I look forward to my first viewing of the new Little Mermaid ride in Disney California Adventure. I don't know if the "dark ride" concept was created by Disney but they certainly are its greatest practitioners of what really is an art form. Now not all dark rides in Disneyland and DCA are created equal. Some are better than others and when it comes down to it, the age of the ride or its technology doesn't seem to matter. So here are my takes on the classic dark rides from first to worst.
Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin - Hard to touch this one. It is a maniacally wonderful look at the colorful characters of the Roger Rabbit movie. This is a dark ride that is longer than most (show building is "outside the berm" for more space), has the advantage of a ride vehicle that the guest can maneuver to a certain extent, and it has one of the best queue lines in the park. Loads of fun and the only dark ride that offers a fastpass.
Peter Pan's Flight - PPF is the quintessential Disney dark ride and a Disneyland original. It's a classic story, a classic movie, a great soundtrack and has the advantage of being the only dark ride where "you can fly, you can fly" in its ride vehicle. Slow loading, long wait times, and its short length considering the wait are on its negative side.
Winnie the Pooh - I'm in the minority here because this little dark ride has few fans. I marvel at its intense color and whimsy. I think if this dark ride were in Fantasyland, people would like it more. But it sits by itself across from the Splash Mtn powerhouse ride and occupies the same building as the fondly remembered Country Bear Jamboree. Hey, its not Pooh's fault.
Snow White's Scary Adventure - Well its not all that scary and the ride has recently been enhanced with some new lighting and show elements that has brought it up a notch. And who doesn't like the seven dwarfs?
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - Bizarre. Have a couple of brews, mouth off to a cop, and take a car trip to hell. Huh? What's going on here? It is a wild ride - simple but crazy.
Monster's Inc (DCA) - A big improvement over the incredibly stupid Superstar Limo ride that first occupied the space and was quickly removed; Monster Inc. is fun, has memorable characters, is a little longer than most of the Disneyland dark rides, but after all that, I still find something missing in it. Leaves me with kind of an empty feeling like they had a chance to do something great but missed the mark a bit. Always a short wait to get on.
Alice in Wonderland - This ride would be up a notch or two were it not for the good people at Cal-OSHA who forced Disney to quickly add railings to the ride's short trip in the open air exterior. This is the only dark ride that has an elevation change (most of the ride runs right above Toad) which is its unique feature. The ride has some hideous tarps to cover up some of the work that was required to put in the railings but they kept the ride running. It's going to need a rather lengthy refurbishment at some point to get some of its magic back.
Pinocchio's Daring Journey - Again, classic story, classic characters, a memorable song but the ride is so short its hard to develop any kind of emotional attachment to it. There's just nothing there.