We live in a world of franchise filmmaking, where any project is seen as more desirable by Hollywood if it has a recognizable name attached to it. That means lots of comic book superhero movies, as well as films based on books, TV shows, video games, and of course, remakes of movies we’ve already seen. But, Disney movies have yet one more place from which to draw recognizable IP: attractions from Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Rides at Walt Disney World and Disneyland have been the source of several previous projects, with mixed success, in the past (the less said about The Country Bears, the better), but we seem to be getting ready for a new push by the Mouse House to turn popular rides into films, as there are several in development. We know we’re going to see at least one of these movies on the big screen, and it seems more than likely that (unless something catastrophic happens at the box office with that one) the rest will also be on their way in short order.
When Disney’s Haunted Mansion movie arrives next year, it will be the studio’s second shot at transforming what may be Disneyland and Disney World’s most popular ride into a movie franchise. The first try starred Eddie Murphy ,and the movie was not the massive success that the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was, so while Pirates became a franchise, Mansion did not. This new entry will see Rosario Dawson as a single mom who moves into the titular Haunted Mansion and seeks help dealing with the 999 happy haunts from a priest played by Owen Wilson. The Haunted Mansion cast alone is worth giving this new one a chance.
Jungle Cruise 2
Disney’s Jungle Cruise was a victim of pandemic delays that saw the film starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt pushed back a year, before getting a hybrid release in theaters and on Disney+ as a premiere access title. While that made it difficult to judge the success of the film compared to traditional methods, as the box office was clearly not back to anything close to normal, Disney was a fan of what it saw and a Jungle Cruise sequel was greenlit shortly after the first film’s release. No story has yet been reveled, but one can guess we’ll see our two heroes cruising down a different major river in a jungle looking for a new mystical artifact. Also, lots more Jungle Cruise puns.
Pirates Of The Caribbean (With Margot Robbie)
The one clear success that Disney has had in transforming theme park attractions into films has been Pirates of the Caribbean, so it’s little surprise that, despite the fact that Disney and Johnny Depp have parted ways, the franchise is set to continue. There are actually multiple Pirates projects reportedly in the works. The most high profile of them would reportedly star Margot Robbie as a new pirate character, in a script written by Birds of Prey scribe Christina Hodson. Robbie has played coy when asked about the film, so its exact status is unknown, but it's hard to imagine this one not finding its way to the screen eventually.
Pirates Of The Caribbean (The Other One)
However, there is yet another Pirates of the Caribbean movie reportedly being worked on. Ted Elliott, who co-wrote the original Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, is said to have teamed with Craig Mazin to put together their own Pirates film. We don’t know anything more about this movie than we do the Margot Robbie one, but what's clear is that this is a separate film. It’s possible these two films will compete with each other, with Disney making the call based on which script the studio likes best. It could also be the plan to create a sort of POTC cinematic universe, with multiple films following different characters. Whether one or both of these movies is set to continue the world set forth in the previous films, without Jack Sparrow, or be something entirely new is one of the many questions we still have.
If you’re looking to make a thrilling movie out of a theme park attraction, it probably helps to start with a thrilling ride, which may be why, in October of 2020, it was reported that Disney was in very early stages of a movie based on the classic Space Mountain roller coaster. The script was set to be written by Joby Harold, and while we haven’t heard much about the film since the initial report, Harold has had his hands full producing the Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney+ until very recently. Now that the series has concluded, perhaps that means Harold will be able to turn his attention to this other Disney project and things will start to move forward. Having said that, Disney has had a surprisingly tough time with straight science fiction films, so this one might be the toughest sell to audiences.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The most recent addition to the list of movies based on theme park attractions is another of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom’s classic roller coasters, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The directing team of Bert and Bertie, who previously directed episodes of Hawkeye on Disney+, were chosen to helm the film after they reportedly wowed Disney with their concept for the project. What that concept is we don’t know, though one assumes we’ll get a western movie centering on a runaway train. It certainly has the potential to be the wildest movie in the wilderness.
While every Disneyland and Walt Disney World attraction has a story, they’re certainly not deep enough to carry a whole movie. In the end, these movies, like the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, will need to create interesting original characters and stories to fill in the story the ride itself tells. But, it has worked before, and it certainly can work again. If it does, we could see the premise of these potential hit movies actually circle back around and become part of the attractions that inspired them.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.