Frozen Fever may have swept through your house and the kids may know every line to the entire Toy Story franchise by heart, but is your family familiar with the characters and Disney movie references that are most common around the Disney World parks?
This blog post is all about the top movies to watch on Disney+ before going to Disney World, the movies that have the greatest presence in the parks. Watching them will enhance your vacation experience and hopefully prevent your kids from asking “who’s that?” 46 times a day!
Since you probably don’t have time to watch the entire Disney+ movie library, I’ve selected 10 essentials to watch before your trip. The characters, music, and scenes from these movies are featured most prominently in the parks, so knowing them will help you get the most out of your trip.
You don’t need to watch EVERY Disney movie since the 1930’s to prepare for a Disney World trip (although it would sure be a fun goal to try!). Some classics like Pinocchio, Bambi, and Lady and the Tramp are barely seen in the parks, so they should be at the bottom of your viewing list for trip preparation. Even the more recent films Wreck-It Ralph and Wall-E have extremely limited representation in the parks, if any at all.
So, these are the movies and selections on Disney+ that you should see before your Disney World trip. Want a printable checklist? Download a simple list of these movies below.
[The Basics] Movies to watch before your Disney World Trip
These ten movies are most recommended to enhance your Disney World experience. The movies and characters are featured prominently in the parks.
First, become familiar with the original, classic characters that Walt created. Watch a few original Mickey Mouse cartoons and other shorts with Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n Dale. These original characters are in every park, in parades and shows, in gift shops, on transportation buses … you name it! Don’t forget the one that started it all – Steamboat Willie. Find these on Disney+ by choosing “Disney” and then selecting “Mickey Mouse Through the Years” and “Vintage Disney.”
Cinderella is synonymous with Magic Kingdom. Her castle is the centerpiece of the park and the icon most commonly associated with all of Walt Disney World. Anyone visiting the parks should know the story behind this iconic castle! Inside the castle, there are gorgeous tile mosaics depicting scenes from the movie, Cinderella’s Royal Table is upstairs and one of the most difficult dining reservations to secure. She also meets nearby at Princess Fairytale Hall.
Snow White is the first full-length animated movie, so that milestone alone is enough to put it near the top of any Disney recommended viewing list. At Disney World, the most popular ride at Magic Kingdom is based on Snow White – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Snow White also meets in Germany at Epcot and has a fabulous character dining experience at Wilderness Lodge.
Beauty and the Beast has a presence in three of the four parks. At Magic Kingdom, an entire corner of Fantasyland is straight out of the movie including Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction, the Be Our Guest restaurant and provincial town with Gaston’s Tavern. Gaston meets in the village while Belle meets guests at Epcot in France. At Hollywood Studios, there is an entire stage show the recounts the movie several times each day.
Dumbo might not have the most thrilling ride at Magic Kingdom, but Dumbo The Flying Elephant is one of the most iconic rides at Disney World, featured in most commercials and was an opening day attraction at Disney World back in 1971. The ride is now located in Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus which also includes the Dumbo-themed Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station.
Peter Pan is the subject of one of the last remaining original Fantasyland dark rides at Magic Kingdom, Peter Pan’s Flight still draws long lines, Peter Pan meets guests and is frequently seen roaming around Fantasyland, Tinker Bell has her own FastPass-enabled meeting spot in Town Square, and Tink flies over the crowd during the Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular. It’s hard to miss Peter Pan references at Magic Kingdom!
Star Wars content can be found at Hollywood Studios with the Star Tours ride, Star Wars Launch Bay, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land all themed around the franchise. If you need to get started on the series, don’t get overwhelmed by all 9 episodic films and the additional “Star Wars Stories.” Start with the original three for the backstory (episodes 4-6) – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Then, watch at least the first movie of the recent trilogy, The Force Awakens, as those characters are seen roaming around Galaxy’s Edge and star in Rise of the Resistance. Continue with The Last Jedi so that you understand the craze of everyone wearing an adorable porg on their shoulder!
Toy Story has a presence at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Buzz Lightyear has his own ride – Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – at Magic Kingdom and he meets guests near the ride exit in Tomorrowland. There is an entire land set in Andy’s backyard at Hollywood Studios with three rides, character meetings, quick service dining, and a table service restaurant under construction. Watch at least the first two movies to meet most of the characters represented in this land.
Avatar has its own land at Animal Kingdom with two rides, a quick service restaurant (Satu’li Canteen), live entertainment, and gorgeous scenery. You can enjoy this land without seeing the movie, but you’ll appreciate it more having seen Pandora in the movie.
Up! is a must-see if you’re spending any time at Animal Kingdom. Russell and Dug meet in their clubhouse and they star in a live bird show. Kevin the bird roams around Discovery Island. Kids of all ages can participate in the Wilderness Explorers program scattered throughout the park. It’s impossible to visit Animal Kingdom and not run into Up! references so this is an unexpected must-see if you’ll be spending any time at that park.
[Beyond the Basics] More Disney Movies to See
Some movies have dedicated attractions at Disney World and a solid, but more limited presence in just one or two parks. These are the movies you should watch if you have time, after watching the basics!
A Bug’s Life – The Animal Kingdom show, It’s Tough to be a Bug, features Flik and other characters from the movie.
Aladdin – Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride is at Magic Kingdom and the song Friend Like Me is featured prominently in the Happily Ever After fireworks show. The characters also meet in Morocco at Epcot.
Alice in Wonderland – At Magic Kingdom, there is the Mad Tea Party ride and Cheshire Cafe (home to delicious Cheshire Cat Tail treats!). Alice meetings in the UK at Epcot.
Cars – Surprising for such a recent and popular trilogy, Cars is mostly unseen in the parks. Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is at Hollywood Studios.
Fantasia – Meet sorcerer Mickey Mouse at Hollywood Studios and see him perform in Fantasmic!
Finding Nemo – The Seas With Nemo and Friends is a ride and aquarium at Epcot and Finding Nemo: The Musical performs several times per day at Animal Kingdom.
Frozen – Frozen has taken over Norway at Epcot! The Frozen Ever After ride is there along with Anna and Elsa meeting in their Frozen 2 outfits. At Hollywood Studios, visit For The First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration and get a picture with Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight.
The Incredibles – At Hollywood Studios, The Incredibles have taken over Pixar Place. Meet several characters including Edna Mode and eat a delicious cookie num-num!
The Lion King – show at Animal Kingdom, Conservation Station animation
The Little Mermaid – ride and character meeting at Magic Kingdom, show at Hollywood
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – A ride of the same name is located at Magic Kingdom along with a Pooh and Tigger meet and greet, and character dining with Pooh and friends at the Crystal Palace.
Monsters, Inc. – The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is a fun show at Magic Kingdom while Sulley meets at Hollywood studios.
The Muppet Movie – The Muppets’ greatest presence is at Hollywood Studios at Grand Avenue where there is a MuppetVision 3D show, PizzeRizzo quick service restaurant, and Muppets-themed courtyard. The show Great Moments in History is shown at Magic Kingdom during times of high crowd levels and The Regal Eagle is a subtly-themed Muppets restaurant at Epcot.
Pinocchio – There is very little Pinocchio presence in the parks, mainly the themed Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant at Magic Kingdom. However, When You Wish Upon a Star is a classic so knowing its origins is highly recommended!
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl includes references in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Magic Kingdom. Also watch Dead Man’s Chest for the Davy Jones mentions.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – The stunt show at Hollywood Studios is based on scenes from this movie.
Ratatouille – Remy gets his own ride at Epcot later in 2020 and he is the subject of the World Showcase scavenger hunt during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.
Sleeping Beauty – Besides the magnificent steampunk Maleficent float in Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy parade and meeting Aurora in Epcot, there is little else from Sleeping Beauty in the parks, but watching such a classic is a must!
Swiss Family Robinson – Climb the Robinsons’ tree house at Magic Kingdom
Tangled – Besides a Rapunzel character meeting at Fairytale Hall and a feature song in the Happily Ever After fireworks show, Tangled’s most notable inclusion at Magic Kingdom is the themed restrooms – yes, they’re THAT lovely!
The Three Caballeros – Donald and the caballeros have their own ride in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion.
Halloween Watch List
If you’re visiting the fall, these movies are essential before attending Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
The Nightmare Before Christmas
How many of these movies have you watched?