Grading Disney Movies Based on Rides
The Walt Disney Company is nothing short of a juggernaut which has its hands in every medium of entertainment available. The beauty of this is the vast number of intellectual properties they hold in house can be used to inspire other areas of the company whether it be: movies, comics, TV shows, or theme park rides. A perfect showcase for this is when iconic rides from the Disney Parks inspire movies to be produced by the film division. In this piece I am going to look back at the different rides based on attractions at the Disney Parks and grade them accordingly.
Pirates of the Caribbean franchise: It seemed like a massive gamble at the time, but in 2003, Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The high-seas adventure film was based off the beloved dark ride at all of their parks. The film was a massive success with both critics and audiences, and turned Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow into a cultural icon. With; pirates and sword-fighting and ghosts and excitement and romance, Pirates of the Caribbean perfectly encapsulated everything generations have loved about Disney cinema. Needless to say the film was followed up with a number of sequels. Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, On Stranger Tides, and Dead Men Tell No Tales, tried hard but seemed to be missing the magic which made the first one so beloved. Though in a perfect example of synergy, Imagineers starting placing elements of the movie franchise into the Pirates of the Caribbean rides. Because of the disparity in quality I feel the need to give this one two separate grades.
Curse of the Black Pearl: A, the sequels: C
Tower of Terror: The Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and formerly in Disney’s California Adventure) was inspired by the classic TV series the Twilight Zone. In turn the ride inspired a TV movie, which had nothing to do with the Twilight Zone. While you wrap your heads around that, I will look at 1997’s Tower of Terror starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. Guttenberg plays, Buzzy, a reporter who has had his reputation torn to shreds for his love of pushing false narratives for shock value. Things change when he stumbles across the spooky events which happened in the Hollywood Tower Hotel in 1939 where a number of people disappeared when the elevator fell during a storm. The movie is charming if not a little bloated. As one would expect from a 90’s era Disney TV movie Tower of Terror is campy, silly, and over the top, but still rather entertaining and worth a watch if you have the chance.
Tower of Terror: B-
Haunted Mansion: To be completely honest, the Haunted Mansion is my favorite theme park ride in any park I have ever been to. I find myself reciting along with the ghostly narrator each line of spooky dialogue in the opening and closing and cheerfully bop my head to hearing “Grim n’ Grinning Ghosts” in the cemetery. I have spent way more time than a normal person should researching and learning about this legendary ride and its creation. Given that, I judge this travesty of a movie much harder than most others would. Transitioning a dark and atmospheric ride into a slapstick Eddie Murphy comedy is a stretch to say the least. Granted the source material does have some campy fun elements, but it by no means the overwhelming element that it is in the movie. Even Terence Stamp and Wallace Shawn could not save this flick, where Murphy and his family follow a cliche plot of spending the night in a haunted house and solving a stupid mystery. Making matters worse was the fact that in 2016 Marvel published a comic from Joshua Williamson (who is currently killing it on his run in the Flash) and Jorge Coelho about the Haunted Mansion which would have made a far superior movie.
Haunted Mansion: F
Tomorrowland: Ever since Disneyland opened its gates, Tomorrowland (or Discoveryland as it is known in Euro Disney) has been a staple of Disney’s themed lands model. This land was built on Walt Disney’s vision of a better future through the power of science and technology. Given this, it is easy to see a Star Trek-esque story to be told inspired by the rides and ideals of Tomorrowland. Despite a strong cast, a fan favorite director in Brad Bird, and amazing source material, Tomorrowland is weighed down by a jumbled and uneven script. Despite this Brad Bird brings his best effort, though arguably the film would have popped more had it opted for Disney World’s more retro and colorful sci-fi inspired take on the land rather than the more brassy style used in Disney Land’s version of Tomorrowland. Plus die-hard Disney fans will get a kick out of hearing “There’s Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” during the World’s Fair segment.
The Country Bears: This was nothing short of a shameless and hollow attempt to recapture the success of Pirates. In theory some studio head reached into a hat with names of all their attractions written on slips of paper, and drew the Country Bear Jamboree. Thus was decided to make a movie based on the animatronic bears which have entertained (to some extent) guests at Disney World for decades. In the world they created for this flick, the Country Bears were music legends from years before who have broken up. It is up to a young bear named (I kid you not) Beary sets out to reunite them in order to save the Country Bear Hall from the villainous Christopher Walken. This is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination but it is incredibly entertaining in it’s terribleness. Walken’s scenery chewing performance alone is cinematic gold. And there is some real talent in the flick like: Bonny Raitt, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Brian Setzer, Don Henley, and animatronics courtesy of the Jim Henson Company. But a ludicrous plot combined with forgettable and irritating musical numbers hinders anything that could have been accomplished.
The Country Bears: D for the actual movie but an B+ for effort and unintentional entertainment