Day for Night

Before diving into today’s little rumination, don’t forget about Magic Pursuit this coming Sunday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!  Register to reserve your spot in a FREE puzzle-quest game created by Kevin Yee (,, John Frost (, and myself (

Now on to strange things that fascinate me …

Of all the Disney mountains, Splash Mountain has to be the most story-centric.  It’s populated with a cast of hundreds, it has dozens of show scenes, it builds to a thrilling climax.  By contrast, the Matterhorn has a single hairy guy and a lot of ice caverns.

Splash is more than just a thrill gimmick.  In terms of execution, it’s up there with the great story rides like Mansion, Pirates, Indiana Jones Adventure, or the great Future World omnimovers.  But it also has something special going for it.  It’s one of the rare rides that actually plays tricks on your sense of time.

Now of course rides like Spaceship Earth or World of Motion tell a story that spans centuries.  Each scene is a small vignette from a snapshot in history, all threaded together by a common theme (communications, transportation, etc.).  And certainly the linear storylines of the Fantasyland dark rides have a start and a finish.  But Splash is rare in that the story seems to happen in real-time.  We are with Brer Rabbit every step of the way.  Yet it is staged as if the journey is hours in the making.

Regardless of whether you ride during the day or at night, Splash Mountain always begins in the daytime.  As soon as you zip down that first Slippin’ Falls into the mountain, where the Geese and Frogs are singing “How Do You Do?”, the setting is clearly in the bright, sunlit South.  As you progress through the ride, the day slowly changes to afternoon and the shadows grow long.  And of course, by the time you reach the base of the big lift hill, lightning is crackling in spite of that yawning opening at the top showing you the real time of day.

I call this scene:  “Chickens under a blood-red sun.”

When you leave the Mountain for your brief trip downstream into the Briar Patch, you are thrown back into the real world.  But just as quickly, you round the bend and are back in the Old South, with Gators and Chickens singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah, in front of a brilliant sunset.

The last few scenes in the ride take place at night.  In fact, our last glimpse of Brer Rabbit is of him relaxing outside his Briar Patch, under the light of a full moon.

He’s sitting outside at night with his knapsack, which makes me think he lost his keys.

It’s been a short 15 minute journey for us, and we’ve not skipped a beat, but clearly a whole day has passed in story-time.  This is quite a change from Mansion or Pirates, in which the whole thing is clearly at night, and thus unfolds in real time without any continuity errors.

Rides like Snow White do switch time frames.  It starts in the day (Snow White on the steps of the palace), transitions to night (the haunted forest, chasing the Queen up the Mountain), and then finishes back in the daytime (Snow White waving goodbye).  But the experience is more like a compressed version of a movie, rather than a real-time storyline.

Splash feels like a movie without any cuts.  Just one long continuous take.  I can’t think of any other rides that are able to pull off a transition from day to night in one take.  Am I forgetting any?

Photo Attribution:
Sunset: Bart Hanlon
Night:  Josh McConnell

Comments (2)

  1. I thought of Soarin’ as well. But I agree that it’s mainly a movie, more like the CircleVision films, which are allowed to skip and jump all around through time and space. I guess Mission: Space has the whole “hypersleep” trick, which gives it a real-time feel.

  2. Soaring? Seems like cheating though since it’s a movie and since there’s no real plot line. But it does start out during the day and end up at night.

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