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Disneyland Article
4 Disneyland Attractions That Desperately Need An Upgrade

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Ashley Varela
April 30, 2019
May 10, 2019
We've heard it again and again: "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." It's an inspiring concept and an appropriate, if overused line that Disney trots out in order to justify any number of closures, revisions, and expansions they want to tack onto the parks.

But Disneyland isn't a collection of new and shiny toys. It's a compelling blend of the new and the old, the vintage and the technologically forward-thinking, spanning attractions from Opening Day's Jungle Cruise and Sleeping Beauty Castle to the highly-anticipated (and as-yet unveiled) Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run and Rise of the Resistance. You could make the argument that Disneyland wouldn't really be Disneyland without its oldest and most classic attractions, as they make up some of the last remaining fragments of the park Walt dreamed up in 1955.

Along those lines, it's also worth pointing out that more than a few of these oh-so-beloved attractions are looking well, a little shabby, especially next to newer or more recently-enhanced rides. Does Disney have an obligation to modify its classic attractions in order to appeal to the changing tastes of its guests? No, but let's take a look at what might happen if they did.

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Major renovations to date: 1 (1983)

A truly classic dark ride, Snow White's Scary Adventures has become so integral to the Disney Parks that it made the Opening Day roster for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. But, while Walt Disney World eventually abandoned the attraction in order to construct the ├╝ber-popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during their recent Fantasyland expansion, Disneyland's version persists to this day.

There are no announced plans to replace the ride, and truthfully, it may not need to be shuttered at all. Not only does it hold a certain kind of protected status as one of Walt's original rides, but it carries a simplistic charm that still manages to spook adults and children alike with the use of its selective blacklist and the frequent and infamous appearances of the Old Hag.

Perhaps most strangely of all, Snow White's Scary Adventures is one of the only Fantasyland dark rides that fails to convey a proper plot overview of the film it's based around. Unlike Peter Pan's Flight, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, and Alice in Wonderland, it's difficult to get a good sense of the film's narrative; riders may instead feel as though they've stumbled into a very dark alternate fairy tale universe. The scare factor has been worn down to an almost cheesy predictability, as those who have ridden it often know exactly when the scares are coming (the Old Hag animatronics "pop out" at riders no fewer than five times)-and those who have not ridden it might quickly wish they hadn't taken their toddlers along for the ride.

With another update, however, Disney could easily rectify the attraction's storyboard issues and give parkgoers a true family-friendly experience. Rather than centering the premise around the adventures of the Old Hag, they might instead streamline the ride into a basic retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with scenes of the woodland creatures and seven dwarves interspersed between scarier moments instead of simply bookending the attraction. In fact, highlighting the dwarves in the attraction-whether they're carving jewels out of the mines, trying to get Grumpy to bathe, or simply popping up at the edge of Snow White's bed-might make for a more faithful representation of Walt's original idea for the film and a better homage to one of his original Disneyland attractions, too.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Major renovations to date: 2 (1983, 1990)

The same principle may not quite apply to Dumbo the Flying Elephant-an attraction Walt original envisioned as a recreation of Dumbo's alcohol-induced "pink elephant" hallucination. Today's version is much more innocuous, with ten "Dumbos' rising in the air in unison as Timothy Q. Mouse directs them from the center of the aerial carousel.

Unlike the dark rides that characterize most of Fantasyland, Dumbo the Flying Elephant is more of a general Disney-themed attraction than one that tells a specific story. That changed somewhat with the expansion and retheming of the Walt Disney World version in 2012, though, as prospective riders were invited to enter a "Big Top' playplace and caught glimpses of Dumbo suspended in the air above them before boarding their own Dumbo ride vehicle.

Disneyland took similar measures in 2018 after debuting a new shaded queue next to the carousel, but given the limited room at the park, were unable to do more than slap a few posters on the walls in order to add a little context to the ride. While they may not be able to duplicate Magic Kingdom's impressive circus-themed waiting area (to say nothing of its second carousel), it might behoove them to completely tent the ride itself-bringing riders fully into Dumbo's big circus universe as he dips, dives, and soars above a captive audience.

Golden Zephyr

Major renovations to date: 0

When it comes to issues of continuity within the Disney Parks, perhaps no rides stick out more obviously than Disney California Adventure's Golden Zephyr and Jumpin' Jellyfish. The two are holdovers from the park's original construction in 2001 and have survived numerous thematic changes to both Paradise Pier and the current Pixar Pier, with no apparent retheming of their own in sight.

The Golden Zephyr was reportedly inspired by Captive Flying Machines at Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England, and has been likened to the rocket ships used by fictional space travelers Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. That may be entirely lost on today's audience, as the rides are positioned near a hodgepodge of attractions that include The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Goofy's Sky School, and Silly Symphony Swings.

If there's a specific reason Golden Zephyr has been allowed to persist this long, Disney hasn't revealed it yet. What they might do, however, is align it with either Ariel's Undersea Adventure and Jumpin' Jellyfish-maybe turning those long, golden rockets into the dolphins and sharks that roam through Atlantica-or incorporate elements from another classic Fab Five cartoon in order to connect it with Goofy's Sky School and Silly Symphony Swings.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

Major renovations to date: 0

When the brash and cocksure Buzz Lightyear first invaded Tomorrowland in 2005, the concept of a dark ride/shooting gallery hybrid attraction was thrilling and new. It was the first real attraction that allowed guests to compete against each other (albeit only for bragging rights) since the Frontierland Shooting Exposition inspired informal contests among parkgoers 48 years earlier.

The premise of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is technologically simple: Ride vehicles wind through space-themed corridors and rooms, using a moveable joystick and laser pistols to take aim at differently-valued targets and defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg (well, more accurately, to accrue points). Over the last 14 years, however, some participants have become a little too familiar with the system, leaking strategies and secrets that make it far from a fair fight against less-practiced contenders.

Today, the interior of the attraction-starry, blacklit backdrops accentuated in glowing, garish oranges and greens-also appears a little kitschy and outdated compared to its contemporary, Toy Story Midway Mania. That might work in its favor, as Disney has a long history of trafficking in kitsch and nostalgia within and without its theme parks, but without the added bonus of updated technology, the attraction might soon feel too predictable and dull in comparison to other 4D-enhanced, screen-based rides.

The answer, then, doesn't seem to be a full-scale overhaul of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, but a modest update that allowed Disney to strike a better balance between modern tech and the classic feel of an action figure-sized space battle against evil robots. Those kinds of upgrades-specifically, a switch to screen-based targets with unpredictable point values-would challenge repeat visitors to continue honing their skills while increasing the popularity for an already-beloved attraction. (As a bonus, it might even ensure a steady stream of visitors to Tomorrowland after the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, too.)
Attractions Referenced

Alice In Wonderland

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

Dumbo The Flying Elephant

Jungle Cruise

Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run

Peter Pan's Flight

Pinocchio's Daring Journey

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Star Wars Rise Of The Resistance

Lands Referenced



Star Wars Galaxys Edge


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