When you visit Disney Parks, there can be a long wait between the conception of your vacation and the experience. A few old-fashioned movie nights can help pass the time and get everyone excited about your travel plans. We are going to look at the different movies you can watch with your family to prepare you for the stories, characters, and general IP (intellectual property) that you will come across in each park.
Today we are focusing on the different movies at the center of the characters and attractions found in Disneyland Park in California. Read through the list below of movie night options for your family, and don’t forget to check ratings and advice on age appropriateness before jumping in!
One of the classics, Peter Pan, is loved by millions around the world. One of the most popular family attractions in Disneyland Park, Peter Pan’s Flight, has no height restriction, so it can be enjoyed by families of all ages. You’ll want to plan to visit this attraction early in the day, as the line is known for being the longest in Fantasyland once the crowds start piling in.
Alice in Wonderland
Making your way through Fantasyland, you will come across two rides that are based around the story of Alice in Wonderland. Both Mad Tea Party, a spinning teacups ride, and Alice in Wonderland, a moving vehicle ride, have no height restrictions. So again, these are going to be popular with families with small children. Check out the original animated movie Alice in Wonderland for a more authentic experience, as the live-action version is not present in these attractions.
Dumbo is is a beautiful story of love, triumph, hardship, and determination. Unfortunately, the movie is wrapped up in a level of sadness and loss that children may find distressing. Think twice about watching this movie with younger kids. Instead, consider more modern, picture-book versions of the story. That way, your family can become familiar with the storyline and characters but skip the depressing music and tears. When visiting the park, they will love the Disneyland staple ride of Dumbo the Flying Elephant and climb enthusiastically inside the cages of the Casey Jr. Circus Train ride. No height restrictions on either of these attractions, so riding with small children is fun and easy.
Wind in the Willows
Attraction: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Location: Fantasyland Movie: Wind in the Willows Rating: G
This is one that can easily be lost on many people. The original story from 1908 was based on the adventurous world of four friends: Rat, Mole, Badger, and Toad. This story has had many adaptations over the years, but the ride takes a slightly more sinister twist. With the dark ride featuring a few scary scenes and effects, it has a different feel to the whimsical story you may be familiar with. Although this is a no height restriction ride, think twice before taking little ones on if you have not experienced it yourself.
Attraction: Snow White’s Scary Adventures / Meet & Greet Character Experience Location: Fantasyland Movie: Snow White Rating: G
Snow White was the movie that started them all and is the inspiration behind one of the original 1955 Disneyland rides, Snow White’s Scary Adventure. Another Fantasyland dark ride, this one has scary moments for young children as well. If your children are familiar with the storyline, it might be easier for them to recognize the characters and be comforted by the knowledge that the story ends well. Check out the original Snow White film with the family before riding this one.
Attraction: Pinocchio’s Daring Journey Location: Fantasyland Movie: Pinocchio Rating: G
Another of the older-style Disney originals, Pinocchio, has unfortunately lost its way with younger children, being overrun by the ideas and humor of modern-day animation such as Moana, Zootopia, and Frozen. Pinocchio isn’t precisely an easily relatable story, making it all the more important to understand ahead of time. The Fantasyland dark ride has some scary moments and (*spoiler alert*) has a very intimidating moment where a giant whale is propelled forward towards your ride vehicle. Have a look at the original film, or perhaps give a picture book a whirl to get the idea of the story.
The Sword in the Stone
Attraction: Sword in the Stone / King Arthur Carrousel Location: Fantasyland Movie: The Sword in the Stone Rating: G
While this isn’t one of the rides or attractions you might think of in the park, you really should take any excuse to watch The Sword in the Stone. Kids can attempt to pull the enchanted sword, Excalibur, from the stone in Fantasyland. It makes for a good photo opp as well.
Attraction: Pixie Hollow / Character Meet & Greet Location: Fantasyland Movie: Tinkerbell Movies Rating: G
As well as the swashbuckling likes of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, marching around the park and tussling around parade floats, kids can also meet Tinkerbell herself in the character experience, Pixie Hollow. Enjoy being shrunken to the size of a fairy as you meet your favorite characters from the Tinkerbell films. Don’t forget to also check out Tinkerbell in her classic form in the Peter Pan’s Flight ride in Fantasyland.
Princess & the Frog
The Princess & the Frog isn’t directly featured in any rides; however, the atmosphere of New Orleans Square will bring home all the sounds and smells of the south and Louisiana-inspired movie. Time it just right, and you can meet Tiana herself after a bowl of gumbo. You can also make dining reservations at the Blue Bayou for that all-immersive dining experience.
While many may remember the walk-through treehouse attraction in Adventureland as the home of Swiss Family Robinson, Tarzan took over this experience in 1999. If you need to fill in time while older family members enjoy more thrilling rides around this area, take the kids to wander through the Treehouse.
Attraction: Star Tours / Space Mountain (Hyperspace Mountain) / Jedi Training Academy / Star Wars Launch Bay / Star Wars Character Experience / Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (coming Summer 2019) Location: Tomorrowland Movie: Star Wars (pick one, or 10) Rating: Varies
The overwhelming popularity of the Star Wars franchise has inspired its own new complete land. Even though this land is just under 12 months away from opening, if you start now, you might just be able to fit in all the Star Wars movies and their spin-offs. Maybe.
Winnie the Pooh
Mosey-on into Critter Country to experience the Hundred Acre Wood. Meet Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, or Piglet in the Winnie the Pooh Meet & Greet before riding the Many Adventures of Pooh ride. There are charming little stores in this area, too, so make time to look around and be prepared to walk away with a plush from the baby pooh collection.
Attraction: Indiana Jones Adventure Location: Adventureland Movie: Indiana Jones Movies Rating: PG
This thrill ride is one for the older kids as you explore the perils of Dr. Jones’ world. Brush up on your Indy knowledge by watching the series over with your family. They will get so much more out of the ride, and the wait in line, knowing the backstory of the films. Warning, some of the movies — especially the original — contain questionable content that might scare some younger (and even older!) viewers.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean Location: New Orleans Square Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean Movies Rating: M
This is the perfect ride for families with a range of ages in their group. It has no height restriction, so you can take smaller kids on board. The spectacular scenery leaves you always seeing something you never noticed before. Young children may be taken with the treasure scenes while older ones can enjoy the references throughout the movie franchise. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself riding this one over and over!
We saved the best for last: Sleeping Beauty. Arguably the heart of Disneyland Park (physically and metaphorically speaking), Sleeping Beauty Castle is also the gateway to the magic of Fantasyland. If you are planning on exploring the castle, visiting with princesses, or booking additional services such as a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, don’t miss a family viewing of Sleeping Beauty!
Those are just some of the stories of Disneyland to familiarize yourself with while waiting for your vacation. What are some of your favorite pre-vacation movies to catch up on before visiting the parks?
Next time we will look at the stories behind Disneyland California Adventure!
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.