On Thursday, Disney announced it would be closing its American parks on Saturday and for the rest of March. (Two weeks seems awfully optimistic—they should be hoping that they don’t have to close for the rest of the year.) The closures of the leisure behemoth’s Asian parks (since January) and that of its Disneyland Paris park (also announced Thursday) mean that as of Saturday, there will be no Disney park operating on the planet. This is bad news for people who enjoy joy.
But as someone who has taken every offered opportunity to visit a Disney park, as someone who has made plenty of my own opportunities, and as someone who lives in a perpetual state of excitement for the next time I get to walk through those enchanted gates, I believe there exists a minor remedy for FOMOOD (that’s Fear Of Missing Out On Disney): online ride-through videos. There exists something of a cottage industry of YouTube videos showing the full experience of rides at Disney (and other parks)—often from line to drop-off. To be clear: There is no true substitute for the real thing, and the enjoyment of this type of video is inversely correlated to the amount of physical thrills the ride purports to offer. Obviously, G-force cannot be transmitted through YouTube, so watching POV rides of rollercoasters will probably give you faint vertigo and minor jolts, at best.
But the ride-throughs of dark rides—the slow-moving attractions that guide riders through truncated narratives of Disney movies, for example—are where it’s at. Oh do I love them. I watched one years ago of the Alice in Wonderland dark ride that is exclusive to Disneyland and it basically spoiled the experience once I finally got to ride the actual ride last year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did and it’s absolutely my favorite dark ride of all time (it’s just wild that the thing will turn 62 this year—it’s been refurbished since opening in 1958 but it’s largely the same ride it’s always been and it’s just an incredible assisted hallucination). But I had largely absorbed the experience from afar without leaving my home. And you can, too.
For many of these rides, there are 360 videos available, allowing you to virtually look around (these are particularly immersive if you can view them through a VR machine like an Oculus). I find that the image quality on these isn’t always as good as the stationary videos, but hey, give it a (literal) whirl and see what you prefer:
I also recommend The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Ugh, the “Under the Sea” party scene and Ursula’s heaving mannerisms are (chef’s kiss).
Epcot’s Frozen Ever After boat ride is a winner, though it does include a light drop in the middle of it that cannot be telegraphed virtually:
Hong Kong Disneyland’s exclusive Mystic Manor is incredible, I am certain, without ever stepping foot in the park that is its home. (As explained on the Disney+ series The Imagineering Story, this ride was devised as a ghost-free version of the Disney staple The Haunted Mansion to reoutfit the concept for Chinese culture.)
There are so many more! Rides like Animal Kingdom’s Na’vi River Journey (based on Avatar), Disneyland’s Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, the total o.g. classic Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Peter Pan’s Flight (my favorite dark ride previous to experiencing Alice). And of course, there is It’s a Small World:
I don’t mean to be cheeky or glib, but this ride takes on a new kind of meaning in the age of global pandemic. Still kicks ass regardless.