With Disneyland announcing a reopening date, now is the perfect time to get ready for your visit by watching (or rewatching) the movies that will help you better understand some of the attractions there. From Disney classics to George Lucas films, there are many movies, old and new, that are referenced throughout the park! Watching these movies before you go will enhance your experience and bring out that excitement in the moments these references click in your mind. I’m going to take you on an imaginary walk through Disneyland giving you insight on some of the attractions and the movies that inspired them. As Peter Pan says, c’mon everybody, here we go!
You enter the gates of Disneyland, pass by the first churro cart of the day, round the corner and as you’re gazing down the Marceline, Missouri-inspired Main Street U.S.A, the first thing you notice is Sleeping Beauty Castle perfectly centered at the end in the distance. Sleeping Beauty
castle opened with the park on July 17, 1955, but guests were unable to walk throughout the castle experiencing the scenes from the story of Princess Aurora until 1957. To be fully immersed in the tale of this princess, watch Sleeping Beauty. It is a beautifully animated film, classic and epic.
Approaching the draw-bridge, you make your way across and head straight beneath the
Sleeping Beauty Castle archway. You see King Arthur Carrousel and in front of it is the magical sword that is plastered into a stone awaiting its release by someone special. It may even be you! If you check out the movie Sword in the Stone you’ll understand why this sword is so enchanted!
King Arthur Carrousel is standing in all of its glory and you hear the joyful giggles of children (and probably some adults!) saddled on white horses gliding around clockwise to classic Disney tunes and you swing a right. You’re standing in front of an English manor house known as Toad Hall. This is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! It’s an opening day attraction and one you can only find at Disneyland. It is based on the Wind in the Willows scenes from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Have a wild time watching that one!
Strolling past the right side of the icy Matterhorn Mountain taking in the sounds of the bobsleds speeding away from the Abominable Snowman when all of a sudden you hear some birds squawking “Mine! Mine! Mine!” There are beautiful yellow submarines drifting around a crystal blue lagoon. You have approached Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage! You will find all of the wonderful characters from Pixar’s Finding Nemo under the sea on your journey in the submarines. It’s a heartfelt story filled with the love of a family, new friends, and a daring journey to find a missing clownfish.
You’ll never miss the grandness of It’s a Small World with its gorgeous white facade and gold accents. You hear the instrumental song we all know so well in unison with people’s muffled conversation and the smell of popcorn popping as you find your way to ToonTown. Walking beneath the bridge, you enter into a world of color, sound, and animation. Moving toward the right side you finally approach Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. This attraction was inspired by the 1988 Academy Award-winning film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. This film is the first (and only, as of 2021) time cartoon characters from Walt Disney and Warner brothers have appeared together on-screen! You’ll see these cartoon characters interacting with real people in this hit film directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg.
You transport yourself into the land of adventure and on your right side is the delicious smell of chicken and beef skewers sizzling on the grill at Bengal Barbeque (if you haven’t tried the bacon-wrapped asparagus skewer, then add it to your list!) and all of a sudden you are compelled as if by a strange and magical power to enter this beautiful ancient temple with two giant stone snakes in front of the entrance. It’s the Temple of the Forbidden Eye! The Indiana Jones Adventure attraction is a thrilling ride with a lot of detail. You’ll want to check out Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. These are 2 of the 3 movies (although I recommend watching all 3) to watch to enjoy the theming of this attraction and a couple of other exciting things that are actually used in these films. In the queue outside, you’ll see a 2.5 ton Mercedes-Benz troop transport truck. This is the actual vehicle used in the desert chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. A small mining car near the truck is a movie prop as well, used in the mine scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
After your bumpy adventure in the temple, you head out, breathless, and on your left-hand side you notice an 80-foot-tall tree. You can’t miss it! It’s Tarzan’s Treehouse. You’ll climb the stairs into the treehouse and find inventions and vignettes from the story in the life of Tarzan. A fun fact about the tree is its scientific name is Disneydendron semperflorens grandis which is “large ever-blooming Disney tree”!
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Coming around the bend of the Rivers of America, glancing to the right at the excited canoeing guests and smelling the delicious Hungry Bear burgers on your left, you
approach one of three entrances of Galaxy’s Edge. Through the narrowing cave with music by John Williams surrounding you and as you come to the end, you have entered the planet known as Batuu. Thereare unique sounds all around; some you recognize as possible ships and others you can’t quite figure out and wonder what kinds of creatures are among you. Boarding pass in hand, you approach the new first-of-its-kind attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. If you haven’t seen the Star Wars films, you may be living under a rock but to understand the idea of this attraction, I recommend watching Star Wars: Episode Vll – The Force Awakens. This movie will introduce you to the characters in the attraction! I HIGHLY recommend you go and watch AT LEAST Star Wars: Episode lV – A New Hope, Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode Vl- The Return of the Jedi since they are the best, and to understand the Star Wars universe from the origin.
As the sky is dark, the lights are bright on Main Street U.S.A and after a long, exciting day at Disneyland, you turn around one last time to take in Sleeping Beauty Castle lit up pink and blue. You smile remembering all the attractions you enjoyed and how much better you understood them by familiarizing yourself with the films beforehand. Are you missing Disneyland as much as I am just by putting yourself there in your mind? If you can’t make it there anytime soon, you can always watch these films to feel closer to the park or check out the Imagineering Story or Disneyland Around the Seasons on Disney+.
If you can visit Disneyland or want to plan another Disney vacation, then reach out to me by email at email@example.com. I would love to assist you in creating your magical vacation!
Editors’ note: ConciEARS’ blog series Screen to Park is a guide to the essential movies to watch to understand or enjoy Disney Parks attractions. The series is not a comprehensive discussion of all movie references in every attraction. The next blog in the series, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will be published next Thursday. You can read the previous entry now: From Screen to Park: Disney’s Animal Kingdom.