Tomorrowland and Beyond: A Short History of Disney Attractions as Movies
Disney has transformed many of its rides into movies. But what's beyond Tomorrowland?
Yes, it’s a movie inspired by Disneyland’s futuristic-themed sector, and it’s not the first time Disney transformed a ride into a feature film. Considering that some of the theme park’s attractions have been beloved to Disney fans for years, it’s surprising it took 60 years for Tomorrowland to spawn a movie. (California’s Disneyland turns 60 this year, with plenty of celebrations foot.)
To mark the World of Tomorrow’s transition to the screen, here are the other movies inspired by Disney attractions.
The Pirates of the Caribbean
Who would have thought a ride about randy audio-animatronic pirates could transform into a movie franchise worth $3.7 billion? That’s some major booty. The project stewed for years before the 2003 release of Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s first PG-13 family film. A fifth installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is scheduled for 2017.
Tower of Terror
Pirates wasn’t the first ride to become a movie, however. In 1997, Disney released a TV movie based on its then 3-year-old ride, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The two-hour ABC film ditched the Twilight Zone license but kept the cursed elevator aspect of the ride. And then it let Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst investigate.
The Country Bears
A year before Pirates, Disney tried a movie starring the titular characters from the Country Bear Jamboree attraction. The original Disneyland location’s Dixieland stylings ceased in 2001 (the Florida Walt Disney World version still exists, in a recently revamped form), but this movie was no solace for fans: It earned less than half its $35 million budget back, Haley Joel Osment’s voice talents notwithstanding.
The Haunted Mansion
Only four months after the world met Johnny Depp‘s Captain Jack Sparrow, Disney offered up Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers ghost-fighting real estate agent. It didn’t click, even though you’d think the Haunted Mansion would make for a more compelling story than pirates would. Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has written a script for a reboot that will likely make better use of those awesome Gracey Manor spooks.
Escape from Tomorrow
It’s not a Disney-sanctioned movie, but this 2013 Sundance hit is very much about Disney parks – and their dark side. Shot guerilla-style at Disneyland and Disney World, Escape features some David Lynch-y horror amid all the relentless cheer. Disney ultimately decided not to sue the film’s writer-director, Randy Moore.
Big Thunder Mountain
It nearly happened. It still may. In 2013, Disney announced that it was developing Big Thunder Mountain, a frontier drama inspired by Disneyland’s famous wild west-themed roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But don’t set your DVR yet, as this project has yet to leave the station.
It was initially a joke on Entourage. A Hollywood star, mulling a role in a movie inspired by a bobsled ride that first opened in 1959! But in 2011, Disney announced that it would develop a film inspired by the park’s iconic faux glacier – or, perhaps, the actual one in Switzerland.
Before you wonder why you’d want a movie based on this decidedly retro ride down the Rivers of the World, know that as of last year, Toy Story stars Tim Allen and Tom Hanks were set to make this their first live-action team-up. poller alert: Watch out for that hippo.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
If made, a film version of this attraction would mark a first: movie, then ride, back to movie, with the final version being inspired less by Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and more specifically by the chaotic Disneyland buggy ride to Hades. (Yes, this Disneyland original takes its riders to that very place, in case you’ve forgotten.) The project was announced in 2012.
It’s a Small World
While details are scant, yes, Disney has plans to turn even this salute to the children of the world into a movie somehow. Any guesses as to its theme song?
So what’s left? Well, there’s already a movie titled Mission to Mars. The major Disney attractions not apparently in the works as movies are Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and that happy little nook in Disney California Adventure where tired parents can drink wine.
A movie based on the Enchanted Tiki Room might be lovely, but isn’t a full-length adaptation of Captain EO, the 1980s 3D featurette starring Michael Jackson, what everyone wants most?
Have a magical day.
• Additional reporting by STEPHEN M. SILVERMAN