Coast to Coast Similarities: Walt Disney World & Disneyland Attraction Copycats

| March 20, 2013 | 22 Replies

One of the things I love most about Disney Parks is the amount of creativity and ingenuity that goes into creating their attractions. The Disney Imagineers, designers of the rides and shows at the parks, are known for pushing the envelope on what can and cannot be done to improve guests’ experiences in terms of theming, technology, and overall enjoyment. However, lately I’ve noticed that more and more of the same attractions are being used on both the East and West Coasts. This has me wondering – Should Walt Disney World and Disneyland have “copycat” attractions in their parks? Or, should each park remain unique in what is offered?


Guests Dive Under the Sea with Ariel

Image: Should each Disney theme park have its own unique attractions?

I grew up with Walt Disney World. My parents took me there annually and even sometimes twice per year. As a youngster, I read every updated copy of Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World guidebook that hit the shelves. I watched those free vacation planning videos – on VHS back then, I might add – relentlessly and always ordered a new one when it became available. I even spent hours poring over park maps to find the ultimate touring route whether or not I had a vacation coming up. Let’s face it; I was hooked!


 Attraction Copy Cats 23 (450x600)

Image: Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World


My love of Disney’s East Coast park continued well into adulthood. It wasn’t until several years ago that I had the opportunity to travel to Disneyland. I was amazed at how different the two parks were, but still found some of my favorite attractions to enjoy. While I didn’t have much issue with this back then, copycat Disney attractions have become a bit of a pet peeve for me. Why can’t the Disney Imagineers create new experiences in each park instead of using the same ideas? They surely are talented enough. After all, these are the same people that brought the Yeti to life in Expedition Everest (okay, I know that he’s having some “issues,” but you get what I mean), flew us to the moon in Mission: Space, helped us “soar” across California in Soarin’, and allowed us to journey under the sea with Ariel and friends in the beautiful new Enchanted Forest of Fantasyland. It just doesn’t make sense to me.


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Image: The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland (Top) and Walt Disney World (Bottom)


Now, before readers comment that Walt Disney World was actually the park that “copied” some of Disneyland’s attractions, let me say that I totally understand the history of the parks and who came first; sure, there might be a mild tweak or two in each park, but they’re the same ride. Still, this mass-production of the same experience causes me to raise an eyebrow. Just take a look at this list, completely off of the top of my head, of attractions that exist in both parks:

  • The Little Mermaid
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Castles
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Tower of Terror
  • Dumbo
  • Soarin’
  • Space Mountain
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Jungle Cruise
  • River Boats
  • Tiki Room
  • Carousels
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • It’s a Small World
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Muppet Vision 3D


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Image: It’s a Small World in Disneyland is similar to that in Walt Disney World. However, the line and part of the attraction are outside and famous Disney characters are scattered throughout the rooms filled with dolls from around the world.


Plus, there’s more either already in existence or on their way. Take the well-credited Cars Land rumor. This newly-created area of Disney California Adventure (DCA) has been said to have revitalized and saved the park from failure. Over the past six months or so, it’s been rumored that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will receive its own version of Cars Land. Some have even stated that it will have DCA’s flagship attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, in its center. While many people are excited about this potentially happening, I just find it to be another case of copycat attractions. Disney Imagineers’ creative juices can come up with something new and, if they want to jump off of the Pixar theme, there are plenty of characters and movies to be touched upon.


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Image: With the exception of where the ride vehicle comes from, Tower of Terror in both Disneyland (top) and Walt Disney World (bottom) are identical in terms of experience.


All in all, I hope that Disney does not continue the pattern of producing the same attractions in its theme parks. A part of the reason Disney fans enjoy visiting the different parks is to experience what they have to offer and, if everything is the same, why bother visiting places like Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, Disneyland Paris, etc? If the Imagineers can create such amazing guest experiences, I’d love to see more of them that are unique to their location. What do you think about copycat Disney attractions? Should the same rides that exist in one park also appear elsewhere? Chime in here by posting your comments below.



Disney Media

N. Mancini

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Category: Disney World, Disneyland

  • Mike Doyle

    I can see where you’re coming from here. But when you think about it, this would mean when you were growing up, all of your most familiar Magic Kingdom attractions wouldn’t have been there for you to fall in love with. Attractions like Pirates, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, Jungle Cruise, your riverboat, Peter Pan’s flight, Dumbo, the Enchanted Tiki Room…almost all of Magic Kingdom really. Because almost all of Magic Kingdom happened first on the west coast in Disneyland.

    It would also mean no Star Tours, Soarin’ (Over California), Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or Fantasmic! on the east coast, because they all started on the west coast as well. Without what you call “copycat” attractions, WDW’s parks would be much emptier places. Not that duplicate attractions around the world are a good (or bad) thing. I’m not taking sides. But copycat attractions are exactly how WDW came to be in the first place.

    • Robin Marie Luedke

      Completely agree here. In fact, what I actually enjoy talking about are the unique rides that Disneyland has and not WDW (Indiana Jones and the Matterhorn). This perspective because I’m from the West Coast and have visited DL a dozen times in my life, yet it took 25 years for me to make my way across the country to visit WDW. It is not always feasible for one’s family to afford going across the country, so having similar experiences ties it all together for everyone. WDW is a special place because it is BIG, it is RESORTS on a RESORT, it has a transportation system that is just key to keeping yourself there… where as DL is more of a locals place (super high percentage of their visitors are annual passholders compared to WDW), and a weekend trip compared to a week plus. You can go to WDW and never leave, whereas in Anaheim, you can’t stay. You visit other places. You don’t get all the is unique to WDW, but at least you get a piece. And that’s the same for the other parts of the world… they will have their unique rides (which is what would peak my interest), but I would be feeling so much loss without my haunted mansion or the chance to get it’s a small world stuck in my head all day.

      • Leah Sullivan-Zamora

        Actually the reason that magic kingdom is an almost exact duplicate of disneyland is that Walt died before he could finalize most of the plans for disneyworld and so his “people” decided to copy it and expand from there. Walt never wanted to duplicate the parks he wanted to make them new unto themselves but did not live long enough to see his dream come to fruition. I agree with Nicole, I am very tired of copycat rides, they steal the thunder of the original and that is part of the reason some of the parks are having difficulty. These people hold the position of imagineers for a reason, they are suppose to be creative and think up new rides and experiences, not just to copy someone’s work and call it good!

  • Mark

    I hope Disney doesn’t read this blog post and think it speaks for the majority of people. I respect the idea that Disney should think creatively at both parks, but to actually think a Disney fan would NOT want Radiator Spring Racers at DHS is crazy.

    • Jon Beer

      Personally, I don’t. It really doesn’t fit with the theming at all.

  • Craig Popovich

    I visit both parks annually and completely agree with you on the leaving Cars Land a DLR specialty. There are plenty of more ideas that the Imagineers can develop as additions to DHS that would be just as good, if not better than what Cars Land is today. However, I think my opinion would change if I never go to DLR, and only go to WDW because I would want to see everything that the Imagineers develop.

    Classic attractions, like Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It’s a Small World, are okay to replicate, even though I like the original versions better, not only because they are more authentic “Walt Disney” attractions, but because, in my opinion, tell the story better. I actually wish DLR had Carousel of Progress.

    Bottom line is that I think people need to realize that the Imagineers have a lot in their arsenal to use as major E-ticket attractions and lands. For example, they could make an UP themed land with Paradise Falls and an attraction as the house on its journey. The possibilities are limitless.

  • scrappinginontario

    I appreciate what you’re saying but at the same time, not everyone has an opportunity to visit both locations. I would love for my DD to experience Cars Land but I understand it to be a much larger financial undertaking for us to visit DL when I factor in flights, car rental, etc. I personally like the fact that the most popular attractions are available at both parks as it means more people can enjoy them.

    Bring on Cars Land to DHS!!!

  • Marie Daynes Burt

    I don’t agree at all. We live in Utah and drive to Disneyland regularly. We will be visiting WDW for the first time this year. I love that there are some unique things to each park, but honestly, we can’t afford to go to WDW all the time, so really, the only way we will normally experience these things is if they are at DLR. If it’s a good ride, let a greater number of people experience it by having it in multiple places because most of us can’t visit multiple locations in a year.

  • BringingUpDisney

    I would be sad if some of the things that are at DL were not repeated at WDW or at least had some similarities. I live in the Northern part of California but choose to make an annual trek to WDW because I feel it is a vastly superior experience. I like that it is more of an immersive experience and the cast members are so much nicer. That being said, I would really miss the classic rides such as small world, haunted mansion and pirates if they were only at DL.

  • The Disney Journal

    Sorry, but I think this story is way off base. Even though there are many of the same attractions on both coasts many of the attractions have different experiences and feels to them. Space Mountain in DL is a different ride experience than in WDW. We prefer the DL version. The Haunted Mansion is also a different feel – we prefer the WDW version. Pirates of the Caribbean is also very different from DL to WDW. We think the DL version is a much better attraction. And while on the subject of Pirates – the Imagineers were not going to put Pirates in WDW. When the park opened many, many visitors kept asking, “where is the pirates attraction?” After constant questioning, the Imagineers put the attraction in WDW. The two castles are very different. So, while it may seem that Disney might be “cheating” by placing “copycat” attractions in all the parks in more cases than not it’s because guests demand these attractions and want them.

  • Anjie

    I like that there are some familiar rides at each park but don’t feel as if they need to copy every popular or new ride at the other park. Little Mermaid is a nice ride for the kids but WDW already had Nemo which is so similar. Toy Story and Buzz are both great shooting rides. I would have been fine with one at WDW and the other at DLR. Carsland looks cool and I can’t wait to see it in California someday but to bring it to DHS, not excited about it. I’d rather them look into a Star Wars themed area. Universal seems to be doing the same thing these days with Harry Potter and Transformers. Not real thrilled about that either.

  • Leah Tuten Rollins

    What it really boils down to is money. The company spends millions of dollars in developing and building a new attraction. They can duplicate an attraction on the opposite coast for much less than it costs to create completely new and unique attractions for each resort. If you think about it, Disney has been doing this for years with its entertainment, specifically the parades. I’m sure there are many fresh ideas sitting around in Imagineering that would thrill Disney fans, but most of them will never be built because of the cost. It was the same back in Walt’s day, the same with Marc Davis and Tony Baxter and their generations of Imagineers.

  • Teresa M.

    For those of us who will likely only vist one or the other park in a lifetime, I think copycating is a fine idea. Who wants to miss out on what everyone else is enjoying on the opposite coast?

  • Jon Beer

    Toy Story does to the extent that it’s part of Pixar’s “studio”. Other than that the theming of the park has been lost since the mid-90s.

  • Lori Wagner

    If you really want to talk copycat attractions, why not mention the “filler” ride, or as park enthusiasts might call it, “off the shelf” rides. For example, Dumbo is considered “off the shelf” because you can find similar rides in amusement parks. In addition to Dumbo, you have variations of the same in both the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Triceratops Spin. At least the duplicated attractions on your list had some real Imagineering instead of some decent theming slapped on a spinning ride.

    • Nerio

      those “off the shelves” attractions are the one who completes the park and makes the other one less busy, so is about how you complete the experience through the parks

  • Nerio

    traveling to Disneyworld and Disneyland is always a big project for each family, you guys are forgetting something very special, they were built in each coast for the very most simple reason, not everybody will go (not even in a lifetime) to both parks, so the idea of bringing the experience to people (as many as possible) on each side… is like this, if you live in GA, you go WDW, if you live in nevada, you go Disneyland… is a simple market study, you even see it on the tv commercials, I happened to have the opportunity to go Yellowstone park a few years ago and all the Disney commercials, were about Disneyland, I live in VA and all what i see on tv is WDW commercials… so even they know is very much on purpose… on the other hand, and the same principle of new and unique experiences, the new fantasyland was the way to make it unique for WDW, while Disneyland has toontown… bad thing about it? no more mickey and minnie mouse house in WDW (I miss that)… in conclusion, there are some experiences (through rides and shows) that are so successful and so creative that worth bringing it to more and more ppl, even considering taking CarsLand to WDW, that would make more and more ppl to come back even more often… and ppl, dont think Disney would be cheap on their projects, the level of quality is always top rank and you know it, there is a difference in investing right and provide the right elements, just think about when you built your last house…

    • Karen Sparkle

      I haven’t ever seen any Park specific ads here on the West Coast, and I know a ton of people who travel to both Parks equally. I would say we travel more often to WDW, because we also love to cruise with Disney. Our hearts are set on going to DLR at the moment, because we really want to see Cars Land.

  • Karen Sparkle

    While I agree that some attractions should exist in both parks, I think that some should also be unique to that Park. Radiator Springs should remain in DCA, just as the Matterhorn does in Disneyland. I’m sure part of the plan is that Disney wants to attract more than just locals to DLR.

    I remember when I came across Soarin’ at Epcot that I was disappointed, not only because they had copied it from DCA, but that they didn’t make the effort for it to be different .. why couldn’t it be Soarin’ over Florida. Wouldn’t that make more sense??

    WDW has so much to offer that DLR can’t; Animal Kingdom, Epcot, water parks, golf courses, totally awesome themed hotels, and now a spectacular new Fantasyland. Come on Disney, share the love … let DCA have its moment to shine, without clouding it with rumors that HS will have it too.

  • Stephen Lim

    Ms. Mancini,

    I can sympathize with you in that ideally each resort should offer
    unique entertainment. In a realistic business world, though, it makes
    sense to condense both financial and mental resources. By developing a
    single idea and introducing it in two locations, such as what was done
    for the relatively new Little Mermaid attractions, Disney improves its
    efficiency. Isn’t it simpler to build two of the same successful
    attraction rather than spend the resources to develop a whole new set of
    concepts? And by staggering the openings by a year, Disney had insight
    on the successes and problems from the first Little Mermaid attraction
    in Disney California Adventure so that improvements could be made for
    the almost identical ride which officially opened four months ago at the
    Magic Kingdom in Florida. Disney is still in the business of making
    money. Where one views the cutting of costs as a loss of creativity
    another may see that decision as a method of efficiently allocating
    scarce resources for the overall benefit of the company.

    I also think there needs to be a sense of humility in that on a
    Disney fan site there is a larger than normal percentage of people who
    have visited both domestic Disney resorts. I, myself, have spent a
    decent amount of time on Disney property in both California and Florida,
    yet I recognize that a great majority of guests have not had this
    privilege. Do you think that there is a significant enough population
    that has visited both resorts and complains over attraction
    homogeneity? With The Disneyland Resort pulling its attendance heavily
    from local California and surrounding state residents, presumably, very
    few will have the opportunity to travel across the country to visit the
    Walt Disney World Resort, and even if they do, there are still enough
    unique attractions to satisfy a Disney veteran. The reciprocal is true
    for a guest more accustomed to frequent trips to Florida who decides to
    visit California. The identical attractions are not large enough in
    number to bar an avid Disney fan from having a unique experience when
    they visit another Disney Park. I understand that if Disney continues
    to go in this direction, the percentage of unique attractions may
    decrease, but I have faith that Disney will continue to roll out new
    ideas for each of its respective resort areas.

  • ZoAnn Schutte

    While I see where you’re coming from, I personally am glad WDW has some Disneyland copies.
    I have never had the opportunity to travel to DL, especially in my youth. Way too expensive in terms of travel and such. WDW for me is closer. This being the case I’ve only been there.
    I’d be super bummed if I missed out on staple attractions like It’s A Small World, The Haunted Mansion, or Pirates of the Caribbean because they were only at one park. WDW having the same rides as DL and other Disney Parks has not lessened my desire to attend the other park(s.) If anything it’s heightened it.
    Honestly, before I knew better as I kid, I was only 100% aware of WDW, and confused the name often with DL, thinking they were the same place. I’m sure lot’s of kids do this. So it helps that the parks have some similar attractions. It’d be hard to explain to a kid that they can’t experience such-and-such because it isn’t where they are. Then you have to explain to them why they are where they are and why they aren’t at the other place.
    Just my personal thoughts.

  • Tom Rieben

    They had to have Disneyland copies in Florida.
    Originally there wasn’t going to be a “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride in Florida, instead they where going to do a Western boat ride (similar concept and ride system, just cowboys instead of pirates).
    But people complained that there was no pirate ride so much the first year that they crammed a short version of it into Adventureland.
    Yeah it would have been cooler to see the western boat ride, but it’s like taking only one of your kids out for ice cream, the other kids feel left out.