Best Ride in America Tournament: Spidey vs. Pirates semifinal

April 3, 2008, 8:51 PM · So it comes to this... after 59 match-ups, and more than 30,000 votes cast, we are down to the top four rides in the 'Best Ride in America' tournament. And much like this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, the top four seeds are the ones to advance to the final four.

We will have the first semi-final match-up today, followed the the second tomorrow. And on Monday, the finalists will match up as you, Theme Park Insider readers, vote to select the Best Ride in America.

(1) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man: Universal's Islands of Adventure

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure
Photo submitted by daniel hutchinson

From the TPI rating and reviews page: "A four-time winner for Best Attraction in the Theme Park Insider Awards, Spidey takes you on an adventure with the web-slinger as he tries to save the city. You ride in a bucking, spinning SCOOP Vehicle-- 3-D glasses night vision on your face -- through 11 scenes, escaping fireballs, 100-story drops and other mayhem."

(4) Pirates of the Caribbean: Disneyland

Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland
Photo submitted by Todd Shewchuk

From the TPI rating and reviews page: "Pirates of the Caribbean raised the standards for all theme park dark rides when it opened in 1967, and endures today as the world's best family dark ride, as well as the inspiration for a hit movie trilogy. The popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies has motivated the people at Disneyland to change the ride yet again. Instead of having the attacking pirates look for gold, they are now looking for Capt. Jack Sparrow."

Make your case for your favorite in the comments.... (And for those of you who joined us late, here are the previous votes/comments as well as the tournament bracket.)

Replies (27)

April 3, 2008 at 9:11 PM · Well, this could be a mixed bag if all those Disney fanboys show up from this site and others.

I chose Spiderman, but it was a tough choice. Robert - I'm interested in what you voted for, since you worked at Pirates.

April 3, 2008 at 9:20 PM · I gotta go for Pirates. It created the ride, while Spider-man enhanced it to another degree, the original trumps it for me.
April 3, 2008 at 9:26 PM · This was a tough one. I picked Spidey. I just had so much fun on this ride. I find myself at Spidey all day long when I visit IOA.

Pirates at Disneyland is a great ride. I can do this ride a couple of times in a day. But I prefer Spidey.

BTW I think Robert voted for Pirates. He did call it the "This might be the perfect theme park ride" in his rating of the ride.

April 3, 2008 at 9:34 PM · Always have, and always will be, a Marvel Comics nut. While I do love Pirates of the Carribean, Spider-Man's going to top it every time. It's such a great ride. When the effects are all working (I seem to be lucky with this - they're always working when I'm there), the atmosphere and feeling is astounding.

So, while I don't ride Spider-Man as excessively as I do the coasters in IOA and Universal, Spidey is always on the list, and I make sure I set aside time for this ride.

April 3, 2008 at 9:38 PM · I... couldn't vote. For this first time in the tournament, I just haven't been able to decide which ride to support. I'm pretty sure that I want whichever ride wins today to win the whole thing, but I haven't yet decided which one of these two I prefer.

I did work at Pirates... at Disney World. And that ride pales in comparison to the DL classic. I also adore Spidey and what it has done to reinvigorate the world of attraction development.

Part of me would be depressed to bestow the title on a ride older than I am. But, let's face it, DL's PotC today is not the same ride as it was in 1967. The tech is far more advanced, the sound crisper and storyline more complex. Plus... there is no height restriction on Pirates. That should count for something. I'd love to see the best ride be one open to anyone. And Pirates is the only one standing that can offer that.

The last time we went out for my birthday, we celebrated it at the Blue Bayou, which should also reveal something about my love for this ride.

But... I worked at newspapers for over a decade, too. And so many notes that Spider-Man plays in its depiction of the news industry are pitch-perfect. The donuts on the desks on the queue kill me every single time.

The pacing. The effects. The story. It's non-stop, frenetic... and perfect. In fact, for my son's upcoming eighth birthday, he wants to go ride... Spider-Man. And I wholeheartedly agree. 'Cause I think that'd be a perfect way to spend a birthday, too.

To be honest, Spidey and Pirates are the only two rides that I've given "10"s to in ratings attractions on TPI.

I might have to sit this round out. Waaah!

April 3, 2008 at 9:53 PM · Pirates, especially at DL, is amazing, spectacular, sensational, and timeless.

But Spider-Man, well, so is he.

Spider-Man is the greatest comic book hero of all time, the greatest movie hero of all time, and the star of the greatest theme park attraction of all time.

The Amazing Spider-Man: keeping it real since 1963. Way to go, Spidey.

April 3, 2008 at 10:00 PM · I think the 4 finalists show, at least on this site that we perfer more in a attraction that the rush of a high/fast roller coaster.
I think these show that we here at least perfer a attraction that is all immersive, at least I know I do.
While a roller coaster is great, you cant beat a attraction that is themed from the beginning to the end.

And in this case IT IS REAALY tough, but by a very small dregree I will go for POTC.

April 3, 2008 at 10:48 PM · I said before that I would probably vote for the old version of Pirates, not the Jack Sparrow-centred one. While the effects are better, the theming was not improved by turning it into a game of "where's waldo?" Therefore, I have to go for the ride that I jumped into 6 times when I was in Orlando, a more recent classic, Spiderman.
April 4, 2008 at 12:29 AM · Huh ... now I feel bad for voting for SpiderMan. Damn, Robert, can I retract my vote?

In a way, it's like choosing between an original screenplay movie and an adapted screenplay movie. Pirates is just ... something else. And Spidey remained faithful to the old SpiderMan puns, but with animation that blew me out of the water.

Pirates does get extra points for its all-age appeal (no height restrictions). Spidey gets points for its incredible special effects. I wish I could retract my vote, simply because Pirates has one thing that SpiderMan doesn't: age. It has been open for four times as long as SpiderMan, and STILL manages to be the fourth most popular attraction on this site.

So in the end, they're about even. Yes, they really are perfect attractions and I'd consider them, along with Tower, to be the best that theme parks have to offer.

Oh, James - you think SpiderMan is the greatest screen action hero? Better than Indy or Bond, or for politically charged roles, Atticus Finch et. al.? He was so emo in the third film. Blecch. No offense, just ... DC's movies so far reign supreme over Marvel's.

April 4, 2008 at 3:57 AM · Joshua, I am biased a bit towards Spidey because he was the first comic book hero I followed with any consistency. I still have every issue of every Spider-Man series that was published from about 1980 to 1990, as well as many of the better back issues. I haven't read comics in years (it is even more geeky for a man my age to read comics than it is for a man my age to blog about theme parks!), but the impact of Spider-Man and his "with great power comes great responsibility" mantra still resonates.

As for movie heroes, Indy had one great film (so far), Batman had a decent first attempt (except for the Prince songs) and a great reimagining with the ultimate dark crusader, Christain Bale, and Superman has been very hit or miss over the years, but is trending up. Smallville, on the very small screen of the CW, is very much a rip off of the early years of Spider-Man with all the drama and high school angst that made the Amazing Spider-Man so popular throughout the years.

I will stand Spider-Man 1 & 2 up against ANY of the hero movies just mentioned, and X-Men 1 & 2 certainly places. Marvel seems to have the most trouble with third moves (both Spidey 3 and X-Men 3 choked). And while money can be no judge, the more than one billion in combined domestic grosses made by the three Spider-Man movies completely demolishes any franchise DC has ever attempted to film (incidentally, the combined grosses of the POTC movies ARE in that 1 billion dollar range, too).

But I digress, this website is all about theme parks, and I think most of us can agree that the two greatest theme park attractions of all time are facing each other today. And like the real NCAA basketball tournament, once you get to the final four, there are no real losers, just one winner and three second place finishers.

All the attractions in the final four are uber. What we choose in these last two rounds is going to be largely determined by the iconic appeal of the attraction's star, whether it be Spider-Man, Jack Sparrow, Twilight Zone, or Indiana Jones.

Out of that bunch, all other things being equal, Spider-Man hero! =)

April 4, 2008 at 7:08 AM · What an awesome tournament. This is why we do this for basketball, it all comes down to this! Spidey for the win! :)

Thanks for doing this Robert!

April 4, 2008 at 7:08 AM · I've still got my top two seeds in play with spidey and the Tower still chugging along!
April 4, 2008 at 7:41 AM · I don't think either should have made it this far but I voted for Pirates over Spidey.
April 4, 2008 at 8:06 AM · They're both winners.

But...we have to vote. I thought "if these rides were both in the same park and I had time to only ride one of them...which would I choose?"

As I thought about it, I imagained the overall feelings that I get from each ride. Spidey makes me anxious and excited, but Pirates gives me this all encompassing other-world "zen" feeling.

Surprisingly, I went with Pirates...

April 4, 2008 at 8:17 AM · Spidey vs Pirates has arrived...I, being a disney fan, voted Spidey, and I am of sound mind(this can be debated, though). I have been going to disney for 30 years and I must say that Pirates is a must see everytime I go and I usually ride it more than once each time I am there. It just feels like home. The popularity of the movies aside, I am a descendant of pirate blood. My paternal great-grandfather was a privateer for Greece in the late 1800's, with license to sack Turkish ships in the Aegean. His Son was Captain in the Greek Navy, my father is a charter ship captain, and I am an avid boater and obviously, a massive Jimmy Buffett truely is a pirates life for me(this is not fabricated). All of this in my history, I still voted Spidey.

The ride is the essence of this tournament. Although I enjoy theme rides and the immersion that the atmosphere brings, I am a thrill seeker, Disney or not. Spidey has all the theme elements of a world-class attraction and it also has the thrills taboot. Without a doubt...hands down winner in the finals as I see it.

April 4, 2008 at 9:27 AM · I've ridden Pirates at Disneyland tens of times. I've never been to Orlando since 1996, so I've never ridden Spider-Man ever. I voted for Spider-Man, though. Why? Because people here go crazy-go-nuts whenever a Disney ride upsets a non-Disney ride. Don't wanna see this website explode.
April 4, 2008 at 9:34 AM · Scottland's great suggestion almost got me voting for Pirates... until I realized that I'd been to IoA since I've been to Disneyland, so the real reason I was picking Pirates in that scenario was because it was the ride I had not ridden most recently.

That struck me as a pretty bogus, and random, reason to choose one over the other, so I am back to my previous state of decision paralysis.

April 4, 2008 at 10:00 AM · Very cool history lesson, Lee. I guess the attraction that best describes my past is Splash Mountain, since our family has a history back to the days of cotton. Or Journey to Atlantis, since most of our history has disappeared.

James - I like your analogy of the icons representing the final four (Indy, Spidey, Capt. Jack et al.), though you forgot one of the biggies: Rod Serling, host of the Twilight Zone. And for me, he is the most iconic.

I think that Tower would get my vote out of all these attractions, and I'll tell you why. Like Scottland, I judge many of my votes on the feeling I get while riding them. Inexplicably, I get this incredible feeling when I hop into the boats on Jaws, or the trains on Everest. It just feels like I'm really going on an adventure, and the ability to capture that feeling within artificial surroundings is truly amazing.

The first time our family walked into the Tower of Terror queue, my nerves cringed with excitement of the unknown. That old Hollywood jazz music softly playing in the thorn bushes still sends shivers down my spine. The lobby took us all by surprise, as it was so realistically dilapidated. And being Twilight Zone fans, we were really taken aback with all the props from different episodes scattered about, including the glasses from my dad's favorite: Time Enough at Last (where the last man on earth saves his sanity by discovering a library, but then drops and breaks his glasses).

The cast members add to the creepiness (unless you're unlucky enough to catch them on a bad day), and the digital recreation of Rod Serling is impeccable, truly one of the most impressive and under-appreciated pre-show elements ever created. WDW Magic has a great article on how they accomplished this feat:

And before the ride had even started, we were blown away. I get that feeling from very few attractions, that feeling of pure excitement and even, after all the times I've ridden, fear. No other attraction in the final four has given me that incredible feeling before I even got on the ride.

April 4, 2008 at 11:39 AM · I'm a huge PotC fan, let alone Disney fanatic. I get cravings for Disney, which is unfortunate considering I live in Seattle. I went there several times a year as a kid when I lived in S. Cali, so it's become the ultimate symbol of my childhood, and every time I'm there, I feel like I'm home. Sometimes, I'll catch of whiff of what I call "Disney water", you know, that distinct smell of any attractions they have that includes water, and I'm instantly transported to Pirates. Needless to say, I surprised myself when my instinct was to choose Spidey over Pirates.

Perhaps it's that I've been on Pirates so many times I can close my eyes and vision the entire ride without missing a single scene. Maybe it's because I'm bitter about all of the changes they've made to it (first the "chasing food, not women", now to theme in the movies).

I believe, however, that what won it over was the feeling I had after riding Spidey for the first time. I went in with little knowledge of what I was getting into, having not read much into IoA, and was completely floored by the ride. I have never laughed more on a Theme Park ride, and I've been on a lot. The multiple times my brother and I rode it, we both emerged all smiles, ready for another trip. I haven't found another ride to evoke such giddiness yet, and while Pirates is nostalgic and fantastically themed, Spidey is definitely the better ride, and it alone has me wanting to visit Florida again.

April 4, 2008 at 11:43 AM · Josh, I am also a huge fan of Serling, the Twilight Zone, and to a lesser extent, Night Gallery, and I would not be at all upset if Tower of Terror takes the tournament (how about that alliteration!). But again, at this point, I am not sure it matters which attraction wins....just being named to the final four should be victory enough.
April 4, 2008 at 12:11 PM · This was tough, but I had to go with my earliest memories of falling in love with theme parks, which led me to choose Pirates. I remember the first time I rode it when I was six years old and was just amazed. Now, nearly 23 years later, I recently found an old photo of me on the ride just with a look of awe on my face. That memory alone made me have to vote for Pirates.
April 4, 2008 at 12:23 PM · That's a good point that Pirates is the only ride left that all ages (and all medical conditions) can ride!

Spiderman may be a great attraction, but only for people over 40" that are healthy and have good eyesight that lets them see 3D projections.

April 4, 2008 at 12:37 PM · I love Pirates, but nostalgia only goes so far. Spidey is in a class by itself!
April 4, 2008 at 3:17 PM · I've said it before. Im stickin with Spidey. Its just to good a ride.
April 4, 2008 at 4:52 PM · Dead men tell no tales!
April 4, 2008 at 5:46 PM · PotC gets my vote as a great ride that all ages can experience and enjoy. One gets to navigate a real, not mostly virtual, environment without plastic glasses.
April 5, 2008 at 10:30 AM · If we were going to vote on strictly ICON's then we would have to vote for Terminator 3D!!!!!! as Terminator is the best of them all!!!

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