How (And Why) Disney World “Reimagines” Rides

Disney World is VERY different from what it was in 1971. Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty drastic changes — from ride overhauls to new lands to entirely new theme parks, and so much more.

Disney World has changed a lot in the past 50 years!

Disney is constantly thinking of ways to improve what they’ve already got, and it shows with their technological and storytelling advancements. But you may wonder — how, and why, does Disney choose to reimagine the rides in their parks? Well, today we’re discussing the answer to that question!

Why Does Disney World Change Rides?

Since Disneyland first opened in 1955, Disney has changed and updated quite a few rides across its theme parks. Earlier this year, Jungle Cruise got a new storyline at both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, and the Imagineers had this to say about the project: “We are constantly evaluating ways to enhance attractions and experiences in our parks. We want to make sure everybody has the best time — that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in.”

©Disney | Updates coming to Jungle Cruise

The case was similar with the Splash Mountain refurbishment, when Disney shared that “The approach to retheming or ‘plussing’ attractions (as Walt Disney referred to it) begins with Imagineers asking the question, how can we build upon or elevate the experience and tell a fresh, relevant story? It’s a continuous process that Imagineers are deeply passionate about.” Both rides were/are being updated due to outdated cultural depictions.


However, not all cases of ride changes are due to cultural shifts. Some are simply changed because there’s an opportunity to introduce new stories into the parks that will draw in more visitors. This was the case when Maelstrom was turned into Frozen Ever After, and the same will be true with the change from Universe of Energy to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

©Disney | Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

How Does the Creative Process Work?

When Disney is starting the creative process of changing an old attraction into a new one, they first want to make sure that they do their homework. In some cases, this means researching the history of the ride that they want to change so that they can “keep the essence” of the original. 

Pirates of the Caribbean

This approach applied when Disney sought to change and update rides like Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. In those cases, they weren’t changing the ride entirely, just updating it to “fit the times.” When the changes were announced for Jungle Cruise, Disney noted that “we know that any time we go in to make changes, especially to a classic attraction, some may worry it’s going to lose its magic. To make sure it doesn’t, we do our homework.”

New scenes added to Jungle Cruise

For rides where Disney starts from the very beginning, they get the chance to do full revamps and toss around ideas. Plans for Frozen Ever After were discussed before the film was even released, then fast-tracked when it succeeded at the box office. With the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, they invented an entirely new concept to fit within the theme of EPCOT as a whole.

Frozen Ever After

How Have These Changes Been Received?

Historically speaking, ride changes have gone well for the most part. There are usually people who miss the old iterations of the rides, but the number of people drawn in by the new attractions tends to be more substantial. 

Princess and the Theme Re-Theme Concept Art for Splash Mountain ©Disney

Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean changes added more interesting characters and storylines, while also making the rides more inclusive. And many thousands of fans planned trips with their Frozen-loving children to see the additions in Norway. The same will likely be true with the Princess and the Frog retheme of Splash Mountain. 

Pirates of the Caribbean

While some alterations haven’t been well-received (like the many iterations of Journey Into Imagination with Figment), the majority of Disney World and Disneyland Resort projects end up succeeding in the long run. If it doesn’t, they simply go back to the drawing board and start over.

Journey Into Imagination with Figment

Disney has quite a few projects on the table right now, and we don’t doubt that there will be more in the future. We look forward to seeing the results firsthand, and sharing all of those experiences with you!

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One Reply to “How (And Why) Disney World “Reimagines” Rides”

  1. My adult children like the Great Movie Ride over Mickey Minnie Runaway railway. So do I. We don’t like the cheap Asian animation (Goofy looks homeless). Their Pirates of the Caribbean change was only one scene, and it made the next scene of pirates and women chasing each other not make any sense. Now, they want to throw out the most popular ride (check the daily wait times) Splash Mountain and make it the yet to be named Princess and the Frog ride. My adult children don’t think it makes sense to have such a ride in Frontierland (its out of context). It would work in a New Orleans Square, but we don’t have one in Florida.