Unlike many of the new “E Ticket” attractions that have opened at Disney theme parks in the recent past, Runaway Railway will have no elevation restrictions, at least if it follows its Florida predecessor. Guests of all ages will be able to ride. This is a smart move from Disney.
It’s not that there is a huge group of young children that might prompt Disney to start building more games to accommodate preschoolers. America’s long-running infant bust continues. But an aging population creates its own demands on the theme park industry, including Disney.
There’s an old joke that we’re out of life when we get into it – bald, toothless and wearing diapers. Of course, many of us work hard to stay active for as long as possible, and countless amusement park enthusiasts are enjoying roller coasters and other thrill rides in the depths of their golden years. But bell curve fees for extreme tourist attractions. The more intense the vehicle’s physical experience, the more limited its audience will be, often focusing on younger, more physically active visitors.
Over the past decades, as ride systems have advanced to allow for more dynamic movement in a variety of environments, Disney Imagineers have benefited by creating new generations of innovative thrill rides: Star Tours, Indiana Jones Adventure, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Soarin’ and Radiator Springs Racers and – most recently – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Despite the popularity of each of these attractions, they left some Disney visitors behind. Their height restrictions deter younger riders, while their sometimes unbridled movement deters some of the older riders as well.Company legend has it that Walt filmed Disneyland while watching his daughters ride a roller coaster in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. He wanted to create a space where people of all ages could enjoy themselves. Subsequently, Walt’s first imaginators created many popular games with no height restrictions, including all-ages classics such as It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion.
But every generation demands new entertainment. Across the industry, as the number of teens and young adults swells, theme parks are adding more thrill rides, including Disney. Then, as numbers of young, action-loving visitors decline, parks are looking toward more docile attractions.
Although there are no height restrictions for the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad, it is a docile experience. Its broad appeal should help Disney maintain its leadership in the competitive tourism market after the shutdown. Visitors to Disneyland will soon see what Walt Disney World guests discovered when the cruise opened there in March 2020 — that talented designers can build an exciting attraction without turning away visitors who can’t, or wouldn’t prefer, silly flirtation.