What makes a great ride? Despite the fact that we all have different favorites and different criteria for determining those favorites, I believe that there are a few overlapping characteristics that most people look for in a great ride. And I think the PeopleMover checks off all of those boxes.
There’s no denying the PeopleMover’s status as a cult classic, a favorite ride that most people view as the perfect way to unwind during a hectic Disney adventure, but I would argue that the PeopleMover is more than the sum of its parts. Because the Walt Disney World version was able to avoid the mistakes of the Disneyland original, the PeopleMover in Magic Kingdom endures today largely unchanged from the way it was conceived and executed in 1975. None of this, of course, raises the PeopleMover to ultimate status. In fact, there isn’t one particular aspect of the attraction that makes it the GOAT; rather, it’s the sheer breadth of positive characteristics relative to Disney’s other attractions that places the PeopleMover atop the pedestal. Still don’t believe me? Consider the following…
You rarely have to wait for the PeopleMover. Ever. It’s one of the few attractions in Walt Disney World that has little to no wait regardless of how crowded the parks are that day. As long as it’s up and running, the PeopleMover is practically a walk on. Even Small World can become somewhat congested at times, and Goofy’s Barnstormer is not immune to stacking up a decent wait after lunch; however, the PeopleMover is simply magical — seemingly unaffected by the touristy hordes invading Tomorrowland and providing a welcome relief from them. Nowhere else in the Magic Kingdom do you get so much experience for so little of your time.
Anyone can ride the PeopleMover and enjoy it. While this sounds as though it’s a rather low bar to clear, I can assure you that it’s not. Consider the number of attractions that an infant or small toddler would be unable to ride; now add to it the number of attractions that a toddler or small child might be unwilling to ride — you know, because you did a bad job teaching them to overcome any sort of adversity in life. The PeopleMover is as approachable as they come; whether seen from the ground or encountered in the loading area, the PeopleMover cars come and go in quiet efficiency. Younger riders will find the subtle increase in speed exhilarating while older siblings and parents will appreciate the cool breeze and separation from the sweaty masses down below. Peeking into other attractions only makes the experience more enticing for those too frightened to ride Space Mountain, and the expansive view of Cinderella Castle as you round the outside corner and head back into Tomorrowland is one of the best in the Magic Kingdom — perhaps the best view, period.
The PeopleMover is also cool and relaxing, one of the only rides to earn this distinction. While some attractions, such as Dumbo, are relaxing, they are most certainly not cool. Attractions that are cool, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, aren’t particularly relaxing. The PeopleMover somehow manages to be both, whisking occupants along quickly enough to create an enjoyable breeze in cars that are separate enough to carry on normal conversations. The PeopleMover might be the very best example of my don’t-waste-time-eating-and-relax-elsewhere philosophy: rather than remaining stationary in a dining area, desperate for reasonable temps and relaxation, eat quickly and relax while actually doing things. There are experiences to be had, and when it comes to the PeopleMover, the experience is always positive.
Lastly, and it’s a small but important point, the PeopleMover is one of the only attractions offering grand views of the Magic Kingdom while simultaneously moving slowly and smoothly enough to be a wonderful mobile photography platform. It’s not perfect, sure, but can you name a better photo capturing ride? (I would say the only ride that even comes close is Dumbo, but you have to be deft with the controls and quick with the camera to snag a keeper. Splash Mountain has an epic view before the drop, but it’s an extremely difficult picture to snag.) The PeopleMover glides along, taking the jitters out of the equation, and gives its riders multiple epic views of Tomorrowland along with two spectacular shots of Cinderella Castle. Depending on the time of day, you can see some amazing sunsets and even enjoy a unique — albeit brief — glimpse of Happily Ever After and its momentous fireworks finale.
Now who’s crazy? Surely by now you have come to the inevitable and correct conclusion that the PeopleMover in Walt Disney World is the greatest Disney ride of all time. Fun for all ages, relaxing, with multiple reasons to ride, the PeopleMover rewards riders with a singular experience without requiring them to invest more than a few minutes of their time waiting in line. It’s quintessentially Disney, combining innovation, excitement, and just a little bit of theatrics with a preview of things to come. It’s the essence of Walt Disney distilled into a single ride. Hyperbolic? Perhaps, but there’s no denying the importance of the PeopleMover in the Magic Kingdom. The next time you’re visiting the parks, take a moment to relax with your family, snap some banger Instagram photos, and escape from the formidable Florida heat — all courtesy of the greatest Disney ride of all time, the PeopleMover.
Rad Dad, out.
Thanks to @mickeys_photographer with the assist on the photos!