The Disney Diaries: The Land vs. The World (Part 2)

Last time, we talked about duplicate attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and about how just because the names were the same didn’t mean the ride experiences were the same, either. In fact, most of them are not – there’s usually a clear delineation between the West Coast and the East Coast.

In the previous post, we discussed the attractions that were superior at Disneyland. Today, we’re gonna do the opposite – which Walt Disney World attractions are better than their Disneyland cousins?

Better at Walt Disney World

Tower of Terror

Florida’s version of this possessed elevator of doom far outshines the California version, for several reasons. The queue line is more fleshed out and feels like the grounds of a true hotel gone to seed. Once you finally get inside, the experience is largely the same – until you enter the elevator.

In Florida, the door opens directly into the elevator itself. In California, however, guests are forced to traverse across a plain service hallway before boarding the elevator. This hallway is used as the exit hallway for guests returning from the Twilight Zone. In other words, unlike Florida, the California version loads and unloads guests in the same position.

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It may be just a little thing, but it’s very immersion-breaking, especially at the climax of the queue where everyone is pumped up and invested in the fictional tale of The Hollywood Tower Hotel. Once the elevator begins climbing, the differences continue – the California version travels directly into the main shaft, while in Florida, the elevator actually moves horizontally for a bit, disorienting the guests even further and introducing a cool show scene not found on the West Coast.

There’s no competition – Florida blows California out the water when it comes to checking in at deserted hotels on the dark side of Hollywood.

The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh

Personal feelings related to this attraction and its previous tenant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, aside (save Toad Hall!) – The Florida version of this trip through Pooh’s blustery day offers a far more coherent storytelling experience and many more cool effects than the watered-down, slow-as-sloth California counterpart. The rain scene, where the ride vehicles tilt from side to side, and Tigger’s romp room, where they bounce up and down to the music, elevate this simple dark ride into one of the best attractions in Fantasyland.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World feature the exact same track layout for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, except for the fact that they’re mirror images of each other. However, the Florida version wins out by virtue of its setting and surrounding scenery. In California, Big Thunder Mountain is squished between the Fantasyland boundary and the Rivers Of America, giving it a certain claustrophobic feel. At Florida, however, the majestic buttes of this “wildest ride in the wilderness” anchor the far end of Frontierland, in its own little corner of the Magic Kingdom. Everything is just a little bit more spread out and just a little bit more detailed, not to mention the enhanced queue line that makes even a long wait go by in a jiffy.

It’s Tough To Be A Bug!

Refer to the above Big Thunder Mountain Railroad post. The actual show, in both renditions, are exactly the same. However, Florida’s version of this gross-out ant-sized revue takes place under the majestic Tree of Life, which is, in my humble opinion, the best park symbol ever created. It sets the stage in a grand way, with the queue winding its way down, around, and through the trunk of the ornate tree with its hundreds of animal carvings. It makes the show feel like a real E-ticket experience, much more than its California counterpart, which is shoehorned as an afterthought into California Adventure.

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Jungle Cruise

Although both versions of this classic attraction score a resounding “meh” on my scale, the Florida version of this dangerous two-week voyage through hippo-infested waters wins out due to its small yet charming indoor section, where the boats actually head inside to traverse a creepy temple that’s on the verge of falling apart.

Apart from that, though, the two experiences are pretty much the same – make sure to stop by Trader Sam’s, who has a killer deal for you: two of his heads, for just one of yours.

Peter Pan’s Flight

This ride could have, honestly, been sorted into both categories. The attraction itself, once you board the pirate ship that whisks you off into Neverland, is far better at California – thanks to the intricate miniature model that your ship circles around, giving you a panoramic view of the gorgeously-realized island.

But the real meat of this attraction happens before you board your vehicle, and is what sets it far and above its Californian counterpart. Its queue line is a masterpiece of storytelling and imagination, utilizing the latest technologies to make even a two-hour line seem like a blink of an eye. The queue snakes its way through the Darling household, where everything is brought to life in lavish detail.

Compare that to Disneyland, where the queue is a barren set of switchbacks in plain view of the crowds, and you’ll know why I favor the Walt Disney World version. Although, to be quite honest, neither attraction is worth the hours-long wait times they usually pull.

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Star Tours

Once you enter the interior, both versions of this simulator attraction through the sights and the sounds of the Star Wars universe are exactly the same. However, Walt Disney World has something that Disneyland doesn’t – the blessing of space and size. This allows Star Tours in Florida to enjoy a wonderful outdoor queue section, weaving under and around a life-size mockup of an AT-AT (All-Terrain Armored Transport) and the jungle of the Endor Moon. It sets the stage very well for one of my favorite attractions anywhere.

Haunted Mansion

This is just one of the many attractions at Walt Disney World where their commitment to updated queue experiences really shines. The line for this most macabre of experiences winds through an outdoor graveyard, where the curious and the hands-on can experience the joys of a possessed tombstone that plays music when it’s touched, or gaze with wonder at a tomb of a drowned man – listen carefully, you can hear him gurgling.

The attraction itself is a step above its Disneyland counterpart, as well, featuring a new staircase scene not found in the California version. It’s a brief room and nothing to write home about, really, but the effects are very cool and gives a little bit more life into the fictional world of the Haunted Mansion.

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