Theme Parks: Disneyland Immersive Rides

Photo of the sign outside ‘Indiana Jones Adventure’ taken by Joshua Sudock for Disneyland Resort. Copyright goes to Disney, Mr. Sudock, and Disney Parks.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I am once again missing my favorite theme parks. I really really want to go back soon. But Disneyland is definitely my favorite and also my favorite for the fall season, so I wanted to do a post specifically for Disneyland. Or at least, Disneyland Resort in California. This post will include rides that are in both Disneyland and the California Adventure park as well. I feel like, especially recently, people have been paying more attention to the newer immersive experiences that Disney created to combat projects like ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at Universal Studios, and I’ll mention those too. But there are other older immersive experiences in the parks that sometimes go overlooked, or at least their level of immersivity gets overlooked. So here are some of my favorite immersive experiences in the parks! I hope I can return to all of them soon!

‘Rise of the Resistance’:

I’ll start with the more known ones, such as this completely immersive experience. If you haven’t heard about this one by now you’ve probably been living under a rock. This ride comes complete with a pre-show where you are members of the Resistance working with Captain Poe Dameron. (Working with Poe Dameron closely is the dream, really.) In the process of being transported you get captured by the First Order and are escorted by First Order officers to holding cells. Only then are you are saved by Resistance fighters and put into transports for your rescue. The fact that all of that takes place in the pre-show (including a visit by Kylo Ren) is insane in itself. The giant animatronics of Kylo Ren and General Hux, the giant movie scenes that your transport moves through, and the amazing effects throughout the ride make this specific experience stand out. Unfortunately, I have very little personal stories to say about this ride. I haven’t actually been on it yet! But I’m anxious to try it!

‘Smuggler’s Run’:

This is the ride where you are given the opportunity to actually pilot the famed Millennium Falcon. Though the queue for this ride starts out pretty standard, the ride does include a pre-show with an animatronic of Hondo Ohnaka. This is one of the most elaborate animatronics Disney has ever made and stands out for that alone. But definitely the best part of the queue is waiting for your turn in the replica of the common area of the Millennium Falcon. Then you actually get to go inside the cockpit where you can either be one of the two pilots, a gunner, or an engineer. I was a pilot when I went on and I actually did sit in the Han Solo seat. It was absolutely amazing to fly the ship and so much fun. Though I bumped into so many things it wasn’t funny. What’s great about damaging the ship, however, is that when you get out of the cockpit at the end of the experience the ship around you will spark as if damaged. I love that detail. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a character in ‘Star Wars’, this ride is for you.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout’:

If you’ve ever wanted to see the Collector’s collection and rescue the Guardians with Rocket, this ride is for you. This is probably my favorite of the new immersive rides that Disney has. Part of that is because I grew up with the ride mechanic for ‘Tower of Terror’ but most of it is entirely because of how fun it is. It’s difficult to dance and scream at the same time, but I somehow manage it every time with this ride because the soundtrack is so addictive. The music will change every time you go on this ride, but “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” by Parliament is probably my favorite song to experience this ride to. And the Vyloo in the cage before you get on the ride are so cute, I could cry. I could literally stand there and watch those adorable animatronics for hours. But one of the best parts of the ride is the pre-show with the Rocket animatronic. Keep your eye out for Rocket’s paw coming down to steal back Peter Quill’s walkman directly after the doors open at the closure of the pre-show.

‘Indiana Jones Adventure’:

This may be my favorite ride and ride experience at Disneyland. And it is not talked about enough. This is one of the most immersive ride experiences you’ll see and it was created before the craze for immersivity started. Which is amazing! It makes the attraction feel pretty timeless! (If only it wouldn’t break down so much). Though the ride is based off of Indiana Jones’s adventures, it follows a completely different and original story. At the start of the queue you swerve through ropes outside of a large temple, which you later learn is the temple of Mara (or the Temple of the Forbidden Eye). 1920’s style music plays over the speakers with the sound quality as if it’s actually coming through an old gramophone and there’s a large rope bridge you have to cross in order to enter the temple. When you enter you immediately see a large old portrait depicting Mara and it actually looks like the ruin of an old temple. The roof is caved in in places and you walk through a booby-trapped room that has thankfully been made safe by Indiana Jones who has walked in this temple before you. You eventually walk into a room where you see an old-fashioned instructional video made by Sallah, a friend of Indiana Jones (some might recognize him as Gimli from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as well) and finally board an old fashioned car. The car then takes you through the temple where you find Indiana Jones several times (he’s been missing for a while) and also anger the goddess inside. It’s an amazing ride and very thrilling even without it being a Roller Coaster.

‘Soarin’:

‘Soarin’ is a ride that exists in multiple park locations around the world. However, in Tokyo the queue for the ride is more like a collection or museum while the one in Florida never had any sort of immersivity to it. The ‘Soarin’ queue in California is made to be like an old airplane hangar inside. It feels as if you are actually at some sort of base waiting to board a plane. In the first inside room you can see the sides of the room adorned with old photographs of famous pilots. Of all genders and races. The area around the ride is also covered in trees and old fashioned airplane props. It feels like both an addition to the vintage feel of the ride as well as an addition to the California feel of the area. After all, the ‘Grand Californian’ Hotel is just around the corner. Definitely another place to go in the California parks that gives you a more vintage feel. I just wish this was still ‘Soarin’ Over California’ instead.

Of course there are various rides in the parks that are immersive in some way or another. I didn’t mention rides like the ‘Haunted Mansion’ or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ because they are such classics I wasn’t sure I could do them justice by explaining them. But then again, this can go for all of these. Disney definitely began my love for immersive experiences and some of these rides definitely deserved more of a mention than they usually get. And what better way to get myself over missing this park then talking about it! But seriously, can you tell I love ‘The Temple of the Forbidden Eye’? I’ve talked about it twice in the last two posts! Sorry!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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