UPDATED – August 2022
We didn’t plan on riding Rex’s Racer on our 2019 visit to Shanghai Disneyland . The new credit was tempting, but we assumed the line would be too long to be a good use of time – after all, we already had the Paris and Hong Kong ones.
On Shanghai Disneyland day the crowds were light, and when we checked out the new Toy Story Land, we noticed Rex’s Racer going out with empty seats. “Eh, why not” we said. After riding, it occurred to us that we’d now ridden every coaster Disney has ever built – but not for long. Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleds will open at Hong Kong Disneyland before we know it, and with no plans for a Hong Kong Disney visit in our near future, we know our every-Disney-coaster-ridden claim had an expiration date.
Naturally we decided to write an article ranking all operating Disney coasters – it may have taken years for us to get around to it, but we’ve finally put it together. We’re also pleased to include both Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Avengers Assemble: Flight Force in our latest revision!
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29. Goofy’s Sky School – Disney California Adventure
Our list begins with Goofy’s Sky School taking the dubious honor of “Worst Operating Disney Coaster.” (operating being the key word; Primeval Whirl is the worst coaster attraction in Disney History). When this basic Mack Wild Mouse opened in 2001 as Mulholland Madness, fans were disappointed to find that the ride was little more than an off-the-shelf coaster with low-budget theming. As Goofy’s Sky School, the ride’s has been cleaned up a bit, but it’s still Disney’s most blazé and cheap-looking coaster.
28. RC Racer / Rex’s Racer – Walt Disney Studios, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland
Not much can be said of Disney’s trio of gentle, forward-facing Intamin Half-Pipes other than that they seem to check a “flat ride box” more than a “coaster box.” The coasters make sufficiently thrilling (if short in duration) complements to the 3 small Toy Story areas they call home, and are quite charming with their oversized HotWheels orange trackbeds.
27. Goofy’s Barnstormer – Magic Kingdom
Despite being built for Mickey’s identity-crisis-kiddieland, Goofy’s Barnstormer fits comfortably in the improved, Dumbo-themed neighborhood of New Fantasyland. The first of Disney’s kiddie coasters, we have Barnstormer to thank for the trend of gentle little coasters in parks where the coasters were already pretty gentle to begin with.
26. Gadget’s Go-Coaster – Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland
For all the intellectual properties Disney maintains, it’s surreal to think that they once named an entire roller after a supporting character from a Saturday morning cartoon. Gadget’s Go Coaster is a memorable precursor to the larger-than-life attractions found at Toy Story Land – it’s a coaster where you ride in vehicles fashioned from acorns over a track and structure made of household objects. The coaster, like much of Toontown, still charms despite needing a facelift – we’re curious to see how Anaheim’s will look when ToonTown reopens in 2023.
25. Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster – Tokyo DisneySea
Our survey of Disney kiddie coasters now takes us to Flounder’s Fish Coaster – Tokyo DisneySea’s original coaster. For almost 5 years, “The World’s Most Beautiful” and/or “World’s Best” park, as it’s often called, had only a kiddie coaster (from Togo, no less) making up its coaster collection. The ride itself is cute and thoughtfully manicured like the rest of Tokyo DisneySea, and fortunately a more substantial coaster entry did arrive in time for the park’s 5th anniversary (more on that later).
24. Casey Jr., Le Petit Train du Cirque – Disneyland Paris
Powered coaster fans rejoice: Disneyland Paris’ Casey Jr. is a rare Vekoma powered coaster with impressive length and lovely views of Le Pays des Contes de Fées (Paris’ Storybook Land Canal Boats). Fun fact: Casey Jr. was also the first coaster to employ onboard audio – something that no new Disney coaster is seemingly complete without.
23. Slinky Dog Dash – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We’re now deep in Disney’s “kiddie coaster gray area” – everything smaller or more gentle than this is definitely a kiddie coaster, right? Still more gentle than your average Vekoma roller skater (thanks to Mack engineering out every vestige of a G-force), this adorable, over-sized monorail of a ride has about the same force threshold as sitting on your couch at home. At least its cute.
22. Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril – Disneyland Paris
Spots 21 & 22 are very similar, but anyone who’s ridden both Paris’ Indiana Jones and Tokyo’s Raging Spirits will tell you that they’re two very different experiences despite being basically identical. Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril was a hasty, budgetary push to give the failing EuroDisney resort a thrill ride. Atmospherically the ride has improved over time, with foliage growth and updated scenery pieces, and its delightful pacing and surprising forces have helped Indy shed its former identity of cheap laziness.
21. Raging Spirits – Tokyo DisneySea
Both Indy and Raging Spirits are clones of an unlikely subject – an extended Pinfari traveling looper. Nevertheless, Paris (and to a greater degree, Tokyo) proved you could do a lot to elevate an otherwise modesr coaster experience. Far from the quick n’ dirty motivation that built Indians Jones et le Temple du Peril, Raging Spirits was just a victory lap (let’s call it a “victory loop”) for the immensely successful Tokyo DisneySea. Never much a coaster resort to begin with, a compact looper to complement Tokyo Disney’s commanding lineup of dark rides and entertainment was just what they needed to cover all the bases – complete with a substantially higher theming budget than what EuroDisney could afford for Indy at the time. A con for Raging Spirts, however, would be its bulky, modified restraints and consequent height maximum – Indy’s standard Intamin restraints offer riders a bit more freedom.
20. Crush’s Coaster – Walt Disney Studios
Though this little ride gets some hate for having poor hourly capacity (though respectable for a typical park, even Walt Disney Studio’s relatively low attendance is too much for it), Crush’s Coaster is an underrated gem. If you can look past an obscene queue times threatening to mar the whole experience, Crush is a surprisingly potent thrill ride and an impressive repackaging of what is, for the most part, a standard Maurer Spinner. Everything between the 1st and 2nd lift of Crush’s Coaster alone is worth the trouble.
19. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Shanghai Disneyland
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, like Indy/Raging Spirits, is another duo that is *almost* interchangeable, but we definitely still have a favorite: believe it our not, we find that Shanghai Disneyland’s installation (which opened a little more than 2 years after Magic Kingdom’s) is just slightly inferior to the original. Shanghai’s has a lot more room to breathe – but we miss the way Orlando’s is sunken into the terrain. If there’s one strength that the Shanghai ride has over Orlando’s, it’s that they left themselves more room for landscaping on the ride’s perimeter. Also, if you’re lucky and get your timing right, you can ride this Snow White coaster in the actual snow.
18. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Magic Kingdom
Part of what makes Orlando’s Seven Dwarfs special is that it was a sorely-needed ride in a much-needed remodel of Fantasyland. We also love the views of the ride’s 2nd half from the Beauty and the Beast subsection of Fantasyland – the vantage point is a bit more compelling than Shanghai’s ground-level application of the ride. Most importantly, we have a beautiful scene rescued from Snow White’s Scary Adventures at the end of the Orlando version – Shanghai’s is a smaller, albeit still charming brake run scene.
17. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Magic Kingdom
Here’s where the race gets a little tighter – all of the Thunder Mountains and Space Mountains can start to run together, so we may split a few hairs with our ranking. We want to make clear that Big Thunder Mountain in Orlando isn’t a bad ride, per se: its biggest problem is that the other Big Thunder Mountains exist. Undermaintained scenery and an anticlimactic final 3rd are the main culprits – plus the harsh Florida weather just isn’t kind to the ride’s paint and landscaping (or lack thereof, in some cases).
16. Space Mountain – Magic Kingdom
To echo the previous thought, there’s no denying that a ride like the original Space Mountain is a good ride; it simply isn’t what it could be. Space always deserves points for blazing a trail of indoor coasters – a ripple effect still felt to this day worldwide – and it also deserves recognition for its unique layouts reminiscent of Matterhorn Bobsleds. While Orlando’s Big Thunder could use a touch of polish, Space Mountain could use a gallon: the vehicles, the station, the queue, the showbuilding – the list of things that need to be totally reimagined or totally removed on Space Mountain goes on and on. The good news? With TRON on the horizon, Space Mountain may finally be allowed to take a substantial sabbatical wherein the ride is finally brought to the 21st century.
15. Incredicoaster – Disney California Adventure
Look how they massacred my boy. Remember when Paradise Pier had finally hit that sweet spot of a strong attraction roster and a pleasant atmosphere? We had a good 10 years of that before Pixar Pier crash landed into our lives, bring with it gifts of tacky mediocrity garish enough to make even the Eisner years of California Adventure seem thoughtfully executed. While they can’t take away the near-flawless California Screamin’ at its core, they can certainly slap on easily the laziest reskin to ever befall a Disney E-ticket attraction. The biggest crime was the loss of Screamin’s superb and iconic onboard audio in favor of a grating mess of character dialogue.
14. Space Mountain – Tokyo Disneyland
The next three spots belong to the three “standard” Space Mountains; the success of Anaheim’s abridged Space Mountain in 1977 lead to an identical version at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and the ride is pretty much the same as it was when it debuted. We lovingly refer to it as “Analogue Space Mountain,” as it lacks any onboard audio or scenes – just the sounds of riders enjoying their flight through the pitch dark cosmos.
13. Hyperspace Mountain – Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disney’s Space Mountain is unique in that, unlike Anaheim’s, Hong Kong’s is Hyperspace permanently. Hyperspace Mountain is a fabulous overlay enjoyed by Disney fans the world over, and the commitment to the theme in Hong Kong is admirable – especially the X-Wing parked in what was once the ride’s overflow queue – though some of the lingering touches from 2005 still clash.
12. Space Mountain – Disneyland
Anaheim’s Space Mountain is easy to appreciate: the polish is leaps and bounds ahead of Orlando’s, or even Tokyo’s Space Mountain. The onboard audio, whether it’s Hyperspace, Ghost Galaxy, or the classic Space Mountain score, certainly take riders to another place. It also has a nice presence: unlike the Hong Kong version, which is just a solitary structure on an open midway, Anaheim’s is built into a mighty infrastructure that feels giant and substantial, and maybe a bit mysterious. After all, it’s hard to believe such a potent ride can fit under such a small roof.
11. Big Thunder Mountain – Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo’s Big Thunder is a nice level up from Orlando’s – at first glance the rides are quite similar, but Tokyo’s penchant for polish is quite clear here, especially in terms landscaping and smaller thematic touches. Tokyo Disneyland’s Railroad (here called Western River Railroad) features a unique layout that hugs Big Thunder Mountain, which in turn is snug in the bends of Rivers of America, giving this Big Thunder some stellar views. The ride’s final act is also a huge improvement over the Orlando version, but we won’t spoil it.