If we’re being honest with ourselves, there are more than a few rides that we typically avoid when visiting the parks, and there are still more that — while considered popular by many guests — do not live up to the wait times (and/or hype) associated with them. I thought I would explore this topic in a series of Rad Rants about the most overrated attractions in Walt Disney World, starting with those in Animal Kingdom.
- Finding Nemo: the Musical
I’ll be the first to admit that I have never liked this show, from the very first time we took Rad Ella to Animal Kingdom in 2010 until now, when we routinely avoid it. Its puppetry theatre gimmick is cute at first but wears out its welcome rather quickly, especially because it requires so many grown adults running around in camouflaged unitards pretending to be invisible. The story is just a retread of Finding Nemo with some songs shoehorned in for good measure, and at thirty-five minutes long, the experience drags even if you’re using it as a cool escape from a sweltering hot day. From a strategic standpoint (because you know the Rad Family is all about strategy in the parks), the show is off by itself in a sort of halfway between Dinoland USA and Asia, making it not terribly close to anything at all. It’s literally almost the farthest you can get from Pandora and Africa when visiting Animal Kingdom, so coming and going is a bit of an inconvenience. The final — and
in my opinion, most significant — strike against the show is the fact that a far better option exists: the Festival of the Lion King. It’s bold, colorful, and fun, and to top it all off, the audience gets to participate as well. It’s an absolute blast and runs nearly five minutes shorter than the Nemo show, clocking in at barely half an hour. If you’re looking for a cool off, there is no better show in all of Walt Disney World than the Festival of the Lion King.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch
When considered on its own as simply an attraction, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is actually kind of fun. There are activity stations, a petting zoo, a behind-the-scenes look at a veterinary clinic, and of course a meet and greet with Rafiki (and sometimes Doc McStuffins as well). Unfortunately, in order to access Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you must first board a train and undertake a journey that makes the Jungle Cruise’s “backside of water” joke seem all too relevant. To be quite blunt, the train ride to RPW is one of the most useless wastes of time in all of Walt Disney World. The ride there showcases such jaw-dropping sights as access roads, empty animal paddocks, grass, parking lots, and trees, and the ride back from RPW is even worse, mainly consisting of trees, bushes, shrubs, grass, weeds, and trees. It’s possible that you might spot some indigenous Florida wildlife — you know, by accident — but it will probably be obstructed by the trees.
To add insult to injury, a trip to RPW is necessitated by playing the quite fun Wilderness Explorers scavenger hunt, something the Rad Girls have enjoyed for years, which means you’ll probably run into us somewhere in RPW against our better judgement. (If you are participating in the scavenger hunt, be aware that RPW closes before the rest of Animal Kingdom, which can result in some monumental frustration tears if that’s all you have left to do to complete your Wilderness Explorers badges.)
- Primeval Whirl
What sadistic psychopath dreamed up this ride? It’s as though someone rode Goofy’s Barnstormer and thought, “This ride is fun and all, but it would be so much better with nausea-inducing spins that are completely uncontrollable and random!” While it does make for some inventive photo opportunities, the Primeval Whirl absolutely decimates anyone who is prone to any type of motion sickness and detaches the retinas of those who aren’t. Though it never amasses truly long wait times, the lines — like those at the Barnstormer — can definitely grow to lengths that are not exactly proportionate with the ride’s excitement or duration. However, unlike the Barnstormer, the Primeval Whirl lacks the baby’s-first-roller-coaster charm inherent in that ride because it may or may not reduce young children to shocked hysterics.
Since I’ve already covered my distaste for Dinosaur here, I won’t go into details about the ride itself; however, the fact of the matter is that Dinosaur remains an irrationally popular ride in Animal Kingdom that coasts more on nostalgia than
actual experience. Because Dinosaur is set off by itself in the park, wait times can extend to far longer than makes sense. (Seriously, I can’t even dream of waiting nearly the same amount of time for Dinosaur as Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids.) Though Dinosaur, like many of Animal Kingdom’s rides, boasts an impressive and richly detailed building and line area, the ride’s thrills amount to little more than jump scares and loud noises — not to mention the sheer physical punishment you endure from the ride cars. Because of this, the ride doesn’t offer much in the way of a unique experience. There are many other rides throughout Walt Disney World that employ dated technology in ways that feel satisfying or surf a far larger nostalgia wave than Dinosaur.
- Na’vi River Journey
I was disappointed by this ride the first time we experienced it on Spring Break. (If you’re being truly honest with yourself, you were disappointed, too.) That’s not to say it isn’t gorgeous and immersive (it is) or to say that it doesn’t deserve at least
some of its substantial wait time (it mostly does), but at the end of the day Na’vi River Journey is really just a bioluminescent version of Pirates of the Caribbean. Think about it: you sit in a slow moving boat and crane your neck to look at things, stuff, movement, lights happening all around you, culminating with an advanced animatronic that does more things, stuff, and movement — complete with singing! Sure, Disney is flexing its technological might here making the combination of practical effects and digital screens almost seamless and using projection technology to create realistic creepy crawlies that move quickly across the practical plants and foliage, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are still just floating in a boat, more or less trapped, and looking at things presented to you in a linear fashion. But the real problem with Na’vi River Journey is that it’s part of a larger world that is beautiful and unprecedented, featuring one of the most innovative and exciting rides in any theme park on Earth — Flight of Passage. Next to such a monumental achievement, Na’vi River Journey feels small and unsubstantial, a diversion in a more compelling land full of similar visuals. Because its expectation is so vastly out of proportion with its reality, it lands in the number one spot on my list.
So what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments down below. If you think I missed an easy target, please tell me, and I’ll keep it in mind for future roasting. Use your time wisely in the parks. I’ll be covering the most overrated attractions in Hollywood Studios next.
Rad Dad, out.
Thanks to @dizdad, @apopkapete, @mickeys_photographer, @magicalshannonmarie, and @thezipadeedoocrew (basically everyone) for the use of their photos in this post. Check them all out on the gram!