It should be noted, not all new and day-one theme park attractions are equal. Nor are all of them successful from a Guest satisfaction standpoint – evaluating them through a theme park designer’s lens or through the eyes of the theme park operators who have to maintain and operate them each day. The goal of this article is not to throw darts at theme park attractions or shows, it is meant to educate the reader on ‘why’ they are unsuccessful.

Our list was compiled after evaluating theme park attractions from around the world based on four major theme park design factors:

  • A clear and concise storyline
  • The ride system or show type as it relates to the story being told (or its original movie inspiration)
  • Is the attraction or show worthy in terms of its detail, theming, etc. of being placed in a theme park
  • Is the attraction or show thrilling and is its use of special effects and/or themeing successful.
Islands of Adventure theme park
Islands of Adventure – Dr. Doom’s Fearfall (right) and The Hulk Roller Coaster (left)

Here’s our list of eleven of the most overrated and unsuccessful theme park attractions from bad to worst:

11. Golden Zephyr

Located in Disney’s California Adventure. An attraction meant for an amusement park located in one of the most overrated theme parks built to-date (that’s for a future article). Even comparing this to similar C-ticket attractions, the Golden Zephyr while nostalgic doesn’t belong in a theme park.

10. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Train

An uninteresting tour around Disney’s Animal Kingdom that lacks story and interesting vignettes for the Guests to view for a majority of the ride’s duration. Sadly, this train tour is a let down when compared to the near-by Walt Disney World Railroad circling the Magic Kingdom.

9. Dinosaur

Located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The amount of time spent riding through the dark – with no story unfolding – seemingly surpasses the time spent with poorly animated dinosaur figures with flashing lights. We’ve been on amusement park haunted house rides with a better storyline and dark ride effects. While the ride system for this attraction – a lift from the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland – is thrilling, the story and themeing are lacking and are a poor match to the potential thrill value this attraction could offer.

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8. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

Located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sadly this outdated and underwhelming show, even from its inception, never fully captured the essence of what made the first Indiana Jones movie – Raiders of the Lost Ark – a thrilling adventure. This massive, 2,000 plus seat theater is for all intents and purposes only being kept alive since it’s as we say in the business ‘a people eater’. Meaning it has the potential to host a large crowd on busy days to help displace the park’s attendance throughout the park.

7. Tomorrowland Speedway

Located in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Outdated and non-environmental ride technology on an attraction that has suffered from continued reduced track length during its lifecycle due to the creation and expansion of Mickey’s Starland/Toowntown Fair/Storybook Circus lands and the more recent Tron Light Cycle roller coaster addition.

6. RC Racer

Located at Hong Kong Disneyland, this attraction is something you would expect to see at a traveling carnival, but not worthy of being at an iconic Disney theme park. This attraction would have been better suited if it were a small roller coaster, such as The Barnstormer in the Magic Kingdom.

5. Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Unfortunately, we have to include both current iterations of this attraction at both Disney’s California Adventure and the Magic Kingdom. An attraction with so much potential that unfortunately suffers from a poor telling of the movie’s story. While the themeing of this attraction – especially the Magic Kingdom’s more successful iteration – is what you would expect in a Disney theme park, the attraction’s telling of the Little Mermaid story and the lack of excitement of the story being told is lackluster at best.

4. Dr. Doom’s Fearfall

Located in the Islands of Adventure theme park. A one hit wonder thrill ride suitable for an amusement park, but not worth of being located in an iconic Universal theme park. A great example of how the storyline was poorly matched with wrong the ride system. You can get the same level of thrill this attraction offers without visiting a theme park, i.e. this ride system exists in many iterations and forms a amusement parks and family entertainment venues around the country.

Kali River Rapids ride rafts going up a ramp
Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Kali River Rapids

3. Poseidon’s Fury

Also located in Islands of Adventure. With no real no thrill crescendo and a poor storyline, it’s an attraction you wish they had spent the additional capital investment to make it something worthwhile. But, it currently feels like its budget was hacked a Guests were delivered the current failed design solution.

2. Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Located in Epcot. Journey Into Imagination With Figment is a dated attraction who’s current iteration is a by-product of the failed ‘Eisner Era’ revamp to the original attraction and storyline. The attraction sits in an outdated, mostly underutilized facility in a large show box taking up valuable real estate in Epcot. The Figment-centric merchandise’s popularity has surpassed the worth and value his attraction can deliver.

1. Kali River Rapids

Contained within Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Where do I even begin with this mess of an attraction. The Kali River Rapids has been a disappointment since the day it opened, I remember I was there. A poor and thin storyline with no crescendo coupled with an underwhelming, short ride duration makes this flop of a themed attraction its own case study in “how not to create and spend tens of millions of dollars on a theme park attraction”.

J. Daniel Jenkins THEME PARK IMPROVEMENTS
About the Author J. Daniel Jenkins, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP is a licensed Architect and a former Walt Disney Imagineer with over twenty five years of Commercial + Themed Entertainment design, design mangement, and A&E subject matter expertise. Jenkins, President | Owner of Holihoon Media, is also the Founder | Editor of themeparkarchitect.com who's goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture, engineering, and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment industry related topics.