AttractionsWalt Disney World (FL)

Top 10 Non-Movie-Based Attractions

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You may have noticed a trend at Walt Disney World these days. It seems every new attraction is based off a movie or TV show, whether it be Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, or Avatar.

This is a clear decision made by Disney, believing it will generate more hype and attract more guests with stories they already know and love (and also probably as a response to Universal’s success with this over the past decade).

However, one of the great things about Disney World has always been its ability to also bring us new stories, adventures, and characters through their unique, non-movie-based attractions. In fact, some of these stories were so good that Disney ended up doing the reverse, and basing a movie on the attraction.

While many of the newer movie-themed attractions are amazing, I personally don’t like ONLY having new attractions based on movies, and missing out on those original stories. Plus, if I am not a big fan of a certain film or franchise (*cough* Marvel *cough*), then I am actually less likely to be interested in that attraction, even if it is a fun or innovative ride.

That’s why, like in all parts of life, I believe there should be a balance. For proof of the importance of original attractions, look no further than these 10 showstoppers.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

No movie necessary for this fun frontier fable. Impressive scenery and interesting elements sprinkled all throughout the queue and the ride itself, like the goat holding dynamite in its mouth, make this so much more than your average mine ride, and show Disney’s attention to detail in every aspect of storytelling.

Expedition Everest

You won’t find this yeti in any Disney film, but you will see signs of him the moment you enter the beautifully-designed queue. What starts as a gentle trip through the mountains quite literally takes a turn when you come across some broken tracks, and what follows is a pretty epic escape.

Haunted Mansion

There are characters, stories, and ghosts galore in this family-friendly ride-through haunted house. Each room of the mansion comes with its own ghoulish tale to tell, complete with special effects and old parlor tricks, which help create the mysterious quality that keeps guests coming back again and again.

Jungle Cruise

Exotic animatronic animals, lush greenery, and extremely corny jokes take center stage on this river adventure. Whether you love them or just sorta tolerate them, Jungle Cruise skippers and the stories they tell are the heart of this attraction, and have been since long before the movie adaptation set sail.

Kali River Rapids

Before you go down that last waterfall (possibly backwards) and get soaking wet, take some time to appreciate how beautiful the scenery is throughout this attraction. Also take note of the important messages it makes about deforestation and conservation. This ride will thrill you, make you think, and cool you down all at once!

Kilimanjaro Safari

Though you might feel as though you’ve stepped into the opening scene of The Lion King, this Animal Kingdom headliner is a true original. Home to 34 species roaming over 100 acres, you never know what you are going to see, which makes every ride a completely new and exciting experience.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Action, adventure, audio-animatronics, and attention to detail have made this ride a beloved fan favorite since long before the addition of Captain Jack Sparrow. Each scene tells a richly detailed story about different aspects of a pirate’s life, and you are right in the middle of the action!

Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster

One of Hollywood Studio’s few non-movie-based attractions, this thrill ride (Disney’s biggest) still takes guests on quite a journey, all synchronized to the music of Aerosmith. The giant guitar at the entrance, musical memorabilia in the queue, and bright neon lights throughout all help add to the originality and story.


Instead of soaring on a magic carpet over Agrabah, this unique attraction makes guests feel like they are flying over some of the most beautiful sites all over the world. Enjoy breath-taking bird’s-eye views of an Arctic glacier, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, and much more!

Soarin' Around the World

Space Mountain

The building itself sets the stage for this futuristic tale. From launch to landing, this attraction takes you on a wild ride through the galaxy. While the idea may be simple, the execution is remarkable, and keeps generations of visitors lining up for their chance to fly among the stars.

Without original, non-movie-based attractions, we wouldn’t have some of the most beloved rides of all time. While interest in certain movies may come and go, these attractions prove that a good, story-based adventure will always be popular.

I wish Disney would remember that it was a combination of movie-based attractions and original ideas that helped make them successful, and return to bringing a good balance of both to their parks.


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Amy Crockett

Amy Crockett is a native Michigander who works at a library by day and dreams of Disney by night. Planning Disney trips is her favorite thing in the entire world to do (apart from the trip itself)! In addition to all things Disney, she loves reading, musical theatre, playing tennis, traveling, and cheering on the Detroit Tigers.

6 thoughts on “Top 10 Non-Movie-Based Attractions

  • This list practically reads like a list of my favorite attractions at WDW (well, not Kali, but still). A good reminder that branding has very little to do with what makes a great ride. Yes to balance.

    • These are a lot of my favorites too!

  • -Honorable mention here has to go to Tower of Terror, right? While it ties in the Twilight Zone IP, it’s not “based” on the Twilight Zone any more than Rock n Rollercoaster is “based” on Aerosmith.

    Also, legend has it that the ride was already pretty far along in the development process when the idea came along to tie in the Twilight Zone IP. Even without Rod Serling’s narration, they were still planning to build an elevator drop ride set in an abandoned “old hollywood” hotel. Curious to see how much of that is discussed in the ToT episode of the new Disney+ show.

    -What about Splash Mountain? If that’s based on a movie, I’ve certainly never seen it. 😉

    • Splash Mountain is loosely based on Song of the South. This movie has not been out of the vault in over 30 years due to controversial portrayals of race-related subjects.

      • Hence the winking emoji in my comment…

        Just trying to score a LAUGH Jennifer 🙂

    • I basically just decided that anything that was tied to a movie or TV show, no matter how loosely, did not qualify for this list. Unfortunately that meant no Tower of Terror. I’m looking forward to the new Disney+ show too!

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