Imagineers and Changing the Disney Classics

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jungle cruise

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney once famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” Disney theme parks are always changing and being improved upon and adding more magic than Guests could dream of. The Cast Members responsible for those changes are Disney Imagineers, and they bring Disney dreams to life.

Kevin Rafferty Imagineer
Credit: D23

While many fans love to see new things come to the Disney Parks — such as the newly opened Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure — there are some instances when changes can come with a lot of debate and a lot of pressure. The newest original series coming to Disney+, Behind the Attraction, will take a look at just some of Disney’s most famous attractions and tell origin stories, as well as the stories of how changes came about.

Behind the attraction
Credit: Disney

Before the series launches on Disney+ on July 21, Insider magazine sat down with a couple of Disney Imagineers who talked about the process that they go through when it is decided that an attraction should be updated or, in some cases, completely rethemed — such as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! at Disney California Adventure Park.

Mission: Breakout Building
Credit: Disney

Imagineer Jeanette Lomboy said that in order to figure out what direction to go in when making theme park changes, Disney Imagineers look to the past.

“One of the things that makes Imagineering so unique is that we are 66+ years old,” she said. “We’re tied to the opening design of Disneyland, and we have a long history and legacy of incredibly talented Imagineers that have brought these things to life, so we always go back.”

Disneyland Opening
Credit: D23

Fellow Imagineer Dave Durham also said that when changes are being made, Imagineers have to always think about how to bring the rides back and make them better than ever.

One way they do so, according to Durham, is by taking two major factors into consideration. First, Imagineers make sure that people who loved the original ride will love it “in a different way” once it’s updated. Second, Durham says he and other Imagineers try to remember that for other visitors, “their first time ever riding it will be the new version.”

“It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s something that we take very seriously,” he said.

Splash Mountain
Credit: ITM

Currently, Disney has two major rethemes in the works that have fans talking. Disney’s world-famous Jungle Cruise received rethemes at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World to remove aspects that many consider culturally insensitive. Disney World’s Jungle Cruise remained open during the changes, and Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise reopened earlier this month.

Jungle Cruise
Credit: Disney

Disneyland and Disney World’s Splash Mountain attractions are also slated to get a complete retheme to feature characters from the popular Disney film The Princess and the Frog (2009). The retheme plans were announced in 2020, but no start date nor opening date have been announced at this time.

Splash Mountain Concept Art
Credit: Disney

Disney Imagineers are not only responsible for the big attraction changes that Guests experience, but also for the smaller things that make Disney truly immersive — such as where to place benches, what color paint to use, and what kind of plants to feature.

Be sure to tune into Behind the Attraction when it premieres on Disney+ on July 21!

What is your favorite ride that has received an update from Disney’s amazing Imagineers? Let us know in the comments!

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