It was recently announced that Disneyland would be closing its Alice in Wonderland ride in order to install a guard rail on an outdoor portion of the ride. The ride itself is a classic “dark ride”, so named for its dark interior illuminated with black lights, in which guests ride “caterpillars” through scenes from the 1950’s classic Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland. The attraction in Disneyland opened in 1958, a little later than Walt Disney would have liked, due to funding issues.
I have ridden the ride many times, and even got “stuck” on the outside path for the caterpillars which transports guests up to a second story. It was actually great as I got to see a parade go by, but I wondered what I would have done if the ride hadn’t started again. This outside portion in question is made to look like gigantic “leaves” upon which the caterpillar vehicles ride on. There is no railing and it is easy to see how someone could slip, therefore it is an important safety improvement in my opinion.
I always thought this outdoor portion of the ride track looked a little “fake.” While the outside waiting area of the ride got some new flower lights a couple years ago, this same feature of the ride has remained unchanged for decades. It is clear that it is made out of cement and metal bars, unlike some of the more sculpted three dimensional outdoor creations Disney has made in the past fifteen years.
Eventually, Disney may rip the whole thing out, (which might be a good idea as it might be cracked and rusted), and replace it with a more realistic looking “vine” which has handrails that look like part of the plant. Usually everything from the trash cans to the handrails in Disneyland has been meticulously designed to blend into the environment, and no doubt Disney will want to do this with their permanent fix.
However, given that the ride will presumably be down for months when the major construction is done, wouldn’t this be a good time to update the ride itself? Before Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland came out I thought that it would make a great overlay for this classic attraction (to see the article I wrote click here). And since this film has been wildly successful, perhaps Imagineering could look at the feasibility of creating such an overlay. It wouldn’t be too hard as much of the inside of the Alice ride is filled with statues with simple movements added, (which leads me to conclude that there isn’t a lot of expensive technology which would need to be modified.)
In fact, in 1983 the ride was refurbished and updated with some new technology about 25 years after it opened. Sadly, the “Upside down room” was taken out at this time. The scenes that the ride currently has are fine, and many guests enjoy regularly riding the attraction, but the recent re-imaging of Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton has provided a much more stunning visual landscape. Could it be that Disney is planning on a major upgrade to the ride with a seasonal Tim Burton overlay?
OHSA has stated that they did not force Disney to close the ride, and that it was something that they did on their own after a safety issue was pointed out. But perhaps that is just a cover story that Disney is using so that they can close down the ride, and figure out if they want to spend the time and money on a major redo.
One reason for the closure for safety issues could be so that Disney could announce the rerfurbishment after the ride has been closed. After all, a lot of hardcore Disney fans might be upset to have a seasonal Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland in place. Nonetheless, the ride is beginning to show its age.
While dark lights and fluorescent paint were all the rage decades ago, modern theme park attendees expect something more. Even though the ride is confined to largely the second story above Mr. Toad’s ride (yes that is why you go up), there is still enough space to add more modern special effects. Some areas which could be enhanced are listed below.
1. Audo-animatronics. These robotic life-like figures area a staple of popular Disney attractions, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, and have advanced over the years to become more life like. Alice in Wonderland doesn’t really use this technology as the figures of Alice are very mannequin-like. Adding a couple of these new figures would breathe new life into the attraction.
2. The ride doesn’t feel very organic, meaning that the Tulgey Woods sequences look almost overly cartoonish. This is OK considering that the ride was based on an animated feature, but some of the backgrounds used in the original Alice were certainly more detailed than what is in the ride. Perhaps flat screen high-resolution technology could be used to create a more 3-Dimensionl effect true to the original animated film. These same screens could perhaps be programmed to project different backgrounds if a Tim Burton overlay was utilized.
Of course nothing beats a good 3-D prop, but the ride also seems to lack these. This may be due to space constraints, but a projected background could certainly give the illusion of a larger ride than what is actually there.
3. Lack of motion. I already mentioned that the ride has a lack of modern audio-animatronics, which add movement to any ride. But there is an almost dead feeling about the ride as almost nothing moves. Maybe this is something you notice after riding it hundreds of times, but I think that this lack of movement detracts from the illusion of entering Alice’s world. Motion could be more effectively added by animated the large number of rather static creatures which inhabit Wonderland. Small things like these would add up to a more enjoyable experience for the guest.
While it may be wishful thinking to think that a safety hazard would lead to a major refurbishment, stranger things have happened. Nonetheless, this is one of my conspiracy theories that I hope becomes a reality.