Everything You Need to Know About Splash Mountain
Are you in the mood for something satisfactual? Then, grab a rain slicker and head over to Splash Mountain, the wettest ride at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. While you’re there, you’ll discover that it’s also one of the most entertaining attractions that Disney has ever built, masterfully combining cartoonish set pieces with the delayed gratification of the ultimate splashdown. Here are four amazing facts about Splash Mountain.
The High Cost of Making Mountains
Splash Mountain first appeared at Disneyland in 1989. It debuted on the 34th anniversary of the Happiest Place on Earth. And it cost more than the entire park had back in 1955. Walt Disney built the world’s first theme park for $17 million. The Splash Mountain attraction cost $75 million on its own.
Even when we adjust for inflation, the entirety of Disneyland would have cost about $79 million in 1989. That’s how quickly the price of ride construction had escalated. The trend has continued over the past 30 years. Splash Mountain would cost almost exactly $150 million today, which is roughly half of what Disney paid for Test Track. Making fun rides comes at a stiff cost.
Why did Splash Mountain cost so much? The obvious explanation is the construction of a mountain. Imagineers wanted to enhance what was then called Bear Country (it’s now Critter Country). Bear Country featured a single attraction, and you can guess which one. Yes, it’s Country Bear Jamboree. By adding a new man-made mountain, Disney could stir up new interest into the flagging themed land.
Disney even saved some money by repurposing some old Audio-Animatronics (AAs) from a Tomorrowland attraction called America Sings. That show had more than 100 AAs but oftentimes had more robots than people in the crowd. Those AAs became the backbone of the new ride’s construction. So, Splash Mountain could have been that much more expensive if not for some clever Imagineering ingenuity.
By the way, Splash Mountain isn’t cheap to operate, either. The Magic Kingdom version of the attraction contains almost a million gallons worth of water! There’s a water bill you wouldn’t want to pay.
Putting Some Zip in Zip-a-Dee River Run
The original plan for Splash Mountain called for river raft ride. Imagineers weren’t crazy about the concept, however, as they didn’t want to build something so simplistic. Many amusement parks during the 1980s already had various iterations of this concept. Disney needed to make theirs unique, and they chose the perfect way to do so.
Imagineer Tony Baxter got stuck in Anaheim traffic one day and let his mind roam. In doing so, he had the epiphany that theming could differentiate Disney’s river raft ride from the competition. Inimitable is the foundation of Disneyland, after all.
He chose Song of the South for his inspiration, sagely understanding that the music in that film is adorable. Alas, the subject matter is best described as distasteful today, and that was true even during the 1980s.
Baxter didn’t want Disney to make a Song of the South ride per se. Instead, the attraction would prioritize the best part of the movie, its iconic song. He wanted his company to construct Zip-a-Dee River Run, which would feature set pieces based on the happiest and least controversial moments from the film.
It was kind of a gamble for Disney due to the reputation of Song of the South. Park planners recognized that the joyful nature of the soundtrack could overcome those concerns, though. And they were right. Splash Mountain has arguably the best music of any Disney ride in operation today.
Disney has built three different versions of Splash Mountain. In addition to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, there’s one at Tokyo Disneyland. While the rides are generally similar, they also have some differences. One area where Disney maintained consistency is in the drops. Each splashdown represents a sudden drop of about 52 ½ feet.
Debating which park has the best iteration of Splash Mountain is an ongoing topic. Disneyland has the “shortest” ride at nine minutes and 18 seconds. It counterbalances this by having the most AAs, with more than 100. It’s in the middle of three with regards to length at 2,640 feet. The primary drawback, at least in my estimation, is that it only has three drops.
Magic Kingdom has the longest version of the ride at 10 minutes and 41 seconds. It does this despite having only 2,600 feet worth of track, the least of the three iterations. It also has “only” 68 AAs, making it the least populated of the trio.
This version emphasizes the drops, though. It features five different falls or one every couple of minutes. Tokyo Disneyland offers 2,800 feet of track during a 10-minute journey, including four drops.
Personally, I prefer Magic Kingdom, but Disneyland’s sheer volume of AAs is extremely impressive.
Ours is a family-friendly site, so I’ll try to be delicate here. Let’s just say that Splash Mountain has a certain reputation, one that it’s earned over the years. Sure, the ride didn’t do anything. It was a group of mischievous riders who gave it a special identity, one that’s taken a place in pop culture.
This attraction has a nickname, Flash Mountain. It’s called that because some folks like to take their tops off as the boat approaches its nadir. Yes, the highlight of Splash Mountain sometimes takes place in Bosomburg. Amateur nudists know that the topless celebration will be captured for posterity’s sake, as Disney has cameras in place to photograph that special moment as everyone appears to get wet.
I’d like to point out that security measures are in place to discourage this practice. Any public nudity at Walt Disney World is automatic grounds for getting kicked out of the park and possibly even banned from return visits. Still, this disincentive doesn’t work on everyone. Splash Mountain still gets the infrequent flashing. The difference now is that cast members automatically weed out the inappropriate images before they appear on the PhotoPass screens.
A secondary style of imagery has also arisen in recent years. Some tourists have taken to creating absurd photographs on Splash Mountain. You can view some of the greatest ones here. No, there’s not any nudity. These pictures do prove that A) Disney theme parks bring out the creative side of guests and B) A lot of people have way too much time on their hands.
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