Disneyland often replaces attractions with new ones based on new movies, but some old classics (and non-classics) have managed to survive.
Today, I was at Disneyland with my parents. Allegedly, you’re never too old to go to Disneyland, but we were all dragging by the end of the day.
My dad doesn’t like roller coasters, so we ended up going on pretty much every non-roller coaster ride. One of those was the Storybook Land Canal Boats. And while we were on there, the guide pointed out some windmills, representing the Disney “classic” — her words — The Old Mill.
And that made me think The Old Mill has to be the most obscure Disney production that’s getting represented at Disneyland. So I decided to put together a list of that, and 10 other, less-popular, less-known Disney productions that are still getting dap at Disneyland.
1 | The Old Mill
This was a nine-minute animated short that Disney released in 1937. It’s actually available, in its entirety, on line. Why this short got featured in lieu of any of the other hundreds of shorts is a huge mystery to me… maybe the art director making the Canal Boats ride was going through a model windmill building phase or something. And I guess the windmills will stay connected to The Old Mill… at least until Pixar makes a computer-animated version of the story of the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike.
2 | Third Man on the Mountain
Walt Disney released this movie in 1959. According to the bastion of reliability that is Wikipedia, it’s “about a young Swiss man who conquers the mountain that killed his father.” Sort of sounds like the grandfather to Better Off Dead. I wonder if the mountain in this was called the K11.
Anyway, Disney was so inspired by filming in the Swiss Alps that he decided to make a ride based on them. So, in the same year, Disneyland opened the Matterhorn bobsled roller coaster.
3 | Song of the South
Everyone knows the song Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Everyone knows Splash Mountain. People even know Br’er Rabbit. But, from what I can tell, very, very few people actually know that that song, that ride and that character are all from the Disney movie Song of the South.
Part of the reason: The movie was released in 1946… and its racial overtones are almost comically antiquated today. In Song of the South, Uncle Remus, an old black man in the post-Civil War South, tells stories about Br’er Rabbit to a young white boy. (It’s a classic example of the old Hollywood trope of the magic negro, as seen most recently in films like Bagger Vance, The Matrix and The Green Mile.)
I watched a few clips of it on YouTube, and, in 2008, it feels very minstrel show-y… especially the way Uncle Remus and some of the characters speak.
So the ride will live on in obscurity, at least until Disney decides that stereotypes are back in style.
4 | The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
I loved this movie as kid. Today, it’s the only Disney movie I have on DVD. But very, very few people have seen it.
Still, against all odds, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride still lives on at Disneyland (it was killed off 10 years ago at Disney World to make a Winnie the Pooh ride). The ride is lame, the character is virtually unknown, but there’s history here, people. It’s going to be a sad, sad day when Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride inevitably gets shut down and then relaunched as something for Cars or Wall-E… or even (shudder) Treasure Planet.
5 | The Sword in the Stone
There’s King Merlin’s Carousel and a sword in the stone right outside of it. I remember watching this Disney cartoon when I was still in elementary school. The VCR had come out. We were all amazed by it.The newest generation of kids — the ones driving the Disneyland demographic — have not seen this movie and probably do not know what a VCR is.
6 | Hercules
Almost 20 years ago now, Disney was on a roll. They had The Little Mermaid in ’89, Beauty and the Beast in ’91, Aladdin in ’92 and The Lion King in ’93… four of their undisputed best movies ever.
Then they went on a legendary cold streak. A Pittsburgh Pirates-style cold streak. Pocahontas in ’95 wasn’t great… The Hunchback of Notre Dame in ’96 was a flop… and then Hercules in ’97 was an abject disaster. So, needless to say, none of those three movies gets much mention at the park. Except… when we exited, and they stamped our hands for re-entry, they used a stamp that said Hercules. Which shows me it’s still, somehow, remembered. And that’s pretty incredible, considering it was the biggest mess of all.
7 | Brother Bear
I completely forgot this movie existed. And there’s no mention of it at Disneyland, but it gets a LOT of love at Disney’s disastrous other Anaheim park, California Adventure. There’s a storytelling thing based on the movie. Employees walk around dressed as the characters. There’s a cave based on the movie to explore. That’s an incredible amount of play (even at the minor league amusement park) for a movie like Brother Bear.
8 | Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
People know who Davy Crockett is (or at least they’ve heard of him), but I’m just not sure that too many people today have watched the 1955 Disney live-action movie Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier… or its 1956 sequel, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.
9 | Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers
The cartoon was moderately successful. And I’m not ripping Disneyland for having Chip and/or Dale running around… they existed long before that cartoon debuted. But there’s a ride in the Mickey’s Toontown section of Disneyland called Gadget’s Go Coaster, which is based around a character from the cartoon series named Gadget Hackwrench. And that’s obscure. It’d be like, if there was a Saved by the Bell theme park, naming a ride after someone from the New Class like Tommy D, Weasel or Scott Erickson.
10 | Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Disney has produced hundreds of shorts, cartoons, computer-generated cartoons and live-action films. So, out of that pile, how Honey, I Shrunk the Kids managed to fight its way to the top and become the focus of a 3D movie in Tomorrowland… I just have no idea. Especially since the whole shrinking/growing premise is barely relevant… and the lamest effect… in the 3D movie. I mean… why not make the 3D movie based around The Rocketeer? Or Cool Runnings? Or The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement?
11 | Tarzan
Just like Davy Crockett, Tarzan isn’t an obscure character. But in the entire realm of Disney, it’s weird that Tarzan gets his own attraction (Tarzan’s Treehouse) when much, much more iconic movies have nothing. There’s not even an Lion King attraction. They couldn’t have turned the spot (which used to belong to the Swiss Family Robinson, by the way) into Timon and Pumbaa’s Treehouse or something?