Posted by: Jacquie Fisher   

23 Must See Movies Before Your Visit to Walt Disney World

Put a few of these must-see Disney movies on your list for family movie night before your next trip to Disney World!

Is a visit to Walt Disney World in your future? 

Lucky you! 

My parents have retired in Florida so we have been blessed to visit the parks a few times. 

The first time we climbed into the Swiss Family Robinson's treehouse and sailed the raft to Tom Sawyer's Island, my kids were confused.  They hadn't seen either of the movies and once I explained they were 'live action', the kids were surprised to know there were non-animated Disney movies!

Our family movie nights expanded to include some of the older, non-animated features that I enjoyed as a child and quickly became family favorites.

So before you head off to enjoy 'the happiest place on Earth', there are a few must-see Disney movies (along with some non-Disney movies) that will help to enhance your visit to the parks!

 

The BEST movies to see before going to Disney World 

Top Disney Movies to See before Going to Walt Disney World

We love connecting movies to life, especially travel (have you seen our list of10 Terrific Road Trip Movies for Kids?!)

There are so many rides & attractions that are based on a famous Disney film. 

For example, one of the most well-known and photographed attractions is the Dumbo ride at Walt Disney World.  While we could have included Dumbo as a recommended film, you can really enjoy the ride without knowing the details of the movie.

For this list, we focused on movies that would enhance your visit to the Disney World parks -- these are films that will really help your kids to understand more about some of the theming used in the rides, attractions and shows throughout the parks.

For each movie, we've included details about which rides or attractions are connected to the film along with affiliate links so you can learn more about the movie (in case you haven't yet had the chance to see it!).

Here are our top movie picks for the four Walt Disney World parks!

 

Toy Story

Toy Story tops my list for a few reasons - the Buzz Lightyear Space Spin ride at the Magic Kingdom and the (very popular) Toy Story Mania ride at Hollywood Studios. 

Both are worth riding, especially for families as they offer an opportunity for families to compete to see who can score the most points.

 

Finding Nemo

Another great movie to see as it covers a few attractions at WDW is Finding Nemo

The first is The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT.  Climb on the 'clamobile' for a fun adventure with all the characters from Nemo; and at the end of the ride, explore a great under sea area with live animals and some of the characters from the movie.  Younger kids will love 'Turtle Talk with Crush', located in the same area.

You'll also want to catch the 'Finding Nemo - the Musical' at Animal Kingdom.  When we visited, half of our party hadn't seen the movie prior to this AMAZING show.  We found ourselves explaining a few things but we all enjoyed the show (in fact, we felt it was one of the best shows at the Disney parks!) And if you're a fan of ocean creatures, try these 18 Awesome Ocean Activities to go with the movie too.

 

Peter Pan

Yes, you could ride Peter Pan's Flight at Magic Kingdom without seeing the movie, but flying over London and on to Neverland is so much more fun when you have seen Peter Pan

And of course, there's all the Tinkerbell experiences at Disney that also tie into this film (I know Tinkerbell has her own movies, but it's always great to see where characters started their journey).

 

Swiss Family Robinson

One of the old classic films from Disney, Swiss Family Robinson is still appealing to kids today.  What would you do if you were shipwrecked on a desert island?  Visiting the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in the Magic Kingdom is so much more fun once you've seen the movie! 

Did you know that Swiss Family Robinson was first a book?  If you like book/movie combos, be sure to see our list 25 Best Kids Books Made into Movies.

 

Lion King

In addition to the amazing theming at the Animal Kingdom related to the movie, you should also see The Lion King if you plan to watch the parade or see the Festival of the Lion King - both at Animal Kingdom.  There are areas of Animal Kingdom that reference the characters in the movie too, such as Rafiki's Planet Watch. 

At EPCOT, you can experience the 'Circle of Life' - an environmental film for families that includes live action & animation (and of course features some of the main characters from the Lion King).

 

 

 

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is also a film that transcends a few of the parks.  First, the Beaty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios is a live action show based on the movie.  Kids who know the songs will love to sing along at this musical performance. 

And coming in late 2012, the newest part of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom will include Belle's cottage, the Be Our Guest Restuarant, and Enchanted Tales with Belle.

 

Fantasia

If you enter Hollywood Studios, your first question might be "What's that big blue hat?" - but if you've seen Fantasia , you'll know!  Mickey's sorcerer's hat is one of the most famous symbols in the parks (but sadly, some folks have never seen the movie that made it so famous). The movie itself is also part of the exciting nighttime show 'Fantasmic', which is shown at Hollywood Studios on certain nights.

You'll also see the hat and the magic in the Magic Kingdom at Mickey's PhilharMagic, a 3D show where Donald borrows Mickey's hat and gets himself into some trouble!

 

Tom Sawyer

Not as good as the book, but entertaining for kids is the movie Tom and Huck .  The movie is based on the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - both by author Mark Twain. 

And if your kids plan to search the caves and look for paint brushes on Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom, knowing the story makes it more fun to explore!

 

The Little Mermaid

Watching The Little Mermaid before your trip will help the kids to recognize the wonderful characters they will encounter in a variety of locations.  A favorite princess, Ariel can also be found at more than one park.  In Hollywood Studios, families can experience a very fun show at Voyage of the Little Mermaid - great effects and puppets integrate with live action! 

And coming soon to the new Fantasyland expansion in the Magic Kingdom will also feature an amazing Little Mermaid ride as they continue to add on to that area of the park. 

 

Monsters, Inc.

Ah, those lovable monsters in your closet!  If you love humor (and most kids do!), they will love Monsters Inc .  Be sure to stop by the Monster's Inc. Laugh Show at the Magic Kingdom. 

My kids thought it was amazing that they could ask questions to the monsters and have them answer!  And you can also text in jokes to see if yours gets told to the audience.  The monsters also show up in the parade at Hollywood Studios.

 

Lilo & Stitch

Stitch shows up in the weirdest places at WDW - like crawling out of the cement in one of your photos as you enter Hollywood Studios. 

Lilo & Stitch will introduce the kids to this funny (and sometimes creepy) alien and also some of the Hawaiian culture they may encounter if you stay at the Polynesian Resort (where Lilo & Stitch both make an appearance at the character breakfast).   Kids may also want to become part of the Galactic Federation as they ride Stitch's Great Escape at the Magic Kingdom. 

This is also a great movie to see if you ever plan to visit Disney's Resort in Hawaii -- you can read more about that here: 9 Must-do Activities at Disney's Aulani Hotel & Resort

 

 

    

Little Einsteins & Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Also at Hollywood Studios, young kids will enjoy the Disney Jr. live-action stage show that features Jake & The Never Land Pirates , Disney's Little Einsteins , Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Handy Manny .  Parents may want to watch a episode or two so you can sing along with the catch music during the show :)  There's also some great photo opps with the characters in the park too.

 

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

If you're trying to get the kids to burn off some energy, you can stop at the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure at Hollywood Studios (which is really a HUGE playground based on the movie). If you see the movie, you'll realize that as you navigate the various elements of the playground, you are suppose to feel like a kid the size of an ant - very cute details here!  This movie also made our list of 12 Movies that will Inspire Kids to Tinker.

 

A Bug's Life

Anyone will enjoy the 4D 'It's Tough to be a Bug' at the Animal Kingdom (Disney says 3D but trust me, there's a fourth dimension to the show!)  The show is hosted by Flik from A Bug's Life who brings along many of his friends.  The bugs also show up in the parade at Hollywood Studios.

 

Song of the South

If you want the kids to find their 'laughing place' when they ride Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom, make sure to find this old movie at your local library or video store.  It really adds a lot to the ride - you'll understand the antics of Brer Rabbit so much more! 

I will say the movie is difficult to find as there is some controversary surrounding the racial messages that were portrayed in this 1946 film so if you can't find the movie, do try reading the story where you can skip over or discuss any issues that could be considered offensive.

 

Mary Poppins

At the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios, one of the few scenes that young kids will recognize comes from Mary Poppins .  This is also one of the most popular Disney musicals, so you'll hear songs from the show and see the word 'supercalifragilistic' referenced throughout the parks.

 

The Wizard of Oz

The other popular scenes seen at the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios are from The Wizard of Oz (no, not a Disney film).

 

Bonus:  Lady & the Tramp

If you're having lunch at Tony's Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, you'll get 'extra points' if you can answer the questions from the waiter (all from Lady and the Tramp ).  You'll also enjoy some of the connections you'll see during your visit if you've seen the movie.

 

New additions (2015) -- 

 

One of the newest attractions in the Magic Kingdom is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (which is actually a rollercoaster).  The theming and songs on this ride are right out of Disney's first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The concept of 'working in a mine' is a foreign one to many kids of this generation so seeing the movie will help them understand the barrel cars and other items they will see in the queue and during the ride.

 

For Older Kids:

Star Wars

Not a Disney film but a great combination of movie & ride - seeing Star Wars will help as you ride Star Tours at Hollywood Studios.  You may also get a chance to bat lightsabers with Darth Vader as you tour the park.  And younger kids can attend the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios too!

For 2016, there are a number of new Star Wars activities being added to the parks so be sure you're up on the series!

 

Pirates of the Caribbean

Now that Captain Jack Sparrow has been added to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Magic Kingdom. 

So if you haven't seen Pirates of the Caribbean before your visit, you'll probably want to on your return.  Captain Jack also hosts his own pirate tutorial for kids in the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland.

 

The Twilight Zone

Thinking of riding the Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror? 

If you have brave kids who love the supernatural, you may want to introduce them to one of the original Twilight Zone episodes before the trip.

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark

There are a few attractions at Hollywood Studios that relate to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

The first is the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular! (popular with tweens and teens).  You'll also see Raiders as you travel through the Great Movie Ride too!

 

And for a great experience on the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios, I would also recommend seeing the following two movies as older kids will enjoy the ride more if they are familiar with some of the scenes from these two classic films.

 

Singin in the Rain

 

Casablanca

 

MORE DISNEY & TRAVEL ACTIVITIES:

Disney at Home: 5 Free Finds

9 Must-do Activities at Disney's Aulani

Travel Planning & Packing List for Family Trips {free printable}

Why Kids Should Travel & What They can Learn on the Trip

 

Top Movies to see Before Going to Walt Disney World

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Comments

 
Jacquie Fisher on Friday, 17 August 2012 13:28

Great list of Disney movies (or movies with rides at Disney). I really like the concept of reading & watching media on the destination prior to going...it not only helps educate us about the destination, it more importantly gets kids excited about the trip!

We recently went to Metropolis IL (the Home of Superman) and prior to the trip read Superman books & watched some Superman cartoons with our son...which got him very excited for the trip.

Great list of Disney movies (or movies with rides at Disney). I really like the concept of reading & watching media on the destination prior to going...it not only helps educate us about the destination, it more importantly gets kids excited about the trip! We recently went to Metropolis IL (the Home of Superman) and prior to the trip read Superman books & watched some Superman cartoons with our son...which got him very excited for the trip.
Jacquie Fisher on Friday, 17 August 2012 21:17

Adam - Wow! I didn't realize you could visit the home of Superman - that's so cool! I saw an article not long ago about visiting the house where "A Christmas Story" was filmed and thought that would be a fun trip. And I agree with you - reading/watching before the trip does get the kids excited about planning and going to the destination! Thanks for stopping by!

Adam - Wow! I didn't realize you could visit the home of Superman - that's so cool! I saw an article not long ago about visiting the house where "A Christmas Story" was filmed and thought that would be a fun trip. And I agree with you - reading/watching before the trip does get the kids excited about planning and going to the destination! Thanks for stopping by!
Guest - Cindy on Monday, 03 September 2012 02:42

The movie Tower of Terror is another suggestion. great list!

The movie Tower of Terror is another suggestion. great list!
Guest - SuperJenn on Monday, 12 November 2012 21:16

We also went to Metropolis...on our drive to Disney this past spring! Unfortunately...it was 6AM so we just got to look around ...but we were THERE! LOL

Great list, Jacquie!

We also went to Metropolis...on our drive to Disney this past spring! Unfortunately...it was 6AM so we just got to look around ...but we were THERE! LOL Great list, Jacquie!
Guest - Jaymie Shook on Thursday, 14 February 2013 18:01

WONDERFUL idea :) We hope to go for Halloween this year. Our little guy will be two-and-a-half. This will keep his dad and me from going crazy watching so much Dora and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse until then!

WONDERFUL idea :) We hope to go for Halloween this year. Our little guy will be two-and-a-half. This will keep his dad and me from going crazy watching so much Dora and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse until then!
Guest - Ashleigh on Sunday, 24 February 2013 14:31

My family is planning a family reunion at Disney this October. My 4 year old little girl has been informed that to ride the ride you must know the story. So far we've watched Dumbo, Lilo & Stitch, & Finding Nemo.

My family is planning a family reunion at Disney this October. My 4 year old little girl has been informed that to ride the ride you must know the story. So far we've watched Dumbo, Lilo & Stitch, & Finding Nemo.
Guest - Disney Princess on Saturday, 22 June 2013 02:30

Another Good one to watch is the Haunted Mansion. Its based off the ride and actually very funny for a scary movie! Some parts may be scary for younger kids but mainly it's funny since Eddy Murphy is the lead role.

Another Good one to watch is the Haunted Mansion. Its based off the ride and actually very funny for a scary movie! Some parts may be scary for younger kids but mainly it's funny since Eddy Murphy is the lead role.
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