Weekly Top 10: The World's Best Theme Park Movie Attractions
While rides remain the top draw bringing people into theme parks, sometimes you just want to sit down, relax, and watch a show for a while. That's why movies remain the basis of many popular attractions in the world's top theme parks. But parks aren't satisfied to recreate the experience in your local multiplex. Theme park movies almost add extra elements to their presentations, whether it's 4D ("Height, Width, Depth, Spray!"
), 180-degree or 360-degree theaters, or even live actors interacting with the film onscreen.
Theme Park Insider readers can rate and review attractions at the world's top parks, and, based on those ratings, here are our readers' choices for the Top 10 movie-based attractions in the world today. Remember that you can click on these attraction names to submit your rating of these shows, too!
SeaWorld plussed its sea turtle exhibit with what it promoted as the world's first 360-degree, domed, 3D movie.
9. Reflections of China
This 13-minute, CircleVision 360 movie plays in a theater housed in a re-creation of Beijing's historic Temple of Heaven. We follow Li Bai, an ancient Chinese poet, as he leads us through a visually spectacular, on-screen tour of Chinese landmarks and historical sites, from the Great Wall of China to Beijing's Forbidden City.
8. MuppetVision 3D
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Kermit and Miss Piggy take you on a video tour of Muppet Labs, for a demonstration of their new filmmaking technique, MuppetVision 3D. But of course, something goes terribly wrong, and chaos ensues, with in-theater effects adding to the mayhem you should expect from any Muppet production.
7. It's Tough to Be a Bug!
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure
Located under the park's iconic Tree of Life, this 4D film featuring characters from A Bug's Life actually premiered before that Pixar animated movie. The show includes all the typical 3D/4D gags, including objects seemingly flying from the screen, creepy-crawlies on your seat, and even a fragrant stinkbug.
6. Terminator 2: 3-D
Universal Studios Florida
You're welcomed on to a tour of Cyberdyne Systems (from James Cameron's Terminator movies), but since this is a theme park attraction, you shouldn't be surprised when something goes “terribly wrong.” Soon, you're traveling through time with John Connor and the Terminator as you try to save the world from Skynet. The show blends live actors, a 3D movie, and in-theater special effects, including explosions.
Walt Disney Studios Paris
Martin Short and France's Julie Delphy star in this charming montage of scenes inspired by classic Hollywood films. The characters literally "break the fourth wall" on occasion, bringing the action off the screen and into the theater.
4. Walt Disney: One Man's Dream
Disney's Hollywood Studios
The pre-show of this movie is as much the attraction as the film itself, featuring a museum of Disney artifacts, including Walt's office from the real Disney Studios. The centerpiece of the attraction remains the filmed biography of Walt, exploring his journey to Hollywood and life at the studio, including Walt talking about the creation of Mickey Mouse.
3. Mickey's PhilharMagic
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland
Even though the title is "Mickey's" PhilharMagic, Donald Duck is the star of this 12-minute 3D movie where we fly through a medley of famous songs and from top Disney animated films. This was the first time that Disney created computer-animated versions of many of its classic characters, including Mickey and Donald.
2. Soarin' Over California
Disney California Adventure, Epcot
Board one of three massive "hang gliders" for a flight around the state of California. You'll "fly" around the Golden State, breezing along above river rafters, orange groves, golf courses, national parks, and even an aircraft carrier. For the finale, you'll skim above a downtown Los Angeles freeway on your way to a fireworks display at Disneyland, making this the only theme park attraction whose climax is a scene from... another theme park.
1. Impressions de France
Playing on a 200-degree screen in a sit-down theater at the back of the pavilion, Impressions de France was directed by Rick Harper and produced by Harper and Academy Award nominee Bob Rogers. The movie depicts a series of visual impressions from France, enlivened by Buddy Baker's arrangement of French classical music.
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Love Impressions de France! It doesn't feel dated and remains so powerful, especially because of the music. I'm glad to see it at #1!
Yes Robert...I couldn't agree more. It is definitely the greatest movie ever done for a themepark...period!!! It is about 20 minutes of pure cinema magic. I never tire of watching it...and it remains one of my favorite attractions from the opening days of EPCOT. I first saw the film in Oct-1983 and have seen it dozens of times since. The movie and it's soundtrack is simply outstanding and it still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. I have been to the real Paris and country of France but even that has not diminished my admiration for this themepark film. I hope Disney never removes it from EPCOT but sadly; with the direction that Disney is taking EPCOT(replacing Norway with FROZEN)these days I fear it's days are numbered. But anyway...'Impressions De France' is a masterpiece and a classic Disney attraction!!!
Great list. I agree with Impressions de France. Everything about it is wonderful.
Only Turtle Trek is fairly new. Everything else is over a decade old. I pretty much skip these shows. The film quality is atrocious.
Philharmagic is in desperate need of an update...
Excellent choices with the top 3, but I would rank Soarin' Over California at #1 and Mickey's Philharmagic at #2. Does anyone know why Disney has not brought Mickey's Philharmagic to the California Disneyland resort?
With recent changes to EPCOT - specifically the Frozen-Norway hybrid(Frorway??) - I do become concerned that Disney might move away from simple movies that showcase countries, to replace with popular IP rides. I would love to see EPCOT take on a pattern of keeping the movies AND adding in rides. Like the Rattatoulie ride from Paris, as well as the fantastic Impressions of France. The circle vision O Canada, along with an (imagined) flume ride through Canada's wilderness. Beef up each country with fun rides, and keep the wonderful, simple, films.
It's my humble opinion that Impressions of France and Soarin' are both more enjoyable after taking in a Grey Goose Orange Slush (with an extra shot of Grand Marnier of course) in the Paris area of Epcot. I highly recommend it. You might want to have two slushes if you're going to ride Soar'in.
My opinion is that it would be unusual to see any of the disappear in the near future. The benefit of then us that they are cheap to run, take little space in the park and offer relief for guests on hot days or in rain.
I also love Impressions De France, but I disagree that it doesn't feel dated. Unless French people still wear clothes from the 1980s, that is. Sadly, anything of this sort will become dated fairly quickly. I would love to see them do movies like this in a "modular" fashion, where they can periodically re-film one short section for a minor scene update. Simply update scenes every few years to keep it fresh, even if it's the same setting within France.
Man, do I miss
Although I guess it doesn't technically belong on this list as it was not in a theme park, this list makes me recall The Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton- still by far the best "interactive movie" attraction I've ever seen. I'm sad it's gone, even though it would likely be outdated now without a major update.
No Shrek 4D? I thought it was very good fun.
I personally am incredibly good at falling asleep during Impressions de France. A lot of the other list is good, but Soarin' as a movie kind of seems like a stretch. If you put it like that so is Star Tours and Spider-Man
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