(July 17 & October 2, 1992 - present)
History and photos of the Splash Mountain log flume ride in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
As we remember from our discussion about the history of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Frontierland was slowly evolving from a quiet corner in the Magic Kingdom to one of the busiest lands in the theme park.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was originally slated be part part of a larger concept known as Thunder Mesa, a large area containing hiking trails, mule rides, a runaway mine train roller coaster, and an elaborate log flume ride that would climax by sending riders down a large waterfall and into the Rivers of America. A large part of Thunder Mesa was completed in November of 1980 with the opening of the Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. As far as the other main part of Thunder Mesa involving an elaborate log flume, that's where our story continues next.
In Disneyland during the early 1980s, Bear Country had minimum number of crowds, and America Sings, an Audio-Animatronic show featuring 114 critters singing patriotic American songs, was also in need of upgrading. America Sings opened with the Bicentennial Celebration back in 1976, but by 1983 the crowds were long gone.
Around that time frame, log flume rides were popular in amusement parks. Dick Nunis, the President of Walt Disney Attractions, wanted to capitalize on that popularity and add a log flume ride to Disneyland. It would also help the park guests deal with the high summertime temperatures. However, the Imagineers were against the idea of a log flume. If all the other parks had that sort of a ride, then Disneyland should not have one as well. Disneyland was a different type of theme park that didn't cater to ordinary thrills found everywhere else.
According to Imagineer Tony Baxter, the answer to solving the problem with Bear Country, America Sings, and a way to bring more guests into the theme park resided in the 1946 live-action/animated musical film Song of the South. Despite the classic film not being available for sale in this country (political correctness), the general public was still aware of the wisdom of Uncle Remus and his tales of Br'er Rabbit along with Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear.
Song of the South scored highly on three main factors for making it into a theme park attraction:
1) The film had loveable and familiar characters.
2) It had lush and detailed settings.
3) Song of the South had memorable music, including the Academy Award-winning song, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."
Take the animatronic characters from America Sings, re-cast them in a detailed log flume ride, and place that ride in Bear Country, what was then the slowest section of Disneyland.
That's how the concept for "Zip-A-Dee River Run" was born.
In 1984, Michael Eisner, the new CEO of The Walt Disney Company, brought his teenage son with him while visiting the Imagineers and seeing the concepts for future rides. Michael was new to the industry at the time, so he brought along his son to help him decide which rides to pursue next in the theme parks. Star Tours was given approval, and the concept for Zip-A-Dee River Run also earned high appraisal.
The only main issue with Zip-A-Dee River Run was its name. Michael Eisner knew that a name like that wouldn't go over too well with teenagers and young adults. He suggested naming the new ride after Splash, the hit Touchstone film from 1984, and even adding a mermaid figure to the ride, but the Imagineers convinced him that such a move would not be appropriate for Disneyland. But the name change was right on the money. Splash quickly became Splash Mountain as Michael Eisner commented about the other Disneyland "mountains" --- the Matterhorn, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and mentioned that they needed to continue with the "Disney mountain" trend.
Splash Mountain wouldn't receive the green light for construction until 1986. The ride opened in Disneyland on July 17, 1989. Splash Mountain was a smash hit, and the ride was quickly approved for construction in Walt Disney World as well as Tokyo Disneyland.
The construction for Splash Mountain in Walt Disney World required the destruction of the Frontierland train station and relocating it to its current location, the opposite side of the planned log flume attraction. When Splash Mountain was under construction in 1990 and 1991, the Walt Disney World Railroad operated with a single train running between the Main Street USA and Mickey's Starland train stations. The train actually ran in reverse from Main Street back to Starland while construction took place in Frontierland.
The Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain opened to the general public on July 17, 1992. The ride's grand opening ceremony occurred nearly three months later on October 2, 1992.
Upon entering Frontierland, park guests can see Chick-a-Pin Hill (a.k.a. Splash Mountain) looming on the horizon. As we approach the mountain we can see logs racing down the steep hill followed by the screams of the riders. The logs seem to plunge into a prickly briar patch and disappear in a spray of mist and splash of water. It's a fantastic sight and the thrill of the massive drop helps entice us to find the line queue and experience the ride ourselves.
On the right side of the mountain and beneath the Frontierland train station is the entrance to the line queue. The stand-by line is on the right side while the FASTPASS line is on the left.
The outside part of the stand-by line queue winds through a small forest of trees. Hanging from a few of the trees are elaborate bird houses. We can even hear a few of the birds inside of the houses, talking to themselves and humming along to the famous tunes playing in the air. The line queue enters a building, climbs a set of stairs, and then makes a right turn into the mountain. The line then gently descends down a long tunnel to the boarding station. About halfway down the hallway is a small home on the left side of the tunnel. Inside that home we see the silhouette of Br'er Frog as he recounts tales of Br'er Rabbit to his grandchildren. After Br'er Frog we see a few portraits of the cast of Splash Mountain, including Br'er Goose, Br'er Fox, Br'er Bear, and of course, Br'er Rabbit. We also see a painting of Br'er Fox's lair at the top of Chick-a-Pin Hill.
At the bottom of the tunnel the line queue makes a turn to the right where the FASTPASS line merges with the stand-by line, and we enter the ride's loading station. Cast members direct us to our row on the log, and we wait behind air gates until it's time to board the log. When it's time we board the log, stow our gear, remove our hats, and pull down on the lap bar (added during a refurbishment in 2011).
WARNING --- SPOILERS!
Splash Mountain begins with climbing a short lift hill. Br'er Frog is on the left side and gives us a quick safety warning as we climb the hill. At the top of the hill we find ourselves outside and making a right turn at the front of the mountain and around the final drop. We can watch the logs dropping on the right side or wave to the people standing on the bridge off to the left. After we complete the 180 degree turn we enter an old barn and climb a second (and larger lift hill).
At the top of the second lift hill we're back outside and now at the back of the mountain. "How Do You Do?" plays in the air as we glide past various critters' country homes and farms. Our logs wind their way around the top and then make a sharp right turn. We pass by the entrance to Br'er Bear's home (we can hear him sleeping) and then race down Slippin' Falls, the first of four drops on the ride.
We enter the mountain and see a bunch of geese and other critters also singing along to "How Do You Do?" We also see Br'er Rabbit as he tells Mr. Bluebird that he's leaving home and heading off on an adventure. Mr. Bluebird tries to convince him not to do so, but the rabbit is set on his journey. Off to the right, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear eagerly watch Br'er Rabbit board up and leave his home. Br'er Rabbit leaves and we see Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear hot on his trail.
Around the bend we see Br'er Fox try to catch Br'er Rabbit in a trap. The only problem is that Br'er Bear is the one caught in the trap, and Br'er Fox is furious with him for being so stupid. On the left side of the ride, Br'er Rabbit hops along and laughs at Br'er Fox for failing with his trap. He tells Br'er Fox that he's heading for his laughing place.
The log flume continues and we see more of the local wildlife from frogs to a roadrunner to opossums hanging from a tree. Now all of the critters are singing "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place." Up ahead we see Br'er Fox trying to lift Br'er Bear into what they believe to be Br'er Rabbit's laughing place. Br'er Rabbit is peeking out of a hole above us. As we enter a tunnel, Br'er Bear mentions that the only thing he sees inside of the hole is a bunch of bees.
Our logs drop down a short hill, but instead of hitting water at the bottom, we quickly climb back up a short hill. This is a roller coaster-style "dip-drop." Br'er Bear has a bee hive stuck on his nose and he's getting stung by dozens of bees. Up ahead, Br'er Rabbit is laughing at Br'er Bear for being so foolish. But what Br'er Rabbit doesn't realize is that Br'er Fox is right behind him, and he's about to use a bee hive to capture the rabbit.
Our logs make a third short drop into a flooded cavern. There's water dripping all around us as frogs and turtles play in the water and continue singing "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place." Things get a bit sinister when we pass through a cave and see that Br'er Rabbit is now captured. Things also don't look too good for us as a massive lift hill is waiting just ahead, the lift that will take us to the top of the mountain. To make it even more foreboding, two vultures wearing undertaker uniforms are sitting on a branch. They taunt us and make us reconsider our decision. Perhaps we really should be turning around and finding another way out of there.
It's too late and we're whisked up the lift hill. Near the top on the left side is Br'er Rabbit tied to a stake. We hear Br'er Fox say that he might hang Br'er Rabbit (or skin him or roast him depending on which random version you hear). Br'er Rabbit accepts his fate, but he warns Br'er Fox that whatever he does, he should NOT throw him into that briar patch. ". . . but whatever you do, please don't fling me in that briar patch!" Remember that the rabbit was using reverse-psychology and the briar patch is really his home. Br'er Fox falls for it and we go racing down Chick-a-Pin Falls on a 52-foot drop, reaching a top speed of 40 mph.
The crowds watching from the bridge think that we disappear into the briar patch, but in reality the ride continues underneath the briar patch and through a tunnel under the pedestrian bridge. IF you get wet on Splash Mountain, then this is where it occurs. The people up front normally get the most amount of water, but that's going to depend on the weight of the boat as it reaches the watery tunnel.
We emerge from the tunnel and find ourselves back outside and near the Rivers of America. Our logs make a right turn and wander their way back to the left side of the mountain. After passing through another tunnel and then pausing by a small waterfall, we re-enter the mountain.
There's a celebration taking place at Doo Dah Landing as all of the critters celebrate Br'er Rabbit safely returning home. They're all singing and playing their instruments to "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." The main part of the scene involves many of the characters singing and celebrating while on a riverboat. If you look to the right you'll see a hidden Mickey Mouse in the clouds, one of literally hundreds of "hidden Mickeys" throughout Walt Disney World.
Around the corner we see that Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear are still determined in catching Br'er Rabbit. Br'er Bear is being shoved into a briar patch while an alligator is keeping a hold on Br'er Fox's tail.
The final scene on Splash Mountain shows Br'er Rabbit and Mr. Bluebird back at the rabbit's briar patch home. Br'er Rabbit has learned his lesson and is glad to be back home. ". . . home sweet home is the lesson today!"
Our logs make a right turn and head back to the loading station. Along this point the logs tend to jam and create a traffic jam. Around this spot you may be momentarily trapped underneath some very powerful air conditioners, a very nice feeling during the summertime.
Splash Mountain's exit leads riders straight to Splash Down Photos, a small store that sells merchandise along with the riders' photos during the main drop.
END OF SPOILERS!
It's hard to find a finer theme park ride than Splash Mountain.
This ride has it all from charming music to great characters to dark moments to plenty of thrills in the series of drops on the ride. Throw in the relatively low height requirement and the nice and long ride time, and there you go. Most people from young kids to grandparents can enjoy Splash Mountain. My seventy-six-year-old grandmother loved the ride when she rode it with us back in 1995.
The ride's incredible popularity is proof that this is a fantastic ride. I still remember waiting in the two-hour plus lines back in the summer of 1993 with my brother, going on the ride over and over again because it was so great. These days Splash Mountain uses the FASTPASS line-skipping system, but you'll need to be quick to grab a ticket on the busier days. The stand-by line wait time can still reach for over ninety minutes in the middle of the day.
Splash Mountain is a must-do attraction for nearly all visitors to the Magic Kingdom. If it's not there already, put this ride at the top of your listing of things to see and do in the park. Enjoy this ride during the day and then ride it again at night. If you can time it right at night, you might even be at the top of Chick-a-Pin Hill when the Wishes fireworks are exploding in the sky.
One cannot say enough good things about this attraction. It's just that fantastic of a ride from the rich details to the characters to the thrills of the drops. Simply put, Splash Mountain rocks!
|FASTPASS||Splash Mountain is a FASTPASS attraction.|
|HEIGHT REQUIREMENT||You must be at least 40" / 102 cm tall to ride Splash Mountain.|
|TRIVIA #1||Splash Mountain, one of the most popular rides in the history of the Magic Kingdom, is based on Song of the South, a 1946 Disney film deemed too racist for today's audiences and, thus, is not available for sale in this country.|
|TRIVIA #2||Splash Mountain can also be referred to as "concrete mountain" as the entire mountain and most of the set pieces near the water are sculpted out of concrete. This made the mountain easier to construct, it helps the scenery last for an incredibly long amount of time, and it allowed for the Imagineers to give the log flume itself a realistic brownish look (versus the aquamarine color common in most log flume rides).|
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