For the most successful movie franchises, being able to go on a ride based on a kid’s favorite movie or TV show is the ultimate dream. Not surprisingly, then, the majority of rides are not wholly originals but are based on successful movie franchises. What’s even better is if the original actors reprise their role from the original movie on the ride or show, lending an authenticity and excitement to that ride. Here are actors who reprised their roles in Disney theme park rides.
In 2011, the original Star Tours in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and Tomorrowland in Disneyland) was updated with a new computer animated 3D ride. This ride was made for the repeat rider, with multiple beginnings, middle segments and endings for a total of 96 different rides. The idea is that Star Tours is touring service through the Star Wars galaxy, but since the Tour (led by C-3PO and RD-D2) is trying to return a spy to the rebel alliance, the Galactic Empire is after Tour speeder. Many of the actors from the original reprised their original roles, including Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, Frank Oz as Yoda and unused archival footage paired with new audio recorded for the ride used Carrie Fisher’s princess Leia.
One of the last projects with direct involvement from the original creator, Jim Henson, Muppet Vision 3-D, a 3-D show, was released in 1991 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The storyline is the Muppets are preparing sketches to demonstrate the 3-D technology. In typical Muppet fashion, though, everything goes wrong when Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s 3-D sprite Waldo escapes and causes trouble and mayhem. All of the regular players from the Jim Henson productions reprise their roles made famous from the TV shows and movies: Jim Henson plays Kermit, Waldorf, and the Swedish Chef; Frank Oz plays Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Sam Eagle; Dave Goelz plays Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Zoot, Richard Hunt plays Scooter, Statler, Beaker, and Sweetums.
Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable: is a 12-minute video starring the characters from the Lion King in the Land Pavilion in Future World in Epcot. After some introductory narration by Mufasta, Timon and Pumbaa are seen chopping down the rain forest. Simba quickly stops them and, using footage from the previous film, convinces Timon and Pumbaa about the importance of conservation. From the original film, James Earl Jones reprised Mufasta, Nathan Lane reprised Timon, and Ernie Sabella reprised Pumbaa.
Stitch’s Great Escape, in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, is a “theater in the round” production where all of the audience strapped in seats and are recruits in the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center who are told to keep an audio-animatronic Stitch from escaping…which he does, of course . Chris Sanders, who played Stitch in the original production, returns, as does Kevin Michael Richardson, who played Captain Bantu, and Kevin McDonald, who plays Pleakley.
Other rides which have some of original cast include: It’s Tough to be a Bug, a 3-D show where Dave Foley reprises his role as Flik from A Bug’s Life (all the other voice actors are new to the production; including ) in Animal Kingdom; and The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror which uses a snippet of Rod Serling’s actual voice from the original Twilight Zone TV show (though most of it was recorded by a new voiceover actor, Mike Silverman).
All of these rides and show can be found in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Join me next time when I detail the actors from the original productions reprise their roles for the rides at Universal Studios.