Theme Parks: Unintentionally Terrifying Rides

Concept art promotional image for ‘The Cat in the Hat’ ride at Universal Studios Orlando: Islands of Adventure. Copyright goes to the Universal Studios parks.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Living in California and having travelled to Orlando Florida a few times, it stands to reason that I have been on quite a lot of theme park rides. Most of my park experience has been really great, especially considering my experience consists of mostly Disney and Universal parks. These companies are usually pretty great about being innovative with ride mechanics and keeping up with the latest technology. But some parks aren’t and sometimes even these companies can’t keep absolutely everything in their park up to date. Or other times people don’t want to change a specific ride in a park so the company decides to keep it for nostalgia. Either way, these types of rides are often the ones that I find to be the most hilariously frightening despite what the original concept might have been. So, with plenty of rides to talk about that fit this criteria, let’s just get into it.

The Cat in the Hat- Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure:

We’ve briefly mentioned this ride on the blog before and that’s because this memory just stands out so vividly. In ‘Islands of Adventure’ there is a pastel colored Dr. Seuss themed area otherwise known as Seuss Landing. This area has seen better days, let’s be honest. It was there from pretty early on in the park’s days. But the day I went with family it was hot, this is an inside ride, and there was absolutely no line. So might as well try out something that supplies air conditioner, right? The ride automatically looked old when we stepped further into the building, but it was nothing to be too concerned about. The horror started in the first or second room in the ride when the first old animatronic of the Cat turns around. This moment that was meant to be cute felt too much like the Evil Queen turning around in the former ‘Snow White’s Scary Adventure’ in Disneyland. One of his eyes had probably not been tended to for some time and was half closed and twitching as if trying to open all the way. Everyone in the car collectively screamed and then started laughing hysterically. And that was pretty much what happened for the rest of the ride. Between the Things wearing wigs so tangled they looked like rats nests and a couple other animatronics having eye problems, this felt much more like a horror ride than something for children. And surprisingly this has become more common knowledge in the past couple years since my last trip there. Many people joke that Universal should hold some of their Halloween Horror Nights events in ‘Islands of Adventure’ so that the ride can be included.

E.T.- Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure:

And here’s another one. This ride also starts out cute until pretty early on as you’re flying on a bike, a police car pulls in front of you in an attempt to stop you. Inside, as police officers, are obvious store mannequins with no discernible faces and cheap wigs. Pretty horrifying if you ask me. Later in the ride you get to E.T’s planet which is incredibly humid and features female E.T.s which are basically creepy porcelain looking dolls with jellyfish hair and lipstick. This part of the ride also has high pitched creatures singing (or screaming, who can tell?) along to the musical theme of the movie, which is definitely worse than ‘It’s A Small World’. I didn’t scream during this one, but I did still walk off the ride deeply scarred.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride- Disneyland California:

I’m not a huge fan of Disney replacing all of their old rides, but this is one that I would not be sad to see go. This ride used to exist in other parks and has been since taken out of them, so now the only park it’s still in is the one in California. In other words, I grew up with this ride. When I was little it wasn’t one of my favorites and my family would only go on it when there wasn’t a big line and we had nothing else to do. When I got a little older we stopped going on it at all. And then after a few years passed I was really curious about it because I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t remember exactly what happened on that ride. The once to jog my memory was enough. From the get go, the ride depicts you as the driver of a vehicle committing various crimes and then at the end of the ride you get hit by a train and go to Hell. I’m not even joking. Your car gets caught on railroad tracks and you see a train light coming towards you and then your vehicle turns into a place painted with red and fake fire where you’re surrounded by little red demons. You know, the perfect ride for kids.

Pixar Pal-A-Round- Disneyland California, California Adventure Park:

This ride has had it’s name and image changed so many times, but really what you need to know is that this is the giant Ferris Wheel in California Adventure. What many people don’t know about this particular ride is that it has two different experiences that you can choose from. The swinging cars and the non-swinging cars. This is another one that I rode a couple times when I was a kid, but it was largely a ride my family and I skipped over. I finally decided to ride it again right before my family switched our annual passes to Universal Studios instead because Disneyland is so expensive. So this would have been a few years back. When I went on it was only me and my sister and, in order to make the lines move, they require at least four people to be put in a car. My sister and I were paired up with this really sweet newlywed couple and we all went up in this car together. The way most Ferris Wheels work is that you go around slowly the first time so that they can load the cars and then they give you two times around without stopping. So choosing to go on the swinging cars seemed like it was fine the first time around. The car slid around only a little bit and we all thought it was fun and cute. And then we got to the part where it goes around without stopping and the car was flying along the track and swinging completely out. It feels like you’re going to launch into space. There is also no seatbelts and nothing to hang on to. I’m usually good with most thrill rides, and technically this isn’t one. But it should be. My sister and the husband of the couple were bearing it a little better than the wife and I; who were curled up at the sides of the car with our fingers threaded through the screen windows and taking turns screaming and laughing at each other. Don’t underestimate that Ferris Wheel.

Timber Mountain Log Ride- Knott’s Berry Farm, California:

I’ve picked on Universal and Disney enough, so I’m going to take this time to mention one thing that isn’t either. Timber Mountain Log Ride is the classic summer water ride at Knott’s Berry Farm and really doesn’t have much to it. You go around this mountain a little bit and there’s a drop at the end. However, there are a couple of old animatronics of lumberjacks scattered around this ride that are very mannequin looking and most of them are welding axes. If you go on this ride especially around night time, it’s really eerie. The ride does not have good lighting, so the glint of the axes are some of the only things you can make out at night. While this was not the original intention, the horror of this ride is actually so well known that Knott’s Berry Farm started altering the ride somewhat for their Halloween events. Maybe ‘The Cat in the Hat’ ride will eventually follow in it’s footsteps.

I feel like finding an unintentionally scary ride at a theme park has led to some of my favorite theme park memories. Because somehow anything that is unintentionally terrifying automatically also becomes funny when no one else you’re with knows what they’re in for either. So though these rides are really weird for the most part, if you’re with friends I’d still say that they’re a good time. But good luck with the jump scares.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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