I LOVE SPLASH MOUNTAIN! Who doesn’t? It is one of the most well-known Disney attractions of all time! It’s even more memorable than the film it was based on! Actually…to think of it, why make a ride based on one of your most controversial films? Let’s take a look into the ride’s history to figure it out! This is the history of Splash Mountain!
Let’s go back to 1983. Tony Baxter is driving down the highway, thinking of what to do with Bear Country; a very unpopular section of Disneyland. At the time, the show America Sings wasn’t doing so well. If the Imagineers were to close the show down, what would they do with the Audio-Animatronics? MAKE A RIDE ABOUT SONG OF THE SOUTH, OF COURSE!
Yeah, you probably expected a big elaborate explanation for why Song of the South was the film they picked. But, no. It was just an attempt to bring more traffic into the park and close down an unpopular attraction. In fact, almost all of the Audio-Animatronics were recycled America Sings characters. That’s mainly because Splash Mountain was insanely over budget, and America Sings closed down. It was a perfect fit!
Dick Nunis had suggested an idea for a log flume ride, but they thought it seemed to cliche. All the other big amusement parks were doing it. But the other Imagineers said, They have it, that’s why Disney shouldn’t. We’re Disney, and we’re unique.” Instead of just a drop, there’d be a story and characters from Song of the South (the animal ones, not the human ones). The log flume will have its own “Disney Magic.” And the Zip-a-Dee River Run was born!
Audio-Animatronics based on the Song of the South characters were made specially while extra characters were taken from America Sings. The ride was one of the most expensive projects DisneyParks history, costing about $75 million.
Former CEO Michael Eisner suggested the idea of renaming the attraction Splash Mountain to tie in with the at the time upcoming film “Splash”, released by Touchstone Pictures.
The team figured it was a smart idea, knowing that it would fit in with Disney’s other thrill rides like Space Mountain and the Matterhorn Mountain.
Splash Mountain opened up in 1989 in Bear Country (now renamed to Critter Country). The ride was an immediate hit! Versions of the ride were planned in other DisneyParks like Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.
But the ride wasn’t exactly perfect. One of the biggest complaints was the seating. In the Disneyland version, guests would often be sitting in other peoples laps. And as we’ve learned in the Matterhorn, no one likes sitting on some random guy’s lap. The seats were added a back rest, but each log could only accommodate five people. The seats were later added an extra seat in the very back of the log for bigger guests.
Currently Tokyo Disneyland has two by two seating on their logs, mainly because Chinese culture would not allow seats like the ones that are currently in Disneyland. Walt Disney World also has two by two seats because…they want to be different, I guess.
Splash Mountain is one of the most popular Disney attractions to date and for good reason. Not only is this ride fun as heck, it has a very interesting history on how one of the most controversial Disney Classics can inspire one of the greatest theme park rides of all time.
What’s your favorite Splash Mountain memory? If you have one, tell me! I’d love to hear! See you later, Animators!