It was June of 1987. I awoke to find that a long night of driving from the San Francisco Bay Area had brought my parents and I to our destination: my grandmother’s house in Los Angeles. After wiping the sleep from my 7 year old eyes and peeling my body off of the leather seats of our Coupe de Ville, I entered the house knowing that tomorrow would be the day where we visit the most Magical place in the world.
I could not sleep at all that night; I, instead, decided that I would use the wee hours of the night to plan my attack. First thing would be Star Tours. No, I think that I should visit the Penny Arcade first. Wait, how can I not go on Pirates of the Caribbean first? For hours I created this game plan within my head creating a trail that crisscrossed the entire map of Disneyland until I finally saw a glimmer of sunlight enter the room. I jumped out of bed and began to search frantically around the house for my parents. I never found them. My grandmother informed me that they had left a few hours earlier. They were taking a flight from LAX to Florida and they were going to spend a week together in Disney World. I tried to wrap my mind around this turn of events. Finally, my 7 year old heart began to fill with an emotion that it had never known before this day: pity.
I have to admit that I am a Disneyland snob. That should be apparent seeing that I am part of a Disneyland podcast, but I truly am dismissive of anyone that considers the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim inferior to other theme parks across America. In fact, I have gone as far as saying that the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim does not only contain the two best theme parks in the country, but they are also the best in the world and there is no need to visit any other Disney Theme Park. Ever. Well, my mind has been changed…sort of. I have been shown that the rides at the Disney World complex are not simply carbon copies of those within Disneyland, but different and, dare I say, improved experiences.
It would be a completely unfair to compare Disneyland and all that is contained within the Disney World complex. Instead, I am going to simply look at a few rides contained within Disneyland and the Hollywood Studios area of California Adventure and their Walt Disney World counterparts.
First, let’s talk about Jason and Taren’s favorite ride: the Haunted Mansion. Inside the rides are virtually identical, but most people spend much more time outside of the ride just waiting to get in. The difference between the exterior of the Disneyland and WDW Haunted Mansions are astronomical. You will still find the typical gags (tombstones with humorous epitaphs) but the WDW version of the Haunted Mansion looks more mysterious. Instead of just being a large house in the middle of New Orleans Square as it is within Disneyland, the WDW version is set at the top of a hill and is reminiscent of something that you would see in Psycho. A little touch like that definitely gets you ready to encounter the 999 ghosts living within its walls.
Another interesting ride at the WDW Resort is Rock N’ Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith. This ride is similar to the Radiator Springs Racers located in California Adventure due to the fact that both are high-speed rides that are indoors for the first portion of the ride, but the similarities end there. With Rock N’ Rollercoaster, you are interacting with Aerosmith before their concert. When Steven Tyler realizes that he and the rest of the band are running late, he quickly leaves and a stretch limo is summoned to get you and the rest of the riders to “the Forum” as quickly as possible. This is where the fun begins. The ride hits a top speed of 60 MPH while going through a loop and a pair of corkscrews before finally letting all of the riders off on the red carpet. The story line of the ride may not be the best, but the thrill of the ride seems amazing!
Lastly, we will look at one of my favorite rides: Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror. The queues of the rides are similar, but the real differences begin once you enter the elevator. The California Adventure version of the ride takes you through the lightning strike, elevator scene and drop sequence within the same elevator shaft. The WDW version actually invented new technology in order to give you a completely different ride experience. The WDW version takes you through the lighting strike and elevator scenes in one elevator shaft and then the vehicle leaves that shaft and takes you for a journey through the 5th dimension before entering a different shaft for the drop sequence. This addition truly makes for a completely different ride experience.
Do these changes mean that you have not truly lived until you experience these WDW rides? Not really. Do these differences now make WDW a “destination location” for all lovers of Disneyland? No. They do seem like they would be fun to visit though. And be sure to take your 7 year old with you.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Share some of your stories about missed Disney opportunities below!