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Latest Update: September 10, 2012

The KenNetti Tribute - Ride Versions - Page 1

The Witch Awaits

From the beginning the Snow White dark ride was the Wicked Witch's show. The ambitious "heroine's perspective" made guests in the vehicle to experience the adventure through Snow White's eyes – thus eliminating the Princess from her adventure. Instead, the ride featured four individual appearances by a ghoulish Witch and several other horrors emerging from perpetual darknesswithout the lush fluorescence magic of the current ride versions. A queue mural featuring paintings of the Wicked Witch, hungry vultures and other horrors indicated clearly that the ride wasn't going to be nice and wholesome. Observant guests knew it. Others did not.

Snow White's Adventures
Disneyland 1955-1981

Location: Disneyland, California
Original name: Snow White's Adventures
Alternate names: Snow White and Her Adventures
and "Snow White's Adventures (Scary)"
and/or Snow White's Scary Adventures
Grand opening: July 17, 1955
This version closed permanently in December 1981
(Replaced by the remodeled version in 1983)
Ride system: "dark ride" with single rail guide track
Ride designed and realized by WED Enterprises
(Walt Disney Imagineering)
Story adaptation and art direction: Ken Anderson
Original track layout: Bill Martin
Backgrounds artist: Herbert Ryman
Ultraviolet paintings:
Ken Anderson & Claude Coats
Improvements 1959-1961:
Yale Gracey & Roland "Rolly" Crump
Vehicle theming: "Mine-cart"
Vehicles designed by WED Enterprises
Vehicles manufactured by Arrow Development
Vehicle capacity (originally): 2 persons per vehicle
Improved vehicle capacity (late 1960s): 4 persons
Original ticket required: C (later D)
Wicked Witch figures: 4 (+ 1 shadow)
Snow White figures (officially): 0
Dwarf figures: each 1 (+ 1 Dopey extra)
Skeletons: at least 1
Music and audio: whole unknown
Witch voice (1965-1981): Ginny Tyler
Ride duration (estimated):
appr. 90 seconds

An Explanatory Facade,
a Confusing Perspective

The original Snow White's Adventures was designed and built between 1953 and the summer of 1955. The ride was in operation when California's Disneyland park opened officially on July 17, 1955. Kenneth "Ken" Anderson, one of the art directors of the original 1937 movie masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, adapted the script for the ride and led the original design team that included Bill Martin in charge for the track layout, Herbert Ryman creating several interior backgrounds, and Claude Coats contributing significantly to the ultraviolet realization of the ride. (More about the creators, design and development of the original ride can be found on the Secret Laboratory page).

In general it has been said that park guests did not understand the basic point of view – that they were experiencing the scary adventure through Snow White’s eyes in the ride. However, since it took nearly 30 years to bring the title character into the ride, we believe that during the ride's first two decades guests weren't actually complaining about the lack of Snow White. In the original 1955 Snow White's Adventures, the Princess was seen only in the queue area mural's cast portrait and on the facade plaque - and occasionally pushing the control buttons at the load, in the form of a pretty female ride attendant (as the above 1968 photo shows).

It was purely intentional decision by the design team to leave the heroes and heroines out from the Fantasyland area dark rides (Peter Pan Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) in favour of audience involvement. Walt Disney himself had approved this approach. Unfortunately, the ambitious interactive aim of the original dark rides winded up mostly as a negative quirk in Disneyland's history. Of all three rides, Snow White's Adventures created most of its very own, unexpected kind of guest interaction. Obviously too many guests either disregarded the quite clear message of the facade's explanatory queue mural or simply didn't believe that the original 1937 movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs contained a lot more than just merry little men, cuddly animals and a beautiful Princess singing happy songs. It seems that children anticipated the ride's nature better than the adults; little kids took one look at the red-eyed Wicked Witch in the mural (the picture below) and refused to go on the ride. Parents were unfortunately less-observant and usually forced their reluctant offspring into the vehicles. Reportedly, an angry father growled to the ride operator "Why didn't you tell us there was a witch inside?"

Nevertheless, the ride remained in its very scary original form nearly 30 years (more precisely 27). It is somewhat ridiculous to think that "The Happiest Place On Earth" would have waited 30 years to react to the customer feedback of angry parents. A warning sign proclaiming "Beware the Witch!" was eventually added to the queue area. This was still the era when individual ride tickets were bought from booths inside the park – and even if the friendly seller or ticket taker at the queue didn't remember to point it out, the ticket (that could be used in a number of other rides) did also emphasize that Snow White's Adventures ride was scary.

Unfortunately these warnings could not prevent the birth of the infamous scary reputation of Snow White's Adventures. The infamy could have possibly been prevented by emphasizing the Witch instead of Snow White in the ride's name (for example with a name like "Wicked Witch's Ventures"). The name of the ride has definitely always been misleading and contradictory. "Snow White's Adventures" is usually regarded as the ride's official name and yet the original facade proclaimed a different name, Snow White and Her Adventures.

The original Fantasyland part in Disneyland was realized in the style of a medieval fairground, with colourful but simple canopies serving as actual facades for the rides. The only significant difference between the facades was provided by long murals on the back wall of the loading & unloading platforms. The modest queue area of Snow White's Adventures (with loading & unloading points) was decorated with a 10 x 40 foot long mural, split up into several sections representing actual scenes inside the ride. Surprisingly they were in their chronological order: Diamond Mine, Forest Glade, the Seven Dwarfs' Cottage, the Vultures, Witch at the Cauldron ("Lab"), Dark Forest, and the Boulder Climax.

The mural contained one section that wasn't a scene inside the ride: a gorgeous cast portrait based on the legendary original 1937 movie poster of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was quite faithful to the old illustration style by the great Gustaf Tenggren, but for reason or another the entire portrait was flipped horizontally, resulting in a mirror image of the original poster. This breathtaking artwork of the main characters was later to be revived (and revised) for Disneyland Paris' 1992 version of the Snow White ride.

The mural contained only one appearance by the beautiful Princess, but three separate paintings of the Wicked Witch. The scary old crone was naturally included in the cast portrait, but also in the cauldron section ("Lab") and in the climax section, pushing a boulder ("Boulder"). The actual entrance into the ride building was situated far-left, in the modest Diamond Mine section (leading naturally into the beautiful mine), while the exita creepy cave-like opening next to the "Boulder" scenewas far-right. The exit's gnarled tree roots bore slight resemblance to the richly detailed tree textures of the animated masterpiece Sleeping Beauty (1959), for which Ken Anderson worked as a production designer and art director. This somewhat insignificant resemblance issue of some roots was to become significant with the 1971 version of Snow White's Adventures for Walt Disney World (WDW).

Although the bright and beautiful cast portrait may have been misleading to the scary nature of the ride, the rest of the muralespecially the right hand side of it established a creepy mood for the attraction quite effectively. The mural had also been treated with fluorescent paints; some testimonials mention that after the sunset the mural was almost alive with beautiful luminescence.

Despite its modest realization, Disneyland's 1955-1981 facade for Snow White's Adventures was quite functional one because of its explanatory mural. If a guest hesitated about the ride's nature, a ride operator or ticket taker needed only to point at the mural's scenes. Unfortunately the ride's troublesome name – and the gorgeous but slightly misleading cast portrait – caused some guests to anticipate a more child-friendly experience instead of the genuine "spook ride".

Traditional dark rides have nearly always been designed with a clockwise course, for whatever reason. So was Snow White's Adventures with its electrical single rail guide track, which has been a common feature of dark rides since Leon Cassidy of the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company patented the invention in 1928. The original ride vehicles, called usually as "mine-carts", were designed by WED Enterprises and manufactured by Arrow Development. By the late 1960s the original vehicles had been replaced by double-bench versions. (More about the ride vehicles and their development at the Secret Laboratory).

Like most dark rides of the era, the original Snow White's Adventures made extensive use of simple plywood cutout sets and decorations, but brought a never-before-seen touch of class to these humble creations. While modest by today's standards, all of the ride's human characters, and also some animals and the "Monster Trees", were three-dimensional figures. Based on bending, sliding, rotating or to-and-fro movements, these kinds of simplistic figures have been very common in amusement park dark rides.

The effects, tricks and gags of Snow White's Adventures were as simple as the figures. However, in the hands of the talented Disney Imagineers these simple tricks were enhanced with dramatic staging and storytelling style and topped with magnificent fluorescent paintings under the magic rays of ultraviolet lighting. The adventure also included at least three pairs of "crash doors" that were very common in dark rides of the era. While in cheaper rides these doors were pushed open by the vehicle itself, it is believed that from the beginning (in 1955) all the "crash doors" of Snow White's Adventures were automatically opening.

In addition to the ride's controversial name, there was a slight problem in the ride's storyline – making the ambitious "heroine's perspective" a bit muddled. The adventure started in the Seven Dwarfs' Diamond Mine, continued through serene woods into the dungeons and cellars of the Evil Queen's Castle, then into the Dark Forest, to the Dwarfs' Cottage and finally to the stormy cliffs. The serene forest route featured an important turning point: The Fork in the Road that had signs pointing to the directions of the "Dwarfs' Cottage" and to the "Witch's Castle". At this point the vehiclerepresenting Snow White's perspectivemade the somewhat odd decision to continue towards the ominous castle! This fork in the road can be seen definitely as the weakest point in the ride's original ambitious aim; why would Snow White want to turn away from the path leading to the Dwarfs' Cottage?

Before Ken Anderson and his team settled for the mine opening, they had actually thought about starting the adventure in a bleak torture chamber (!) of the Evil Queen's Castle. A preliminary layout, published already in January 1955, included such an opening, leading to the apple poisoning with the Witch and exit from the castle, into the Dark Forest, to the Dwarfs' Cottage and Diamond Mine. This rejected layout, presumably drawn by Bill Martin, concluded with an epic and gorgeous "Happy Ending" with the Prince and Snow White riding into the sunrise. It is quite believable that Walt Disney must have opposed the ride's shock opening and made his "boys" work harder for a better adaptation. Nevertheless, this rejected layout was destined to be resurrected for new Snow White rides. (The preliminary layout will be analysed in more detail on the pages of Secret Laboratory and Dungeons, and also on the general survey of the 1971 WDW ride).

As the result of the aforementioned 1953-1955 brainstorming, the original Snow White's Adventures got its final layout in which atmosphere progressed step by step into darker and scarier direction. Walt must have understood that it is questionable to start any ride with the most scariest scenes first. He must have understood even more; we have to remember that Walt was a pioneer of "intelligent entertainment" who had the urge to go where no entertainer had gone before.

As doomed as the "heroine's perspective" always seemed, it was only a small part of a bigger whole. The essence and purpose of the original Fantasyland dark rides were not in storytellingand KenNetti sincerely believes that Walt himself had understood this. As in any typical "spook ride", also the point of Snow White's Adventures was more significantly in atmosphere and experiencewith strong emphasis in a nightmare fueled by imagination. The original 1955 ride was precisely a hallucinatory nightmare through the iconic scenes of a movie. It didn't need to make sense. Even though the character of Snow White was brought into her scary adventure in 1983, the ride remained significantly in the mode of a nightmare without much logic, without endinghaving definite roots in the "spook ride" tradition. Only a few guests have understood or even considered this point.

The original Snow White's Adventures differed also significantly from all its offspring rides by not establishing the Wicked Witch as the Evil Queen. The infamous Fork in the Road may have confused a lot of people, because there was no "Witch's Castle" in the original 1937 movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In popular culture Snow White's stepmother, the Evil Queen, seems to be better known by her alter ego, the Wicked Witch, although in the original movie the Queen just disguises herself temporarily as the old crone to be able to kill Snow White. Thus the Wicked Witch character is not an actual character if she is not considered as the Evil Queen's true self and therefore people who are not acquainted to Disney's 1937 movie may have difficulty to understand that the Witch and the Queen are the same person. Even most Snow White movie posters, like the 1937 original and also the 1955 ride's cast portrait, include both the Queen and the Witch.

In 1959 when Disneyland got its epic Matterhorn mountain (with the thrilling Matterhorn Bobsleds rollercoaster) and also the legendary original Submarine Voyage several significant improvements were made into the Snow White's Adventures ride. Yale Gracey and Roland "Rolly" Crump led the team. (More about these improvements is found on the ride description and the Secret Laboratory pages). By 1965 the ride had received a new Witch voice provided by the Disney legend Ginny Tyler and by 1968 the vehicles had been replaced by two-benched "minecarts". Further smaller changes were made into the original ride's interiors and its facade throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but basically the ride stayed unchanged till its extensive remodeling.

In 1981 it was time to say goodbye to the original Snow White's Adventures. Nearly everything of the old Fantasyland was bulldozed to the ground between December 1981 and the summer of 1982. The Snow White ride was the first casualty, going down in December 1981, months before Peter Pan's Flight got cancelled and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride crashed. The new Snow White ride was built from scratch, even though some of the original track layout followed into the 1983 reincarnation, Snow White's Scary Adventures (see page 7).

Although Disneyland and the Disney Enterprises may not want to remember the good old scary days of the original Snow White's Adventures, the ride remains forever documented in the movie "40 Pounds of Trouble", released in 1962 by Universal Studios and co-produced by Tony Curtis Enterprises. Starring Suzanne Pleshette, Tony Curtis and the young Claire Wilcox, the movie is a wonderful testimony of Disneyland in the early 1960s. The movie's 15-minute Disneyland segment offers a bit more fictional than a factual view of the park, but the segment contains very rare dark ride footage from the early 1960s in the form of Snow White's Adventures and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. During the short dark ride montage, Curtis and Pleshette take the young Wilcox on Peter Pan's Flight, but instead of reaching Neverland they come face to face with the original and very grisly skeleton in the "Dungeons" scene of the Snow White ride. After a couple of snippets from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the montage returns to the Snow White ride and shows the "Beware of the Witch" sign, the original gaunt vultures, and the very ugly Witch at the cauldron.

Produced by Stan Margulies and directed by Norman Jewison, the 40 Pounds of Trouble movie was one of the very few non-Disney productions allowed to shoot inside Disneyland. Cinematography was by Joseph MacDonald. While the dark ride montage has been proved as authentic footage by several Disney theme park aficionados, it is not known was the footage actually shot by the movie's own crew. The dark ride montage, however, has clearly been shot without the ultraviolet lights or other atmospheric lighting (with the exception of the quite spooky Witch at the cauldron). The entire Disneyland segment in the movie seems to be quite faithful to the park's authentic audio materials. The footage from Snow White's Adventures may contain the original Witch voice. (Read more about the "cackle controversy" at the Cauldron Corner). Photos from 40 Pounds of Trouble are included on next page's ride description and its image gallery.

Research, analyse, text,
design and image processing
by Kenneth Sundberg

All original artwork © Disney

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Disneyland (California) 1955-1981 Version

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