Theme park ride-based movies: Will 'It's a Small World After All' follow the trend?

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Image Credit: Disney

Bad news: Walt Disney World ride “It’s a Small World” is reportedly getting its own movie. Good news: Uh…

“Small World” has a nice enough premise — ride a brightly colored boat through the world’s countries, learning about their cultures through cutesy animatronic puppets and song. But as for movie potential? We’re not so sure about that.

Disney has pioneered the movies-based-on-rides trend, and so far, Disney rides are the only theme park rides to ever be turned into films. And while its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has done surprisingly well, other ventures into ride-based movies haven’t had as good a time. Could an “It’s a Small World” movie break that cycle? Maybe, and the upcoming Tomorrowlandco-written by EW’s own Jeff Jensen and starring George Clooney, could have better luck thanks to its big-name actors and Lost creator Damon Lindelof’s involvement.

With two Disney World-based movies on the horizon, here’s a look at all the ride-based films so far and how they did with audiences and EW’s own movie reviewers:

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Box office: $305.4 million domestic, $654.3 million worldwide
The attraction: A boat carries you on a voyage through the pirate-laden olden days. Argh?
The movie: All you really need to know is that Johnny Depp plays a Keith Richards-inspired pirate.
What EW thought: “Dead men tell no tales, the sea chantey goes, but neither will ticket buyers after sitting through this F/X-rattling Disney feature based on the Disney theme-park attraction and founded on the Disney notion that American character is best strengthened by exposing children to the horrors of computerized skeletal buccaneers: Minutes after we’ve left behind the clatter and spectacle, all remembrance of plot vanishes.” C – Lisa Schwarzbaum

The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Box office: $75.8 million domestic, $182.3 million worldwide
The attraction: Guests enter a haunted house full of animated graveyards, spooky musical numbers, and ghost holograms. And no, Tupac is not one of them. (Yet.)
The movie: A real estate agent brings his family along on a work trip to Gracey Manor and they soon find out the mansion will not be an easy sell.
What EW thought: “It should all work fine to amaze, or maybe just pacify, your 4-year-old, but The Haunted Mansion is tame and witless enough to make me long for the ancient, dusty fright kitsch of The Munsters.” D+ — Owen Gleiberman

Mission to Mars (2002)
Box office: $60.9 million domestic, $111 million worldwide
The attraction: Mission to Mars, a ride that took wannabe astronauts on a ride through space in a moving theater room, closed in 1992. There’s a similar ride at Disney World now called Misson: SPACE where you enter a tiny capsule and experience zero G as images of a computerized Mars flash in front of you, but the ride didn’t open until 2003, a year after the film was released.
The movie: A team of astronauts think they may have found water on Mars, but instead discover that Mars isn’t as friendly as they thought it was and actually contains serious dangers that end up killing a bunch of the characters. Dark.
What EW thought: “Mission to Mars wants us to think about lofty things: the bravery of explorers, the ingenuity of our nation’s space program, the humility required to comprehend the possibility that we earthlings are not the be-all and end-all of creation. But De Palma’s film is too embarrassed, too jittery and self-conscious to hush up and pay attention.” C- — Lisa Schwarzbaum

The Country Bears (2002)
Box office: $17 million domestic, $18 million worldwide
The attraction: Animatronic bears star in the Country Bear Jamboree, a show featuring a slew of country songs performed by the bears themselves. Sounds creepy, but is actually quite delightful.
The movie: Beary the bear runs away from his human family to join The Country Bears, his favorite rock band.
What EW thought: “The plot centers on the furry fellas’ reuniting to save their old concert hall from an evil banker, but the story moves so slowly and the production numbers are so inane, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to either grin or bear it.” C – Dalton Ross

Tower of Terror (1997)
Box office: The thriller was a made-for-TV movie so, sadly, we’ll never know how it would have done in theaters. It could have been a hit! (Probably not.)
The attraction: Sit in an elevator (the first tip-off that this isn’t going to be a normal elevator ride — who sits in elevators?) and scream a lot as it slowly crawls up… and then drops down. Terror, indeed.
The movie: After a spell gone wrong, guests to a 1930s birthday party get trapped in a house as spirits and can only leave if the house’s elevator is fixed.
What EW thought: Tower of Terror’s made-for-TV status foils the film again: It was never reviewed by EW.

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