Is it just us, or is Disney World increasingly looking more and more like one giant Disney movie?
Sure, Disney movies have ALWAYS had a significant presence in the parks, but over the years, it seems slowly but surely that more Disney movies have popped up in the parks in all kinds of ways!
From Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant to Mad Tea Party and Cinderella Castle, iconic rides and sights in the parks (especially Magic Kingdom, clearly) owe their inspiration to Disney’s colorful cache of movies.
Disney parks have always drawn inspiration from the movies and shows that the Walt Disney Company produced. Dating back to the OG park, Disneyland, you’ll find nods to Disney’s Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier in Frontierland, and much of Adventureland was inspired by Walt’s True-Life Adventures series, a thirteen film nature series released in the 1950s. Though many of these early film references were subtle or linked to classic films, it seems that nowadays Disney movies are slowly taking over Disney World!
Movies Are More Front-and-Center Than Ever
From subtle additions in the parks, like the Tangled tower in Fantasyland, complete with oddly enchanting Tangled-themed bathrooms, to full-blown Moana-themed areas in EPCOT and at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney is suddenly putting its movies more front-and-center than ever.
Whether large or small, classic or new-school, Disney is finding all kinds of new ways to highlight its movies and showcase them in the parks and resorts! They’re apt reminders that we need to rewatch these movies…and stock up on themed merch.
It’s Happening Beyond Fantasyland
For decades, Fantasyland has been the epicenter of Disney’s most iconic movies (which might explain the never-ending bottleneck crowds). But in recent years, the uptick in movie-themed attractions has become much more widespread and omnipresent throughout the parks.
In EPCOT, Frozen Ever After caused some controversy when it replaced the beloved Maelstrom, but now is already a star attraction. While Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is one of the most anticipated rides coming to Disney World! (And we’re pretty sure if you pitched that to Imagineers back in the 80s they’d be scratching their heads!)
Over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it wasn’t enough that Disney had a single Toy Story attraction — they had to go and make an entire Toy Story Land, complete with cute snacks, merch, and an upcoming restaurant! And that’s without even getting into the whole Star Wars takeover in that park (though, of course, we’re gonna touch on that in a sec!).
Then there’s Animal Kingdom, where the most recent movie-inspired makeovers are the Rafiki’s Planet Watch revamp and the reopening of Festival of the Lion King, further spotlighting The Lion King in a park that’s ALL about Disney’s wide array of animal characters!
Movies Are Taking Over Hotels Too!
Disney World is CONSTANTLY in a state of refurbishment, as evidenced by the seemingly never-ending construction at resorts like the Polynesian and Contemporary. And a LARGE part of these refurbs has to do with movies!
After months of construction and room closures, the wildly anticipated Moana-themed rooms made their recent debut at the Polynesian, and just nearby, the Contemporary is re-theming some of its rooms to reflect The Incredibles!
This is in addition to longstanding themed resorts like Art of Animation, which famously feature rooms and sections inspired by the likes of The Little Mermaid, Cars, and Finding Nemo.
Disney Movies Get More Than Just Merch Now
In the past, when there was a new movie to promote, Disney would mostly just release a wave of new merch. And don’t get us wrong, they still definitely do that (even for movies that aren’t even new)! But nowadays, new movies get MAJOR promotional pushes in other creative ways too!
For example, not only did Disney roll out a slew of Soul-themed goodies for its recent Pixar release, but they debuted a full-fledged jazz exhibit at EPCOT! And in the before times, Disney hosted Onward-themed meet and greets and more to promote their new films!
Rides Get Movie-Inspired Makeovers
Resort rooms aren’t the only places getting refurbed to reflect Disney movies. Throughout the parks, Disney World rides have seen new additions — or entire makeovers — to better reflect its cinematic library!
A prominent example was the addition of Jack Sparrow to Pirates of the Caribbean or the complete replacement of Maelstrom in EPCOT with Frozen Ever After. Disney is becoming pros at slipping nods to your favorite films into their rides. When you really look back at it, MOST of the new additions to the lineup of rides at Disney World have been directly tied to movies, not original ideas.
We’re actually seeing more and more rides turned movies turned BACK to rides. It’s like a full circle!
Even Modern Disney Movies Are Taking Over
Beyond the animated classics, which have long been Disney’s bread and butter in terms of themed attractions, other movie brands have made their presence known in Disney World in BIG ways. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is easily the most popular new area in all of Disney World, where people come from across the globe to vie for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group and feast on Ronto Wraps.
Look no further than the ever-present lines in Pandora at Animal Kingdom, where Avatar-themed Flight of Passage is routinely the park’s most in-demand ride, and where snacks like Cheeseburger Pods and Pongu Lumpia have become some of Disney World’s most beloved munchies.
And not to be forgotten, other themed attractions in Hollywood Studios, like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular are still proudly repping films and series they were based on! Though the stunt show showcasing our favorite anthropologist still hasn’t returned, Indy still has his own ride in Disneyland, too!
FOODS Love Disney Movies Too!
In case the parks and resorts weren’t constantly reminding you of movies enough, Disney restaurants are here to ensure you’re meeting your daily quota of movie-themed eats! And we love a good snack. Like the Kakamora float inspired by Moana, or the Peter Pan Dole Whip, we’ll never turn down a good snack!
Lately, when Disney releases a new movie, you can safely expect to find plenty of themed snacks and drinks to sample, from a Black Widow cocktail to soft-serve ice cream inspired by Raya and the Last Dragon.
We even got a ride-turned movie-turned snack crossover recently with the Backside of Water Float in Magic Kingdom hyping the new Jungle Cruise movie!
Clearly, from re-imagined rides to refurbed resort rooms and restaurant menus, Disney movies are slowly but surely TAKING OVER Disney World from every corner. Some fans lament the loss of what some feel are the unique and original ideas that Disney World (and the Walt Disney Company) were created with. Some embrace their IP overlords taking over and are here for it all. Either way, the oversaturation of Disney films in the parks, resorts, foods, merch, and more seems here to stay.
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Which Disney movie do you think deserves more love in Disney World? Let us know in the comments!