Snow White’s Scary Adventures: Save or Wave Goodbye?

 

Disney fans are generally excited about the Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom, what with its increase in size and the addition of new attractions. There’s even been some rejoicing about changes to the original princess- and fairy-dusted plans.

But not all news about what’s next for Fantasyland at Walt Disney World has been magical. Along with the announcement for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a kiddie coaster, Disney slipped in the news that Snow White’s Scary Adventures will be closed. The classic dark ride, part of the park since 1971, will close some time during the Fantasyland expansion, probably in 2011 or 2012.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the removal of Snow White’s Scary Adventures (SWSA). As a die-hard Disney fan, my heart is torn by two different sentiments.

There are classics that represent the best of Disney, reasons why people fall in love with Disney in the first place. Or as Walt Disney said, “I love the nostalgic myself. I hope we never lose some of the things of the past.”

Then there’s my craving for the new, the innovative, the immersive – a reaction again reflected in Walt’s: “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Snow White, a Disney Classic Film Turned Disneyland Original Attraction

Snow White's Scary Adventures, Magic Mirror. Loren Javier.

My first instinct, then, is to lament the closing of SWSA as an end of a Disney era. The dark ride was a 1955 Disneyland original, something the Magic Kingdom brought over to honor Walt’s influence and imagination.

SWSA is based on Disney’s first feature-length animated film, certainly an accomplishment deserving a substantial presence in Disney parks. After all, the Walt Disney Company may have “started with a mouse,” but it was the success of “Disney’s Folly” that cemented Walt’s presence in Hollywood. And it’s Snow White, not the beloved dwarfs, who had the first film audience in tears. Shouldn’t she be the star of her own attraction?

Snow White’s Scary Adventures, a Dark Ride Turned Lighter

But I can’t quite convince myself I’m truly sad to see SWSA leave the Magic Kingdom. My consolation isn’t entirely because Seven Dwarfs Mine Train seems like a fun kiddie coaster. Or that its surrounding area promises to please Snow White fans.

Snow White's Scary Adventures, Magic Kingdom. Photo: Josh McConnell.

The truth is, that while I’m sad to see the idea of SWSA leave, I’m not sad to see the ride in its current state come to an end. The first time I rode SWSA it was closer to Walt’s original vision. Snow White didn’t appear in the ride, and the focus was on the Queen/Wicked Witch. Guests took up Snow White’s point of view in an almost nightmarish version of the film’s narrative.

In that version, we became Snow White and experienced some of her heart-raising adventures. It was a dark ride, in all senses of the word, and much scarier. Especially for young children. But it was also true to Disney’s animated feature, which has its own terrifying moments. And I loved it.

Walt Disney World redesigned the ride in 1994. Among the many changes was the incorporation of Snow White into its scenes, with guests looking on at our heroine’s experiences. The redesign comforts and reassures young guests because they see Snow White.

In this more straightforward retelling, a great deal of immersiveness central to SWSA has been removed. It’s a safer ride for young guests, but one less interesting, less challenging. And I loved it a bit less.

Why Shouldn’t Snow White’s Scary Adventures be Scary?

True love's kiss in Snow White's Scary Adventures. Josh McConnell.

More than that, though. SWSA’s redesign lost some of ride’s focus and appeal for many guests, including me. It lacks the clever narrative realized by Imagineering that I’ve come to expect from a Disney attraction.

But even the “new” version is still too scary for many young children, as Lisa Battista notes in Rides to Miss with Little Mr or Miss. Still, I can’t help thinking that a return to a darker, less young-child friendly concept of SWSA, one with updated technology, could be a good thing.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will act as a bridge between the “my first coaster” Goofy’s Barnstormer (to be renamed The Great Goofini). Couldn’t or shouldn’t SWSA be an entry-level ride to the mild scares of Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean? In the re-Imagineering of Fantasyland, isn’t there room for some thrills and chills beyond that of the coaster or thrill ride?

Snow White’s Scary Adventures: A Tale of Two Hearts

In examining my ambivalence to SWSA, I find myself mourning the future loss of the ride that is no longer what it was, nor is it what I want to it to be. I’m nostalgic for the attraction as I first experienced it, not as it is today.

So I’m looking forward to seeing the new Fantasyland even as it means the end of SWSA. Still, my heart tugs, ever so slightly, at the loss. Maybe I would rather have this version of SWSA at Walt Disney World than not have one at all?

Perhaps it’s a tale of my two hearts, then. I look forward to the Imagineers’ new ideas and experiencing Disney’s ability to continually re-invent its parks. But I can’t help wondering if the cost of such re-invention is some of that nostalgia Walt also valued so highly.

Photo credits: Josh McConnell, flickr, Creative Commons License (Entrance, apple, true love’s kiss); Loren Javier, flickr, Creative Commons License (Magic Mirror).


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