6 'Disneyland Rides' Movies to Watch Before Hitting the Magic Kingdom

You just never know where filmmakers will find inspiration – beloved books are of course the #1 to-go guide for screenwriters, but who would’ve guessed there’d be so many successful comedies spawned from silly Saturday Night Live skits over the years? Or for that matter, Disneyland rides and attractions?

The Country Bears

2002, G

If a movie based entirely on a Disneyland ride sounds like a recipe for disaster and The Country Bears (based on The Country Bear Jamboree) is the only one you'll see, then you’re right! This messed-up musical teams the most unlikely pair in screen history – Haley Joel Osment and Christopher Walken – and follows the trials and tribulations of banjo-strumming Beary Bearington, a confused cub raised by humans. But there’s more on offer when it comes to movies based on theme rides, and some of them are actually quite good. So if you’re planning to blow a fortune on a visit to the Magic Kingdom, make the experience even more fun by pre-viewing some of the rides on screen.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

2003, PG-13

The first really successful voyage – and the one to spawn a tsunami of sequels – was Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Peg-legs, parrots, hidden treasure, and plank-walking… now, that’s what a pirate movie is about! It’s all here, plus a good dash of ghostly frights, this supernatural swashbuckler got the look and feel of the ride just right…every time I see it, I can practically smell the fake fog and the phony gunpowder.

Set in the 17th century, Curse of the Black Pearl is the story of a roguish, handsome, dashing – and yes, often bumbling pirate, called Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Sparrow reluctantly teams up with a comely young woman (Keira Knightley) and a comely young man (Orlando Bloom) to put the kibosh on the diabolical plans of the creepy undead pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who has stolen Sparrow’s beloved vessel, The Black Pearl, and sails it across the Caribbean, manned by his motley and also undead crew. The plot doesn’t disappoint: it’s a worthy quest adventure for all the right reasons, and there’s just enough romance, comedy, and thrills along the way to keep you and your family interested until the very end. Best of all? You can make a weekend of it, with a slew of seaworthy sequels. 


2015, PG

From the past to the upcoming, Tomorrowland tells the tale of young Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) who, whenever she touches her lapel pin with the letter T on it, finds herself transported to Tomorrowland, a futuristic metropolis chock-a-block with colossal robots and sleek skyscrapers. The curious young lady hunts down and recruits reclusive scientist Frank Walker (George Clooney), a previous visitor to the strange city, to help her discover more about what the future holds.

The Haunted Mansion

2003, PG

If you’re looking for Disnified frights, then you’ve got two choices:

The first is The Haunted Mansion, starring funnyman Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers, a hard-working real estate agent who, while on the way to a vacation spot with his family – that’d be his long-suffering wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason), and two wisecracking kids, Megan (Aree Davis) and Michael (Marc John Jefferies) – insists upon stopping at a potential client’s house for “twenty minutes, tops.” Famous last words…

The dream house is more of a rotting old nightmare on the Louisiana bayou, and is occupied by Southern gentleman named Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), and his creepy butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp). Surprise of all surprises, a rainstorm washes out the roads and the family has to spend the night in the haunted mansion. Before long, the Evers learn that Gracey isn’t a gentleman at all – he’s a lovelorn ghost and he’s got a bone to pick with Sara. With the help of two restless spirits (Wallace Shawn and Dina Waters) and a disembodied fortune-telling head (Jennifer Tilly), the Evers set out to survive the night and break the curse of Gracey Mansion. Apparently, there’s a Guillermo Del Toro remake of The Haunted Mansion in the works, which is said to be less funny and more frightening.

Tower of Terror

1997, NR

The second scary story was made for TV in 1997 and it’s called Tower of Terror (based on an attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida). It stars Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst and begins on Halloween night in 1939, following five folks on their way to the penthouse suite of a swanky party when their elevator gets stuck… and then plummets to the ground. Strangely, the bodies of the doomed passengers were never recovered, so their ghosts wander the halls of the hotel until their spirits can find peace.

Mission to Mars

2000, PG

Not many people realize that Mission to Mars is based on Disney theme park attractions – it was a ride that was located at both Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland’s Tomorrowland (those rides closed down in ‘93, but the movie didn’t come out until 2000). The film is about a fictional first manned mission to Mars in 2020, which ends in disaster when three of the crew are seemingly killed, and the fourth, Luke Graham (Don Cheadle), is stranded with no way to contact Earth. Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise), Woody Blake (Tim Robbins), Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O’Connell) and Terri Fisher (Connie Nielsen) are sent on a dangerous rescue errand to bring back any survivors and find out what happened.

What are some of the movies you like to watch to make Disneyland even more fun?

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