Theme Park Insider

The Greedy Theme Park Fan's Wish List for Improving Disneyland

November 2, 2015, 10:50 AM · Theme park fans can't help themselves. No matter how much we might like specific parks or attractions, we always are thinking about how they might be made juuuust a little bit better. Or, in the cases of not-so-favorite attractions, a lot better.

So it is in that spirit that I offer my Orange County Register column this week: Suggestions to improve some Disneyland attractions.


In it, I offer a "wish list" of improvements on current attractions at Anaheim's Disneyland. In each case, I point to an comparable attraction — from another park or Disneyland's past — that offers a better model that what Disneyland now offers. (While cracking a few jokes along the way, of course.) And next week, I will offer a similar wish list for Disney California Adventure.

Here are the rides that I included on my Disneyland upgrade wish list:

What's your wish list for your favorite theme park? Which rides or shows there would you like to see upgraded to a better example from another park?

Replies (31)

November 2, 2015 at 11:46 AM · I don't regard those rides as worthy for improvement. They are fine "as is". For example, the under 10 year olds love Winnie the Pooh just fine. The line is extremely short at Disneyland. There is no need for an elaborate queue line that you see at Disney World.

Astro Orbitor and Autopia could be improved in a more elaborate Tomorrowland Makeover. Otherwise, it doesn't much matter.

The rides that should be actually improved upon is Indiana Jones Adventure for the special effects never really worked (skeleton, bug, snake, rats, and darts rooms) or in constant disrepair like the boulder effect. The Submarine ride for it is a long Nemo ride that is boring as heck. Looking at the underwater screens make my eyes crossed. The Jungle cruise is a similarly boring cruise with nothing interesting to see.

November 2, 2015 at 11:50 AM · I think Robert means to bring the best of Disney Parks tech worldwide back to the original park. For example, Tokyo Disneyland's ride vehicle for Winnie the Pooh. For myself, although it's more likely for my child to experience TDR first rather than DLR, I live closer to the West Coast. So.... I'd prefer that Star Wars land open first at DLR than WDW and with better tech.
November 2, 2015 at 11:58 AM · I think the wish to upgrade the pooh ride comes from the fact that a far superior pooh ride resides in Disney Tokyo. It is a "Track Free" ride and looks cool as heck. I disagree with the submarines, they have been upgraded far more recently than many of the other rides. I agree with the Matterhorn because it is one of the bumpiest and uncomfortable rides in the park. Tom sawyers island should be scrapped and they should put a new pirate themed attraction on the island or possibly move big thunder ranch over onto the island.
November 2, 2015 at 11:59 AM · There are lots of improvements that can be made with new tech park wide. The haunted mansion in the Magic Kingdom and Winnie the Poo in Tokyo Disneyland where they are the same great rids, with some amazing modern enhancements. These enhancements if they were available at the time they built the ride, I am sure they would've done originally. I think the best example of all is the new interactive area of Pete Pan's Flights in the Magic Kingdom. Wish they would update the entire ride with effects like that!
November 2, 2015 at 12:10 PM · For MK:

Pirates of the Carribean (but only the ride itself, not the queue line.)

Space Mountain

Buzz Lightyear

Winnie The Pooh

November 2, 2015 at 12:14 PM · Definitely agree with all of them!

Considering this post is only for Disneyland, I'd like to see the return of the People Mover of course, but make it near impossible to jump out.

Make Autopia electric powered or anything other than gas powered, and simulate the sounds of combustion engines if you really must. Gas powered cars aren't futuristic, so they're definitely not "tomorrow".

Indiana Jones needs the same actuators as the Tokyo version. I feel like the DLR one breaks down too often, and with an update, it could help. Plus why are they still using old tech if a split in the hydraulic hoses takes 2 hours to clean up? It's a matter of when it happens, not if it happens.

November 2, 2015 at 12:30 PM · "For example, the under 10 year olds love Winnie the Pooh just fine. The line is extremely short at Disneyland. There is no need for an elaborate queue line that you see at Disney World."

Robert was referring to Pooh's Honey Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland, which utilizes a trackless ride system. I think that would be a HUGE improvement for an attraction that doesn't get much attention at DL. Personally, I think Pooh at DL loses out more because of it's location at a dead end, but if it were worth more than standing in a 10 minute line, I think more people would venture to the end of the road for this attraction.

Autopia is a huge eyesore in DL. Not only that, it takes up a HUGE amount of space (@4x more than the subs). However, comparable attractions tend to be slow loaders (Joe Cool Driving School and Legoland Driving School) because of the way the attraction cycles. I'm sure Imagineers could come up with a way to create a continuous load process for this type of attraction. It wouldn't be too hard...Just have the ride system bring the car into the load platform after x number of minutes on the course so the ride never has to stop. I'm sure there's some hippie green energy firm in SoCal that would step up to the plate to sponsor a DL attraction with electric cars - Oh that's right, even the vaunted Elon Musk takes government money to support their business, so they don't have any extra lying around for this type of sponsorship. Maybe Exxon-Mobile will help out.

November 2, 2015 at 12:33 PM · Great article! My personal opinion on Autopia is that it should become 100% electric. Electric cars are the cars of the future, and by doing this not only would Autopia become less smoggy, but it would also spread a good message about helping the environment.
November 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM · They need to gut out Toon Town and make "Parade Land" so people can go back there and sit and watch non-stop parades all day. That way the rest of us can traverse the park without people sitting on curbs.
November 2, 2015 at 1:12 PM · @Russell: You didn't read the second part of the paragraph. "but Disneyland got the runt of this litter." "Even Disney World got a better deal with its version". The article was referring to all Winnie the Pooh rides, not just Tokyo's version.

Also, Disney World's version of Small World is rather horrible. It has the lowest doll count of any ride. You can see how much space is wasted. They can easily double up the amount of dolls and it still isn't enough.

November 2, 2015 at 1:38 PM · Russell Meyer wrote, "Oh that's right, even the vaunted Elon Musk takes government money to support their business, so they don't have any extra lying around for this type of sponsorship. Maybe Exxon-Mobile will help out."

Great to know that Exxon-Mobile can sponsor rides and does not take government money. Oh wait a second they take hundreds of millions. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/oil-subsidies-renewable-energy-tax-breaks

November 2, 2015 at 2:08 PM · Matterhorn Bobsleds - The new bobsleds are terrible for your back. More proof that Wall Street Disney doesn't care about their customers?
November 2, 2015 at 2:14 PM · Give Brandon the grand prize! Bring back the People Mover!
November 2, 2015 at 2:53 PM · Give Tomorrowland some serious loving. There are too many random IPs smashed together in a concrete canyon. I feel like standards have been lowered when it comes to allowing admission into this land. Star Wars, Marvel, Buzz Lightyear, the crew from Finding Nemo, Autotopia, and Space Mountain have very little to do with one another and none of the styles blend together very well. I have high hopes that as soon as the new Star Wars land opens, Star Tours and the Jedi Academy will relocate and open up space for a more cohesive Tomorrowland…tomorrow. Please fix the old People mover tracks, or rip them out. It’s depressing.

Continue the upgrade to Fantasyland dark rides along the lines of Alice in Wonderland. I am not as impressed by Peter Pan as I had been hoping for. How about doing the same thing to Snow White’s adventures and Pinocchio?

Quickly make any modifications needed to allow discounts to be given based on the virtual ticket that now lives on the official Disneyland App. I’d love to put my hard ticket away and use my phone only.

Upgrade the Wi-Fi service in the park. We can debate use of mobile devices in a place that is intended to bring people together all you want, but Wi-Fi has gone from being something that is nice to have to something that is expected. Business travelers in a recent poll show that they see quality Wi-Fi in a hotel room as being as important a utility as water and electricity. Get an official sponsor, or foot the bill yourself Mickey, but make it happen.

November 2, 2015 at 5:14 PM · Great article, and I agree with most of these. The only one I don't is flooding It's a Small World. While that would improve the feel of the attraction, Disneyland's version of the ride is the original and I think it should instead be restored to the 1966 version. No Disney characters, no North America room, etc.

For rides not on the list, my biggest hope is that the Fantasyland dark rides are all given a similar upgrade to what was done with Alice in Wonderland. Supposedly the original plan was to do this for the 60th anniversary, but plans changed and I hope it is merely delayed instead of cancelled. Other than that, most of the things I'd like to see involve new attractions rather than simply upgrades.

November 2, 2015 at 6:15 PM · Changing Winnie the Pooh to the Tokyo version would be great. That ride seems like it is always a walk on. Partly that is due to location, but I agree that the Tokyo version would draw people over there.

Moving the Astro Orbitor up would look much better, but maybe they should just be removing everything that has to do with the People Mover. They haven't had an attraction on it for years and it seems like they aren't going to.

Hasn't Tomorrow land really had a cohesive theme problem since 1959? I mean the mermaid lagoon doesn't really fit into the world of Tomorrow. Nemo doesn't either, I guess 2,000 leagues sort of does, but it was the mermaid lagoon that people saw on the surface. How does the Matterhorn fit into the theme? I would like them to re-theme Autotopia to Sugar Rush and change the boundaries of Fantasyland to include it, the Matterhorn and the subs.

I think It's A Small World is fine. Changing the size of the area the boats float in seems really expensive for not that much payoff. I'd rather see them spend money somewhere else.

November 2, 2015 at 6:16 PM · I heard pirates of the Caribbean is way better in Disneyland than in Magic kingdom so they should make the Flordia one more like the Cali one,also upgrade space mountain in MK.
November 2, 2015 at 7:14 PM · My "home park" is Knott's Berry Farm in Orange County, and I am mostly happy with the park as it is. I think it's a good mix of themed areas and attractions and thrill rides and roller coasters.

Having said that, here is my wish list of attractions I would like upgraded or fixed:

Calico Train Ride: While I think this is a fun attraction on a historic train with great interactions with the train "robbers," I feel like there's very little to see along the way. I've ridden the Disneyland Railroad enough times to want some nice scenery, like the Rivers of America or the peek-in at Splash Mountain. (Then again, with the limited space in the park and limited budget that Knott's has, I know this would never happen.)

Sierra Sidewinder: This is a fairly unique roller coaster, with circular cars that rotate 360 degrees on their axis as the roller coaster train goes around the track. But it is an eyesore in its current location in Camp Snoopy, with basically no theming and loud cars intruding into the atmosphere of Camp Snoopy. I read that originally the roller coaster was supposed to have some theming related to the Sierra Nevada mountains. If this could be enclosed into a fake mountain with an identical track to what it has now (is it too much to ask for a mini Matterhorn?), the whole Camp Snoopy area would be improved.

Silver Bullet: There are people who want to tear this roller coaster out, or at least move it so it doesn't tower over the park entrance and stunt show outdoor theater. I used to think this way, but the ride is VERY popular, and I think it would never be taken out or removed unless people stop wanting to ride it. The thing that bothers me is the lack of theming for the ride. The load station has some minimal theming, but why call the ride Silver Bullet (like a bullet from a gun used in the Old West), and then paint the roller coaster track orange and yellow, and the cars sky blue and orange? At least make the track black or silver, and use the opposite color for the trains.

I'm sure I can think of some more rides that I'd like to upgrade, but I'll stop for now.

November 2, 2015 at 8:04 PM · I love the recent upgrades to the Matterhorn, although the ride could be smoother. I was able to ride it multiple times on the Fantasyland side, which isn't TOO rough.
November 2, 2015 at 9:45 PM · Anyone who says DL's Pooh can't be improved has obviously never been to Tokyo.
November 3, 2015 at 4:50 AM · Hi, Floridian here :). Just wanted to see if I'm allowed to talk about WDW. Cause if so...

I want new AAs for Jungle Cruise.

I want Expedition Everest's Yetti to be fixed.

I want the old Journey Into Imagination.

I want attractions to be put back in the old Wonders of Life pavilion and not have it be only for seasonal events.

I want the trackless Winnie the Pooh tech from Tokyo.

I want a longer POTC ride like in DL.

And I want self-driven, railess cars for Tomorrowland Speedway.

November 3, 2015 at 5:37 AM · I agree! Disneyland needs the Peoplemover.
November 3, 2015 at 7:42 AM · Bring back Tahitian Terrace. I would also revamp Jungle Cruise completely. Reboot Matterhorn by tear down and rebuild.
November 3, 2015 at 9:52 AM · I just went to DL for the first time, having grown up on WDW. The biggest surprise disappointment to me was Thunder Mountain Railroad. The DL version feels too safe. I don't know if the update is to blame, but the track is too smooth and the airtime non-existent. The theming is great, but the MK version is much more forceful, and also has great theming in the queue, and serves the function of a coaster for the whole family much better than the DL version, which is just a kiddy coaster IMO. I'd like to see the DL version gain some of the larger scale and force of the MK version.
November 3, 2015 at 1:38 PM · Tomorrowland isn't going to see any major changes until the entire land gets a makeover. When that happens my guess is everything except Space Mountain and the Circle Vision Building will go away. If it will become MarvelLand, get a much more coherent retro future makeover, once again attempt to show the possibilities of what progress may be around the corner or something else is anyone's guess. The only guarantee is changes are coming sometime after Star Wars Land is done. Marvel would be a dissapointing choice because it eliminates a land Walt was very interested in. But if Disney can do it in a way that is truly enhances the park, I'm open to it. Walt would never want his park to simply become an imitation of what it once was, and that is currently what Tomorrowland is.
November 3, 2015 at 2:18 PM · Jonah - I wonder if Big Thunder was toned down because of the deadly accident that happened at DL a few years ago.

Tomorrowland - Maybe they should give up being forward looking like other people said. Replace Autopia, Submarine Voyage and Star Tours with Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea from Tokyo DisneySea or reskin them with something more appropriate. Keep Astro Orbitors and Buzz for the little kids and Space Mountain reskinned.

November 3, 2015 at 2:34 PM · Tomorrowland needs the most TLC at Disneyland. Back in the 80's and 90's, that park was a land of kinetic energy, lights, and sounds, especially at night! Moving the Astro Orbitor down to ground level hurt almost as much as losing the People Mover. At least at Magic Kingdom, the entire land is pretty much alive. However, I don't want to see Space Mountain permanently turn into Star Wars. I don't have anything against Star Wars as I'm a huge fan, but I like how there are still Disney Attractions without big name licensing attached (not including Pirates as that is a different story).

Winnie the Pooh definitely needs the Tokyo Disney treatment. To dumb it down, it's basically Tokyo's version on top... and all the way down is everyone else's!

November 3, 2015 at 4:28 PM · I agree with Robert Niles, those rides could use some type of enhancement. As a frequent Disneyland visitor, I would like to see those rides, especially, the "Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" ride, be augmented. I have not been to Tokyo Disneyland yet, but I've read their Pooh version of the ride is phenomenal. That would be a great addition to the park.
I, for one, don't understand why Disneyland is not building a "Frozen" attraction, like the one in Disney World? It was such a huge movie, they should bring the ride to Disneyland park, or California Adventure. In addition, they should build a theme land to correlate with the ride, like the one being built in Tokyo Disney Sea.
Disneyland should also look to add "Marvel" attractions as well. They could easily build the "Iron Man Experience" attraction, currently being built in Hong Kong Disneyland. Why not bring a Marvel attraction to Disneyland? Superheroes are very popular, especially with young kids.
November 3, 2015 at 6:29 PM · @Anon: You didn't read the last sentence.I feel like he made it clear that while even Disney World's version is better, what they really want is Tokyo's. As in literally saying they dream for the version in Tokyo...
November 4, 2015 at 8:24 AM · I agree with Rober Niles. The attractions he suggested do need an upgrade. Especially, the "Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh." I have been to Disneyland many times, but I haven't yet been to Tokyo Disneyland. However, I've read about their version of the ride, and it sounds like its amazing! I would like to see Disneyland add Tokyo's version of the ride.

One thing I don't understand, why hasn't Disneyland attempted to add the "Frozen" attraction, similar to the one currently being built in Epcot? Frozen was a huge movie for Disney, why not add a ride to one of the parks. It would fit perfectly in California Adventure. They should also build a "Frozen Land," like the one being built in Tokyo Disney Sea. I know they are adding a show, but...a ride and land would be much more exciting!

Disneyland should look to add "Marvel" attractions as well. They could easily replicate the "Iron Man Experience," attraction being constructed in Hong Kong Disneyland. Marvel is very popular, especially with young children, why not add Marvel attractions to Disneyland? They could make Innoventions into some sort of Marvel ride.

November 4, 2015 at 10:08 AM · @Kevin: "I feel like he made it clear that while even Disney World's version is better, what they really want is Tokyo's."

For the queue line at Disney World? The queue line is irrelevant to the ride itself, which are identical. Yes, we all want Tokyo's version when we can't get them. Not even Hong Kong or Shanghai will get Tokyo's version.

I made clear the line is quite short at Disneyland so kids can get a ride without much hassle.

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