The “popularity” of a Disney ride is difficult to quantify. When a technically elaborate, massively publicized new ride, like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, debuts, it’s bound to see some huge popularity in terms of wait times. (And we can see why: Get a look at the behind-the-scenes of this incredible ride!) But then there’s the enduring popularity of more “classic” rides that were around when there was only one park, 1955’s Disneyland—rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion that Disney die-hards can’t quit. (Again, we can’t blame them.)
But what is easy to quantify is the ride that has had the most different versions. There’s one Disney ride that has (or has had) a version at every major Disney resort, plus an online version, as well as a version (more or less) in the defunct DisneyQuest arcade. Surprisingly, it’s not one of the rides that’s been around since the beginning. It’s a ride that debuted in 1998. The Disney park ride that’s seen the most different iterations is Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
You’ll find the original version of this ride in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. It’s an interactive dark ride; riders help Buzz Lightyear defend the galaxy from Emperor Zurg and his evil toy-sabotaging army. Each ride vehicle is equipped with a laser blaster for each rider, and guests actually get points based on how many targets they hit. Get the maximum score, 999,999 points—yes, it is possible—and you’ll become the stuff of Disney legend. The elusive top score on Space Ranger Spin is a reality, but find out the truth behind these 12 popular Disney park rumors.
The ride’s history
Imagineers created this ride for a couple of reasons. Toward the end of the 1990s, the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was in desperate need of a new long-term attraction, and Disney saw an opportunity to promote the upcoming Toy Story 2. The film wouldn’t come out until 1999, but, after several lackluster attempts at air travel-themed attractions throughout the 1980s and ’90s, a Tomorrowland update couldn’t wait.
The announcement of the ride was actually met with some serious disapproval. Toy Story had come out in 1995 and seen major success, but Disney park purists were downright scandalized by the idea of a ride based on a film that wasn’t 100 percent Disney. Today, of course, Disney parks are full of attractions based on Pixar films, and Pixar is a subsidiary of Disney. But things were different back then. In 1991, tiny fledgling studio Pixar had sold the rights to their first seven films, including Toy Story, to Disney—but Disney didn’t fully own Pixar, or actively produce content for their films, yet.
Despite the initial outrage, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was a massive success when it opened in November 1998—and it continued to be successful. It was a simple concept with undeniable widespread appeal. Everyone from kids to their parents to nostalgic twenty-somethings could appreciate the joy of a fun, visually impressive ride mixed with an adrenaline-hyping gaming element. Soon, the ride was more than popular enough to merit new versions for the other Disney parks—and it got them. See if it’s one of the Disney World rides we think every guest should go on twice.