The Walt Disney Company dominates the theme park industry to a degree where it’s hard to have the latter without the former.
Walt Disney created Disneyland, the first truly themed park on the planet, and Disney has spent the last seven decades perfecting the craft.
Over the years, some attractions have earned a spot in pop culture folklore. So, when you say their names, everyone knows what you mean.
Which nine attractions fit into this category? I believe nine Disney attractions qualify as theme park royalty.
Look, many amusement parks around the world own and operate haunted house attractions. I get that the uniqueness isn’t there with this spooky ride.
The difference is that Disney created something that’s totally different than anything that had come before it.
Imagineers blurred the lines of comedy and creepy with this attraction. On Haunted Mansion, you’ll somehow laugh as you learn about a murderous bride.
Then, you’ll ride through a haunted cemetery that should scare you out of your wits. Instead, you’re too busy singing along with the song.
So, while other parks may offer haunted houses, only Disney could bring to life a Haunted Mansion!
It’s a small world
One of the least popular Disney hot takes is that this song will play in the afterlife…but not the one for good little boys and girls.
Sure, I admire the song’s message, but I would prefer more varied lyrics. It’s like the record is scratched and keeps repeating. (Ask your parents what this means, kids.)
Still, the National Recording Registry just added It’s a Small World to protect the song for posterity’s sake.
When there are no other signs of civilization, some future archaeologists may discover It’s a Small World…and undoubtedly think less of us as a people.
Somehow, the song only counts as a small portion of this attraction’s greatness.
Mary Blair’s unforgettable dolls and international set pieces are equally famous worldwide.
I haven’t ranked these choices for theme park, but It’s a Small World would finish in the top three and might even win.
mad tea party
Would-be astronauts perform zero-gravity tests during an experience lovingly described as a vomit comet.
They could save themselves some trouble and just head to the happiest place on earth.
That’s where guests sit down in a teacup and pray for death. I’m mostly joking…but only mostly.
As you know, Mad Tea Party allows the rider to spin the wheel to their heart’s content.
You find out who your friends are when you ride this one. Some spin gently, embracing the fun but not trying to kill anyone.
Others…are undeniable sociopaths. Seriously, you’re probably thinking about someone that you know you should never join on Mad Tea Party.
Alternatively, you’re remembering a time the ride went very wrong. Whatever the case, EVERYONE knows about Mad Tea Party.
I’m somewhat annoyed to admit that this one has suffered a decline in popularity and awareness during the 21stSt centuries.
Many guests perceive the Matterhorn Bobsleds as just a sled ride and aren’t fully aware of its theme park significance.
The rest of us know that before there was Space Mountain or Expedition Everest, the Matterhorn started the roller coaster arms race.
This ride holds the lofty title of being the first continuous track steel roller coaster in the world.
That’s right. Every steel roller coaster you’ve ever loved owes its very existence to the Matterhorn!
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
There’s a professional wrestler whom I adore, and her finishing maneuver is named Ms. Lerae’s Wild Ride.
Sure, she’s a Disney fanatic, but that’s beside the point. When you make any reference whatsoever to the words, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, people know what you mean.
I guess it’s the Snakes on a Plane odd phrasing meme of the 1950s. For a time, whenever something terrible happened, people would write it off as Snakes on a Plane.
Similarly, whenever you go on any adventure that feels entirely beyond your control, you’re hopping on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
My favorite part of the whole thing is that few people realize how dark this ride is. It’s legitimately the most sinister thing in Disney history…and I include Haunted Mansion in that!
The protagonist literally gets eternally damned! But people still believe the phrase is funny. They’re right, too.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Okay, join the following two attractions It’s a Small World as the upper tier of Disney’s theme park royalty.
Pirates of the Caribbean probably has the most substantial claim to the throne, as I would estimate that 70 percent of the world’s population would recognize those words.
That’s before we factor in the fact that the film franchise is among the most successful ones of the 21St century.
So, the ascension of Captain Jack Sparrow has only added to the ride’s name recognition.
Pirates of the Caribbean is probably Disney’s best non-animated brand, at least among the ones it didn’t buy from somebody else.
Quick! Name the most famous roller coaster on the planet!
Yup, this one’s easy. If you ask that question at your next social gathering, the consensus opinion would be Space Mountain.
For that matter, if Family Feud is still airing episodes, that answer would probably score 50+ points.
Sure, Disney owns and operates some other spectacular roller coasters, including the aforementioned Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Still, nothing matches—or even approaches—the name recognition of Space Mountain.
If I had ranked this list, the top three would be It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain.
The only difference would be the ordering, which may change depending on my mood and what I’ve ridden most recently.
All three of them possess total pop culture awareness.
Seriously, have you ever met ANYONE who doesn’t know about the giant silver golf ball in the sky?
Spaceship connects directly with the history and cultural significance of EPCOT. The two have been tethered since the park’s opening in 1982.
That’s reason enough to consider Spaceship Earth theme park royalty. Oh, and the ride itself is pretty great, too!
This ride is so famous around the world that if you say the words, “Flash Mountain,” people will know what you mean about that, too!
Yes, Splash Mountain stands atop the, well, mountain as the most famous wet ride of all time.
More than 30 years later, imitators are still trying to create something as impactful…but none of them will ever be successful.
Splash Mountain has earned the title as the alpha and omega of all splashdown attractions.
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Feature Image: RetroWDW.com