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Splash Mountain is a log flume attraction at three Walt Disney Parks, based on characters, stories, and songs from the 1946 Disney film Song of the South. Each Splash Mountain begins with a peaceful outdoor float-through that leads to indoor dark ride segments, with a climactic steep drop into a "briar patch" followed by an indoor finale.

Story

The different versions of Splash Mountain feature similar stories, albeit with small differences. Each ride presents scenes taken from the animated segments of Song of the South. It tells the story of the adventures of Br'er Rabbit, a mischievous rabbit that leaves his home in the briar patch to look for his "laughing place." Unfortunately for him, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear, the antagonists of this story, are determined to catch him.

Disneyland version

Passengers ride aboard six-seater logs with six single-file, two side by side in the back (adult and small child), individual so they can fit in their seats. The log departs the loading area, winding peacefully through scenery designed to evoke the feeling of a river in the Southern United States. Models of small riverside shacks and aged equipment are incorporated into the landscape, along with an instrumental version of "How Do You Do?" emanating from hidden speakers along the waterway. Several animal burrows are seen along the outdoor portion. There are three lifts that raise the log up to higher levels during the ride, using friction on rubber-like conveyor belts to lift the logs.

After a short drop down "Slippin' Falls", guests enter the indoor portion of the attraction, where various audio-animatronic animals, such as geese, frogs, an opossums sing the attraction's first musical number, "How Do You Do?". Br'er Rabbit (voiced by Jess Harnell) is seen laughing at Br'er Bear's misfortunes, preceding a drop (unique for its roller-coaster-like hills at the base) into the surreal Rainbow Caverns, where "Ev'rybody's Got a Laughing Place" can be heard. Br'er Fox then manages to trap Br'er Rabbit in a beehive (originally planned, as in the original stories, as a depiction of the Tar Baby sequence, and altered to avoid the negative connotations associated with the image). The mood rapidly turns ominous as two mother characters sing the "Burrows Lament." The logs begin climbing up the final and longest lift hill, passing beneath two vultures that taunt guests and tell of foreboding danger. Shortly before the attraction's climactic drop, Br'er Rabbit is seen alongside the hill, about to be eaten by Br'er Fox.

But Br'er Rabbit outsmarts Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear by tricking them into throwing him into the briar patch (where he was born and raised). Riders are sent down the final drop into the briar patch, mimicking his fall. The top half of the drop is highly visible from the adjacent areas of the park. A photo is taken as the log begins to fall, and it can be purchased after disembarking from the ride. From the top of the hill, riders looking toward the splashdown point will notice a full pond of water ahead of them. The log literally dives under the water (An effect accomplished by well placed mist guns, which create a sheet of foggy vapor at the pond's water-level) into a long splashdown that sends variable amounts of water into the logs. (The collective weight of the riders can have some impact on whether they are drenched.)

An indoor segment follows the drop, after which the logs make a final entrance into a section of the mountain named Doo-Dah Landing, where a full cast of audio-animatronic figures sing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and the respective fates of Br'er Rabbit (reclined happily at home) and the antagonists (fending off a hungry alligator) are seen. Before the return to the loading area, riders are given a preview of their picture that was taken on the final drop via a overhead screen(if you look to the left of you, there's a small framed picture of Mickey Mouse, classified as a Hidden Mickey). Barnaby Owl, an audio-animatronic overhead, calls the riders attention to the screen with various phrases describing the looks on their faces. After disembarking from the log, riders walk up a ramp which leads into a barn-themed room. Inside are more screens with previews of the photographs, along with various cabinets full of pictures from Song of the South as well as other promotional character appearances. A final ramp leads riders back into Critter Country.

Hidden Mickeys

Disneyland's version of Splash Mountain has several Hidden Mickeys, although not as many as the Magic Kingdom's version of the ride has:

  • Exiting the Haunted Mansion ride, look in the wood once you pass the Splash Mountain sign. On one of them, very small, is a Hidden Mickey. He looks like a knot in the wood and is a little lower than eye-level for an adult.
  • A three-gear classic Mickey can be found on the left side of the queue on the first indoor segment.
  • At the very end of the ride, there is a picture on riders' left of Mickey Mouse.


Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney Worldmarker version of Splash Mountain is a little different from the Disneylandmarker version. Without a Critter Country in Walt Disney World, Splash Mountain is located in Frontierland, across the way from Big Thunder Mountain Railroadmarker. Construction of Splash Mountain here necessitated the demolition of the existing railroad station and temporarily turning the railroad into a shuttle between Main Street, U.S.A. and Mickey's Starlandmarker.

Because of the ride's location in Frontierland, the soundtrack is more western, with banjos and harmonicas, mostly in the outdoor flume segment of the ride. In this version, riders are seated two in a row in a four row log making it a total of 8 passengers per log (although exceptions can be made to accommodate three riders). The log first turns and begins to climb a small lift hill. An audio-animatronic of Br'er Frog greets guests and tells them that they will be traveling to a wet story. It seems to most that this is the big drop. After the initial climb is over, however, the log dips downwards and turns so that it is in the water in front of the drop. Riders then approach a barn-like structure. Lucky people may become wet from the splash made by the logs that have completed the big drop before entering the barn. The log then climbs a small hill and comes to the other side of the mountain where thematic props set the mood, and music comes out of rocks. The log eventually reaches the first drop, known in both the Disneyland and Disney World versions of the ride as "Slippin' Falls". This drop leads to a cave full of audio-animatronics of animals singing "How Do You Do?" One of these animals is Br'er Rabbit who is being chased by Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. Unlike the Disneyland version,"Ev'rybody Has a Laughing Place" begins to play before the log reaches a dark tunnel which leads to a drop with a sudden high speed climb after it. The log travels a very small path in which a smaller drop is revealed. Then, singing turtles and dancing water fountains guide the log to a dark area in which Br'er Rabbit has been caught by Br'er Fox in a cave of stalactites and stalagmites. Just after that, the log begins the longest and final climb of the ride in which vultures are anxiously waiting for your death at the "laughing place". At the top of this third lift hill, just before descending the big drop, riders can see the spires of Cinderella Castle with the more distant white dome of Space Mountainmarker to the right, before descending the 52 1/2 feet drop at a 45 degree angle, reaching a maximum speed of 40 mph. After another outdoor flume segment, the log enters another cave in which all the animals are singing "Zip-a-dee Doo-Dah" because Br'er Rabbit got away from the evil clutches of Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear are seen trying to fend off a hungry alligator, like in the Disneyland version. At the end, Br'er Rabbit is seen smiling with Mr. Blue Bird, telling guests that he learned his lesson. After unloading the log, riders may purchase a picture of their log falling at the final drop.

Hidden Mickeys

There are a number of Hidden Mickeys scattered throughout the Florida version of Splash Mountain:

  • A red classic Hidden Mickey is painted on a yoke that hangs on a left wall of the entrance queue, in the first tunnel part of the queue that has lights on the walls.
  • Halfway up the second lift hill, on the right side, three barrels in the lower right corner of a stack of barrels form a classic Mickey.
  • At the very beginning of the ride, just before the U-turn to the first drop, riders pass by an upright barrel with "Muskrat Moonshine" painted on the side. The words face riders and the barrel is only about 2 to 3 feet away from the right seat in the logs, giving the viewer a great opportunity to see the Hidden Mickey. Its located above the "s" in Muskrat. It is made by the absence of the paint that covers the barrel.
  • Look for a picnic basket up on a small ledge. Riders can spot it just past Brer Frog, who is sitting on an alligator and fishing with his toe. Near the basket are three red-and-white-striped fishing bobbers in the shape of a classic Hidden Mickey.
  • On the right side of the logs, in the room with the jumping water, a classic rope Mickey is hanging halfway down from the ceiling. It can be found in the shadows behind a lantern and just past the turtle lying on a geyser.
  • The hole in the mountain at the top of the big drop is sculpted to form a side profile of Mickey's face. As riders approach the big drop in your boat, Mickey's nose juts out from the left side of the hole. This is also visible from the walkway over the bottom of the big drop.
  • One of the clouds in the final scene of the ride is in the shape of a Mickey.
  • A birdhouse with a rope ladder in the entrance queue (also visible at the exit) has a classic Mickey acorn formation above a door and below blue roof slats. It is located just past the photo viewing area at the exit. Another classic Mickey made of acorns is near the peanut shell chimney, above the curve of the red rail.
  • Next to Splash Mountain's exit, there is a little play area. Inside the log in the play area there is an inverted Hidden Mickey.


Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland is very similar to the Florida version of the ride, with a few exceptions.

The ride's layout differs from the two previous versions, with the outdoor sections starting from a bottom left first lift to a top left first hill. In the first two versions, riders would start out climbing a lift hill on the far bottom right, and going down the first drop at the upper right side of the mountain. The Tokyo version also lacks a mill or barn-like structure on the second lift. Instead, the logs venture into a cave-like opening to begin the second climb.

Like in Florida, the main melodies consist of banjos, fiddles and harmonicas. The vocals, however, are completely different between the two parks. The secondary characters are altogether different, the show scenes (and the specific verses sung in them) are in dramatically different orders, and choruses and back-up vocals arranged with different harmonies. Additionally, dialogue and lyrics in Tokyo are Japanese for "How Do You Do?" and "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah", but English for "Ev'rybody's Got a Laughin' Place". In both instances, "Burrow's Lament" is heard as an instrumental track, using the original Disneyland soundtrack, with dramatic orchestra and choir.

History

At the time it was built, Splash Mountain was one of the most expensive projects created by Walt Disney Imagineering ($75 million). Imagineer Tony Baxter wanted to attract guests to the often empty Bear Country land and make use of the audio-animatronics from America Sings, which was receiving poor attendance. According to Alice Davis (wife of the late Marc Davis), when America Sings closed in April 1988, production of Disneyland's Splash Mountain had gone way over budget. The only way to recover was to close down America Sings and use the characters from that attraction. Baxter and his team developed the concept of Zip-a-Dee River Run, which would incorporate scenes from Song of the South. The name was later changed to Splash Mountain after then-CEO Michael Eisner's mostly-ignored suggestion that the attraction be used to help market the film Splash. The characters from America Sings were used in many scenes, though all of the main characters were specifically designed for Splash Mountain.

When the ride was first put together, nearly all the animatronics were wired and put in place. Dave Feiten was then brought in to animate and fix story and staging problems. Feiten then moved nearly all of the animatronics to new locations and then took out 10 animatronic figures and removed them from the ride completely to improve the show.

A version of the popular attraction was planned for Disneyland Paris but scrapped due to budget reasons.

Soundtrack

The ride features variations of the three songs found in the animated segments from Song of the South though not in the same order. In the order heard in the attraction's ride-through segments;
  • "How Do You Do?"
  • "Ev'rybody's Got a Laughin' Place"
  • "Burrow's Lament" ("Laughin' Place") in a minor key (only in Disneyland version of ride))
  • "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"


Releases

Despite being released on CDs attributed to the Magic Kingdommarker or Walt Disney Worldmarker in general, as well as often bearing specific track attribution (such as "from Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain"), the country-western style soundtrack actually found at the Florida and Tokyo parks has never been released on CD. (Fan-Credited versions of the country-western version from The Magic Kingdom have however surfaced as MP3 downloads online. Tokyo Disneyland versions have surfaced also, but have been harder to locate) All of the tracks listed below represent arrangements or medleys of the Disneyland score.



In popular culture

In the sing along songs video Disneyland Fun, during "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Splash Mountain was one of the rides the kids rode on. In 1989, Ernest Goes to Camp aired during The Magical World of Disney. Prior to the movie a special called "Ernest at Splash Mountain" aired in it Ernest was seen training for, and finally riding, the newly opened Splash Mountain. The end result had Ernest bewildered and collapsing to the ground, leaving guests to step on him while boarding the attraction.

In Scary Movie 4 as Cindy is looking at pictures of the man and the woman, there is a brief photograph of them going down the drop of Splash Mountain.

Roger Rabbit's animated short Trail Mix Up makes several visual references to Splash Mountain. At one point, though extremely briefly, it can be seen that the log Roger and Baby Herman are riding has a bumper sticker that reads "We Visited Splash Mountain."

Despite Disney's great attention to detail and audience management, the monitoring represented by both security cameras and the strobe cameras have not proven wholly successful at eliminating one of the most salacious phenomena of the "Splash Mountain" experience. Hoping to make illicit use of the in-ride photographs that Disney later sells to ride patrons, some riders briefly expose themselves (e.g., a woman baring her breasts) during a particular descent. Collected on a website called "Flash Mountain" in the mid-to-late 1990s, the shots continue to circulate online. The "Flash Mountain" controversy at both Disney parks was used as a segment & was seen on TMZ on Cinco De Mayo, May 5, 2009.

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