A while back I read a list of movies you have to watch before you go to Disney World. In fact, here's the list:.
The list is pretty good, with, if you were too lazy to read the list, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, Tom Sawyer, The Little Mermaid, Monsters Inc., Lilo & Stitch, Little Einsteins & Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, A Bug's Life, Song of the South, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Lady & the Tramp, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Twilight Zone, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Singin' in the Rain, and finally, Casablanca.
Now, before I saw this list I had seen 16 out of the 25 (although really it would be 30 because of Star Wars, and then 33 with Pirates if you've seen them all). That list includes Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Peter Pan, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, The Little Mermaid, Monsters Inc., Lilo & Stitch, A Bug's Life, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Lady & the Tramp, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones. I've recently added another two to that list, as I've now seen Singin' in the Rain and Casablanca (And I will have watched Song of the South before I go to Disney this July).
Honestly, I think some of them are unnecessary. Many of those films are ones that you need to have seen before visiting Walt Disney World, but if you ask me there are a couple missing and there are some that really aren't important. I guess I've put some thought into it because of a couple reasons. One, it's a question I get a lot, and two because my band will be going to Disney World, many people of which will have never been to Disney before and may not have seen all these films.
So here's my own list of movies and/or TV shows you need to have seen before visiting Walt Disney World, and a brief description as to why:
1. I agree with the list that Toy Story is a must see, although I would add Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. There aren't actually any attractions based off of the original Toy Story, as Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is based on Toy Story 2 and Toy Story Mania now features characters from all three films, but specifically the third.
2. Finding Nemo is also a notable addition to the list, as it is the inspiration for multiple attractions just as Toy Story is. You have The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot and Finding Nemo the Musical at Animal Kingdom. Without seeing the movie at least once, you may be a little confused with the seas at Epcot, so if you find yourself at Disney having not seen the film, maybe check out the musical first, because it is a spectacular version of the story.
3. Peter Pan is a must see if you plan on going on Peter Pan's Flight at the Magic Kingdom. But that's not all, Tinker Bell now plays a key role in much of the parks, and while I don't think you need to have seen the Tinker Bell movies specifically, you should at least have some knowledge of the Peter Pan film.
4. The Lion King, again, has multiple attractions inspired by the movie. One can be found at the Animal Kingdom, where there is the Festival of the Lion King, where a bit of the broadway production comes right to Central Florida for daily productions. Also at Animal Kingdom is Rafiki's Planet Watch, which isn't necessarily quite as important, but it's still helpful to know who Rafiki is! And lastly, at Epcot there's the film "Circle of Life," which includes many of your favorite characters from the Lion King to help explain environmental issues.
5. Beauty and the Beast is still on my list as well, and now more than ever! With New Fantasyland you absolutely HAVE to have seen this film to understand the wonder and magic that is the Beauty and the Beast area, specifically the restaurant "Be Our Guest." But there's also the Beauty and the Beast stage show at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
6. Fantasia, but more specifically The Sorcerer's Apprentice. I think you could go without seeing the entire film, but you'll need to at least see that short to understand multiple things, like the big hat at Disney's Hollywood Studios, or Mickey's PhilharMagic at Magic Kingdom. There's also a bit in the Great Movie Ride that is Fantasia.
7. The Little Mermaid is quite similar to Beauty and the Beast in this respect. With New Fantasyland, it's essential that you see it, and there's also a show at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
8. Monsters, Inc. continues the relationship between my list and the original, as it would be pretty hard to understand the Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom without having seen the film. I mean, I suppose it would still be entertaining and funny, but it's just funnier if you've seen the movie.
9. Lilo & Stitch, especially if you plan on going on the attraction. But it really is only for older kids, as it's kind of scary. So if you only have younger kids I think you could skip this one. If you're old enough that you're not going to be afraid of a wild alien on the loose, then go ahead and watch this adorable film!
10. A Bug's Life is a good idea, as there are multiple references at Animal Kingdom, but especially inside the Tree of Life, where there's the 4D experience, It's Tough to Be Bug. In order to understand the characters who are talking to you, and pick up on many of the jokes, it's just a good idea to watch it.
11. Star Wars is a bunch of movies you just kind of need to see. Now, I spent 15 years of my life not seeing these films, and I lived a pretty happy life. BUT, I never went on Star Tours, and now that I've seen the films, Star Tours is one of my absolute favorite attractions. I've found that I actually love Star Wars. Granted, it isn't for everyone (as I probably wouldn't even like it without Harrison Ford), but if you do plan on going on Star Tours, it's essential to see all six films, probably more than once.
12. Either the Twilight Zone or The actual movie the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should be on your list. The TV show is one thing, and I actually could add it to my list of things I've seen because I have seen a couple of episodes, but I think the movie based on the attraction would really be more helpful than the TV show. Or, you could just watch both.
13. Indiana Jones is like Star Wars, kind of. You know, you just need to watch it, because not only is it one of the greatest movies of all time, but the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is based on it...plus there's a bit of it in the Great Movie Ride.
14. Singin' in the Rain is one that while it doesn't have any specific attractions based off of it, it will be a real help. I didn't see it until earlier this year, but it is honestly one of my favorite movies. There's a reference to it in the Great Movie Ride, and a hidden reference in the back streets of Disney's Hollywood Studios as well. PLUS, I think it does fit in perfectly with Disney's Hollywood Studios, and it will give you a different perspective of films in general!
15. The Muppets are a group that you need to know before you go to Disney because it's just going to make your experience better. Trust me. My relationship with the Muppets actually started at Disney, and I ended up getting the first three seasons on DVD for this past Christmas. I now absolutely love them, and I can't wait to see how the attraction is different and better for me now that I've seen so much of the show.
16. With the addition of New Fantasyland, you will need to have seen Dumbo, as an entire section of Fantasyland is now based on the circus theme of the movie. I mean, everyone needs to see Dumbo anyway because of the classic attraction, but I think it's even more important now.
17. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs needs to be seen no matter what. Partly because it's the first Disney film and partly because in 2014 there will be the addition to New Fantasyland. So watch it.
18. I think it should be obvious that you should see Cinderella, because of the castle. If you walk through the middle of the castle you can find a mosaic of the story, and Cinderella's Royal Table has many references to the film. In this same category is Tangled, as there is now a new rest area based on the film. That and Tangled is a great movie and you should see it anyways.
19. The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are both interesting. I think The Haunted Mansion would be a great one to see because it is based off the attraction, and I know that the only reason I now love the attraction itself is because of the movie. It does a wonderful job of explaining all about Master Gracy, as well as what some of the mansion's areas are. You should see at least the first Pirates of the Caribbean now as to understand who Jack Sparrow is, as he is a member of the Pirates crew now. My personal favorite Pirates is the third though, as there is some direct recording from the attraction in it.
BONUS: Song of the South is kind of a weird one. I have lived all of my life without having seen it, and I love Splash Mountain just the same, but I do think that it's an adorable movie, and that it shouldn't get the bad rap that it does. There are some recordings out there if you want to watch it, but I wouldn't say it's absolutely necessary.
Honestly the list could go on forever, because really you should see ALL the Disney films before visiting! But I have lived much of my life without some of the key movies I've listed above, so it isn't going to be the end of the world if you DON'T see one of them before going. The list is there because seeing these films is going to make your experience that much BETTER when you do go to Disney. Oh, and this is just for Disney World. Disneyland has movies of it's own to see!
Here's Today's Disney History: 1952: Actor John Goodman is born in Affton, Missouri. His Disney voice credits include Sullivan Truck in Cars, James P. Sullivan in Monsters, Inc. (and now Monsters University), Pacha in The Emperor's New Groove, Baloo in The Jungle Book 2, and Eli "Big Daddy" La Bouff in The Princess and the Frog.
Have a magical day!