Walt Disney World's Snow White's Scary Adventure ride had its final run this weekend, a casualty of a renovation that will see the erection of a new Fantasyland with a much more thrill-ride-like Snow White attraction. SWSA's greatest fan is Ben, a young man with autism, who had ridden it 3,451 times when the final weekend was at hand. His family brought him to WDW for SWSA's swan song, and rode it with him, accompanied by Disney employees (including one in character as Snow White; also including Ben's grandfather, who works at the park), who understood how important it was to him. Ben's father, Ron Miles, documented the event in a beautiful, moving post.
And then it was the moment of truth. We all exited the cart. Ken stood off at a respectable distance, allowing us to have this moment as a family. Robert collected his camera and set up to film Ben's last ride. We led Ben over to the loading zone, gave him a big hug, and then told him to go ahead. He looked a little confused at first, and then smiled in disbelief. With his iPod in one hand, a single earbud in his left ear, and with his camera in the other hand he embarked on the very last ride. We waved and blew him kisses as he rounded the wishing well, and then he was through the doors and completely gone.
I turned to Stacey and said, "There are cameras in there, right? There's somebody in a security room somewhere that can see everything that is happening?"
"Nope!" she replied cheerfully, "but there are intrusion matts everywhere, and in any case the lap bar will keep him in the cart."
I looked at my watch, and then looked at the exit doors. Empty cart after empty cart paraded by, and I had visions of those doors opening to a cart empty but for an iPod and a camera perched on the front seat. The headlines the next day would read "Autistic Boy Disappears from Disney Ride". I imagined a vigniette several decades in the future, a grizzled old maintenance worker saying in hushed tones to a new employee, "...and to this day you can hear his ghost moaning in this building, mourning the loss of his favorite ride..."
Surely it had been three minutes by now, and still those doors steadfastly refused to open. I realized that I was holding my breath, as I noticed abstractly that Robert had set up his camera shot to get the perfect view of Ben's exit. Finally, after what seemed like hours, those doors swung open and there was my happy young man still clutching his iPod and his camera. We all let out a cheer as the mine cart rolled to a halt, and then Benjamin got big hugs all around.
(Image: Kevin Yee)