The best roller coaster you've (likely) never ridden

The second episode of the new Disney theme park YouTube series "Disney Unpacked," featuring Jim Shull, a former Disney imagineer, is about the making of "Crush's Coaster," the indoor family roller coaster ride in Disneyland Paris based on the movie Finding Nemo. Shull designed the ride, and the video takes you through the process from getting his marching orders from Michael Eisner some time after Finding Nemo opened to great success in 2003, to the opening of the completed ride in 2007.

The ride centers around the scene in the movie where little lost clownfish Nemo rides on the shell of sea turtle Crush through the East Australian Current. Riders board a turtle shell vehicle that first goes through a relatively slow-moving dark ride showing movie scenes and characters, then darts and spins (it was the first spinning roller coaster in any Disney park) as the story takes riders through the fast-moving EAC.

I was on the ride last month, and it is one of the most popular rides in either of the two Disneyland Paris parks, consistently with the longest lines, usually around 75 minutes. We avoided that line by using the single-rider line, which meant our group couldn't ride together, but was a much shorter wait.

There's one part early in the ride in which riders briefly exit the show building, which I thought was a nice feature designed to enhance and diversify the ride experience. Shull explains however, that the reason for that brief outdoor excursion, which was put in at considerable expense, was not for the benefit of the riders, but for onlookers; so that anyone viewing the ride from the park would know exactly what it's like.

Photo credit: Ruben Bolling

The ride is clearly a crowd-pleaser, but Shull also says that the ride's purpose was to increase ride capacity at the park, and I'd say it's less successful at that. Boarding and securing only four guests at at a time, the line moves very slowly. And I had time to notice that process because of another capacity issue: the ride broke down when we were very close to boarding. So we had time to analyze the boarding area very closely while a maintenance crew was called in to look around, kick some tires, and then finally give the go-ahead to resume.

Photo credit: Ruben Bolling

"Disney Unpacked" is hosted by Shull with Disney historian Jim Hill and theme park expert and data scientist Len Testa, the latter two of whom also host the podcast "The Disney Dish." This episode features lots of concept art from the ride's development process, and it's interesting to see the various ideas that were tossed around. At one point the turtle shell vehicles were to feature Crush's head, tail, and fins, but Shull says that a "crash detection" simulation tool indicated that these extremities would not make it through the turbulent ride, so they were removed.

Here's a ridethrough video of "Crush's Coaster," showing the first part of the ride from both angles, facing forward and facing backward.