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


  1. Yes, it will be replaced by a roller-coaster, but the actual spot of the ride will be used for a meet-and-greet… just, ya know, for clarity’s sake…

  2. One of my favorite memories from my one and only visit to WDW was my ride on the now defunct ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (the equipment is now used for the Stitch’s Great Escape! ride.) The ride was so… non-Disney and actually quite scary. The feel of being restrained in your seat as an alien prowled around the dark room crunching your fellow riders was a blast.

    1. The ExtraTERRORSETRIAL was definitely scary.  I’m glad I saw it in the original form and I think I still have fingernail scars from my 8yo nephew on my hands from that one.

  3. Wow! The witch at the top of this post brought back the memory of how much this ride scared the bajeebus out of me when I was a little kid, c. 1973.

  4. When I lived a few miles away from Disneyland for a couple of years I went several times and got to know the place quite well, but the only two of the five Fantasyland dark rides (It’s A Small World isn’t particularly dark so I don’t count that) I’ve been on are the Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland ones (which are both great). Not sure why since I liked those ones a lot. The Snow White one will be my first stop next time I’m there.

  5. The article was interesting in that it explained that there were several different revisions of the ride, the last version (1994) considered to be the weakest. I get the sense that the real version of the ride died in 1994 (or perhaps even in the previous 1980s revision).

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