OK, here it is. The big one. The list that will surely ruffle some feathers, rub some people the wrong way, and other such oddly tangible idioms. For CJ’s sake I’ll go ahead and say that the opinions expressed within are solely those of Rad Disney Dad and do not reflect the opinions of the ZADD Crew — unless of course you agree with me, in which case these absolutely are the opinions of the ZADD Crew. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Happy birthday to me! Today is my birthday, which after you read this post might seem oddly appropriate. In case you’re wondering, I’m thirty. Again.
As you’re probably aware by now, my general thesis with this series of blog posts is that there are certain attractions within the Disney parks that are popular — perhaps even extraordinarily so — yet do not seem to offer an experience that justifies their sometimes exorbitant wait times or crowds. In some ways, being the original and arguably most popular park, the Magic Kingdom is the worst offender when it comes to attractions that have disproportionately long waits relative to their experiences. We tend to forgive the park for this frustrating reality because of the typical volume of guests at any given time; however, even during high volume times of the year, there are a number of great attractions available with nary a minute wasted, while others inexplicably begin to look like the end of Titanic, overrun by surging crowds of wealthy American and British people who look as though they are completely unprepared for this voyage and mutter anachronistic euphemisms such as “Good heavens” or “I say” (and other such phrases I like to imagine them saying). Remember, my definition of “overrated” doesn’t mean the attraction isn’t fun, but rather that the ends don’t justify the means. Are you ready?
I’m convinced that whoever conceived of the Astro Orbiter had no more than six fingers on both hands because anyone with human eyes and fingers should have easily been able to calculate that the number of people who can fit on the ride versus the number of people who have to wait (and wait, and wait…) for the ride doesn’t make any sense. The Astro Orbiter seats approximately 24 people — provided that those people are hobbits uninterested in retaining the use of their arms or legs. In order to reach the ride vehicles, guests must travel up an elevator that was originally styled to look like the elevator that carried astronauts to the top of the Saturn V rocket but now just reminds you that you have a little bit longer to wait before you can go around in circles and point at things you’ve already seen from the ground. The Astro Orbiter is a lot like Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland, just without the reasonable wait time and charming nostalgia. The main problem with Astro Orbiter is simply the volume that it’s unable to handle. The line often spills into Tomorrowland’s walkways, the line for the PeopleMover, and the area for the dance party, which makes you constantly question your life decisions. Astro Orbiter is the opposite of Space Mountain: whereas Space Mountain is an iconic attraction reminiscent of the Magic Kingdom’s past and Walt Disney’s genius, Astro Orbiter is an anachronistic monolith, a remnant from a bygone era in which the space race was all people had to look forward to because the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation was an omnipresent threat, men had no reasonable identities, and women hadn’t yet discovered the joys of wine and casual alcoholism.
Alternate Attraction: Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Clearly, Dumbo is a better ride, now complete with a fun and air conditioned waiting area. Because Dumbo travels slowly and has more elbow room, it is an ideal platform for some killer sunset or fireworks views as your day comes to a close. For those of you with younger children, Dumbo is a no-brainer.
Let’s just be blunt about the existence of the Tomorrowland Speedway: it might be the least impressive of all of Walt Disney’s considerable accomplishments in the Magic Kingdom. Think about it. The Magic Kingdom is a park that had animatronic replicants of presidents that delivered speeches to a packed theater, pirate ships that soared above the rooftops of London and across the seas of the Caribbean, and an indoor rollercoaster that used a combination of darkness and clever lighting to simulate an interstellar voyage through space — all decades before any other theme parks would even remotely catch up. Oh, and it had a bunch of noisy, gas-powered go-karts that traveled at walking speed along a metal track. You know, like you’d find in a seedy beachfront amusement park in New Jersey run by some guy named Antonio who just made the last payment on his IROC Z and was “going to get out of this town someday,” provided that someday college educations magically rained from the sky and/or people would pay cash for 10 karat gold chains with a quantity of chest hair attached. No, Tomorrowland Speedway is garbage, and sadly it’s garbage that wastes a significant quantity of prime real estate in the middle ground between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. It just feels old, and in an era of increasingly electrified modes of transportation, a bunch of clanky, gas-powered engines constantly running at wide open throttle doesn’t just feel out-of-date but downright irresponsible. (It’s worth noting that the ride vehicles use Honda motors — no doubt for their reliability — but they still produce a moderate amount of emissions.) Disney can eliminate plastic straws all it wants, but until it swaps the Tomorrowland Speedway for the Tesla Mini Hyperloop, it’ll still be contributing more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the European Union — especially Belgium, because there are no motors of any kind in Belgium.
Alternate Attraction: PeopleMover. Obviously. Is there any ride more synonymous with the awesomeness of Tomorrowland than the PeopleMover? Space Mountain might get all of the FastPasses, but the PeopleMover is an amazing attraction, one that might be getting a special segment from me in the very near future….
Jungle Cruise doesn’t age well, whether you’re nearing 40 or just 14. While it was a Rad Girl favorite a few years ago, it lost much of its luster for us on our last trip. Why? Well, it requires a FastPass to avoid lines that are generally longer than you’d be willing to wait for such a mediocre attraction, thus wasting one of your three original daily FastPasses, and it more or less amounts to the skipper reading from the same script skippers were reading from before he or she was born. The animals and scenes are entirely fake, kind of like life-sized shoebox dioramas from elementary school; you know, the shoebox projects that were supposed to depict Native American life but instead resulted in some sort of amalgamation of tropical animals, extinct animals, model railroad vegetation, and vaguely native-looking figurines that would surely be considered racist in today’s society. Jungle Cruise is like bringing in one of those shoeboxes to school now when all of your teachers have asked you to create a detailed PowerPoint and upload it to the school’s various social media accounts. And still, the lines form like clockwork, oftentimes surpassing the estimated wait for Pirates of the Caribbean, which is right next door and a far better attraction. Unfortunately, with the upcoming Jungle Cruise movie due sometime in 2020, it is doubtful that the attraction will be permanently decommissioned. Perhaps we can look forward to a refurbishment that brings the ride in line with the events of the film, undoubtedly far more interesting than the barely moving plastic animals and the recycled jokes and puns we have now.
Alternate Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean. Though Pirates isn’t perfect, it is a far more entertaining and endearing ride than Jungle Cruise. How do I know? Well, witness the outrage over a simple script change and character re-skinning involving the infamous “redhead.” People were ridiculously upset, something I don’t foresee happening in response to a similarly minor change in Jungle Cruise — or even a major one, for that matter.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Wait! What?! How could I put this ride on my list? Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is always operating at maximum capacity with wait times stretching into the two-hour range, even years after it first opened to the public. How could this ride possibly be overrated?
Remember what I said about the ends not justifying the means?
It is almost impossible to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without a FastPass, especially if you plan on doing anything else in the Magic Kingdom on that particular day. The ride’s lines grow to simply massive lengths quite quickly, and they don’t normally dwindle at any point before closing. If you don’t rope drop it, FastPass it, or close it down, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be waiting for less than an hour to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This wouldn’t be so bad if the ride were on par with Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, or Splash Mountain, but it isn’t. Not even close. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is basically the older brother of Goofy’s Barnstormer, a delightful children’s coaster located not one hundred feet away. But while the Barnstormer is short and sweet, never wearing out its welcome nor generating long wait times, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is not long enough (especially if you don’t count the portion inside the mine when you’re moving slowly), barely more thrilling, and has longer lines than the gift shops on a rainy day. It’s anticlimactic in the worst way: you desperately want it to be good and might even convince yourself that it is, but in the end, you have to admit that it’s quite a bit more disappointing than you ever thought it would be. You know, like every DC movie ever.
Alternate Attraction: Big Thunder Mountain. In my opinion, Big Thunder is the best coaster in the Magic Kingdom and one of the best attractions in any park. Why? Because it’s fast, lasts for a substantial amount of time, and never gets old. Though the wait times can last for more than an hour, the ride feels worth it, and if you exercise just the tiniest bit of cleverness, you can usually enjoy the ride with less than a thirty minute wait. We’ve been known to use a FastPass for Big Thunder in the middle of the day, only to return to it again when the lines drop.
Peter Pan’s Flight
If there’s one ride in the Magic Kingdom that stacks up unbelievable wait times that seem wildly out of proportion with the ride’s sophistication, thrill factor, and overall experience, it’s Peter Pan’s Flight. Swamped at any given moment by Europeans on holiday, Europeans visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, or Europeans who got lost on their way to Tangled restrooms, Peter Pan’s Flight is always crowded with people from the Continent — and probably also Canadians.
“If we can’t have Imperialism, we’re just going to take over this ride instead…”
In what can only be a subtle admission that the wait times for Peter Pan’s Flight were getting wildly out of control, Disney debuted a new interactive queue for the ride a year ago, helping to alleviate some of the boredom people felt while standing in the old queue, which was a lot like standing in a pastel colored jail surrounded by European inmates who sounded like everyone on the Death Star. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the ride for what it is. (When you consider its origins, the design and execution is mindblowing for the time period.) However, I’m mystified by the fervor that this ride seems to generate. People passionately love it despite the fact that the technology is outdated, the movie itself is middling and casually racist, and it’s about as thrilling as a ham sandwich — or croque monsieur, if you prefer. We enjoy the ride as a family, but we also find it frustrating that it usually necessitates burning a FastPass or rope-dropping it just to avoid a six-week French immersion course. Peter Pan’s Flight exists in this weird middle ground between childhood nostalgia that you have to satiate whenever you visit the park and antiquated waste of space that you just can’t bring yourself to put out of its misery (ahem, Small World). Because Peter Pan’s Flight is such a conundrum, such a total and complete paradox, it is by far the most overrated attraction in the Magic Kingdom — and perhaps in all of Walt Disney World.
Alternate Attraction: Haunted Mansion. Our favorite classic ride by far, Haunted Mansion is a joy. Fun, immersive, and never sporting a long wait, Haunted Mansion is the best of Disney on display. The ride was innovative for its time, still feels fresh today, and provides a welcome opportunity to sit back and cool off. With the rising popularity of the Memento Mori gift shop and Haunted Mansion swag, this is one ride we hope won’t be going anywhere for some time.
Walt Disney World is a magical place full of diverse and interesting attractions that appeal to all types of people — and Europeans. It reminds us of the awe and wonder felt by children worldwide when they encounter something fantastical, something that defies logic and explanation. But when viewed through the critical lens of planning a trip, it’s impossible to ignore that some attractions are better than others, more deserving of your time, your patience, and ultimately your money. This reality doesn’t mean that you should necessarily skip them, but it does give you something to consider the next time you are planning your trip strategy and choosing where and when to spend your time. And at the end of the day, time is the most valuable commodity we have whenever we’re in the parks, so make sure you spend it carefully.
Rad Dad, out.
So what did you think of the grand finale of Rad Dad’s most overrated rides in Walt Disney World? Did you agree with some of my picks? Violently disagree? Let me know in the comments or on instagram @rad.disney.dad. Thanks for reading, and thanks to @dizdad, @mickeys_photographer, and @thezipadeedoocrew for the pics!