Monday, April 25, 2011

Minnie Moms: Surprisingly Scary Attractions Part 2

Have you ever boarded an attraction vehicle only to find out too late that this ride you thought was simple was frightening to your child? The Minnie Moms discuss their experiences and ideas on Walt Disney World attractions that are surprisingly scary.

Janine: I think that this totally depends upon your kid or indeed, even the adult. My husband and I are pretty fearless when it comes to rides, in fact if one is slightly scary it just adds to the whole experience for us. But there are adults who won't ride The Mountains, The Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Rollercoaster etc. because they are afraid. Conversely, I've seen tiny kiddos only just tall enough to ride, squealing with delight and begging to do them over and over.

It also depends on your definition of scary. The one attraction I would have to be forced to do again because I was so nervous and uncomfortable throughout is ... Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom. Not because I'm frightened of one-eyed green aliens, I love Mike (with one I), but because of the audience participation. Believe it or not, I'm pretty shy. I hate being centre of attention. I'd rather run for 100 miles than do public speaking. So when the cameras started cutting to the audience and they had to do something like a silly dance in front of everyone, I actually felt sick for the duration of the show. So if your kiddo is shy too, I wouldn't recommend this attraction at all. Maybe it's an English thing though, because the American kids in there just adored being up on the screen, as they should.

If ExtraTerrorestrial was still at the Magic Kingdom, there's no way I'd take Tink on it until she was much older. I was 21 and was spooked. I'm still slightly wary of the Stitch version and won't take her on it on her first trip (she'll be 4). Another ride which always gets me is Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. I'm the same with the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios.  I love them, but my heart does flutter, especially towards the end. I also find Dinosaur a little bumpy. I'll consider taking Tink on this but I think it could freak out small children.

A definite one to think about seriously is It's a Bugs Life, also at Animal Kingdom. I'm terrified of spiders. I know when 'that bit' is coming now, and even at 29 on my last trip, I had to close my eyes and hug my husband for dear life until he says it's safe to look again. Every time we go into this attraction, I hear children screaming. And I don't mean happy, adrenaline screams like I make on ToT, I mean real cries of fright that don't stop. If your child is in any way, shape or form scared of insects, this is NOT the attraction for them.

Another one just to consider in my opinion is The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios. I think some of the scenes are quite intense, and the Alien one could potentially be a little scary. That being said I've not seen a child go into total meltdown on this ride so maybe today's kids are used to seeing more stuff like this on the TV and on video games?

So all in all, I really think each ride's potential scariness depends totally on an individual child. While some 4 and 5 year olds (so long as they are tall enough of course) will be ready for rides some adults are too scared to go on, other 9 and 10 year olds may not be ready. So it's best to plan ahead as much as you can and if you haven't been to WDW or on a certain ride before, read up on it beforehand or ask a CM what it involves.

As said, some are obvious. If your child is scared of water, don't go on Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom or Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom. But also be aware that things like It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom are also boat rides on the water. It's also obvious to avoid the coasters if they're scared of heights but both Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios are in the dark too, which can be extra fun or super frightening!

So if your little one has any fears, just check out any of the many guides or websites before you go, so you don't end up with a total meltdown mid attraction.

As a side note, I have heard parents say that their kiddos have never been upset by something before and yet had a major wobbly over something in the Parks. Just remember that heat, tiredness, being over excited or totally daunted can all add up to a child's worst nightmare. Don't panic or feel bad if kiddo kicks off during Talk with Crush in EPCOT when normally they watch Finding Nemo ten times a day. WDW is a massive explosion to the senses and it can just all be too much. Just be forewarned and be prepared, most things can be sorted out with a cuddle and a Mickey bar.

Amy:  My "Tink" has been to Walt Disney World twice now, once for her first birthday and again at 18 months.  Between her need for naps and my pregnancy on the more recent trip, she didn't ride much so we haven't yet personally experienced attraction meltdown. 

However, I have done some research on this for the future.  Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (2011) has some great information on attractions that can be too much for little ones.  The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2011 (Unofficial Guides) is another good resource for parents.  Arm yourself with some information and you can help keep your trip a positive experience for the whole family. 

Tink has been on Pirates of the Caribbean a number of times but has never had a problem.  However, if your child is scared of the dark, water, or pirate scenes, this might be one to walk past.  We also didn't have any problems on The Great Movie Ride, but I could see this being a little much for some children.  On each trip, we'll decide what is appropriate for the girls since what might not scare a one year-old could totally frighten the same child a little further down the road. 

Keep in mind that Disney does a great job of making pretend things look realistic and children don't yet have the capacity to separate reality and fiction.  Also, many indoor attractions take place in the dark.  This doesn't mean you should avoid the parks with small children, but rather, simply be aware of what fears your child may have.  Better to skip something this vacation instead of setting up a situation where they won't go on a ride for many years.  When I would go to WDW as a preschooler, my parents took me on Haunted Mansion and it scared the fool out of me.  It's a little embarrassing to admit this but I wouldn't go on it again until I was in high school and could appreciate the details of the attraction.

For Tink's first trip, we planned a couple of character breakfasts.  I was thankful that she loved Pooh and Tigger, but during my Cast Member days, I saw quite a few kiddos freak out when such a large creature was coming their way.  If you'd like to test your child in advance, take him or her to meet someone locally, maybe the Easter Bunny, a school mascot, etc.  Then you'll know their tolerance for characters.  Some kids are ok with a little distance, so please allow them just to wave from a few feet away, if that's what they are comfortable with.  Forcing them to hug a character just because you've paid for breakfast or park tickets isn't good for anyone.  Most kids are ok with face characters, so if Chip and Dale are too much on a particular trip, why not look for Peter Pan or Snow White instead?  (The only time Tink cried around a character was the Mad Hatter, but that was due to his obnoxious personality.  Seriously dude, sign the card and move on.  Don't harrass my 12 month old baby.)

Please also be aware that some attractions are rather long and you are stuck for the duration.  Ellen's Energy Adventure is 45 minutes long and has large dinosaurs.  We skipped this one in October.  I didn't want to risk a freak out with nowhere to go. 

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Disney's Hollywood Studios is a great show, but it's a little intense for small ones.  If you try it, shoot for a seat near the far end of the row so you can make a quick exit if needed. 

Fireworks can also be too loud for some children.  It wouldn't be a bad idea to try out the local 4th of July fireworks to see how your child reacts before waiting for a prime spot at Magic Kingdom.

And don't forget that you can always use FastPass and RiderSwap to minimize wait times if the adults in the group want to trade off going on an attraction the little ones are too nervous (or short) to try.

Cast Members are there to help, so feel free to ask questions before entering an attraction if you are unsure if it's a good idea.  They'll also help as much as they can if you do end up with a meltdown, because as all parents will surprise you. 

Thanks to Janine for joining me on this post and sharing her ideas.  Please check out our Minnie Moms page to find past topics and to learn more about these ladies' other projects.


  1. Yeah, Stitch's Great Escape was not good for my daughter...she was 4 at the time. Haven't tried again and that was 4 years ago. And she loved Haunted Mansion when she was 2 and 4, but when she was 5, she started having problems with it. Finally, last trip she was 7, she would ride without keeping her eye closed.

  2. Hoping Tink won't be too scared of hints in 2014

  3. Hints? Silly iPad! I meant rides lol


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