It’s the new launch of a classic planning series called What to Watch While You Wait, looking at the family movies you can watch together to pass the time before your dream Disney vacation. These movies are not only a great way to get everyone in the mood for the magic of your upcoming trip, but the stories are integral to understanding and appreciating the essence of the attractions you will enjoy.
This time around, we are starting back to front, with Magic Kingdom at the top of the list. Since we began in 2018, much has changed, and there is so much more to enjoy in the preparation stage of your pre-departure countdown. Some of those originals will still be in the best-of list below, but there are changes and new additions that will make your wait time even more exciting.
Lightyear & Toy Story
Movie: Lightyear, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, & Toy Story 4
Related Attractions: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Make some new friends with Woody, Buzz, and the gang from the beloved Toy Story films. Enjoyed by children all over the world, the Toy Story series includes four feature films, as well as countless shorts, that introduce you to these beautiful characters and their friendships. These make for great Sunday night movies for the whole family to enjoy together. For a more specific look at the character of Buzz Lightyear, check out the 2022 movie Lightyear.
Movie: Cinderella (Original), Cinderella (live-action)
Related Attractions: Cinderella Castle, Cinderella’s Royal Table dining, Cinderella Meet & Greet, Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel
The original animated film of Cinderella is a Disney staple that will take you inside the world of this young woman turned Princess as she meets her Prince Charming at a ball. This movie will make it easier for children to connect with the meet-and-greet characters in the park, as well as help them feel more connected to their environment in places like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Prince Charming’s Royal Carrousel.
Related Attractions: Dumbo the Flying Elephant / Casey Jr. Soak ‘n’ Splash
Everyone loves Dumbo, though, as a child of the 80s, I was one of the many traumatized by the concept of Dumbo losing his family. The 2019 live-action remake of DUMBO takes a few dark turns, making it a bit overwhelming for a younger audience. To gear up for the Storybook Circus portion of Fantasyland, I would check out one of the many beautifully illustrated books of the story, allowing your children to understand the background without the sleepless nights.
Beauty and the Beast
Movie: Beauty and the Beast
Related Attractions: Enchanted Tales with Belle, Princess Meet & Greet
Beauty and the Beast is another film that you can enjoy in its original animated form or in the newer live-action movie—which is beautiful, by the way. The story will take you through the journey of Belle and the Beast as they discover more about themselves and each other. This movie is an essential part of understanding and connection with the attraction Enchanted Tales with Belle and will enhance the experience for your family.
Movie: Haunted Mansion (2003), Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021), or Haunted Mansion (live-action, 2023)
Related Attractions: Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion holds its own as a stand-alone ride, not requiring much content to enjoy; however, to get the most out of your experience, watching one of the films that the classic ride has inspired will definitely give you a more immersive experience. Depending on the age range of your family, I would say the most recent live-action version is the best experience to prepare for the ride.
Movie: Jungle Cruise
Related Attractions: Jungle Cruise
Another fantastic film inspired by a beloved Disney attraction, Jungle Cruise, is an adventurous story that families can watch together that will also add a new dimension to the ride when you visit the Magic Kingdom. Fall in love with this iconic Disney attraction before you even arrive.
Alice in Wonderland
Movie: Alice In Wonderland
Related Attractions: Mad Tea Party
Alice In Wonderland is one of the original feature-length animated films from Disney that takes you through a fantastical world filled with interesting and unique characters. While you won’t need this film to enjoy the corresponding ride, Mad Tea Party, it might be more exciting for fans to see elements of the original movie come to life in the attraction.
Movie: Aladdin (animated) or Aladdin (live-action)
Related Attractions: The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Meet & Greet Aladdin Characters
Join Princess Jasmine and Aladdin on their adventure in Disney’s original animated film, Aladdin, or the live-action remake. The most recent version of this tale is one of the most beautiful live-action remakes I have ever seen, though either version will allow younger fans to feel a stronger connection to the characters you can meet in the theme park and the attractions that you will enjoy.
Winnie the Pooh
Movie: Winnie the Pooh
Related Attractions: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Crystal Palace Restaurant Character Dining
Your children may already be familiar with the characters of Winnie the Pooh from Disney Junior, though the attraction, complete with Woozles, will make a lot more sense with a bit of back story from one of the original movies.
The Little Mermaid
Movie: The Little Mermaid (animated), The Little Mermaid (live-action)
Related Attractions: Meet Ariel at Her Grotto, Under The Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
Inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Little Mermaid is a story that goes hand in hand with the essence of Disney storytelling. Learn about life under the sea before taking a glimpse below the surface when you visit Magic Kingdom.
Related Attractions: Meet Mirabel at Fairytale Garden
The Encanto story is one of the newest creations from The Walt Disney Company and is a brand new take on culture and what it means to be a part of a family. If you are planning on meeting Mirabel in Magic Kingdom, be sure to catch this musical adventure with the family beforehand. And remember, we don’t talk about Bruno!
The Princess and the Frog
Movie: The Princess and the Frog
Related Attractions: Meet Princess Tiana, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (opening later 2024)
Down on the Bayou, Tiana and her friends have some stories to tell! The movie is full of fantastic music and beautiful symbolism that will have your family tapping their toes the whole way through. Don’t miss this masterpiece before your trip to meet Tiana!
Movie: Monsters, Inc., Monsters University
Related Attractions: Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
It’s a whole different world for Mike and Sully in Monsters, Inc., where scaring is the name of the game, and you need to beware of the humans! Check out Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University before heading to Magic Kingdom so that you can enjoy attractions like the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.
Movie: Peter Pan
Related Attractions: Peter Pan’s Flight
There are a few different iterations of this film to choose from, but nothing compares to the original animation from 1953. Despite the substantial age gap between the film’s debut and today’s audience, the enchantment of this movie transcends space and time to transport you all the way to Neverland. Seeing this film in advance will completely change your experience aboard Peter Pan’s Flight and immerse you so much deeper into the story.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean (Any)
Related Attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean
If you are traveling with a wide variety of ages, heights, or interests, this ride might be one of the few that is perfect for everyone. It has no height restriction, so you can take smaller kids on board, and it isn’t too jerky, so senior family members are less likely to become uncomfortable. While the movie franchise might not be suitable for younger family members, the concept of pirate adventure isn’t lost on little ones, even without the backstory. For older kids and families, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is worth a watch and will add more excitement to the attraction when you visit.
Movie: Snow White
Related Attractions: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Princess Meet & Greet
If a visit with Disney’s first official Disney Princess is on your Disney to-do list, then be sure to check in with the Snow White movie before you visit. Not only will it give you more to talk about if you meet Snow White in person, but you will also enjoy a deeper connection to the story on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction.
Swiss Family Robinson
Movie: Swiss Family Robinson
Related Attraction: Swiss Family Treehouse
This highly underrated Disney movie should be a staple on any family’s watch list, but it will be even more helpful as you traipse through The Swiss Family Treehouse and relive all the details that make it so special. Without the knowledge of the back story, it might be hard for this walk-through attraction to feel engaging, so we highly recommend a viewing before you go.
Related Attraction: TRON Lightcycle / Run
One of the most recent attractions to be added to the Magic Kingdom is the TRON Lightcycle / Run. Even though the ride will feel exciting no matter how much of the storyline you understand, an idea of the concept will definitely give you a better experience when riding the latest thrill ride to move into Walt Disney World.
We hope you enjoy the excitement of your upcoming Walt Dinsey World Vacation and enjoy some of these wonderful Disney movies while you wait!
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.