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September 23, 2012

The KenNetti Tribute - Ride Versions - Page 7

Officially Scary

It was time to update an old dark ride for a new, more demanding audience. The 1955 original Snow White's Adventures in California's Disneyland had been improved only a couple of times during its 27 years. Compared to the 1971 Walt Disney World version the Californian mother attraction had gained a reputation of unimpressive character figures wearing mops as hair among clumsy cardboard sets, though the ride was still scary as hell. Thus a new "Scary Adventures Formula" was perfected and a more mature Snow White dark ride was presented to the world in 1983, almost simultaneously in Japan and California.The very scary spook ride roots of Snow White's Adventures had to make way for elegance.

Snow White's Scary Adventures
Disneyland 1983

Location: Disneyland, California
Original name: Snow White's Scary Adventures
Grand opening: May 23, 1983
(Replaced the original 1955 dark ride)
Ride system: "dark ride" with single rail guide track
Original track extended by 100 feet
Ride designed and realized by
WED Enterprises (Walt Disney Imagineering)
1983 remodeling supervision by
Tony Baxter
with Ken Anderson
Facade paint elevation artist: Kim Irvine
2010 enhancements supervised
by Tony Baxter

Vehicle theming: unclear
(Each vehicle named after each of the Dwarfs)
Vehicle capacity: 4 persons per vehicle
Wicked Witch figures: 5
Evil Queen figures: 3
Raven figures: 3 (+ 1 shadow)
Snow White figures: 1
Dwarf figures: each 2
Skeletons: 3
Ride music score from the
original 1937 movie soundtrack
Music excerpts by Leigh Harline,
Frank Churchill
& Paul J. Smith
Queue area instrumentals by Frank Churchill
The 1983 Queen/Witch voice:
Eda Reiss Merin
Ride duration: appr. 110 seconds

A Cottage in a Castle,
Perfecting the Scary Adventures

Despite of some improvements, the original 1955 Snow White's Adventures in California's Disneyland remained in its modest shape till December 1981. It is somewhat unbelievable that the technically superior second Snow White dark ride built in 1971 for Walt Disney World (WDW) didn't lead earlier to the remodeling of the original mother attraction. But finally, in 1981-1982 the Fantasyland area in Disneyland was closed for major remodeling and refurbishment. All Fantasyland's dark rides were remodeled, slightly expanded and improved with higher-quality character figures and advanced special effects developed during the creation of Walt Disney World's second theme park, EPCOT. During the same time the original Tokyo Disneyland park was being built in Japan.

The Snow White ride in California's Disneyland was remodeled under the direction of Tony Baxter and a team of Imagineers of WED Enterprises (that was soon to become Walt Disney Imagineering). Baxter had earned his Imagineering spurs by working as Claude Coats' apprentice during the creation of the 1971 WDW version of the Snow White ride. His first major project for Disneyland was the creation of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which was opened in 1979. It has been said that Baxter brought Ken Anderson back to WED from retirement to keep an eye on the Fantasyland remodeling. Anderson had been involved with Fantasyland and its attractions from the beginning in 1954.

Snow White's Adventures was expanded as much as the very restricted space allowed. Some of the original track layout was used, but also 100 feet of additional track was installed into the new ride building. It is strongly believed that the Tokyo 1983 version of the Snow White ride was developed simultaneously with the new California version. The two rides share several identical scenes, sets, figures and atmosphere. However, it is not known which one was treated as an "original" in terms of design and development, but this is actually a side issue. More significant is that the 1983 "Scary Adventures Formula" reduced the shocking spook ride quality of both new rides and replaced the stark horrors with elegance and enchantment. As a young kid, Tony Baxter had fallen in love with the ultraviolet illumination and fluorescent colours in Disneyland's original dark rides. His love actually shows in the 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures creation; even the horrors of the ride are breathtakingly beautiful.

Most of the character figures in the 1983 remodeled ride were based on the 1971 WDW figures. The music-making Seven Dwarfs in the ride's opening scene had roots in WDW's Mickey Mouse Revue, also from 1971. Although Disney officially calls these modestly moving figures as Audio-Animatronics, KenNetti would like to point out that the figures do not move their mouths (when talking or singing) nor wink their eyes. They are still mostly static figures which rotate, bend, sway, or slide into view, while some figures have head or an arm (or two) moving to-and-fro. Disney's genuine robotic Audio-Animatronics have much more elaborate movements. Classic 1960s attractions such as Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Pirates of the Caribbean established the real capabilities of the Audio-Animatronics.

It was still the ride vehicle, travelling on the familiar single rail guide track, that provided much of the important cinematic motion into the scary adventure, travelling on the familiar single rail guide track. The vehicles were basically the same double-benched models which had premiered on this specific spot in California in the late 1960s. Although these vehicles are usually called as "minecarts", through a most observant interpretation they could be the Dwarfs' beds as well! In the 1937 movie, each Dwarf had his name carved on his bed. The Snow White ride vehicles have always featured the names of the Dwarfs carved in front.

The doomed "heroine's perspective"that was initiated in the 1955 original ride was astonishingly preserved in the 1983 "Scary Adventures Formula" regardless of all the great improvements to the concept. The character of Snow White did make her official dark ride debut specifically in the 1983 Tokyo version, and a month later in the California version, but this exquisitely sculpted stationary figure didn't destroy the idea that the guests sitting in the vehicle experienced the scary adventure from the haunted Princess' perspective.

It should not be forgotten that as a dark ride, Snow White's Adventures has never needed to concentrate on telling the 1937 movie's full story. From 1955 to 1992, all these rides (with the exception of the 1994 WDW version), have concentrated on presenting an impression on the movie's essence, instead of telling the complete story. The California 1983 version continued to be Snow White's personal nightmare, a hallucinatory voyage through iconic scenes. As the focal point of the ride remained on the scary essence, there really was no need for a proper ending. Unfortunately only a few guests understood this.

In the 1983 ride's first scene Snow White is standing on the bedroom stairs holding a candle. Although it is not clearly indicated is the Princess going up or coming down, her position on the bedroom stairs could suggest her going to bed. This could be an actual hint that the following scary adventure is nothing but her disturbed dream, a nightmare of the past. This could also explain why we don't see Snow White during the rest of the ride and why the vehicles share resemblance to the Dwarfs' beds; the entire scary adventure is really just a nightmare!

The remodeled Snow White's Scary Adventures in California's Disneyland opened with the new Fantasyland on May 23, 1983. Some of Disneyland's old friends were shocked to see the new Fantasyland, where incredibly charming architecture with strong Bavarian influences had overpowered the old medieval fairground style of colourful marquees. The old facade of Snow White's Adventures was completely gone with its 10 x 40 foot long loading & unloading area mural. In its place stood an ominous Gothic tower with weather-beaten stone wallsand behind the tower window someone peered through parted curtains...

The 1983 facade for Snow White's Scary Adventures was a triumph in design with its gloomy yet beguiling style. Even today it is both haunting and enchantingsimultaneously inviting and foreboding. The vegetation around the facade has a touch of decay and yet power enough to smother all too bright colours of the most valiant blossoms. Like the very best Disney attractions, also this ride's facade tells a story. A stark story. There's no doubt that something ominous but fascinating lurks beneath the cold stone walls.

The Gothic facade has many direct roots in the 1937 original movie masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The half-timbered top section of the main tower belongs to the new overall style of the 1983 Fantasyland, but the twisted pillars supporting the tower come straightly from the movie. (There were various twisted pillars in the Evil Queen's castle and also in the Seven Dwarfs' cottage). Other towers, battlements and even the stone wall texture come from the movie. In the large window of the main tower the Evil Queen keeps vigil over her kingdom by parting the red velvet curtains occasionally and peering down at the attraction's entrance. The last-mentioned feature, based on a memorable scene in the 1937 movie, was seen already in the 1971 WDW dark ride, albeit as a smaller and less epic realization. The ornamental ravens that perch on stone skulls are not the only delicate carvings of the facade. The queue area pillars contain carvings of cute squirrels.

Unlike the bright and inviting facades of the Tokyo version and the two WDW versions (1971 and 1994), California's 1983 Gothic facade finally told it in the most simplest universal language that the Snow White ride wasand still isscary. Of course, also the attraction's official name (Snow White's Scary Adventures) finally emphasized it. Not to mention the signs that warned about the Witch. And yet, even today, there are countless parents and other guardians who seem to ignore all of it and end up at the theme park's guest relations department making official complaints about the ride being too scary. Thus, after over 50 years, the infamous scary reputation of Snow White's Adventures lives on, although this 1983 version – as all the current versions of the ride – is not as scary the original 1955 and 1971 Snow White rides used to be!

As ominous as the California 1983 Gothic facade is, there is a slight flaw in the whole (which has followed with the new concept even into the 1992 Paris version). The entrance leads guests to the queue area, past an atmospheric Secret Chamber which, confined with "iron" bars from the actual queue, familiarizes the Evil Queen's characteractually her alter ego, the Wicked Witchto guests in the queue. The loading area, however, features only charming forest atmosphere, complete with a nearly full-scale model of the Seven Dwarfs Cottage. The sunny, fairytale-like forest creation is visible all the time, even from outside the attraction. The Secret Chamber has its own audio material with spooky sound effects and sinister Witch soliloquy, but the queue and loading area have brighter music suited for the Dwarfs Cottage and the breezy forest ambience. This provides a great contrast to the ominous Secret Chamber, but may easily distract many newcomers to think that the ride is bright and happy. It is not.

Hence the ride's queue and loading area should have been realized as scary-looking as the attraction's Gothic facade, without any distracting features. (Imagine the queue area of the Pirates of the Caribbean in WDW or Paris modified with the Evil Queen's Castle details and ambience!).

However, it should not be forgotten that Walt Disney's 1937 original masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not only a horror movie. It was a most well-balanced mixture of fright and fantasy – of childlike innocence and harrowing horrors. Despite of distraction, the 1983 complete facade (including the breezy queue & loading area) captures exactly the full essence of the 1937 movie by merging two total opposites in one facade!

Some observant guests may still question why there is a cute cottage inside an ominous castle facade. In the Tokyo and WDW versions the Snow White ride started at and inside the Evil Queen's Castle, but here in California, where the queue and the entire loading and unloading area are situated inside a foreboding castle facade, the ride itself starts inside the Dwarfs' Cottage! After the bright opening with the little music-making men, cute animals and Snow White, the ride changes dramatically into a darker direction – with no other happy moments and neither a specific happy ending. So why the ride starts with its only happy scene? And, why there is the Seven Dwarfs' Cottage inside the Evil Queen's Castle?

Despite of the silly theory that the scary adventure would be Snow White's real dream, there is a more straightforward answer to these questions. As it was told in the beginning, the remodeling was limited to restricted space. Resequencing of the major scenes has either been restricted to the original 1955 track layout or then Baxter and Anderson have just wanted to keep the ride's structure as familiar as possible. Comparing the 1955 ride layout to the 1983 layout reveals that most of the remodeled major scenes are located almost at their original 1955 places. In 1983 the first 1/3 of the ride (Into the Dwarfs' Cottage, The Celebration, Behind the Cottage Window and the Castle in the Moonlight mural) seems to follow the original 1955 Diamond Mine track quite faithfully and the Dark Forest, Return to the Cottage and the Stormy Climax are almost located at their original spots.

The larger, significantly modified ride versions1971 WDW and 1983 Tokyo featured a breathtaking exterior of the Seven Dwarfs' Cottage inside the actual ride, followed by a scene in the cottage. Although Tony Baxter and Ken Anderson could have placed the cottage exterior anywhere into the ride and started the layout from the scratch, it is somewhat obvious that they tried to salvage as many of the 1955 setpiece ideas as possible. Thus we believe that the Seven Dwarfs' Cottage exterior with its breezy interior scene was placed into the beginning of the ride because it was the only spot having room enough.

Furthermore, as the 1983 Tokyo ride and 1994 WDW versions made clear, it is at least questionable to start any ride with the most scariest scenes first. With its few shortcomings California's 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures offered a most well-balanced interpretation of the 1937 movie's essence. In the capable hands of Baxter and Anderson the new ride received a cinematic and fully dramatic form, progressing step by step into darker and scarier direction. Of course, The Celebration could have been a good way to end the ride happilybut such a change might have affected on the overall excellence of the scary adventure. For instance, the Evil Queen's Castle segment in the middle of the ride may seem to be a detour, but actually it is an excellent bridge also literallyinto the scarier part of the ride.

Regardless of how much more sense the remodeled 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures would have made storywise if the ride had started inside the Evil Queen's Castle, we have to be grateful that it didn't! If it had started in the same way as in the Tokyo and WDW versions, then the powerful Drawbridge sequence with the huge opening doors and throbbing music (leading to the Transformation at the Magic Mirror) would have never been created.

Reportedly, the 1983 remodeling team had conceived also another literal bridge into the ride. It was a beautiful new ending for the ride, instead of the original "Happy Ending" in the 1954 preliminary layout. In his book Mouse Under Glass (1997/2001) author David Koenig describes the scene: "They wanted to end with the prince on horseback, the Dwarfs going up a bridge and Snow White above the bridge." It is believed that the planned scene wasn't realized into the ride due to lack of space. The Snow White ride's new neighbour Pinocchio's Daring Journey also needed space. So the team created a gigantic storybook (partly a mural, partly a three-dimensional decoration) into the very cramped final corner of the ride. It closes the story immediately after the Witch's death, perhaps in a bit abrupt fashion, by telling only that "They Lived Happily Ever After". Although it was not really needed, the storybook closing was a charming addition into the dark ride that started happily but finished with a scream of horror.

The 1983 California version's loading area has never had any cast portrait in its forest setting. The unloading area, however, has always had a Happy Ending mural following right after the giant storybook mural. Featuring the Seven Dwarfs, some animals, a white horse and Snow White with her Prince, the mural virtually replaced the planned happy ending. It is among the biggest Snow White dark ride mysteries that on this specific 1983 California Happy Ending mural the appearances of Snow White and her Prince are among the worst artwork ever seen in Snow White dark rides, although the fluorescent paintings and murals inside the actual ride are incredibly beautiful pieces of art.

The 1983 "Scary Adventures Formula" established the high quality of the cutout sets and other decorations painted with fluorescent colours. Already in the 1971 WDW ride the black lighting was designed to illuminate everything and not to cast shadows of its own, but the adventure itself had only one passing moment of visual beauty. Under Tony Baxter's direction, the 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures became filled with spellbinding visuals, including two-dimensional paintings of extensive woodland scenes, stone walls, timber beams, moonbeam reflections, shelves of laboratory equipment, towers, arches, pillars, eyes, thrones, mineshafts, diamonds, gems, carvings, cliffs and a castle. When seen under bright maintenance lights or in flash photography, most of these painted surfaces may seem flat and poorly realized but under the ultraviolet illumination these very special paintings transform into gorgeous three-dimensional "fairytale reality".

The Secret Chamber at the 1983 ride's queue area functioned as a preshow to the ride. Amidst the spooky sounds of the sinister chamber the Evil Queen's alter ego (the Wicked Witch) was heard but not seen toiling over a boiling cauldron. It is currently not known by KenNetti, is the original 1983 soliloquy by the Wicked Witch still heard in California's Secret Chamber. The soliloquy is story-wise a bit contradictory to the adventure that followed. In the ride we see the Evil Queen twice before she transforms into the Witchbut here, in the Secret Chamber, she is already the Witch! Once again we remind that the purpose of the Snow White attraction was not to tell the full story. In the hallucinatory or nightmare approach, the Secret Chamber can be interpreted in much more fascinating ways than as a part of the ride's chronological story.

The audio materials of California's 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures combines old and new. The Wicked Witch's high-pitched cackle echoes throughout the Dark Forest sequence, but clashes quite heavily with her 1983 speaking voice. Experts claim that the aforementioned cackle does not come from the 1955 mother attraction nor from the 1971 WDW version. The 1983 speaking voices for the Queen and the Witch may have been provided by Eda Reiss Merin. She did the same double role on a newly-recorded Disney’s “Read-Along” book & tape released in 1990. A talented character actress, Reiss Merin voiced also the witch Orddu for Disney's The Black Cauldron which was released in 1985. Hence, the actress has definitely been around at the Disney Studios in the early 1980s when the new Snow White ride was conceived and produced for Disneyland.

The 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures has the great significance of perfecting the "Scary Adventure Formula" also by bringing great atmospheric music into the concept. Although the 1983 Tokyo ride version shared the same elegance as the 1983 California creation, the Japanese scary adventure did not use the music score inside the ride (with the exception of the Celebration scene). The music used in the California attraction came from the 1937 motion picture soundtrack, although most of it sounds astonishingly fresh to have been recorded over 75 years ago. The most chilling and ominous music excerpts used in the ride were composed by Leigh Harline. The Scary Adventures music score including also music by Frank Churchill and Paul J. Smithwill be analysed in more details on the ride description and on the Treasure Vault page).

In the summer of 2010 California's Snow White ride received exclusive enhancements under Tony Baxter's direction. The most significant changes were made into the scenes Transformation at the Magic Mirror (photo above) nd the Stormy Climax. Previously the Evil Queen was the only thing that aged in the Magic Mirror scenebut through the enhancement, the entire Throne Room loses its spectacle during her majesty's transformation and becomes a perfect bridge (eerily-lit, cobwebbed, dilapidated) to the following Dungeons scene. The enhanced Stormy Climax features wonderfully realistic rainstorm without real water. Representing the latest dark ride technology, the 2010 enhancements brought the Snow White dark ride to the level of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror's elegant ghost hoteland yet, managed to keep amazingly true to the 1983 "Scary Adventures Formula". Thus, the current Snow White's Scary Adventures in California's Disneyland may still be the most Fairest One of All.

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

All original artwork © Disney

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Disneyland (California) 1983 Version

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