5. Toy Story Midway Mania – This really fantastic and fun ride is almost the same in Disney California Adventure and in Hollywood Studios. In DCA, Toy Story Midway Mania‘s queue is often shorter and significantly less themed, though there is still a Mr. Potato Head, who tells you the backstory to the ride. The backstory is the toys set up this game while Andy is away. At DCA, when you exit the ride you walk up stairs and see the box the midway game set came in located in Andy’s living room and then you return your glasses and go back downstairs. Also in DCA, the ride fits well with the theme of the land, as it is a series of midway style games and midway style games are popular at amusement parks on Californian piers, like Paradise Pier is suppose to be inspired from.
At Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Midway Mania’s queue is often long. Hopefully the new 3rd track reduces this permanently. However, the queue is really awesome and truly makes you feel like you are the size of a toy since all around you are massive toys and board games. There is also a Mr. Potato Head, though he is currently on vacation. In Hollywood Studios, the ride is part of Pixar Place, which is a less than well themed area, though it does have some hanging toys across the walkway and sometimes Green Army Men can be seen creeping around. However, it soon should be part of the new Toy Story Land, which could be amazing. Overall, I think the queue wins at Hollywood Studios but the attachment to surrounding themed area wins at DCA, though that might change with the new Toy Story Land in WDW.
4. Soarin’ – This is another awesome ride that is the same in DCA and Epcot except that in DCA, the seat belts unbuckle from pushing a circular yellow button, whereas in Epcot, they unbuckle more like regular seat belts. In DCA, the queue is often shorter and is mostly outside, as compared to the almost always lengthy, all inside queue at Epcot. The inside part of the queue in DCA has pictures of famous airplanes and aviators. The queue for Soarin‘ in Epcot has some interactive games.
DCA’s Soarin’ is also in a building that looks like an airplane hanger and in a well themed area of the park known as Grizzly Peak that feels like you have been completely emerged in one of California’s state parks. Next to Soarin’ in DCA is also Smokejumpers Grill, a quick service restaurant that is inspired by the men and women who fight wildfires in California’s forests. So in DCA, you really feel like you are about to take off on a flight over California when you enter. In Epcot, Soarin’ is located in the Land Pavilion, which I guess fits since you are soaring over land but the whole pavilion feels really dated and like it could benefit from a rehab. Overall, I think DCA’s Soarin’ surroundings win here.
3. The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure versus Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – This is one of my favorite rides. It is almost the exact same at both parks, with both having the awesome sensation of going under the sea, the undersea band led by Sebastian, the amazing soundtrack from the movie, and great animatronics throughout. While they both have a great mural in the clam shell loading area, overall the queue in Florida’s Magic Kingdom is a lot richer, and often a lot longer. In the Magic Kingdom, the queue is around and inside caverns from the movie. You walk by Ariel’s grotto of thingamabobs, can play interactive games, and listen to Scuttle talk to you. On the East Coast, this ride is also set in a larger area of New Fantasyland, which includes a meet and greet in Ariel’s Grotto, a replica ship, and Prince Eric’s castle. All great Photopass opportunities, that get you in the mood for the ride.
In DCA, the The Little Mermaid –Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is in a rectangular building, which has some outside adornments, but the queue itself has almost no theming. The ride is on Paradise Pier, which also houses Ariel’s Grotto restaurant, King Triton’s carousel of sea creatures, a Jumping Jellyfish attraction, and under the sea themed restrooms, that all go to the under the sea theming of the Paradise Pier, but these are spread out. The pier also includes a number of midway style games and rides that are more like those from a seaside amusement park on a pier. I’d give the win to WDW for surrounding theming on this attraction.
2. Turtle Talk – This is an underrated attraction on both coasts. It is also basically the same on both coasts. In both places, the audience members get to talk to the Crush man and marvel at the cool animation. I appreciate that on both coasts they not only talk to the “little dudes” but also the “big dudes” who have their fin up. I can’t wait to see how the new Finding Dory characters are brought into the mix on both coasts as well. In Epcot, Turtle Talk’s theater is a bit smaller and has bench seats. In DCA, the theater is a big bigger with regular auditorium style seats.
In Epcot, Turtle Talk fits well into the theming of the Living Seas. Outside of the Living Seas, you’ll see the seagulls from Finding Nemo. And many people will enter the Living Seas on a clamshell from the Finding Nemo ride. This all gets you ready to hang out with Crush and friends for a bit. Plus, once you’ve chatted with Crush you can look at all the real fish in the tanks and take a picture in Bruce’s mouth. In DCA, Turtle Talk is inside Disney Animation in Hollywood Land. Since Turtle Talk is animated and show off some cool features of today’s computer animation, this makes sense. Also in the animation building at DCA is the Animation Academy and the royal meet and greet from Frozen, and its accompanying line. Overall, I think Epcot wins on this attraction because of the setting, despite the better seats at DCA.
1. Tower of Terror – This ride is similar on both coasts. Most obviously, both involve a major drop and both have great views of the surrounding park from the top. Right now they are both themed to the Twilight Zone, have the same pre-show, and include some of the same during ride images. This may change with rumored changes for one or both of them to be re-themed to Guardians of the Galaxy and/or something Marvel.
There are some big differences between the current rides. In Hollywood Studios, Tower of Terror’s elevator leaves the elevator shaft you came up in and travels forward through a darkened Twilight Zone themed room before you drop. And the drop sequence here is randomized, you can ride it a number of times and not have the same sequence of drop lengths. In DCA, the elevator does not leave the shaft you come up in and only has one drop sequence, it is always the same sequence of drops and lifts, every time you ride.
In DCA, the Hollywood Tower Hotel is located at the end of Hollywood Land with its California in the 1920s theme. This fits, though it’s a bit weird that it is also right next to Bugs Land, where it doesn’t fit at all. In Hollywood Studios, the Hollywood Tower Hotel is at the end of the Sunset Boulevard, themed similarly to Hollywood Land. The whole area might not have the best theming, but the area directly around the Hollywood Tower Hotel, the grounds and the queue area are much creepier and more well themed that at DCA. Overall, for both theming and ride variability I give WDW the win on this one.