Remember cringing in terror while a pair of vultures chuckled about your impending doom? Remember screaming as the log you were riding dropped down into a flooded briar patch? If you do, then you remember Splash Mountain, one of the top thrill rides at the Disney parks since 1989. Want to know the secrets behind this classic attraction? Read on!
It Has Controversial Roots
Splash Mountain is based on the Disney film 'Song of the South,' which is based on the Uncles Remus stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris. Rather than focusing on a single Br'er Rabbit story, the ride combines elements from a variety of different stories retold in the movie. Over the years, Disney has distanced themselves from the controversial 1946 film, which has never been released on home video or DVD due to concerns over political correctness and racial sensitivity. Splash Mountain is one of the few reminders left that Disney ever produced the film.
It Was Almost Named After a Tom Hanks Movie
Early in its development, Splash Mountain was called "Zip-a-Dee River Run." The name "Splash Mountain" came from Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who wanted the new ride to somehow promote the Tom Hanks/Daryl Hannah romantic comedy 'Splash.' Disney Imagineering largely ignored this idea, but somehow, the name stuck. After all, you do make a literal splash at the end.
The Origin of Rufus the Sleeping Bear
Before Disneyland's Critter Country was Critter Country, it was called Bear Country, after its star attraction: The Country Bear Jamboree. Near the entrance was a cave where guests could hear the snores of Rufus the sleeping bear.
When Splash Mountain moved in and Bear Country became Critter Country, the Imagineers payed tribute to Rufus by having audible snores coming out of Br'er Bear's cave near the start of the ride.
America Sings: The Pre-Splash Mountain
Disney was hoping that Splash Mountain would boost attendance at the Critter Country section of the park and provide a way to reuse animatronic figures from an attraction called America Sings. Located in Tomorrowland in the former home of the Carousel of Progress, America Sings featured anthropomorphic animals singing American standards. When America Sings closed in 1988, many of the show's animatronics were reprogrammed for use on Splash Mountain.
It's no surprise that the best known song from 'Song of the South,' 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,' is featured in the ride. But Splash Mountain also includes two other songs from the movie: 'How Do You Do?' and 'Everybody's Got a Laughin' Place.' Instrumental versions of some of the film's other songs can be heard in the queue area and during the ride. 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' remains a Disney anthem, but you're unlikely to hear the other songs anywhere else, unless you have a bootleg DVD of 'Song of the South.'
Different Parks Have Different Music Styles
Though they mostly use the same songs, the Disneyland and Disney World versions of Splash Mountain have different musical styles. The music in the Disneyland attraction is a mix of big band and orchestra stylings, while the tunes in the Disney World version are played in a more country bluegrass style. The Tokyo Disneyland version is the same as Disney World's, except for some of the songs being sung in Japanese.
Br'er Rabbit and Wakko Warner Share the Same Voice
That would be Jess Harnell, the voice actor who plays Wakko Warner on 'Animaniacs,' to be precise. Harnell is also the voice of Splash Mountain's Br'er Fox. Br'er Bear is voiced by Nick Stewart, the original actor who played him in 'Song of the South.'
'Tar Baby' Created a Sticky Situation
Br'er Rabbit begging Br'er Fox not to throw him in the briar patch, then revealing that the briar patch is his home after the fox does exactly that is the climax of the story of Br'er Rabbit and the tar baby. The story is retold in 'Song of the South,' but when it came time to build Splash Mountain, Disney was getting nervous about the racist associations surrounding the tar baby, a doll made from tar and turpentine that was used to trick and ensnare Br'er Rabbit. (In the story, the wiley rabbit thinks the doll is a real African-American child.) So in the ride, Br'er Rabbit is trapped by a beehive full of sticky honey.
The Drop Is Different Around the World
The climax of Splash Mountain at all three parks is the precipitous drop and splashdown representing Br'er Rabbit being flung into the briar patch by Br'er Fox. The drop is 52.5 feet in both Disneyland and Disney World, while Tokyo Disneyland guests drop a full 60 feet. The angle of the drop is between 45 and 47 degrees and the logs can drop as fast as 40 miles per hour.
Shoutout to Florida State University
The little gopher may sound like he's sneezing, but if you listen carefully, he's actually saying "FSU!" This is a nod to Florida State University, alma mater of at least one Disney Imagineer who worked on the ride.