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Latest Update: September 10, 2012

The KenNetti Tribute - Cauldron Corner

From the beginning the Snow White ride has been the Witch's show. The original 1955 ride featured four individual appearances by a very ghoulish Witch. In the original Walt Disney World 1971 version the Witch made seven appearances. In the Tokyo Disneyland 1983 version the old crone appeared six times, while in the remodeled 1983 California version the Witch again stole the show with five appearances and continued in the exact same fashion also in the Disneyland Paris 1992 counterpart. Quite excellent achievement for an old, ugly crone who wasn't even a real characteronly a magical disguise for Her Infernal Majesty, the Evil Queen.

From the beginning, the Snow White ride really should have been called as "Wicked Witch's Ventures". Thus, at the Cauldron Corner, we concentrate solely on the star of the ride.

Which Witch's Which?
The Cackle Controversy

It is not known how much the original 1955 Snow White's Adventures used sound effects or other audio materials (such as songs, spoken material or background music). Regarding the Wicked Witch's voice, our first guest testimonies come from the mid-1960s. By that time the Witch had a couple of spoken segments, such as "Have an apple, dearie" (while offering the apple) and "Goodbye, dearie!" (as she was pushing the boulder on the arriving vehicle). The Witch's insane, high-pitched cackle that became so infamous in the 1971 Walt Disney World ride version was very different from the original Lucille La Verne croaking heard in the original 1937 movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The high-pitched dark ride cackle has reached definitely more legendary status than its movie precursor and partly because an enormously elusive mystery shrouds it.

In all Snow White dark rides starting from 1983 (Disneyland in California, Tokyo Disneyland, 1992 Disneyland Paris, 1994 Walt Disney World) there has been a high-pitched cackle echoing amidst the "Dark Forest" sequence. This specific cackle (which somewhat resembles Witch Hazel's cackle in 1952 Donald Duck cartoon Trick or Treat) is not the same that was heard from 1965 to 1981 and from 1971 to 1993 in the Snow White Adventures rides in California's Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (WDW), respectively.

In WDW's 1971 Snow White's Adventures the Evil Queen transformed into the Wicked Witch in front of the Magic Mirror for the very first time. During the transformation she screeched the next verse "I am the Fairest One of All" with such a zeal that it sounded more like "I'll get Rid of You All!". Even if heard wrong, the Witch did make her point very clear: She was the Most Insane of Them All, cackling and screaming all the way through the ride. Her memorable, maniacal laughter was provided by the legendary Disney voice artist Ginny Tyler.

Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar confirmed in their book Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records that Ginny Tyler was the Witch's voice in the aforementioned dark rides. Her considerable talents included everything from sweet princesses and animals to birdcalls and croaking hags. Tyler became the original storyteller for the Disneyland Storyteller records but performed also great amount of different characters for television, movies and radio. Disney aficionados remember Tyler as the host of the re-edited Mickey Mouse Club (1962) while others remember her fondly as Mother Goose in a daily television show for Seattle's KOMO-TV (starting in 1951). Tyler's memorable voice performances include the two love-struck female squirrels in Disney's The Sword in the Stone (1963) and Polynesia the parrot in Twentieth Century Fox's original Doctor Dolittle (1967).

However, the several witch voices by Ginny Tyler may have made the biggest impression among the listeners of Disneyland Records. Tyler voiced both witches in the Walt Disney audio production of The Wizard of Oz (in the mid-1960s) and provided other voices as well to Disney's later "Oz" recordings. Tyler's hag voices also include voicing Floretta on a 1960s cast recording of Disney's Babes In Toyland. In 1974 Tyler provided the new narration voice for Witch Hazel on Disneyland Records' audio version of the aforementioned Trick or Treataccompanied by the cartoon's authentic soundtrack. However, Tyler's elegant narration on the "Magic Mirror Storyteller" version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs did not feature the actress' Witch cackle nor any other specific character voices. The last-mentioned album, a revised version of the original 1957 Storyteller version, was recorded probably as early as in 1962 (according to its copyright note).

KenNetti would also like to point out that Ginny Tyler may be the uncredited voice of the Raven on the original 1969 "official soundtrack" album of The Haunted Mansion, (featuring the voices of Ron Howard, Robie Lester, Pete Renoudet and Thurl Ravenscroft). The Raven's screeching is quite similar, though not identical, to Tyler's insane high-pitched cackling as the 1971 WDW ride's Witch.

According to Wicked Witch expert Kurt Raymond, Ginny Tyler was the voice of the creepy old hag in the improved Disneyland dark ride from 1965 to 1981 (when the ride was closed for major remodeling). It seems that some of Tyler's original vocals were also used in the Walt Disney World 1971 version. However, it should be remembered that the 1971 ride version featured one completely new scene (The Transformation at the Magic Mirror) with exclusive vocals. The WDW ride featured also two extra appearances by the Witch, if compared to the Disneyland ride where she appeared "only" four times.

Tyler's cackle is also heard a couple of times in the Tokyo Disneyland ride, although the Wicked Witch speaks Japanese and laughs very differently when the familiar Tyler cackle is not heard.

KenNetti acknowledges that Ginny Tyler was a very talented voice artist with a wonderfully natural quality for narrating the Disneyland Storyteller albums. There's no doubt of Tyler's ability to perform cackling Witches. However, since some official sources do not mention the Wicked Witch voice of Snow White's Adventures in Ginny Tyler's résumé, KenNetti asks for patience and caution when identifying Tyler's Witches and those cacklers who were not her.

Kurt Raymond sheds some important light on the matter: "Tyler's cackles always began at a medium pitch escalating to a piercingly high screech that really grates on one's nerves. In addition, Tyler's Witch cackles always started with an 'Ahhh', not a 'Yeeee'. The 1983 'Haunted Forest' cackle starts high and goes low with a 'Yee hee hee hee', not an 'Ahhhhhiiiieeee-hahahaha' like Tylers."

Tyler began her Disney career in the early 1960s - which means that Disneyland's original Snow White ride has had another Witch voice before Tyler created the role. This could also explain why experts claim that the ride's Witch voice heard in the movie 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) is not Tyler's voice.

Both the 1952 original cartoon and the 1974 re-recording of Trick or Treat the original Witch Hazel was voiced by another legendary voice actress, June Foray. She may have voiced several croaking witches for animated shorts, such as the legendary Warner Bros cartoons, Hanna-Barbera's The Smurfs, and maybe also for a Tom & Jerry cartoon. However, even in the 1952 cartoon Foray's original Witch Hazel voice clashes with the witch's joyous high-pitched cackle. Thus, even the high-pitched cackle for original Witch Hazel could easily be an earlier stock recording from Disney's – or someone else's – sound effect archives.

Other possibilities for the original voice of the Wicked Witch in the 1955 Snow White's Adventures include Martha Wentworth. She performed wicked old crones, lovable grannies and impressive dowagers both in radio and on screen from 1930s to mid-1960s. Wentworth's voice work for Disney includes the memorable performances as Mad Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone (1963) and the Nanny in One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). For Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1941 Tom & Jerry cartoon Fraidy Cat Wentworth provided a chillingly impressive old crone voice. As Wentworth provided the witch voice also for Disney's first "Oz" recording (The Scarecrow of Oz, 1965), some people may easily confuse her with Ginny Tyler who performed all the other witches in the following recordings. However, Wentworth's and Tyler's roads crossed already earlier, when producers decided to replace Wentworth's original interpretation of the older female squirrel in The Sword in the Stone with a re-recorded voice by Tyler.

Then there's also Gloria Wood, a singer extraordinaire, who was friends with Elvis Presley and also dubbed Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball and Vera-Ellen. In the late 1950s Wood sang a wonderfully wicked song, "Jingle Bones", performing as the original dark ride's Wicked Witch, on a Disneyland record "A Christmas Adventure in Disneyland" (1958, also released as 45-rpm EP called Christmas Trees of Disneyland). While this song seems to be the only occasion when Gloria Wood has performed the Witch voice, her performance should not be forgotten, as the twisted song with her delightful croaking is a definite precursor to Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

Whoever provided it, the high-pitched cackling heard in the current Snow White dark rides' "Dark Forest" segments clashes quite heavily with the Witch's spoken voices. The reason is not, however, in the Japanese or French interpretations of the Wicked Witch's voice, because the clash started already in California, with Disneyland's remodeled Snow White's Scary Adventures in 1983.

While not a confirmed fact, there are many aficionados who believe that the Evil Queen and Wicked Witch speaking voice of the 1983 California ride was provided by Eda Reiss Merin. KenNetti supports this belief. Reiss Merin did the same double role on a newly-recorded Disney’s “Read-Along” book & tape of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1990. A talented character actor, Eda Reiss Merin voiced the witch "Orddu" for Disney's The Black Cauldron (released in 1985), so it is definitely a possibility that the actress was around the Disney studio in early 1980s. Reiss Merin's résumé includes appearances in movies Lili (1953), To Be or Not to Be (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), War and Love (1985), Turner & Hooch (1989) and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991).

And while speculating, we should not forget to mention The Black Cauldron's very own high-pitched cackler Billie Hayes who provided the unforgettable voice for "Orgoch" of the witch trio. Even though Eda Reiss Merin's voice is highly recognizable, it should also be noted that the 1983 California Queen/Witch vocals sound occasionally like Pat Carroll, who provided the unforgettable voice for the sea witch Ursula in The Little Mermaid (1989).

The new Evil Queen and Wicked Witch vocals in the many Disney theme park productions have been performed by several different artists. Louise (Leslie) Chamis voiced at least the Queen in Fantasmic (1992) and in the magnificent Walt Disney's World on Ice production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1997). Louise Chamis could have easily provided the Witch vocals for the 1994 remodeled Walt Disney World dark ride. If she was also the Witch voice in the original 1992 Fantasmic and did the 1994 ride vocals, then Chamis was forced to "underperform" the role disastrously: Fantasmic's 1992 Queen has very cold voice and the Witch cackles magnificently - but the Witch in the 1994 WDW ride is only a pretentious granny without any sense of real drama. When compared with the 1992 Fantasmic, the 1994 ride's Queen/Witch vocals do include a few passages and screams that seem somewhat identical.

Of Lois Nettleton's possible Disney voice works KenNetti doesn't know much. However, her name has been mentioned several times by Disney villain aficionados. Nettleton had a naturally elegant voice, so it's not difficult to imagine her doing the Evil Queen actually better than Louise Chamis. KenNetti's sole evidence of Nettleton's great voice comes from the legendary Disney/Touchstone sitcom The Golden Girls (30th episode, season two, "Isn't It Romantic").

Susanne (Suzanne) Blakeslee gave her regal voice to the Evil Queen in WDW's Share a Dream Come True Parade (2001). Blakeslee is quite well known for her voice work as other evil women in more recent Disney productions, such as Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure (2003) and as the wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine in Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007). KenNetti has previously identified the 1994 WDW Queen/Witch voice as Blakeslee, so it's definitely not difficult to believe her doing the role.

However, KenNetti wants to emphasize that nearly all of this information about the Witch/Queen voices in the Snow White dark rides remains unconfirmed until someone somewhere decides to share the truth with us.

Compared to the infamously insane 1971 shrieking and cackling by Ginny Tyler, the new 1994 cackle at WDW ride's "Cauldron Corner" was very gentle, like a granny's chuckle. This may have brought the circle to its end, but the cackle controversy and the elusive mystery about the various Witch voices still remains intact in the California, Paris and Tokyo Snow White rides.

Whose Afraid of the...
Wicked Old Witch?

The Development of an Old Crone

The curse of the Witch started in California's Disneyland in 1955. Despite of the queue area mural containing three separate paintings of the Wicked Witch, too many parents did not pay attention to the red-eyed menace.

Each Snow White ride has included a spin through the dark cellars of the Evil Queen's castle. In the original 1955 ride, however, the castle was known as the Witch's Castle. After the vehicle had survived the grisly horrors of the Dungeons scene, the route continued towards a huge spider web in a dark archway. A silhouetted shadow of the Wicked Witch emerged behind the web. This was the Witch's very first appearance in the ride, but since it was only a "shadow", it is not included in her four actual appearances in the original ride.

The photo above is a slightly enhanced version of the famous publicity shot which is believed to be the original Witch figure in the Behind the Pillar scene from the 1950s. This beautifully sculpted three-dimensional figure was truly the scariest of them all! Her deformed ugliness and gnarled, gaunt and surprisingly realistic features made her definitely much more shocking than any of her later smooth-skinned reincarnations. Her eyes were gleaming devilishly red.

Before the 1983 remodeling of the California ride, the Witch at the Cauldron figure seems ridiculously undramatic in photographs. Her nose may seem like a sluggish banana, the hood of her cloak drooping badly, and her entire posture very undramatic and odd. However, all these details can be explained by the poor photography that hasn't done justice to the ride's dramatic lighting and the actual ride experience. For instance, the drooping hood of the Witch seems to have a proper explanation: as the vehicle approached the Witch at the Cauldron scene, the hag was completely shrouded among shadows, but as her figure turned to face the glowing cauldron, she "appeared" quite suddenly. Thus the drooping hood on the other side of her face has been absolutely necessaryto hide her properly before the vehicle was close enough. This can be witnessed in the movie "40 Pounds of Trouble" (1962).

The major technical breakthroughs during the 1960s at WED Enterprises (nowadays Walt Disney Imagineering) enabled higher quality to Walt Disney World's 1971 dark rides. The 1971 WDW ride was where the Wicked Witch figure and the Seven Dwarfs started significantly resemble their original 1937 movie counterparts. The 1971 Witch had round yet hawk-like features and an exaggerated expression that is easily traceable to the 1937 movie. This expression has been the dark ride Witch's trademark grin ever since.

While the mother attraction in Disneyland was being remodeled in 1981-83, the WDW Witch's costume and makeup in the WDW version was modified. Changes included burgundy-coloured satin attached to all the Witch's hems including her hood and sleeves. Her hair was cut several inches and was given a permed look. In the early 1990s the Witch's hairdo was significantly different when compared to her 1971 original form and Disneyland counterpart; the WDW Witch resembled more a troll with her messy fringe (or bangs).

Inspired by an atmospheric scene in the original 1937 movie, the Castle Lake sequence in the 1971 Walt Disney World ride version became a definite part of the "Scary Adventures Formula". The suddenly appearing Witch on the Boat was quite possibly developed from the Behind the Pillar scene in Disneyland's original 1955 Snow White dark ride.

The beautiful balance of light and dark – the true "Scary Adventures Formula" – was perfected in 1983 when two new versions of Snow White's Adventures (for California's Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland) introduced a more elegant scary adventure to the world. The Wicked Witch remained as an integral part of the experience. She may have received a slight facelift at this point. The Tokyo Witch has always seemed more gaunt and menacing. However, these changes may have been realized as simply as altering her skin colour and make-up.

After the 1983 "Formula" the Witch's basic look has remained the same, even though her skin-colour, eye makeup and hairdo has slightly varied from attraction to attraction. The Witch's characteristic round eyes have been modified only twicefor the Witch on the Boat scene in the 1992 ride version of Disneyland Paris and later for the Tokyo ride's counterpart scene. In the original Paris version of the Witch on the Boat scene the old hag had significantly more insane look in her half-closed, extremely gleaming eyes than the other Witches ever had with their round, completely open eyes. For reason or another, the Paris Witch's scary eyes were eventually re-modified into fully open ones. It is not known when the Tokyo version's Witch on the Boat got her new, more menacing half-closed eyes.

In 1994 the very scary Snow White ride in Walt Disney World transformed into a significantly less-scary direction. There is the possibility that the 1994 Witch figures were re-sculpted, but KenNetti doubts this. At least in the ride's last years her face seemed to return to its original 1955 rootswith scary red eyes and gaunt, cadaverous features. In the spring of 2012, she had red eyes and looked totally ghastly in every single scene. In the 1983 California and 1992 Paris rides the Witch figures have almost always had green eyes.

Wicked Witch
n o t - u p d a t e d - y e t

The KenNetti Tribute for Snow White's Scary Adventures strives for presenting at least some of the essence of the actual enchantment and atmosphere found in the Snow White dark rides. This is why most of our exclusively enhanced & expanded photos are not as glaringly revealing as most dark ride images on the internet. We ask you to notice, however, that some of these expanded and/or enhanced photos may not show things (sets, lighting and character design) exactly like they appear / or have appeared in the rides.

Most images and photos are specially processed for this KenNetti appearance. Originals can be found at the websites of the image providers or copyright holders. Whenever a provider or copyright holder other than Disney has been indicated in these images and photos, the originals have been used with permission in this KenNetti Snow White's Scary Adventures Tribute. KenNetti doesn't always have the exact source of the original images and photos provided by several different people, so these originals are usually copyrighted to the providers of the images.

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

All original artwork © Disney

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