best example of turning a lump of IP coal into a theme park diamond. Disney Imagineering legend Tony Baxter shepherded a project that rescued the only redeemable aspects (the animated sequences, the songs) from 1946's stereotype-laden Song of the South, which hasn't been re-released by Disney in the U.S. since the Mountain had its first splash. The log flume/dark ride creates such a robust cartoon world, Splash Mountain renders its controversial IP superfluous.

Coming Next Week: The flip side.

Replies (28)

March 9, 2015 at 6:53 AM · I cannot agree with a few of these….

The Original MIB and Original transformers movies were\are better than the Rides…

(Of course all of this is subjective)

March 9, 2015 at 7:05 AM · Does Third Man on the Mountain count for the Matterhorn? I also think that Dudley Doo Right should be on this list, though it's tough to decide what to remove. I might take out MIB since the first movie is pretty entertaining. The ride is great, though.
March 9, 2015 at 7:12 AM · And Mission: Space is loosely based on Mission to Mars. But the ride is much better than the movie.
March 9, 2015 at 8:16 AM · Transformers should not be on this list.
March 9, 2015 at 8:22 AM · I was surprised to see Dinosaur on this list. I do agree that this attraction out does its original IP, but to be honest, the movie Dinosaur was not very impressive.

I ride this attraction every time I visit Animal Kingdom, but on the last few trips I have been a bit disappointed with it. The ride has always had maintenance issues, but in the last few years it seems like they have just given up on maintaining it. For example, the Pterodactyl seen used to be very effective when it swooped down on you, but now it just hangs there. Its been many years since I last saw it move.

Also, it seems like half the ride takes place in total darkness now. Maybe its just my eyes getting older, but I swear that entire scenes from the ride have had all lighting removed, leaving nothing but pitch blackness.

I was fortunate to ride the original version of this attraction soon after it opened. The ride was MUCH wilder and scarier. I understand they had to dump it down due to complaints, but, in my opinion, it was a much better ride in its original incarnation.

March 9, 2015 at 8:48 AM · I haven't seen the Mr. Toad movie, but I will say that I was quite unimpressed with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride when I rode it at Disneyland. I can respect its classic status, but it should be the next ride due for an Alice in Wonderland type redo, this time with animatronics instead of the cheap plywood cutouts they use today.
March 9, 2015 at 9:48 AM · Transformers most certainly SHOULD be on the list, unless referring to the epic 1983 animated movie featuring Orsen Welles, Leonard Nimoy & Eric Idle.

Can't agree with MIB, as above commentators have noted the first film is a classic.

March 9, 2015 at 11:55 AM · Splash Mountain is wonderful and so is Song of the South, the movie that the attraction is based on. It is ridiculous that there is so much negativity toward the movie and ridiculous that Disney won't release it on DVD.
March 9, 2015 at 12:11 PM · No Carsland? Heresy.
March 9, 2015 at 2:15 PM · Disney has made movies based on its attractions (Pirates, Haunted Mansion...) and it has made attractions based on its movies (too many to list). I wish it would make a new movie based on the Song of the South characters to reintroduce them to a new generation. I agree that the original film would not appeal to current society and I agree with why. I grew up in Georgia and my Dad would read my sister and me the Joel Chandler Harris stories about Uncle Remus and we loved the characters and the lessons they taught. It would be great to get a modern interpretation of those classic stories with the wonderful music mixed in. The film could even fold Splash Mountain into the story.
March 9, 2015 at 3:11 PM · Pretty good list. My only disagreement is that Journey to the center of the Earth is underrated and should be in the top 5.
March 9, 2015 at 5:02 PM · I've often wondered if there was any way to edit Song of the South to make it less offensive. I saw the movie as a youngster the last time it was released in theatres (1982?), and have seen compilations on You Tube highlighting the highly offensive racial stereotypes. I know why it deserves its place at the VERY back of the Disney Vault. But I just wonder if the movie could ever be salvaged through editing and, maybe, some cleverly created additional footage.

It's a shame that a movie with such a classic soundtrack and great animation/live-action innovation on display has to be hidden away.
Take a look at Birth of a Nation - there's a movie that was far more, mean spiritedly, racist. However, in terms of the history of film, it was a breakthrough picture. I can locate a copy of that movie to appreciate it's cinematic historical value. You can't do the same with Song of the South.

Of course, I realize it's a children's movie, and such poorly thought out imagery and social messages are best kept away from the most vulnerable minds - Disney is just being responsible. But, like I stated, I wonder if it could ever be edited and salvaged for public viewing again.

March 9, 2015 at 11:20 PM · Excellent list, but, for my taste, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter also surpasses the movies (not the excellent books, however). To me, WWOHP is the most entertaining Potter iteration.

Also, I was never crazy about Peter Pan the movie, but the ride is far more charming and fun.

EDIT: Yes, I agree with the comment above, in reference to Cars Land. In particular, RSR surpasses the movies.

March 9, 2015 at 11:31 PM · Song of the South is not an unreleasable embarrasment. It is a story of a friendship so strong that it crosses all barriers. Social class, race, age and shows some common ground in an ugly and devisive era. Some of the material appears racist by today's standards but that can be said of so very many films of that time. Whisking it under the carpet won't change that. The story, animation and music still stand as great works from great artists and people really need to get over whether it is politically correct or not and enjoy what beauty that exists amongst the dated standards of the 1930s. The proposed simple, frank and sensitive prolog explaining this would work very well and now that Maya Anjelou (who refused to do it when asked) is gone they should do just that. Have a zippity do dah day!
March 10, 2015 at 5:57 AM · I love the first Men in Black so I was suprised to see it on there. The second was average at best, but the third was actually pretty good.

I am a huge fan of G1 Transformers (the original show from the 80's), and while the first transformers film is okay, the next three are some of the biggest pieces of trash hollywood has ever released. Michael Bay is public enemy number 1 in my book.

March 10, 2015 at 7:33 AM · How does Dinosaur even count? As you noted the movie came out two years later and the ride operated under a different name. They did not really change much for the ride's name change.

Also, Radiator Springs Racers should be on this list.

March 10, 2015 at 9:30 AM · Considering how remake crazy Disney has become, I could see them doing a remake of Song of the South. But the truth is that stereotypes and racism are not the same thing, which is why I wish Disney would finally take it out of the vault. The re-release of the WWII Looney Tunes came with a warning, and they was more offensive than Song of the South. I don't get why Disney an't do the same thing.

Ichabod and Mr. Toad is a wonderful movie that is greatly underrated. As for the ride, they should bring it back to Disney World, at Hollywood Studios

March 10, 2015 at 9:41 AM · Theme park attractions should surpass their source IPs due to the movies not being updated and the attractions are constantly improved upon. This doesn't mean The Mummy, Dinosaur, and Transformers are much better than the movie itself when the movies are pretty much crap. It can only get better. Anyways, I was largely disappointed with all 3 of these rides.
March 10, 2015 at 2:05 PM · I would add RSR (and even Carsland in general). That was widely (and to some extent still is) considered the weakest Pixar franchise, but the attraction & the land are excellent.

Randy, while another studio might be able to get away with releasing Song of the South with a warning, Disney is different. While stereotypes & racism may be different, there's a fine line between the 2. It's such a hot button issue, that the bottom line would be audiences finding it offensive.

Releasing it, with that "family friendly Walt Disney moniker" is just too huge of a risk. Honestly, they have nothing to gain by doing so.

After all these decades, they haven't suffered any repercussions for "NOT" releasing it. No loss of money, no public demand (outside of a small number of cinephiles). In fact, I'd argue they've probably gained some brownie points for keeping it locked away. Why put all that on the line & release the film?

They'd lose alot more than they'd gain by releasing it.

March 11, 2015 at 8:18 AM · I don't think Song of the South really wasn't as racist as people give it credit for. In all honesty, Uncle Reemus (forgive me if I misspelled his name) was pretty much the only interesting human character. He was extremely nice, full of knowledge, and had some pretty darn good singing chops. The rest of the human cast was either bland or annoying. The cartoon characters were pretty entertaining, though. Look, I know racism is still a big issue in certain parts of the world, but I think that our culture is kinda starting to become too sensitive about it.
March 11, 2015 at 9:43 AM · Transformers was not that great of a movie (thanks Michael Bay). On the other hand MIB was fantastic. Not a bad list overall.
March 11, 2015 at 2:41 PM · Fair enough about the family friendly aspect. But there are other stereotypes in Disney films that are still on video and TV. The first episode of Disneyland aired on TCM in December with a brief warning at the beginning. They could do the same with song of the South.

Back to the the article. A movie should be judged for it's artistic qualities, and for that reason the movie doesn't deserve to b on this list. What should be on the list instead? Back to the Future the Ride. While the first movie is a classic, the ride takes place after the events of its inferior sequels. They have their moments, but the ride was funner as a whole than either parts 2 or 3. I thin Mr Toads Wild Ride belongs on this list because the movie is a forgotten gem, so the ride is far more beloved than the movie. Song of the South however, is unknown to people today solely because it's been collecting dust.

March 11, 2015 at 3:27 PM · The "Song of the South" should be re-edited for just the musical numbers. Call it the "Songbook of the South". Remove most dialog and cut Uncle Reamus' appearance. I recalled seeing the movie as a kid a long long time ago (I'm dating myself). The way to make the movie work is have a story book like Winnie the Pooh with narration (some kids reading the book), with a new story that focuses on the animated characters.
March 11, 2015 at 3:39 PM · Which IP came first for Tower of Terror,: the ride or the movie with Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst?
The ride experience is certainly better than the viewing experience.
March 11, 2015 at 5:58 PM · ^^^^^

For Tower of Terror, the ride came first. The original IP is Twilight Zone.

The made for for TV movie was a part of the Wonderful World of Disney, but it still came a few years after the attraction opened.

March 12, 2015 at 4:32 AM · Transformers has made billions so its kind of silly to say the ride is much better than the movies.... definitely a case of theme park message board jargon or propaganda
March 13, 2015 at 10:32 PM · Sure the movies have grossed huge money worldwide, but most theme park fans prefer the ride. It packs more excitement in four minutes than all the movies' (endless) hours combined.
March 14, 2015 at 7:53 AM · I disagree with Men in Black and Transformers

I think that dudley do right ripsaw falls should be added

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