If you’ve been to Disneyland in the last twenty years, then you’re almost certainly familiar with Splash Mountain. Even if you refuse to ride the massive log ride, you probably at least rode the train through the tunnel that shows the happy ending of the ride. But did you know the ride is based on a movie that has never been released on home video because it’s considered too offensive? Or that the reason there are so many familiar faces inside is because the imagineers salvaged the characters for another attraction? There’s plenty more fun trivia like this inside this edition of our Neatorama Facts series.
Image Via OpenThreads [Flickr]
Trying To Make a Splash
The Zip-a-Dee River Run was originally conceived of as a way to start attracting more people over to the often empty Bear Country area of the park, which was renamed Critter Country after Splash Mountain was opened. Unfortunately, the project quickly ballooned over budget, becoming one of the most expensive projects the Imagineering team had worked on up until that point. To help reduce the cost as much as possible, the team decided to use previously existing animatronic animals from the recently closed America Sings attraction. Even then, the ride still ended up costing $75 million to complete.
Although CEO Michael Eisner kept pushing for the ride to be based on the film Splash, imagineers had long planned to base the ride on the live action/animation film Song of the South and they refused to be moved on that point. In honor of Eisner’s ignored contributions, they did decide to change the name of the ride from the Zip-a-Dee River Run to Splash Mountain.
Strangely, despite the fact that one of the most popular Disney rides was based on Song of the South, the company has still refused to release the title to American home video or DVD because their executives believe the content is offensive to black people. While Uncle Remus is the character believed to be the most offensive and was left out of the ride as well, his presence can be felt in the queue area; a variety of his quotes can be found throughout the barn-themed line area, all the way up to the loading area.
Images Via Express Monorail and PrincessAshley [Flickr]
America Sings Again
Because first Splash Mountain incorporated the characters from America Sings, the Disneyland ride has the most animatronic characters in their version of the ride –a total of 105. While the main characters were specifically created for the new ride, all of the rest were rescued from the closed attraction. All but a handful of the characters from America Sings were used in Splash Mountain; two of the other characters were already hijacked and reskinned for use in Star Tours and one was saved to help teach new imagineers how the technology works.
While the characters may have already been dressed for the occasion, the America Sings animatronics had to be completely reprogrammed and synched with the ride. It took imagineers over 80 hours to rework each figure to fit in their new home. After months of hard work, the characters can now carry out 45 seconds of movement and dialogue before they loop back to the beginning of their programming sequence.
In comparison to the 105 animatronics at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom only has 68 animatronics and Tokyo Disneyland has about the same number. In case you’re wondering, there is no Splash Mountain at Disneyland Paris because the designers agreed the weather was a bad fit for a water-splashing log ride.
A Simple Story From A Time Long Ago
While the live-action story lines aren’t used in Splash Mountain, many of the Br’er Rabbit tales from the film are. When you get on the ride, you are soon put on a conveyor belt that brings you up the side of the mountain. The main characters can be seen, but mostly you’re just serenaded by unseen voices singing “How Do You Do?” before you drop down the first small dip nicknamed “Slippin’ Falls.” You’re then whisked inside the mountain where you are entrenched in a cartoon version of Georgia circa 1870.
Once inside, you see the source of the singing, the geese, frogs and opossums cheerfully saying hello through song. You also see Br’er Rabbit mocking Br’er Bear just before you go down the next small drop, leading to the Rainbow Caverns filled with more characters, this time singing “Ev’rybody’s Got A Laughing Place.”
In the movie, Br’er Rabbit gets caught in a tar blob that was disguised to look like a little person, but since the “tar baby” was considered to have questionable undertones, the ride shows Br’er Fox catching the sly rabbit in the honey of a bee hive instead. The mood in the ride turns somber and the characters start to sing “Burrow’s Lament” and your log starts climbing up the large hill. You pass between two vultures who taught your impending doom and see Br’er Rabbit about to be eaten by Br’er Fox.
In the movie, Br’er Rabbit convinces the fox to throw him into his home in the brier patch using reverse psychology, so after taking the huge dive down “Doo-Dah Landing,” you’re suddenly immersed in a happy land of critters singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” You see Br’er Rabbit relaxing at home with his family and Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox fighting off a hungry alligator.
Before arriving at the loading area, you’re shown a preview of the photo that was taken during the plunge as Professor Barnaby Owl describes the looks on the rider’s faces.
Image Via Loren Javier [Flickr]
Differences Between The Parks
Overall, the Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom’s versions of the rides are fairly similar, except that the Disney World logs feature a lap bar, likely added after a rider died after trying to get out while the ride was moving. The Disney World version also has slightly different music, as the Southern style of Disneyland’s Critter Country ride was determined to not be a perfect fit for the Magic Kingdom’s version, which was located in Frontierland. As a result, the music is a bit more country-music styled.
The Tokyo version looks largely the same as the others, but it features the country music soundtrack from Disney World with reworded lyrics and the dialogue is split between English and Japanese. The scenes are also put in a different order. This park has the highest drop of the three parks, letting riders fall 60 feet instead of 52 feet. Interestingly, the Japanese version is also the driest, as this version was specially designed to limit the size of the splash. If you want to stay dry at the other parks, all you can do is try to get on a log with a lot of kids, as the more your log weighs, the more water you’ll get soaked with.
Image Via vmpyr_david [Flickr]
Sweet Southern Sounds
You might not realize it when you’re on the ride, but some serious celebrities gave their voices to the characters. A few background characters with famous voices include: Br’er Owl by Woody Allen, Br’er Frog by Humphrey Bogart, Br’er Turkey by Keanu Reeves and Br’er Frog by James Avery (aka Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air). Only one voice from the original movie was used, and that is Nick Stewart who voices Br’er Bear. As for the two main characters, they were both voiced by Jess Harnell, who is better known for his role as Wakko Warner on Animaniacs and as the most recent announcer for America’s Funniest Videos. Many of the other characters and the final song, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” were voiced by imagineers and Disneyland cast members who just happened to be working at the park when the ride was being designed.
The only song that Disney paid people outside the company to work on was “How Do You Do?” This number was recorded especially for the ride by a 29-piece group called The Floozies. The bullfrogs singing this number are all performed by members of this band, with one notable exception. The frog with the deep bass voice was voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft who also voiced Tony the Tiger and was one of the lead singers for a variety of other Disney rides, including The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.
Image Via Express Monorail [Flickr]
Switching the “Sp” for a “F”
While I’m sure some of you are already familiar with why the ride is sometimes called “Flash Mountain,” let me go ahead and corrupt you innocent readers who don’t know about this phenomenon. Because the ride has a huge climax that is viewable by visitors not yet on the ride at the same time guest’s photos are snapped, more than a few women (and men) have decided to flash the camera during the log drop. While Disney is usually pretty good about deleting these images before they get out, at one point an employee managed to steal a number of them and upload them on to the internet. It’s almost impossible for anyone to steal these images from the park now, due to heightened security measures, but even so, a lot of women still bare it all on the drop –only to get escorted off the premises shortly after landing.
Image Via Loren Javier [Flickr]
So, do you guys like the ride or is it too tall or too wet for you? Personally, I love the singing and the characters, but after being wet for over seven hours the last time I went on it, I haven’t been too eager to go back. Have any of you had similar experiences?
Sources: Wikipedia #1, #2, #3, Disneyland, Songofthesouth.net, Snopes
Disneyland fans! See more Neatorama Facts:
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Neatorama Facts: Sleeping Beauty Castle
Neatorama Facts: Pirates of the Caribbean
Neatorama Facts: The Jungle Cruise
Neatorama Facts: Space Mountain
Neatorama Facts: The Enchanted Tiki Room
Neatorama Facts: Christmas at Disneyland
Neatorama Facts: It's a Small World
Neatorama Facts: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Neatorama Facts: Star Tours