If you are planning a Disney Vacation, I highly recommended that you watch some Disney Movies to fully prepare your family for the Disney experience. Here’s the Top Movies to Watch Before Going to Disney World.
Naturally, you won’t have time to watch every Disney movie out there. I’ve put together a list of movies that directly correlate with key attractions at Disney World. There is some overlap within the 4 Disney Parks, so I would advise prioritizing those movies that cover multiple attractions.
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I am writing this article as a parent with young kids, so I’ve tried to note when a movie is less than kid-friendly or meant for older kids and teens.
Also, keep in mind that there are normally lots of Character Meet and Greets which regularly change, so you will want to factor those characters into your plan as well depending on your family’s interests.
Lastly, I’ve included some book recommendations as you’ll find that there’s a ton of movies and you probably won’t be able to see them all! Your child can become familiar with storylines and characters through a series of Disney bedtime stories! Alright, here’s the Top Movies to Watch Before Going to Disney World!
Let’s start with the movies you’ll want to see before going to Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom Movies:
With the giant Cinderella Castle being the main focal point of the park, Cinderella is a must see! Also, the Prince Charming Carousel is named after the prince in the story of Cinderella. For a special treat for your little prince or princess, make reservations to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Yes! There’s a restaurant in the castle! Prep your kids for this amazing experience by watching Cinderella or read the book.
2) Toy Story – Top Movies to Watch Before Going to Disney World
The Toy Story Movies are a Must-See! Not only are they excellent movies, but you’ll find that there’s 4 rides at Disney World that correlate with these movies! You’ll find the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin ride in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. (And 3 more rides at Hollywood Studios in Toy Story Land).
3) Monsters, Inc
If you plan on going to the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland (and I absolutely recommend it!) plan on watching Monsters, Inc. The characters are so loveable and funny that your kids are sure to be quick fans. Chances are pretty good that you might see some of the characters at the Character Meet and Greets as well!
Dumbo is one of those classic rides at Magic Kingdom that you have to ride at least once. Of course if you have little ones, it’s a great place to cool off, let the kids run off some energy in the play space, and of course enjoy a ride soaring through the sky on an elephant! Prep your kids with the storyline of Dumbo ahead of time by watching the movie or check out the book!
5) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Prepare your kids for the fun of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom by watching the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie. This is one storyline you don’t want to miss as parts of it are told within the ride and the queue. If you don’t have time for the movie, read the book!
6) Beauty and the Beast
Be sure to watch Beauty and the Beast if you plan to visit Enchanted Tales with Belle. This attraction takes you into Belle’s childhood home and then into the Beast’s castle. If you want to see some pure Disney magic, be sure to eat a meal at the Beast’s castle (Be Our Guest Restaurant). You can find a Beauty and the Beast book here.
7) Peter Pan
Peter Pan’s Flight is one of my favorite rides at Disney World. I love how the ride tells the story of Peter Pan and takes you directly into the story. It’s so magical how you float up into the sky and look down on the city and Neverland.
Here’s my favorite book version of Peter Pan that perfectly mirrors the artwork in the ride! It’s the Walt Disney Peter Pan and Wendy by Annie North Bedford.
8) Little Mermaid
In Fantasyland, you’ll find the ride Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid from the movie The Little Mermaid.
This ride is fantastic for kids of all ages and tells the story of the little mermaid. So, if your child already knows the storyline and some of the songs from the movie, it will be even more enjoyable!
9) Swiss Family Robinson
Swiss Family Robinson is probably one of the most overlooked Disney movies and one of my favorites.
It tells the story of a family who is shipwrecked on an island. The family builds a treehouse and has all kinds of adventures, even a pirate attack.
This is a great family movie for kids (not too scary) so even your little ones can enjoy it with you! Be sure to visit the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in Adventureland.
10) Winnie the Pooh – Top Movies to Watch Before Going to Disney World
You’ll want to familiarize your children with the characters from Winnie the Pooh. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland and the adorable queue as you wait, feature details that your child will enjoy further with some knowledge of the characters. A Winnie the Pooh book might do the trick more quickly!
Magic Kingdom Extra Credit:
In my opinion, the following movies fall under “extra credit.” You can enjoy the corresponding Magic Kingdom attractions without having read a book or having seen the movie. However, if you want to further your “Disney Education” then, check out these:
Aladdin: Ride the Magic Flying Carpets in Adventureland.
Alice in Wonderland: Take a spin on the tea cups at the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland.
Pirates of the Caribbean: This movie is for older kids. It correlates with the amazing Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Adventureland (which is family friendly).
The Haunted Mansion: This movie is also for older kids. It goes along with the Haunted Mansion ride in Liberty Square, which is family friendly.
Tangled: There is a restroom located between the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World that is themed after the movie Tangled which is about Rapunzel. You can also see Rapunzel’s tower off in a distance.
Pinocchio: Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant in Fantasyland has beautiful artwork everywhere from the story of Pinocchio.
Fantasia – Throughout various Disney experiences you will see a nod to the story of Mickey in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice which is part of the movie Fantasia. You’ll see parts of this in the attraction Mickey’s PhilharMagic in Fantasyland. You can find a correlated book here.
Moving over to Epcot, here’s the movies you don’t want to miss:
Disney Movies to See before Visiting Epcot
There’s just a handful of movies to see before heading to Epcot!
1) Finding Nemo (and the sequel movie Finding Dory)
You’ll find the ride The Seas with Nemo & Friends themed after the movie Finding Nemo. Also, the attraction Turtle Talk with Crush features characters from both of the movies.
You’ll find the ride Frozen Ever After in the Norway section of the World Showcase. (Which is my favorite ride at WDW!) Be sure to have your child watch Frozen as the queue and the ride are based on those characters! Also, the short film Frozen Fever is incorporated as well!
The new ride in the France section is based on this fun movie about a rat who dreams of becoming a chef. Be sure to have your kids watch Ratatouille to familiarize themselves with Remy!
Extra Credit: Find out which characters you want to see at the Character Meet and Greets and watch the movies for those!
Also, Epcot is planning to revamp several rides over the course of the next few years. Be sure to keep up the the ongoing Epcot changes here.
Now let’s head over to Hollywood Studios!
Disney Movies to See Before Visiting Hollywood Studios
1) Toy Story Movies
There’s a whole Toy Story Land to discover at Hollywood Studios, so you’ll want to make sure your children watch at least the first 2 Toy Story movies. You’ll find the Toy Story Mania! ride which is a 4-D shooting gallery where you spin and quickly ride past targets and compete against your opponents for the highest score. It’s loads of fun!
There’s also the Slinky Dog Dash ride, which is a family friendly roller coaster. And finally, there is the Alien Swirling Saucers ride which is a twirling, whirling type of ride. You’ll also find a Toy Story themed restaurant as well as general Toy Story decor throughout Toy Story Land.
2) Mickey and Minnie
The new ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway features the gang from one of the many Mickey and Minnie mouse productions over the years. For a family friendly introduction to Mickey, I would suggest watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
If you have teens, you might like the new Disney Mickey Mouse, which is geared toward an older audience (Fyi, it’s not so great for little kids).
The movie Cars is a must see for kids as they will really enjoy the attraction Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy much more if they know the characters from the movie. There’s also an area outside of the attraction that has characters you can pose with that are cool for fans of the movie.
4) The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid pops up again! This time with the attraction The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Be sure to introduce your child to the storyline ahead of time with this movie or the book.
5) Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast is another story that keeps popping up! Enjoy the live action performance with the attraction Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage.
6) The Muppets
Watch The Muppets with your kids to prepare them for the classic attraction Muppet Vision 3-D. They will enjoy it so much more if they know the characters from the movies. You can find the older versions of the Muppets here.
7) Indiana Jones
The Indiana Jones movie collection correlates with the attraction Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. These movies are rated PG-13, so they aren’t for your little ones, but possibly your teens.
8) Star Wars
The Star Wars series is a must-see if you have tweens and teens. I wouldn’t recommend them for younger kids, because of the violence, but they are excellent movies for your older kids. These movies correlate to the attraction Star Tours: the Adventure Continues and of course, the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge land.
Ok! Time to move on to our last park!
Disney Movies to See Before Visiting Animal Kingdom
Here’s the movies you’ll want to see before you visit Animal Kingdom!
1) The Lion King
If you haven’t seen The Lion King, now is the time to watch it! The Festival of the Lion King attraction in the Africa section is an amazing must-see live show that correlates with the movie.
2) Finding Nemo
This movie keeps popping up! Be sure to watch Finding Nemo, so that you kids can enjoy the live action Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom.
There are Wilderness Explorer stations based on the movie Up! throughout Animal Kingdom. Your kids can earn badges to become a Wilderness Explorer like Russell from the movie. There’s also references of Up! at the Up! A Great Bird Adventure show.
The entire Pandora section of Animal Kingdom is based off of the movie Avatar. This movie is rated PG-13 so save it for your teenagers. The slow ride Na’vi River Journey and the intense Avatar Flight of Passage both reference this film.
5) A Bug’s Life
The movie A Bug’s Life correlates to the attraction It’s Tough to Be a Bug! at Animal Kingdom. Prepare you kids for what it’s like to be a bug by watching this movie before you experience the attraction!
A Few Notes:
Keep in mind that as Disney releases new movies, you’ll see touches from those movies added into Character Meet and Greets.
Also, be sure to check out the various Characters that will be at the breakfasts and special meals with Character Meet and Greets. Some of these events may introduce characters from other Disney films.
What Disney Movies Should be Prioritized for Little Kids?
My advice to parents of little ones is to watch the the movies that appear in multiple attractions. I’d recommend the Toy Story movies first, as so many attractions correlate with those. Then I’d head for a Mickey movie as recognizing Mickey and Minnie Mouse is pretty important!
Which Disney Movies Should Teenagers Prioritize Watching?
I would recommend that teens watch the Star Wars movies first, as the entire Galaxy’s Edge is devoted to it. Also, I would advise teens to watch Avatar as it is central to the Pandora world experience.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of Top Movies to Watch Before Going to Disney World! Have fun planning your trip to the Happiest Place on Earth!
For more Disney related content, be sure to check out What to Pack for Disney World – 29 Must Have Items. Also, as you plan your itinerary, you’ll want to know the 6 Best Shows at Disney (and 2 to Skip!)