Walt Disney World was built to be a place where the company fixed some of the mistakes it made in Disneyland. One of those mistakes, and a notable one at that, was the size of the property. Disneyland ended up being so small that the area available on which to build limited the creativity of the Imagineers. One of the ways to clearly see this is the difference in queue lines between Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Walt Disney World allows enough space for the design and story of the ride to truly consume you. You enter into a place at many attractions in which you cannot see anything from the outside world. I will concede that Disneyland's attractions also do a magnificent job with storytelling and immersion, given the space that they have, but the World has really mastered this art. The following are my favorite examples of Disney absorbing you into the attraction and story long before you ever get on the vehicle or enter the show. I did limit my choices to rides, because shows often have a pre-show, putting them into a category all their own.
- Expedition Everest: At the foot of the mountain, before you head up to meet the Yeti, you first must learn about the legend. In this queue, Imagineers will transport you in and out of buildings and temples in an old Nepalese town. As you walk outside, you will see statues of gods and yetis and offerings to them. You will see beautiful gardens and authentic decoration. Inside you will see displayed evidence of the Yeti, and many many newspaper articles and real (and imagineered) accounts of encounters with the snowman. Take this line slowly and appreciate the work that was put in here. It will make the ride much more meaningful.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: In the Walt Disney World incarnation of this ride, you enter a pirate fort, under a tower, and first step into the dungeon. The air is dank and the light is low. Cannon balls and swords line the walls. You can peer in through iron-barred windows and see the skeletal inmates of the prison (watch for a game of cards). You'll meet a parrot, and can interact with props from the ride. This attraction is worth it just for the queue. The entire area of Pirates of the Caribbean is perfectly to theme, and is full of jokes from the movies, as well as countless treasures that show you just how far into pirate territory you have ventured. Perhaps too far?
- The Tower of Terror: Maybe I have an affinity for eerie queue areas? The queue for the Tower of Terror is an absolute treasure. Whether it is sunny or hazy, stepping into the hotel garden at the entrance to this attraction will make you feel like the mist is closing in on you. The chipping cement and constantly dying plants create the perfect quiet and ominous imminence. The silence is broken only by the screams of those who are going before you (whom you cannot see at this point). After the garden, you enter the lobby of the hotel, which resembles perfectly an elegant hotel from the 1930's (and clearly it hasn't been dusted since then). Read every sign in this line if you want to catch the jokes and hidden treasures. Look for statues that talk to you, or signs that tell you the story of the hotel. This line is marvelous, and I would wait in it all day.
- Jungle Cruise: Here we return to the Magic Kingdom for a good ol' Jungle Cruise. Most guests waiting in line here do not appreciate the genius that is all over the walls and beneath and above you. This is mostly because the queue is completely outdoors, and it is often real hot. My solution? Go at night! It is often empty and you can stroll at your own pace. The fire-lit attraction and queue make it even better! Watch for name gags, signs that tell the tale of the boat tours before you, and endless jokes. The audio you hear playing is an hour-long loop that features authentic olde music and a radio host who will make you smile. It all follows the story wonderfully.
- The Haunted Mansion: I thought I would conclude at the Magic Kingdom, just across town in Liberty Square. The Haunted Mansion is a true classic, and features Disney fun and creativity at its finest. This fun starts long before you board the ride. Outside, you wait beside a graveyard covered in headstones with fun phrases, all of which are mementos to past Imagineers who have had a large impact on the parks. Inside, you have a fun interaction and introduction to the story, and then walk down a hall lined with shelves of books. Are the busts on the wall watching only you? Pay attention to all the illusions and tricks here. It is often just walked by. Enjoy!
I always say to slow down and watch for all of the hard work that imagineers put into their parks! This includes the queues. These are not the only five that are magnificent. What are your favorite?
Thank you so much for reading
-William Tollefson (www.facebook.com/wdwforthetaking)