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My favorite Disney storytelling roller coasters – DePaoli on DeParks


by Jeff DePaoli

I am not a roller coaster fan. There, I said it. I know this may upset some of you, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t like certain roller coasters. I’m just missing the gene that gets excited when you see those steel tubes intertwining in the air.

roller coasters

I actually think they’re fairly ugly, especially if they’re blocking the view of another beautiful scenic element. There are exceptions in the case of something like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad—which does a great job of working the coaster into the scenery—but when it’s just track in the air, it’s usually a hard pass for me. I’m more interested in the story, effects and scenic elements than I am about the thrills. So today, I decided to share with you what I consider to be some of the best storytelling roller coasters in a Disney Park.

roller coasters

Let’s begin with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Although the track is just a steel coaster with painted neon flats, the attraction does have a beginning, middle and end to its story. It sets it up nicely in the preshow, where the guests are being invited by Aerosmith to their concert on the other side of town. After we board the “super stretch” limo, we ride through iconic Hollywood landmarks until we reach our final destination at the concert. It’s not a complex story, nor does it have too much in particular to do with Aerosmith, but I actually think that’s pretty smart. If Disney wanted, they could easily swap out Aerosmith for another band with minor tweaks. Granted, it’s been over 20 years since the attraction opened with Aerosmith, but you never know what Disney has up their sleeve.

When I initially started thinking about this subject matter, I thought for sure that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom would be on my list and that Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure was a big maybe, but the reality is that latter actually has a much stronger story than the former.

roller coasters

When it comes to scenic design, animated figures and spectacle, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train wins hands down. For the most part, you can’t even call the characters in Incredicoaster animated, as they’re simply statues. But with Incredicoaster, there is the story of the Parr family having to catch Jack-Jack as he wreaks havoc. In the case of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, what exactly is the story? It’s more simply an encounter with the seven dwarfs as they work away in the mine.

I’m sure there’s little surprise when I mention Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom as what I consider to be the best storytelling roller coaster at a Disney Park. Perhaps Space Mountain is more iconic, but Expedition Everest does a wonderful job setting up and telling a story. Even simply the full title of the attraction, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, lets you know that you’re not simply going for a roller coaster ride; you’re taking part in a legend.

Throughout the queue, it is clear that you’re going on an expedition and that there have been sightings of the yeti. Once on board, the ride starts as a pleasant and scenic ride, but once you see those broken tracks with no further to go, the story really gets interesting. You’ll eventually come across the yeti, first as a silhouette and then as a large figure. Disco Yeti jokes aside, even in its immobile state, it’s still a sight to see and makes a big impression. Expedition Everest is the perfect mix of strong story with beautiful, detailed scenery and effects.

It just goes to show that even for a non-coaster junkie like myself, Disney has a way of creating a story around roller coasters that even I find enjoyable. They do a great job working their coasters into the surrounding environment, and when it is simply a steel coaster, it’s usually enclosed inside of a building hiding the un-themed eyesore.

What would you consider to be the best storytelling coaster in a Disney Park? Do you prefer that coasters have a strong story or is it more about the thrills for you? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.


Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.

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