Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why Animal Kingdom May Never Have a Dark Ride

Recently, I have been watching a lot of Disney movies.  Most of them have been the ones I haven't seen since I was a child.  I must say, some of the films take on whole new meanings when you watch them with a slightly older brain.

A great example of what I'm talking about is Tarzan.  (spoiler alert)  In addition to noticing a few rather macabre things that somehow escaped me when I last watched the film at least ten years ago (most notably the dead bodies of Tarzan's parents and the shadow of Clayton's body after he accidently hangs himself), I have also realized something that may upset many Disney fans I have encountered on fan discussion boards.  Tarzan (and Bambi, and Brother Bear) does not lend itself to a Disney dark ride. 

For years (and moreso now with the announcement of Avatarland), Disney fans have been wondering why Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park has been without a classic Disney dark ride, a la Peter Pan's Flight and Snow White's Scary Adventure.

The answer (or at least a possible one) hit me during Tarzan.  Many of Disney's animal movies would not make family-friendly dark rides, for one or more of the following reasons:
  1. Intensity - Let's face it, some of the most important scenes from many of Disney's animal movies are intense for young viewers, if not downright scary.  Often, as is the case with Tarzan and especially Bambi, there is a feeling of being hunted down.  That, to me, would be a little too intense for young children and even some adults.  I don't know about you, but I have no desire to live through the scene where Bambi's mother dies.  And I certainly don't want Sabor chasing me through the jungle. 
    Seriously, I would not want this jumping out at me in a dark room.  Would you?
  3. Man is Evil Message - This seems to be a common theme in Disney animal films.  Man is the enemy.  So much so that "Man" from Bambi is ranked 20th of the 50 Greatest Movie Villians by the American Film Institute (AFI).  There's a similar vibe in Bother Bear when Koda tells Kenai that the humans are "scary" because of the spears they carry to hunt.  With Tarzan this is less of a problem, because really only Clayton is evil, while Jane and Dr. Porter only wish to study the gorillas.  Still, this message seems a bit heavy for a dark ride, even if we are meant to understand that we aren't all hunters and "Man" isn't necessarily every man.  I know the Kilimanjaro Safari ride tried to have the "poachers are bad, let's save the animals" message, but that was directed at one group of people.  I know I'm not a poacher, so there's never any guilt.  But, I feel guilty every single time Bambi's mother dies or Koda gets scared of the humans (and I don't even hunt).
    Denahi may not have a spear in this shot, but I can see why Koda would be afraid of him
  5. The Lack of Memorable Soundtracks - Before anyone gets angry here, I love the soundtracks to both Tarzan and Brother Bear.  I definitely don't think Phil Collins got the credit he deserved for either one.  But that's exactly the problem.  People don't know the songs like they know "You Can Fly" or "Someday My Prince Will Come".  An instrumental version of "Son of Man" or "Welcome" probably wouldn't be recognized by 75% of people who rode a ride based off of either of these movies.  And because dark rides are so short and are a condensed version of the movie, the music is critical.
One last note.  Some of you may be wondering if I'm picking on these movies because I don't like them.  I would like to go on record and say that is absolutely not the case.  Brother Bear is one of my favorite Disney movies.  I ran through Camp Minnie-Mickey a few years back (full run, too) so that I could get a picture with Koda and Kenai (who seemed stunned that I actually knew who they were).  I loved Tarzan as a child and found it quite enjoyable when I recently watched it.  The only reason I don't watch Bambi is because the scene where Bambi's mother dies is too upsetting (but I loved Bambi 2).  Much as I may like these films, they just aren't dark ride material.

What do you think?  Should Disney make a dark ride at Animal Kingdom based off of one of their animal films?  Which one?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. I've always considered Dinosaur to be Animal Kingdom's dark ride.


    1. Good point, Matt. I didn't even think of that. I guess the speed and roughness of the ride made me think "thrill ride" rather than "dark ride."