The Last Scary Adventure

I was reminded this week of a long-standing mystery. One of those obscure things that is always nagging at the back of my brain. And I realized that the time was fast approaching when I might never get an answer. More about the mystery later, but you see, we’re about to lose another one, and the internet doesn’t really care this time around.

Congratulations, Snow White. You held on longer than most.

There wasn’t much hoopla when the Mickey Mouse Revue left. Things were still too new in 1980 to consider the show a classic. Think of it this way: Stitch’s Great Escape — that universally reviled blemish on the face of the Magic Kingdom — has made it 8 years already, just one year shy of the Revue’s tenure.

It took until 1994, when Disney completely botched the closing of the 20K Lagoon before fans started to take notice. The Subs were announced as being “temporarily closed.” But then “temporary” dragged into a matter of years, and finally 20K was wiped off the park map completely (speaking of which, welcome to that rare club, Drew Carrey. Say hello to Wonders of Life for me).

Wishing Wells are being put on the endangered species list. At least we still have a full-size version over by Cinderella Castle.

Things exploded in 1998 when Disney decided to be upfront about their next Fantasyland execution and announced that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride would be replaced with Winnie the Pooh. Proclaiming that Disney had finally become just another corporate leech, feeding on the popular character of the day (apt criticism at the time), and with a burgeoning online community ready to unleash their pent-up feelings of abandonment, “SAVE TOAD” became a rallying cry for fans everywhere. I’m surprised there weren’t fans chaining themselves in front of the bulldozers, for all the furor Toad brought. I can only think of a few other times that fans were so up in arms about a Disney announcement. The closing of Horizons was one, and just as warranted. The other time was when Disney announced they were bringing McDonald’s into the parks, proving that sometimes, fans can be ridiculous.

Not counting the blue tights, there are at least two deadly weapons featured in this section of mural. Can you find them?

It didn’t seem to matter that the Pooh ride turned out to be a quality replacement. The Skyway closed a year later, and there was another uproar, though not as major. The Skyway never featured any of the  storytelling or details as the other closures. Plus, it was a slow-loading linear ride that had already been copied in dozens of Six Flags around the country. It was not perceived as a major loss.

We’ve now gone 13 years since losing an original Fantasyland attraction, but this week, on June 1, Snow White’s Scary Adventures closes for good.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina.

At some point a couple years from now, she’ll make a return. Or at least the Seven Dwarfs will, in the form of a “family” coaster that looks suspiciously brief and designed to make people sick. I’m not entirely sold on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The mountain and surrounding area will definitely be an upgrade to Scary Adventure’s Renaissance Fair architecture. But I have concerns about the ride itself. Barnstormer clocks at exactly 1 minute (including 30 seconds on the initial lift hill), and this looks to have about the same footprint. I’m hoping Disney surprises me.

Wait time until next Snow White ride, 2.4 years.

When all is said and done, we’ll still have a Snow White ride in some form, and it should be pretty enough, if that Fantasyland model currently exhibited inside One Man’s Dream is any indication. But I’ll always lament the loss of the traditional dark ride. As a kid who grew up going to Disney, the dark rides are the reason I fell in love with the place. Sure, some were better than others. Mansion and Pirates and Pan will always be cream of the crop, and even though Snow White may be one of the Magic Kingdom’s weaker dark rides, it’s still infinitely preferable to me than something like Laugh Floor, Stitch, or the glorified carnival rides (Teacups, Dumbo, Carousel).

Because I don’t anticipate being able to make it to Magic Kingdom later in the week, I took my last ride on Saturday. Yes, it made me sad. All those little details that I’m never going to get to see again:

Such as the signs of the zodiac that surround this Magic Mirror at the start of the ride (too dark to show in this picture)

  • The spell components on the witch’s book near the cauldron.
  • The gold tooth in the skull.
  • The special pie for “Grumpy” on the table.
  • The way the candles are just half-dimensional props glued to the wall, with blacklight paint to give the illusion of luminance.
  • That lightning crack illuminating Snow White held by the scary trees (a simple effect that still fascinates me.
  • That mirror effect with the Queen/Witch spinning around, with the Witch’s hands in the air like she’s at a Metallica concert.
  • That happy little dancing frog.

And the way that candlestick in Dopey’s hand is always vibrating. Is there a spring in it or what? Why are the dwarfs stationary, but the candlestick is bouncing?

And what about those details that are no longer there, victims of the many refurbishments that have come and gone?

With all those pigeons she kept attracting, no wonder she had to clean the steps so often. Fair is fair.

A few of my favorites:

  • See the Queen hovering over Snow White from window in the above picture? She used to hover over you as you enter the castle, opening and shutting the curtains. It was part of the earlier incarnation of the ride, when the guest played the role of Snow White, and the little princess never appeared herself.
  • Those warning signs about how “The Witch Appears In This Attraction” (you think it’s scary now…)
  • That fantastic room of strobe light explosions that you travelled through simulating the witch’s death-by-diamond-boulder (followed by a prompt and immediate exit of the ride).

A Fantasyland tradition: Entering/exiting under a bridge (see Mr. Toad, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey).

At least the mine car vehicles haven’t changed, each one still faithfully named after one of the Dwarfs. This was another Fantasyland dark ride tradition, though I suspect more people are familiar with Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy than Mole, Ratty, and Badger. I expect when we get the new Mine Train coaster, this is one tradition that will continue. If not, shame on them.

My last ride was on the Bashful car. He has to be one of the top six or seven dwarfs of all time.

Now about that mystery I mentioned earlier… The mural at the loading zone is a nice piece of work. Fantasyland murals are another lost art, though we should see a return to form when the Little Mermaid opens this year. Snow White has multiple murals, many of which are pictured throughout this article. Awhile back I noticed something that appears in the mural directly before you enter the building, officially leaving behind the part of the ride that is exposed to the outdoors.

This crest hangs over the doorway, and it is a flat painting, not a dimensional object. See that snake in the lower left corner? There are initials there: WCS.

What could they mean? Did the muralist sign his/her work? I’ve searched all over, but I can’t find the name of the painter(s). I posed the question to the fantastic Filmic Light: A Snow White Sanctum site (seriously, you should check it out, it’s brilliant), and they couldn’t find the answer either. I’m hoping by posting it now, with so much attention surrounding the end of the ride, that maybe somebody out there knows what those letters mean.

Also, who is that freakishly tall white woman with all those bearded guys?

Until then, I guess it’s time to let Snow White, fresh from the ranks of the dead, ride off into her glowing castle with the guy in blue tights. Maybe we can build a glass coffin over the site until the Mine Train coaster opens in a couple years. I won’t mind giving the ride a kiss later, to see if it will wake up.

A shame that after all that, only two dwarfs came to say goodbye.

Comments (20)

  1. I rode SWSA on the last day with Snow White expert Kenneth Sundberg (KenNetti Snow White database) who flew in from Finland. And I made a point of asking him if he knew what the WCS initials meant. Like me, he did not. But low and behold, Richard comes through! Thanks Shane for posting this long unanswered question and thanks Richard for answering it. Made my day too!

  2. Well you’ll probably be able to buy it on Ebay. The princesses not, against the rules.
    10 more in the world will never have the same sense of place to me as a WDW fan. Not so much a London bridge you can visit in Arizona. So much “place” has already been tossed that this is presented as a fractional loss. And this time the replacement is a well planned expansion. Seems war worn fans are defused by textbook steps, and the outcry is low.
    I think we all want the expansion to succeed so bad we (Disneycentrics Of The Parkeological Order) feel we are willing to suffer another humility. Time will tell.
    Damn DCA too. That is all.

  3. John, thank you for that! I was beginning to feel like maybe I was out of step with everyone else. The fact that it is being replaced with a Mine Car Coaster helps lessen the blow, but Snow White IS quality. It’s hard to compare it to 20K or Horizons, but it is certainly CLOSE to Toad. If you are in the minority than so am I.

    It may sound crazy, but I find Snow White just as satisfying an experience as several other quality rides, including Buzz Lightyear, Midway Mania, Test Track, Mission Space, or Carousel of Progress. It may be simpler and less ambitious, so I think it gets dinged for that. Clearly Test Track is aiming to be much more than what Snow White is aiming for. But to me, Snow White is much more of a quintessential “Disney” ride, able to tap into much more emotion than Test Track or Mission Space could ever hope to access.

    The whole character greeting thing is a sham. It’s clear the princesses aren’t hard up for character greeting areas. Their location on Main Street has PLENTY of room and healthy crowds. This is a loss that didn’t need to happen. It may turn out all right, when we get the Mine Train, and eventually they might put a real ride back into this space. But for now, it is only sad.

  4. I took my last ride this afternoon. The loss of SWSA is not on the scale of the loss of Toad, or 20K, or certainly not Horizons–but it’s an opening-day dark ride, for crying out loud, and it’s going away forever. That makes me sad. Like you, I fell in love with WDW as a youngster because of the dark rides. I realize I’m in the minority in thinking that SWSA is a quality dark ride, and I’m even more in the minority in regarding the 1994 iteration as superior to the original. But it should never be a minority opinion that “dark ride” to “meet and greet” is a downgrade. So much of the WDW I knew as a Central Florida kid in the late seventies and early eighties has gone, and this is just one more loss.

    Things I’ll miss: the Magic Mirror; the queen’s transformation; the Snow White lightning effect (I like that one too); and, my favorite of all, those trompe-l’oeil pools of candlelight on the walls of the Dwarfs’ Cottage. Such a simple effect, but so cool.

  5. Richard, you just made my day! I really did not expect anyone to provide the answer, but I should never doubt the knowledge of true fans. Apparently WCS keeps things on the down low, because I can’t find a website for them, but I will not be able to stop looking for hidden WCS initials in all murals I see from now one. Thanks!

  6. Ver cool Richard!
    The power of the Internet strikes again.

  7. WCS= west coast scenic, a contractual company that does work for wdi, including murals!

  8. Could be an upgraded Barnstormer but it looks more like a scaled back Big Thunder… or most likely something right in the middle of thoser two.

    Listen, I love dark rides but just because somehting was there on opening day or part of Disneyland before that does not make it good or worthy.

    I think you are correct Shane in that the new ride will be a “thrill” ride with a couple of most likely static figures tossed in a small indoor section… but it still seems like that may be an improvement over what Snow White is (was) now.

    I HATE seeing the things I loved as a kid change… when they change for good reason or to be improved I am OK with it. it is actually hard for me to come up with examples of that but I am sure there have been. When they close or change things for the wrong (or for no) reasons then I get frustrated (20k, Imagination, Horizons, Alien Encounter, the Magic Shop etc. etc.) So it is a rare care to see somehting change for possibly the better and even in a worst case situation probably no worse… so it’s kind of sad but kind of exciting as well.

  9. In the words of Nancy Kerrigan, “WHYYYYYYY? WHY?????”

  10. Snow White was probably the least of the original MK dark rides, and I understand that “in theory” the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be a step up. I’m actually fine with the idea of replacing one Snow White ride with another. They don’t need two different Snow White rides (just like they don’t need four Dumbo spinners on property, or a Nemo ride AND a Nemo musical, or a Mermaid ride AND a Mermaid musical, or a Nemo Clamshell omnimover AND a Mermaid Clamshell omnimover). But aside from a single animatic showing some dwarfs at work, I just worry that we’re going to get an upgraded version of Barnstormer, instead of a quality replacement for a decent dark ride. I hope they prove me wrong.

  11. Nice job Shane….

    Though I must say I agree with Disney Zephyr.
    Yes, some rides will always hold special places in our hearts, and that ride is different for everyone. Personally I never connected that closely with Snow White (the ride). It was always the less crowded alternative to Peter Pan or other rides with the big lines… it was the WEDWAY Peoplemover of Fantasyland.

    Unlike past closures this time we have a clear replacement, a unique replacement and a replacement that I believe may improve upon the original. I still cringe and the closure of 20K (and woudl STILL prefer it to the new FL additions and certainly to the wasteland that has sat there for 15 years). No more Horizons makes me very sad, Toad was and is better than Pooh and the freaking closure of the Magic Store(s) to sell more sweat shirts still REALLY rubs me the wrong way. But this time is different.

    I see sound resoning to close it and I am happy that the space will still be there… someday, somehow a new atrraction will fill that space… a REAL attraction.

    My one complaint is that they shoudl not close it until the new ride is ready to open… but I’ll live.

  12. Although I share the sentimentality for what is an adorable ride, let me offer a counterpoint. In a time when people complain about homogenisation across the Disney Theme Parks, this is a divergent step between Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. Differentiation of the experience between resorts must be good. Snow White in (essentially) the same incarnation still exists in DL, DLP and TDL. I think the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be reasonable and will certainly enrich the Fantasyland Forest environment.

    Placing a meet and greet (the Princess Fairytale Hall) in the shell of the old attraction does leave a slightly sour aftertaste, however…

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  14. Such an absolute shame. These are the rides childhood memories were built from. They should be preserved at all costs. Want something new? Expand. Destroying the ride representing the first major Disney movie… blasphemy.

    A big thank you for mentioning the Pinocchio ride though.. you never hear about it. I have not been to Disneyland in over 20 years and thought maybe I had imagined it… I used to have dreams about it when I was little. I took a minute to zip over to YouTube and take a quick ride though.

    If they get rid of Alice I may have to hurt someone.

  15. This is really saddening. Rides like this, simple as they are, really are a lost art. Nothing like em, and that rollercoaster will probably be nowehere near as good.

  16. Sic transit gloria Mundi.

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