Celebrating Splash Mountain at Disney Parks
Recently, The Walt Disney Company proclaimed something that earned a massive amount of media attention.
No, I’m not talking about the reopening of Walt Disney World’s theme parks. I’m referencing the upcoming re-theming of Splash Mountain.
For many years now, Disney executives have squirmed over the existence of Song of the South, the shame of the Disney Vault.
Frustratingly, one of the company’s best rides shares that Song of the South theme.
I’m not here to discuss whether Disney should update the ride. Instead, I want to take a look at one of the best theme park attractions ever made.
Let’s celebrate Splash Mountain at Disney parks!
What’s Splash Mountain?
Oh, come on! You should know this one!
Back in the early 1980s, Disneyland officials faced two problems. One was that America Sings, a show attraction, wasn’t the least bit popular.
The other involved a growing craze in the theme park industry, the log flume ride. Imagineers found them dull and didn’t want to build one.
One day, Tony Baxter had an epiphany while driving. He could retrofit the Audio-Animatronics from America Sings into a new dark ride.
This burst of inspiration led to Splash Mountain, as the patriotic animals stopped singing about America and told a different story.
On Splash Mountain, guests board a log flume and journey through some unnamed part of Georgia, a place where anthropomorphic animals play and fight.
The story introduces guests to Br’er Rabbit, a mischievous bunny who will remind you of Bugs Bunny.
Even when Br’er Rabbit is up to no good, you’ll love him for his comedy hijinks…unless you’re Br’er Fox or Br’er Bear.
These two would-be bullies do everything that they can to catch and torment the rabbit. Alas, every attempt goes badly, as several set pieces indicate.
The critters suffer bee attacks and a painful part of a bear trap while trying to put Br’er Rabbit in his place.
Why Do We Love Splash Mountain?
Okay, the two things I just described sound like atrocities. I readily admit that.
Somehow, the shenanigans feel hilarious rather than dangerous due to the rollicking vibe and singalong soundtrack, though.
Splash Mountain features colorful visuals, meticulously crafted set pieces, and the best music from any Disney ride ever.
When Bugs Bunny debuted in the 1930s, he introduced a new level of cartoon violence.
As an unmistakable homage, Br’er Rabbit follows this pattern, and we don’t mind since the other two critters are trying to kill him.
Just desserts are on the menu at Splash Mountain. The ride tickles the funny bone with its many gags, one of which Disney hides in plain sight.
The first thing you’ll notice on your log flume ride is a tantalizing glimpse of the ultimate splash, the moment when your ship plummets 50 feet straight down.
However, you won’t reach that pinnacle for another 10 minutes. Before then, several ride elements will tease you with the possibility of the bottom falling out.
Splash Mountain displays a sense of humor in all phases, even the track layout!
The attraction feels like a cartoon come to life, an impossibility back when it debuted in 1989 in Disneyland.
The ride’s popularity occurred so quickly that Magic Kingdom demanded its own version, which it received three years later in 1992.
Since then, Splash Mountain has proven itself a classic at both parks (and later Tokyo Disneyland).
In fact, some people loved it so much that it earned fame for its, ahem, PhotoPass highlights.
Park officials had to kill Flash Mountain shenanigans, but it’s another memorable part of the ride’s history.
Which Part Is the Best?
As great as the history and humor of Splash Mountain are, they wouldn’t qualify as the four best parts, in my opinion.
Most people would agree that the ultimate splashdown delivers a satisfying climax, even though it’s not the last scene.
As you probably know, after you get soaking wet, your log flume carries you to another boat, where the giddy residents perform Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.
So, that’s half of the best parts right there. The 50-foot drop thrills guests, and then post-splash singalong sends everyone out with a smile.
Then, there’s the overall soundtrack. I’ve mentioned the most famous song, but Splash Mountain plays several others.
During the ride, you’ll hear Burrow’s Lament, Ev’rybody Has a Laughing Place, and How Do You Do?.
In fact, I’m more likely to leave with a How Do You Do? earworm than Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.
Finally, everyone adores The Laughing Place for its dark humor. Poor Br’er Bear says, “This ain’t no laughing place.”
Then, the bees swarm, and everything goes wrong.
Out of these, I think The Laughing Place and the soundtrack mean the most to the ride.
However, I suspect that people favor Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and the splashdown the most.
And it’s finally getting that drenching payoff that people love above all else at Splash Mountain.
What Will We Miss the Most?
I could answer with the charm, the characters, or the music.
Amusingly, when people talk about The Princess and the Frog, they’ll lavish praise on the songs.
So, in a way, the change at Splash Mountain represents a lateral move.
Still, for all its many, many unforgivable failings, Song of the South comes with a dynamic soundtrack that has translated perfectly to the ride.
Any change to the audio of Splash Mountain will lead to broken hearts, even if Dr. Facilier’s voice is the coolest.
From a track layout perspective, nobody knows how much Disney will alter Splash Mountain.
However, we can use Maelstrom’s modification to Frozen Ever After as a recent example.
Imagineers only changed the ride tracks slightly, not in small part because that strategy was cheaper and more manageable.
Instead, what we’ll miss is the gorgeous look of the current cast of Audio-Animatronics.
I’m sure the change from Georgia swamps to those in Louisiana won’t take much, but I think we all feel the same way.
The next version of Splash Mountain will lack some of the charm of the original, unfortunate movie ties notwithstanding.
Splash Mountain is a classic, and Disney’s about to overhaul it into something new and different.
I, for one, will miss The Laughing Place and all the clever teases leading up to the proverbial splash at the bottom of the mountain.
I’ve always found Splash Mountain so satisfactual.