Snow White rides, secret pockets of theme-park horror


The always, always, always fantastic Passport to Dreams Old and New blog traces the history of the Snow White rides at the Disney parks around the world, with an emphasis on the horror motifs in the original film and how they made their way into the rides, only to be removed (and re-added) at various times throughout the years. The Snow White ride in Florida's Magic Kingdom was just shut down, and is due to be replaced by a roller-coaster. As Passport's Foxxfur notes, rollercoasters are nice, "...but will it satisfy on the level of the scary old dark ride?"

One remarkable aspect of Snow White's Adventures is how well it used very simple animation and motion gags to enormous effect: by concentrating on heavy atmosphere in place of constant character vignettes, nothing ever seemed crude or like it moved less than it should have. Many of the Witch's sudden appearances resulted entirely from the perspective of riders moving through the scenes; the figures themselves were often static props. Several, such as the crocodile logs which "chased" the cars in the Forest, could only ever be seen by a small number of riders. Additionally, even more than most "ghost train" style rides, the track layout here created a lot of the character of the ride; as seen above, it's obvious how the bus bar was laid in such a way to force cars to "leap" out of the way of each new threat, especially in the last third of the ride as the pursuit is really on. Few dark rides have ever been paced as tightly.

What is apparent is that at a certain point the ride simply abandoned even the abbreviated version of the narrative logic of its first half: even allowing for a certain degree of artistic license compressing the transformation of the Witch into the throne room scene, the ride was following the film up to a point: the wishing well, the transformation, making the poison apple, embarking on the boat through the woods, the arrival at the dwarfs' cottage. But the moment the cottage is breached the ride simply throws out the rule book more thoroughly than any other Disney attraction, building on riffs on abstract memories of moments from the film until the Witch literally goes on a murdeous rampage and kills you.

What do you do with a ride like that? In Fantasyland? Mere steps away from Cinderella Castle, with a facade that suggests something far cuddlier than what it is, which is even more of a comfortless horror fest than The Haunted Mansion? Snow White's Adventures and Rolly Crump's brilliant, adjacent Mr. Toad's Wild Ride held down the fort for nearly twenty years as strange, subversive pockets of irrationality and nightmare logic in Disney's orderly theme park world.

In a happy coincidence, the Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion blog has a new post tracing the connections between the Mansion and Snow White.

Through the Forest: Snow White's Adventures

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