Passive vs. Active vs. Interactive theme park rides – DePaoli on DeParks

Theme park attractions have changed a lot through the years. What began as a very passive experience has become an active one where you, as the guest, get to personally experience the action. And these days it’s very common for guests to interact with attractions, therefore affecting the outcome. Let’s take a look at the different styles of theme park attractions through various examples.

theme park rides

If you look at two of Disney’s most iconic attractions, both Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are passive experiences. Riders are simply witnessing the events happening around them. We are the audience and whether or not we’re there doesn’t really affect the outcome. Interestingly, both of these passive attractions have had modern versions created where the rider is a more active member.

pirates of the caribbean

In the most recent iteration of Pirates of the Caribbean at Shanghai Disneyland, guests experiencing Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure are in the middle of the action. You even have an Audio-Animatronic Jack Sparrow, and other characters, speaking directly to the riders. This is a much different experience than simply eavesdropping on conversations as we do in the other Pirates attractions. Similarly, in Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of the Haunted Mansion, Mystic Manor, guests once again find themselves as part of the action instead of simply onlookers.

One of my favorite examples of an active attraction is Indiana Jones Adventure. In this attraction, not only does Indiana Jones talk directly to you, but you really feel as though you are part of an epic Indiana Jones movie. It’s because of you, the rider, that things go wrong in the first place. We are blamed for looking into the eyes of Mara. At which point, things go terribly awry and we need to race through the temple in order to make our safe return home. Along the way, we’ll escape an encounter with a giant snake, narrowly avoid being crushed by a giant boulder, and so much more.

indiana jones adventure

In more recent years, attractions have gone beyond being simply active and are now interactive. In a lot of these cases the ride is gamified, and you collect points along the way. Some examples include Toy Story Mania, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, and Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge.

Of these three types of attractions, my personal favorite would be an active attraction. I like to be part of the adventure, but I don’t feel the need to have a responsibility throughout the ride. Having to throw webs in order to destroy Spider-Bots, or “toss” various items in order to knock digital players off of a race course makes me feel less connected to the ride. I say that as someone who isn’t much of a gamer in the first place, so perhaps these sorts of attractions are designed more with gamers in mind. There are many gamers in the world and they may feel this added gameplay enhances the experience.

super nintendo world

Whenever I ride an interactive attraction, I’ll always take part the first few times. But after that I’ll often sit back and take it all in. I started doing this because it came to my attention that in these game-like attractions, I was missing a lot because I was so focused on a target. I don’t think the story is conveyed as well as when you’re on a passive or active attraction. Even if you’re a fan of interactive attractions, I encourage you to just sit back and watch sometime. Score a “0” and be proud of it.

What do you think? Do you prefer a passive, active or interactive attraction? What are some of your favorite examples? Leave a comment and let me know.

Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles.

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 DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.


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One Comment

  1. An old favorite is Carousel of Progress a chance to get out of the sun cool off and sit down and enjoy to see how far we’ve come. We always make a stop here when we visit.