Disney’s First Ride-Based Movie Was A Bonkers Sci-Fi Film From 'Scarface's Director
This weekend, Disney’s latest cinematic adventure/bloated theme park commercial hits theatres/any TVs strong enough to contain the raw charisma of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Of course, we’re talking about Jungle Cruise, based on the beloved, and like third-most racist Disneyland ride.
At this point, it seems like Disney will literally turn any of their attractions into a feature film; they’re literally planning a movie based on the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride, which sadly won’t be a fantastical reboot of Cool Runnings. But the origin of this lucrative sub-genre wasn’t exactly smooth. Sure, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise made a lot of dough, but the first-ever movie based on a Disney ride was Tower of Terror, the forgettable 1997 TV movie starring Steve Guttenberg and a young Kirsten Dunst -- who was yet to realize her potential as someone way too good for a Steve Guttenberg TV movie
Weirdly, the first theatrical film based on a Disney attraction was, um, Mission to Mars? Yup, the 2000 Brian De Palma-directed sci-fi movie released by Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures was loosely inspired by the Tomorrowland ride of the same name. But unlike the ride, the movie takes a left turn into heady, 2001-inspired revelations about human existence. Not to mention the conspicuously un-Disney-like scene in which Tim Robbins removes his space helmet and immediately dies, leaving his wife to watch as his disfigured corpse slowly floats away in the vacuum of space. Now, who wants a turkey leg?
Because then-CEO Michael Eisner was “nervous” about releasing movies based on rides, the connection between the two was downplayed. It’s “unclear” whether De Palma himself even knew that the movie had ties to the Disneyland simulator, which began as “Rocket to the Moon” when the park first opened and was later rebranded as “Mission to Mars” in 1975, before closing in the early ‘90s. Despite the fact that the movie bombed, the ride was eventually resurrected in 2003 as “Mission: SPACE” featuring Mission to Mars co-star Gary Sinise.
So remember when you’re watching Jungle Cruise with your family this weekend that, in a way, it owes a debt to the director of Dressed to Kill and Body Double.
Top Image: Touchstone Pictures