As you may remember, there was once a wonderful, fun and somewhat thrilling dark ride in the Magic Kingdom known as “Snow White’s Scary Adventures.” This entirely beloved classic was shuttered in 2012 to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall, although sister rides are still currently operating in Tokyo, Paris and Anaheim. However, for those of us not fortunate enough to visit The Happiest Place on Earth before 1994, our experience of the ride based on Walt’s first film wasn’t too scary. To tell the story of why the “Scary” was added to the title we must go back to Anaheim in 1955.
The crowning glory of Disneyland Park was a trio of dark rides based on Disney’s feature films – Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight and Snow White and Her Adventures. The designers in charge of Disney’s “Florida Project” would carbon copy many elements and features from the Anaheim park to create the new Orlando park, but, in the same vein of creating a DisneyWORLD from the established concepts of a DisneyLAND, the Florida Project designers wanted to hone in on the main feature of each of the original dark rides and enhance it. For Snow White and Her Adventures, the designers saw its key feature as fright, therefore the experience on Orlando’s Snow White ride would be even more frightening than at Disneyland.
Anaheim’s Snow White and Her Adventures was unintentionally scary mostly due to the passengers experiencing the ride through Snow’s eyes. The princess did not make a single appearance in the ride, and the passengers were the ones being chased into frightening woods by the Evil Queen and later being pursued by the murderous, cackling Witch. Sounds scary enough, right? Well, for Snow White’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, the designers would keep all the unintentionally scary elements and add a healthy dose of intentional fright for good measure. For instance, the only sound in the ride was the creaking of the spooky, glowing-eyed trees, terrified screams and, of course, the spine-tingling cackle of the Witch. And, with no music or walls to confine the sounds to their scene, all of these horrifying sounds echoed endlessly throughout the ride.
Not only was Snow White nowhere to be found, but the only moment in which the ride passes through the Dwarfs’ cottage sees the friendly, living furniture from the film cowering together in a dark corner awaiting some sort of impending doom. The only glimpse passengers got of the Dwarfs saw them fleeing up the stairs to the cottage as the Witch’s shadow creeped behind them. The Witch jumps within inches of the passengers in several places during the ride. In the ride’s finale, deep within the Dwarfs’ mine, the Witch “kills” the riders by dropping a gigantic gem on top of their heads and shrieks, “Goodbye, dearie!”
As absolutely terrifying as this ride was — especially for its target audience of young children — Snow White’s Adventures was beloved from the moment it opened in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1971. In fact, the ride became so iconic that when Disneyland underwent renovations in the early 1980’s, Snow White and Her Adventures was renamed Snow White’s Scary Adventures to capitalize on the popular fright factor of Orlando’s Snow White ride. However, the newly renovated Disneyland ride was decidedly less scary than the original and not at all frightening compared to Snow White’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom. They even added a happy ending to Snow White’s Scary Adventures complete with the words “And they lived happily ever after!” painted above the ride’s final doorway.
The less-than-frightening Snow White’s Scary Adventures was replicated for the grand opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and another Snow White’s Scary Adventures, complete with an even more splendid happy ending, was unveiled in 1992 at Disneyland Paris. With three Snow White’s Scary Adventures around the globe showing a thrilling-but-not-too-scary Snow White dark ride complete with a happy ending could be just as successful as the terrifying original, Imagineers decided to renovate Snow White’s Adventures in Magic Kingdom in 1994. Disney World’s refurbished Snow White dark ride followed the formula of Disneyland Paris’ Scary Adventures, meaning all the terror and horror present in the 1971 version had been tamped down to better suit the tastes of the Magic Kingdom’s largest constituency. But, like the refurbished Snow White rides in Anaheim, Tokyo and Paris, the new Disney World ride was christened “Snow White’s Scary Adventures,” a nod to the outright terrifying iconic 1971 ride.
A younger generation of Disney World fans would ride Snow White’s Scary Adventures — and be genuinely scared by it! — from 1994 until the next round of Magic Kingdom renovations would see Snow and the Dwarfs set off on their last Scary Adventure in 2012. However, Snow White’s Scary Adventures rides still operate to this day in Anaheim, Tokyo and Paris, carrying on the legacy of perhaps the most frightening dark ride a Disney Park has ever seen, if in name only.
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