Fans of quality puns shed a tear last year when Disney announced that the California Screamin’ roller coaster was shutting down. The popular ride at Disney’s California Adventure wasn’t being demolished, or anything—it was simply being rethemed to an Incredibles coaster. The, uh, imaginatively named Incredicoaster opened in June 2018 as the centerpiece of the similarly rethemed Pixar Pier area, perfectly timed to about four days after a work trip I took to California ended. It took a few months, but I was finally able to grab a seat on the retooled ride recently, and was pleasantly surprised. The Incredicoaster is the rare example of a theme park ride that’s been improved by tying it into a popular movie or TV show.
California Screamin’ was a bit of an anomaly for a Disney theme park. It wasn’t just more intense than the other roller coasters at Disneyland, with the fastest speed and only loop on the premises, it was also a straight-forward roller coaster at a park known for its elaborate and fanciful themes. That original version of the ride fit in with its surroundings; Paradise Pier was originally styled after the kind of amusement park found at the Santa Monica Pier, and was later given a 1920s facade that recalled the Pleasure Pier park that thrived in Santa Monica before the Great Depression. Screamin’ wasn’t a wooden coaster, but it was built to resemble one, and other than an on-board soundtrack (partially composed by cheese guitar shred wizard Gary Hoey) it didn’t have any of the transformative or immersive elements typically found in a Disney ride. This thing was a roller coaster, and a good one, but a plain and simple roller coaster nonetheless.
If you liked California Screamin’ (which I did) you’ll have no reason not to like the Incredicoaster, unless you really hate the movies it’s based on. It’s essentially the same ride, just wearing a new costume. It has the same launch, the same inversion, the same height and speed and length. From a distance it doesn’t even look all that different—the sun in the loop has been replaced with a Pixar Pier logo, and some colors have been changed, but it’s the same hulking skeleton looming at the edge of the park that it’s always been.
Most of the changes come in the queue and the covered sections that wrap around parts of the track. The story is that Jack-Jack, the baby Incredible who’s just learning how to use his variety of superpowers, has run away again, and the family has to track him down. You’re an observer who just happens to be strapped into a 55 MPH train that perfectly follows Jack-Jack’s path. Within those covered sections you’ll see animatronics of the Incredibles struggling to catch Jack-Jack, with a new audio track featuring dialogue from the original film actors. (Side note: every theme park immediately needs to go hire Holly Hunter to read the pre-ride safety spiel for all of their rides.) It all ends with a final scene that serves as a cute exclamation point on the entire ride, much like the end of the Slinky Dog Dash coaster over at Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios. It can be a little hard following the story, as it is, while you’re rocketing through tubes at over 50 miles per hour, but you’re basically feeling the confusion and frenzy that the Incredibles themselves are feeling as they chase their superpowered baby. And you’ll have more than enough time to fully enjoy that final scene as you’re slowly taxiing back into the station.
Disney often talks about making rides “more Disney,” and in a way that’s basically shorthand for adding characters and other intellectual property to them. That can lead to unfortunate mash-ups and awkward overlays, like projecting TIE fighters from Star Wars into Space Mountain. Tossing the Incredibles into what was California Screamin’ doesn’t take anything away from the old ride, though, and actually adds to the experience by finally giving it a story. It probably won’t make you love the ride if you already weren’t a fan of California Screamin’, but it’s hard to see anybody getting too angry about these changes. Either way, it’s the highlight of Pixar Pier, and still one of the best rides at California Adventure.
Garrett Martin writes about theme parks for Paste and also edits its games and comedy sections. He’s on Twitter at @grmartin.