- The four theme parks of Orlando’s Disney World – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom – are home to 49 rides.
- Even the biggest Disney fans may not know about all the Easter eggs on Slinky Dog Dash or Peter Pan’s Flight.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Frozen Ever After were built on top of other rides, but they both pay homage to their predecessors.
- Expedition Everest hasn’t been fully operational in years, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant got a major face-lift in 2012.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Since opening in 1971, Walt Disney World has introduced fans to some of the most well-known rides in the world.
Across Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, some attractions have elaborate histories and backstories, and others are so advanced that brand-new technology had to be created for them.
Keep reading for an interesting fact about every single ride at Walt Disney World.
It’s a Small World was designed for the World’s Fair
One of them was the first incarnation of It’s a Small World, which was described as a “salute to the children of the world” for UNICEF.
The ride was a hit and has become a staple in the Disney parks.
The Astro Orbiter was originally Star Jets
However, the ride was redesigned in 1994 as part of the Tomorrowland renovation and renamed Astro Orbiter. In the updated version, the rocket-shaped ride vehicles weave in and out of a solar system.
There’s a supernatural backstory for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
It’s easy to miss some of the details around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as the coaster flies down the track.
According to Disney Parks Blog, the backstory is that natural disasters and mysterious events â€” including runaway trains that roam the mountain unattended, save for the guests â€” are cursing the miners who are after the gold within Big Thunder Mountain.
There’s a secret trick to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
The object of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is to hit targets with a laser gun, defeat the evil Emperor Zurg, and become a galactic hero.
Hitting the targets can be harder than it seems, so Disney added a feature that allows everyone to walk away with some points.
According to Disney fan sites like WDW Info, as long as you push the trigger â€” even if you miss all the targets â€” you’ll get a minimum score of 1,300 which puts you in the “Level 2: Space Ace” bracket.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant has two carousels that operate simultaneously
Dumbo the Flying Elephant was an opening day attraction in 1971, but it’s gone through many updates since then. The biggest change came in 2012 with the addition of a second carousel and an interactive queue as part of the New Fantasyland expansion.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the two carousels are side by side, run simultaneously, and counter-rotate each other.
Jungle Cruise was originally intended to be a serious ride
During the initial design phases of Jungle Cruise, which Disney himself had a hand in, the ride wasn’t going to be the joke-filled version we have today.
Not only was it supposed to be a serious boat ride through exotic terrain, but it was also going to include real animals.
For safety and financial reasons, that iteration never came to be, and the funny script was added a few years later.
Mad Tea Party shares a designer with It’s a Small World
Artist Mary Blair became famous for the many marks she left on Disney property, including a mural at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the design of It’s a Small World. But, according to Mental Floss, she also designed the iconic ride vehicles on another popular Fantasyland attraction â€” Mad Tea Party.
Blair came up with the teacups for Disneyland in California, which were later replicated at Disney World in Florida.
The toy blocks on Peter Pan’s Flight spell out fun messages
Before taking flight over London and into Neverland, Peter Pan’s Flight winds guests through the Darling home.
As the ride moves through the nursery, pay extra attention to the blocks around the room. According to All Ears, fans have pointed out that they spell “Disney” and “P Pan.”
Pirates of the Caribbean was almost a Western River Expedition ride
Pirates of the Caribbean was wildly popular at Disneyland, but surprisingly, it wasn’t always going to be part of Disney World.
When planning for the new park, the company thought that Florida’s proximity to the Caribbean would make guests less likely to enjoy the ride. According to Jason Surrell’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies,” they designed a Western River Expedition ride in its place.
But when the park opened, guests complained, and the Florida park built its version of Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Liberty Square Riverboats were named after real people
The original Liberty Square Riverboat was named after Admiral Joe Fowler, who was a retired navy admiral Disney hired to help oversee the construction of both Disneyland and Disney World.
The next boat in operation was named Richard F. Irvine, after a former Disney executive and designer, but it’s since been renamed the Liberty Belle.
The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel also has a fun backstory
In 2010, Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel got a new name â€” Prince Charming Regal Carrousel â€” and with it, a new backstory.
According to Disney, after marrying Cinderella, Prince Charming built a training area to practice for jousting tournaments that included carved wooden horses. It was so popular among the townspeople that he built a second, friendlier device for them to ride.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train features some familiar designs
If you visited Walt Disney World prior to 2012, you had the opportunity to ride Snow White’s Scary Adventures. The beloved, but somewhat controversial, ride closed that year to make way for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
There’s a hidden Mickey in the queue of Journey of the Little Mermaid that’s only visible once a year
Hidden Mickeys can be found throughout the Disney parks and resorts, but there’s one that can only be seen on Mickey’s birthday each year, according to Inside the Magic.
At noon on November 18, the sun shines through a particular rock formation in the queue of Under the Sea: The Journey of the Little Mermaid and gives fans a glimpse at one of the most elusive hidden Mickeys on property.
Space Mountain was the first fully computer-controlled roller-coaster
Compared to newer attractions, Space Mountain may not seem that advanced. But when it opened, it was a landmark in ride technology.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported in 2015, Space Mountain was the first thrill ride to be fully controlled via computer, which helped ensure that multiple cars could operate on the same track without colliding.
The Barnstormer is very similar to another ride at an old theme park
The Barnstormer opened as The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm in 1996 and was later refurbished as The Great Goofini’s Barnstormer for the Fantasyland expansion.
According to Disney fan sites like All Ears, the Barnstormer’s name may have been inspired by another aeroplane-themed ride that opened in 1978 at the now-defunct Opryland USA theme park in Nashville.
The name for Splash Mountain came from an unexpected source
Disney announced in June that it will be re-theming the ride, but the original storyline of Splash Mountain is based on the controversial 1946 film “Song of the South.” However, its name comes from a completely different source.
According to Disney historian Jim Korkis, while designing the ride, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner decided he wanted to promote the 1984 live-action film “Splash” by naming the ride after it.
His suggestion ultimately won out over the then-working title, Zip-a-Dee River Run.
Carousel of Progress shares a narrator with ‘A Christmas Story’ (1983)
Disney’s Carousel of Progress, originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair, tells the story of American life throughout the 20th century.
Actor Jean Shepherd, who lent his voice to Father on the ride, is also the narrator and voice of adult Ralphie in the classic family film “A Christmas Story.”
The Haunted Mansion manor is named after an Imagineer
The Haunted Mansion looks different in each of its five iterations at Disney parks around the world, but the Disney World ride is often nicknamed Gracey Manor.
Yale Gracey was the Imagineer responsible for some of the ghostly illusions throughout the ride, and when “The Haunted Mansion” was made in 2003, the filmmakers even honoured him by naming the master of the house Gracey in the movie.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh honours an old ride
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Fantasyland replaced the beloved attraction Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But Disney didn’t get rid of the character completely.
Mr. Toad is also one of the statues in the Haunted Mansion’s pet cemetery.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin was the first Adventureland ride to be added in over 20 years
Adventureland is full of iconic attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and Jungle Cruise. But as a whole, the land saw very little change from 1973 to 2001, when Disney introduced the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride.
The PeopleMover contains a piece of Disney history
The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, commonly shortened to PeopleMover, gives guests a glimpse at a unique piece of Disney history.
The ride passes a model known as Progress City, one of the earliest of Disney’s designs for his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).
The Tomorrowland Speedway was once sponsored by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Grand Prix Raceway was an opening day attraction in 1971, but the ride underwent a series of remodelings in the 1990s. One of those changes was a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a new name: Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
The theming was updated to replicate features of the famed speedway, but the partnership eventually ended in the late 2000s and “Indy” was dropped from the name.
The Walt Disney World Railroad trains are named after important Disney figures
Disney’s love of trains is well-known, and it’s no surprise that this passion spilled over into the design of his theme parks. The Walt Disney World Railroad gives guests a tour of the park with sights you can’t see anywhere else.
There are four trains in operation, all named after important people in Disney history â€” Walter E. Disney, Roy O. Disney (Walt’s brother), Lilly Belle (named for Walt’s wife, Lillian), and Roger E. Broggie (the Imagineer who designed the railroads).
Frozen Ever After recycled pieces from the ride that came before it
In 2014, Disney announced that the Noway pavilion at Epcot (stylised as EPCOT) would be getting a makeover. That included closing the Maelstrom attraction to make way for Frozen Ever After, themed after the popular film.
However, the Imagineers didn’t start from scratch with the new ride. The vehicles and track remained the same as the Maelstrom, and some of the decorative pieces were also reused throughout the ride and queue area, according to Forbes.
Only one of the Three Caballeros is from Mexico
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros is a boat ride within the Mexico pavilion that follows Panchito Pistoles and JosÃ© Carioca as they search for their friend and band member Donald Duck.
Surprisingly, despite being in the country’s pavilion, Panchito is the only Mexican character in the trio. JosÃ© Carioca is Brazilian and Donald Duck is American.
Disney had to open a less-intense version of Mission: Space
Mission: Space (stylised as Mission: SPACE) is set up as a NASA training facility where guests are preparing for a flight to Mars.
The ride later adapted to offer a “green” version, which was less intense and even more family-friendly.
Inspiration for Journey into Imagination’s mascot came from ‘Magnum, P.I.’
Tony Baxter, former senior vice president of creative development at Disney, was a key designer for many rides, including Epcot’s Journey into Imagination With Figment.
In a 2013 interview with Theme Park Insider, Baxter said he came up with the name for the ride’s iconic dragon after watching CBS’ “Magnum, P.I.”
“Magnum had said it was just a figment of your imagination â€¦ I came in that next day and I pulled the little snaggly model out and said ‘meet Figment,'” he said.
The vegetables and fish guests see on Living With the Land are used in Disney restaurants
Toward the end of Living With the Land, guests are taken through an expansive greenhouse and an “aquacell” where plants and fish are being harvested.
These sections aren’t just for show though, they’re actually suppliers for restaurants on Disney property including Garden Grill and Coral Reef at Epcot.
There are specific scents for certain locations on Soarin’ Around the World
Guests who rode Soarin’ over California will remember that certain scenes came with wafts of scents, like the smell of citrus as you flew over an orange grove or a pine scent through an evergreen forest.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the updated version of the ride, Soarin’ Around the World, features even more customised scents, including a grassy smell over Africa, an ocean breeze over the Pacific, and a delicate floral scent over India.
Spaceship Earth shares animatronics with the Hall of Presidents
As we’ve established on this list, Disney likes to recycle ride elements where it can, and that was the case when it came time to create the audio-animatronics on Spaceship Earth.
Test Track is the fastest attraction at Disney World
Test Track allows guests to customise a car before testing it on its efficiency, responsiveness, and speed on the ride.
With a high speed of 65 mph (when the weather conditions are right), Test Track is the fastest ride at Disney World.
The Seas With Nemo and Friends once held a big record
While guests ride through the story of “Finding Nemo,” they’re also passing through one of the largest aquariums in the world.
In fact, when The Seas pavilion was built in 1986, the Sun-Sentinel reported that it was the largest aquarium at the time. It held that record until 2005, when the Georgia Aquarium took the title, according to CNN.
Mickey Mouse got his first ride in 2020
In the Disney parks, Mickey seems to be everywhere you look â€” character meet and greets, Mickey-shaped snacks, hidden Mickeys.
But despite his prevalence in the parks, he wasn’t featured on a ride until 2020 with the opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Each limo on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster has a different soundtrack
If you’ve ridden Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith more than once, you may have noticed that the soundtrack isn’t always the same.
According to Disney Parks Blog, there are five ride vehicles playing different Aerosmith songs: “Nine Lives,” “Sweet Emotion,” a “Back in the Saddle”/”Dude Looks Like a Lady” medley, a “Love in an Elevator”/”Walk This Way” medley, and a “Young Lust”/”F.I.N.E.”/”Love in an Elevator” medley.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was heavily influenced by the famous show
Imagineers go to great lengths to make sure every detail of a ride is meticulously designed.
In the case of Tower of Terror, that meant watching 156 episodes of “The Twilight Zone” to draw inspiration for the story, according to Disney Parks Blog.
Additionally, the faux-hotel itself is modelled after multiple landmarks from Southern California, including the Biltmore Hotel and the Mission Inn.
The voice of Winnie the Pooh is the star of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Jim Cummings is the voice actor behind several Disney characters, most famously, Winnie the Pooh. He also narrated Epcot’s now-retired nighttime show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
When it came time to cast the lead role of Hondo Ohnaka for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Cummings was asked to lend his voice again.
Star Tours was almost themed after a different movie
According to Disney historian Jim Korkis, the original idea for Star Tours was based on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954).
It then transformed into a ride about the 1979 film “The Black Hole,” which performed so poorly that the plan was scrapped. Eventually, the Imagineers worked with George Lucas to design the ride based on “Star Wars.”
Technologically, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is unlike any other ride
Disney Imagineers are constantly raising the bar for theme-park attractions, but with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, they took it to a new level.
According to CNN, it required over 5 million lines of code, the largest concrete pour in Disney history, a new motor design, and 65 animatronics to develop the high-tech trackless ride.
Artists wore 3D glasses while painting Toy Story Midway Mania
The world of “Toy Story” is bright and colourful, and so are the rides based on it.
Per All Ears, the artists described the great lengths they went to ensure their designs were seen the way they intended them to be at the 2009 D23 Expo.
Since guests on Toy Story Midway Mania wear 3D glasses, the artists also wore them as they painted the ride so the design would have the right effect.
Slinky Dog Dash has a reference to the release date of ‘Toy Story’ (1995)
Disney/Pixar is known for putting Easter eggs throughout attractions and films. One of those can be found on Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land.
As guests ride, they will pass by the original box that Rex, the toy dinosaur, came in. The box has a price sticker that reads $US19.95, alongside the numbers 11 and 22. This is a subtle nod to the original release date of “Toy Story” on November 22, 1995.
Alien Swirling Saucers is a clone of a Disneyland attraction
According to Theme Park Insider, the same ride system is used for both attractions, and it’s also used for Happy Ride with Baymax at Tokyo Disneyland.
Avatar Flight of Passage is designed for lines of 6 hours
Lines at Disney can get pretty long, and Imagineers have started to plan for that in the designs for new attractions.
When building Avatar Flight of Passage, the team created different preshow videos for guests to watch that are swapped out depending on the wait time.
Dinosaur was inspired by a real-life discovery
In 1985, when Imagineers were still designing what would become Countdown to Extinction (now called Dinosaur), paleontologists discovered the remains of the Carnotaurus dinosaur, according to Smithsonian magazine.
The Carnotaurus became a lead character on the ride and in Disney’s animated film, “Dinosaur” (2000).
Expedition Everest has been broken since shortly after it opened
Only a few months after Expedition Everest opened in 2006, the animatronic yeti, a centrepiece of the ride, stopped working and has yet to be permanently fixed.
Imagineer Joe Rohde vowed to fix the yeti at the 2013 D23 Expo and explained some of the things they have already tried, but no plans have been made to refurbish the ride, yet. Rohde announced his retirement in 2020, though, which left some fans wondering if the yeti will ever be fixed.
When operating fully, the menacing yeti swats at oncoming riders, but for now, guests zoom by a stationary monster illuminated by strobe lights â€” who has been lovingly nicknamed “Disco Yeti.”
Kali River Rapids is supposed to warn guests against the dangers of deforestation
Kali River Rapids is more than just a fun water ride along the Chakranadi River (meaning “river that runs in a circle”). Some fans have picked up on its underlying theme of the dangers of deforestation and logging.
Even the name fits into this. Kali is a Hindu goddess who represents death and the destructive forces of nature.
The acacia trees on Kilimanjaro Safaris aren’t real
The iconic flattop acacia trees on Kilimanjaro Safaris are a huge part of creating the illusion that guests have left Florida and entered an African savanna.
But they’re actually just manicured oak trees, landscape architecture manager Carl Walsten told Disney historian Jim Korkis.
TriceraTop Spin is the only Dino-Rama ride left
The backstory for Dinoland USA is that in a town where fossils were discovered, Chester and Hester tried to cash in on the publicity by creating a roadside amusement park.
The Na’vi River Journey features an entire song written in Na’vi
Na’vi, a language developed by University of Southern California professor Paul Frommer, is spoken in “Avatar” and can be heard throughout the Pandora section of Animal Kingdom.
Frommer wrote a song in the language for the Na’vi River Journey attraction and even shared the translation on his blog.
The Wildlife Express train takes guests to a lesser-known part of the park
Even guests who have been visiting Animal Kingdom for years may not have hopped aboard the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, yet.
After the seven-minute journey, they will arrive at a more secluded section of Animal Kingdom where they can get a backstage look at the park’s veterinary headquarters, find out more about its conservation efforts, and even learn how to draw a beloved Disney character at the Animation Experience.
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