Last week, I had the chance to ride the newly revamped version of Sindbad, now officially named "Sindbad's Storybook Voyage". The version has been updated and reworked to be more family friendly and appealing to the average TDS visitors, in hopes to attrack a higher number of guests into what has been TDS' most ignored ride. Personally, this 'about face' the ride got from the very beginning, has always puzzled those of us who concidered this ride a true Disney gem since the first time we rode back in Sept 2001. Only DLP's IASW comes close or matches the high quality Audio Animatronics extravaganza that the Sindbad ride really is. Aparently, the extravagantly done ride as originally conceived and presented was concidered by some as too dark and mysterious to be presented in such cartoonish-like ways... therefore, not clicking with guests' expectations. Others claim the location of this ride has been it's worst enemy.. as it is located basically in what can be described as TDS backside of the park... Like, it's sitting out there next to Arabian Coast..by itself. I personally felt that having undertaken a story which Disney itself has not presented on the screen as an animated motion picture, gives it little brand recognition at this park, therefore guests show no interest in it.
But whatever the true reasons are for the ride to have been ignored by most guests remains an unexplained phenomena with me. I never found fault with the original presentation.. I always enjoyed it for the execution and technical wizardry.. the fabulously real AAs and the eye candy found here all over the place. So, when I first found out about their plans to retool it, I was skeptical and dreading it. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
This is what I thought of the new version of Sindbad's ride.. Equally satisfying as the original, yet fresh and wonderfully renewed, and I am happy to say, the ride still amazes and amuses me lots.
SPOILERS AHEAD, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!!
We enter the building and pass by several new artwork paintings, providing a quick preview of some of the zany characters we are about to encounter ahead. I noticed these paintings lack the story narration the original artwork used to have... and by looking at these photos... you really do not get much of the storyline... but since there hardly is a wait here, who cares? Sadly, a lot of guests will walk pass these photos and not even stop to look at them. A pity.
The ride is a virtual walk on, and I am boarded quickly on the boat. Concidering the low attendance in this ride, OLC has always had the boarding platform staffed with at least 5 CMs who are more than eager to do something to justify their being there with no guests.
Off we go on our journey.. First up, I noticed the lighting within the building has been dimmed or changed to give it a more intimate look. A favorite prop of mine, the smoking swaying genie bottle to the right of the boat is no longer smoking nor swaying. A bad sign I thought... I would hate for OLC to cheapened out just because they have no hope for this ride of ever being as popular as the other rides in the park. Much to my piece of mind, as soon as we turned into the first scene, my fears were tossed out and I knew I was in for a equally satisfying experience, just like before.
In the first scene, we see Sindbad and his adorably cute tiger pet Chandu preparing for a trip to find riches and adventure... Chandu is a hit with me from the moment I laid eyes on him. CUTE AA, and you just want to pet him. We set sail pass this little town, with belly dancers, kids at play, pantonime theater and wizards peeking into their crystal ball, predicting dangers ahead... This is also the scene where the newly composed "Compass of the Heart" song is heard, and the song is basically playing for the remaining of the ride. Not necesary an instantly hummable song by the overrated Alan Menken, and I would think that it will take several ride-thrus for me to even begin to remember that tune, unless of course, they decide to release it on the next TDS Park Album, or as an attraction single cd.
The next scene.. one of my favorites, is Sindbad's encounter with those sexy mermaids of the sea.. The scene has been improved by adding inclement weather and a more realistic storm feeling to it, with actual mist coming down on guests (safeguard you electronic cameras please), thunder and wind... From there, Sindbad encounters one adventure after another, and tries to save the World by making things right when others are misbehaving... Example: Sindbad tries to save a newly hatched bird egg, as Chandu is fighting with a bad guy, who tries to take the kitty off his head, unsuccessfully. Later on we see Sindbad trying to free that huge Genie who is seeing later playing along with cello in hand, happy as a clam to be free... Later on... Sindbad joins the Monkeys in a hilarious banana boat scene, or rides a whale home, etc etc. The ride culminates with a festive "welcome home Sindbad" celebration, complete with fiber optic fireworks and other stuff. Sindbad and Chandu bid farewell to us as we end the ride.
..And that just about does it for the ride.
I went in with lowered expectations because I was not sure if a makeover here would be the best thing for the ride to be more appealing to guests. Again, I am happy to report my expectations were exceeded. Maybe because I pay attention to things that most guests would not care to look at or because they are not familiar as I am with the original ride, which I rode at least 25 times and never got tired of it.
Immediately, I noticed that lighting in the ride has been changed, many characters are sporting new and brighter costumes, there was a very apparent budget used here to improve some scenes with special effects, such as the rain effect in the mermaid scene or the banana smell in the monkeys scene. There are more Sindbad AAs scattered thru the ride where there were non before.. instantly making Sindbad a very strong presense and character in the story (D'uh! it's his ride!) Before, Sindbad was a storyteller of sorts, NOW? he *is* in the story and carrying it too!
My favorite new Sindbad AA is found in the treasure cave, where the Genie is locked up behind bars. We see Sindbad holding a magic feather, which he uses to pry a lock open to free the Genie. The feather prop has a glittering fiber optic look, and you see it spakling from one end to the other in eye popping splendor. These are simple technical advances that we simply do not have at some of the most popular rides found at WDW, for example. Little details like that are just the icing on the cake and make the whole experience a true wondrous journey. One new scene added is the sillouette of Sindbad riding the whale against a bright blue evening ski.. and it's a great intro into the scene where we see Sindbad on top of that whale, against a starry night sky, riding back home. IN STYLE!
Now Chandu... the cute kitty offers a totally new dimension of fun and his sole purpose is to make us laugh and go "he's so CUTE!!!" He is this mischevious pet who seems to enjoy getting into peril without really doing anything wrong. In one scene in particular, he jumps on top of a drum while being carried away by guards... (impressive little AA, with movements that are quite realistic to those made by a pet cat or dog, standing on two legs.) In another scene, he is scratching the bejesus of a bad guy, or buried under a ton of bananas... etc etc. You get the idea. Think of Chandu in the same way you think of Abu in regards to Aladdin. The kitty definitely adds a sense of fun, amidts the adventures being encountered.
Finally, more impressive to me was the apparent re-programming of the many AA's found throughout the ride. As you know... now these characters have to sing as well as talk. I was quite impressed that several of the characters are singing along to "Compass of the Heart", then as you pass by, they turn toward us riders and *talk* to us as if they were addressing us as we sail by. REALLY IMPRESSIVE audio synchronization. It does not take much to see that a lot of work was put into this refurbishing/revision of the ride.
With new audio, new AA animation, new AAs, new lighting, new effects, new mood, and new storyline.. they all combine to make a ride that still mirrors the original version, yet feels brand new and wonderfully refreshed. I see the work accomplished here and it pains me that WDW cheapened out in regards to "Gran Fiesta Tour" (still a cute little C-ticket in it's new form); but with all this technical knowledge and budgets, I could only imagine what E-Ticket spectacle the old "Rio del Tiempo" ride at EPCOT would have been transformed into. Many missed opportunities there that mercifully, were accomplished here on Sindbad's ride with astounding quality and results. Kudos OLC for paying and KUDOS to Imagineering for the work.
Sindbad's Storybook Voyage is a bonafide E-ticket water boat ride and a "must-ride" when visiting TDS.
TDLFAN's rates it: 4**** and 1/2 (out of 5) GO RIDE IT!
Here are some photos.. however, due to lower light levels, and the NO flash photo restrictions... I did my best to capture some scenes with open lense, which come out blurry due to the constant boat and AA movements... Sorry about that. (I did misbehave and used flash on the last photo) It made me feel dirty for doing so. Sorry.