Some of the best moments on Disney rides happen before you even sit down.
First, you live through that glorious moment when you approach your vehicle. It’s the spot where the magic happens!
That ride cart will carry you through the entire attraction. It’s the first thing and last thing you see during the experience, which makes it unforgettable.
Some of these vehicles are as recognizable as the rides themselves…but which one is the best?
What is the one true Disney ride cart? I have thoughts…
9) The Seas with Nemo & Friends Clam Shell
When you think about a ride cart, what springs to mind? Okay, you probably thought about a specific vehicle, but that’s not what I meant.
What makes a ride cart intriguing and enticing? What do you need to see to sprint to get inside?
For me, the matter matters more than anything else. I want to buy into the illusion that something is precisely what it looks like.
For that reason, I’ll always be a sucker for the Clam Shells at The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
I don’t think I’m the only one, either. Disney liked the idea so much that Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid duplicates it.
On both attractions, you’ll believe that you’re diving into the ocean to watch the aquatic life interact…and everything looks Disney!
8) Hunny pots
All the residents of Hundred Acre Wood delight in their own ways, but Winnie the Pooh gets his name in the title for a reason.
This delightful bear sprinkles a healthy dose of childish innocence on everything. He’s all that’s good and pure in the world, and we love him for it.
Of course, like all kids, Winnie suffers from a few shortcomings. For example, he just cannot help himself when it comes to honey.
I’m guessing your pet feels the same way about treats. That’s what makes it so charming and relatable.
For this reason, I adore the Hunny Pots on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. These ride carts literally drip with honey. It’s overflowing!
Imagine how Winnie would act if he saw these vehicles!
7) Space Mountain Carts
As an EPCOT fanatic, I’m a sucker for quasi-futuristic aesthetics.
The premise for Space Mountain dates to before the age of space travel, even though Neil Armstrong had already stepped on the moon by the time the ride finally opened.
So, Space Mountain functions as a sort of byproduct of two different eras, one where we imagined what space travel would be like and another where we know.
Imagineers have always performed admirably in adding 1960s-style science-fiction elements to Space Mountain coaster carts.
The original ones with the red noses will always be my favorite. I have a Funko Pop! that might interest you if you feel the same.
6) Incredicoaster Cart
Many of the ride carts I’m discussing here are interchangeable. For example, you’ll find roughly half the list at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Some are exclusive to specific parks, though. Among them, the Incredicoaster speaks the most to me for some of the reasons I just discussed.
Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles franchise, infused the films with that same 1960s sensibility and vivid color scheme.
A single glance at the Incredicoaster cart tells you everything you need to know. That giant I on the front identifies the Incredibles brand, as do the snappy colors.
This ride cart also includes some wind tunnel styling so that it’ll maximize velocity, too. Space Mountain’s vehicles don’t really need that since the ride’s slower.
5) Peter Pan Flyers
Some premises work so beautifully that they stand the test of time.
When Disneyland opened in 1955, Peter Pan’s Flight offered guests an unprecedented opportunity to take to the skies.
This ride cart sells a specific premise: it’s a sailboat that flies through the clouds!
I’ve always admired the attention to detail on Peter Pan’s Flight. For example, have you ever noticed that the sails are puffed out, demonstrating that you’re flying? Nice touch, Disney!
4) Kilimanjaro Safaris Jeeps
When park planners strategized about Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they faced a challenging task.
Marrying form and function requires a great deal of thought. Disney needed a ride cart that could navigate bumpy terrain and several potential mudslide areas.
After all, Central Florida experiences frequent flash rainstorms. As a result, a lesser vehicle would find itself stuck in a pit, irritating guests and animals alike.
So, Disney built all-weather vehicles that I always call Jeeps but are probably closer in spirit to stripped-down buses.
They’re visually impressive, and they can take a beating as well. The other day, one of these vehicles got stuck.
I found myself thinking how impressive it is that this sort of thing happens infrequently. That treacherous terrain should trap vehicles on an hourly basis.
3) Slinky Dogs
I firmly believe that Rex the Slinky Dog is one of the best Pixar characters ever. I’m not talking about Rex’s backstory or anything like that.
I mean the character design itself. Some brilliant person at Pixar joined the concepts of lovable dog and slinky toy. It’s ridiculous, and that’s why it works.
People cannot help but stare at Rex and his giant, stretchy stomach. Imagineers recognized this and built an entire ride based on the premise.
When you’re riding Slinky Dog Dash, you likely won’t think about the stretching mechanics of the ride cart.
However, when you watch other people ride it, you’ll appreciate just how clever the whole thing is.
Slinky Dog Dash tethers several two-person ride carts together in the shape of Rex…and it even adds his paws behind the final cart to sell the premise!
This one doesn’t get enough credit for its brilliance. I’m a huge fan.
2) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Limousine
Something I admire about Imagineers is how they will consider any idea, no matter how insane it sounds.
To wit, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith holds a claim as the best thrill ride at Walt Disney World.
I wouldn’t pick this coaster to win, but it definitely earns a place in the discussion.
Five seconds into the ride, you may regret everything as the vehicle explodes down the tracks. It reaches maximum velocity in a matter of seconds.
Now consider the kind of cars that spring to mind when you think about speed. Of course, we’re talking convertibles and Formula One cars and stuff James Bond drives.
You’d never ever include a limousine on that list. But Disney would.
Only the mad geniuses in Imagineers would create a ride cart that explodes from zero to 57 miles per hour in under three seconds…and theme it as a limo!
1) Doom Buggy
I’m pretty sure you knew what was going to win. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if you skipped straight to the bottom to verify whether I picked the wrong ride cart.
Everything I list here is incredible in its own way. Only one theme park ride cart holds a claim as iconic, though.
The Doom Buggies on Haunted Mansion provide so much utility, and you never even realize it.
Disney can broadcast the Ghost Host’s audio through the speakers. In addition, the ride carts can twist, tilt, and spin as needed to amplify the story.
Most importantly, they vaguely resemble hearses and look like the last thing you’ll ride in your life.
The theming on Doom Buggies embodies the height of Imagineer. It’s a design that’s more than 50 years old, yet we still cannot get enough.
When someone says Doom Buggy, the first thought that pops in your mind is Haunted Mansion…and vice versa. It’s an iconic pairing that works as well today as it did in 1969!
Feature Image: Disney