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Latest Update: September 10, 2012

The KenNetti Tribute - The Dungeons

Beginning with Disneyland's original 1955 Snow White's Adventures, the Snow White dark rides have always included a spin in the dark Dungeons of the Evil Queen's Castle. This chilling scene, with grisly skeletons hanging in chains and creeping out from cells, is undoubtedly one of the most controversial subjects of all Disney dark rides. Yet the existence of these beautifully luminous bony fellows is one of the most justified aspects of a dark ride based on Walt Disney's 1937 animated masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Like all creepy vaults, the Dungeons of Snow White rides hide some of the most deepest and darkest secrets of the "Fairest One Of All".

The photos and images on this page have been extensively enhanced, expanded or completely fabricated
for the KenNetti appearance. However, the visual style has been particularly inspired by the 1983 California and 1992 Paris versions of the Snow White dark ride. KenNetti emphasizes that most of the analysis, images and opinions on this page represent solely Kenneth Sundberg's view on Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Snow White dark rides.

KenNetti recommends that
oung children and impressionable minds should be
accompanied by a responsible adult or guardian
when exploring this Dungeons page

The Dungeons
Scary Adventurous Skeletons

Skeletons and dimly lit dungeons are the common ingredients of any spook ride. However, in the Snow White dark rides the imprisoned skeletons remain an integral part of Disney's retelling of Snow Whiteand an important feature of the Evil Queen's character. The Dungeons scene has always taken place inside the Evil Queen's Castle where sinister ambience certainly forewarns of the approaching gruesome scenes. The Dungeons could be much more controversial if they happened all of a sudden in the middle of bright and cheerful Seven Dwarfs Cottage and or in the beautiful Diamond Mine.

However, it is justifiable to say that the Dungeons scene took place maybe too soon in the Snow White rides of the Walt Disney World's (WDW) Magic Kingdom park and Tokyo Disneyland. It definitely can be questioned if the correct way to start any spook ride is to introduce a bunch of scary, gleaming skeletons creeping towards the vehicle and then move to less scary situations. The original 1955 ride in California's Disneyland started in a more friendlier way, developing into darker and scarier direction step by step and offering hints of the upcoming horrors. The skeletons, being "testimony of the Witch's evil name" (as said in promotional 1955 material), led the vehicle into the ride's scarier part. The same, logical formula was used in the remodeled 1983 California ride and also in the Disneyland Paris version in 1992.

In Snow White's Adventures and its various reincarnations, the imprisoned skeletons' most distinct common factor has always been the powerful ghostly luminescence, achieved through ultraviolet lighting and fluorescent paints. This separates the luminous bony fellows from the more realistically-coloured skeletons of other Disney dark rides, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom Manor. If the imprisoned skeletons in any Snow White ride are seen under normal lighting or in flash photography, they look actually as realistically hideous and grotesque as in the aforementioned dark rides. And yet, seen in such circumstances, most of these imprisoned skeletons are revealed not be bound with chains at all. These bony fellows could as well be hanging around doing pull-ups and press-ups in their private gym. Thus, the black light and gleaming colours contribute enormously to the highly suggesting and haunting visuality of the Dungeons in Snow White ridestransforming a very gruesome scene suggesting torture, subjugation, horror and death into hypnotic, otherwordly beauty.

The usual accusation against the Dungeons scene in the Snow White dark rides is that it doesn't belong to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The accusation is false. The original 1937 movie includes gruesome skulls, several skeletal remains, and at least two clearly seen skeletons in the deepest cellars of the Evil Queen's castle. There is also a mummified corpse in its casket (probably as a reference to "Mummy Dust", one of the ingredients of the transformation formula). The first of the movie skeletons is in chains, dangling from its neck on the opposite wall to the mummy. The second skeleton is seen in the infamous sequence in which the skeletal remains of a prisonerwho has died while reaching for a water pitcheris kicked to pieces by the approaching Wicked Witch; ("Thirsty? Have a drink!"). This very same scene features the movie's most gruesome background artwork with several skeletal remains scattered in the shadows of the stairs. Before the video and DVD age restored it, this very macabre and brutal scene had been censored in many countries. Deepening the character of the Evil Queen, the scene emphasizes once and for all that she is a real lunatic ...with deadly sense of humour!

Legendary Ken Anderson, who worked as an art director for the 1937 movie, was most responsible for creating the original 1955 Snow White's Adventures. With Walt Disney's approval and probable initiative, Anderson adapted the movie for a scary spook ride by choosing the scenes. A visit through dark dungeonsactually a torture chamberappeared already in a preliminary ride layout (more about this in the next chapter!). While an extremely versatile artist, Anderson had obvious talent in creating macabre visuals, including skeletons and ghosts in chains. Also his early sketches for The Haunted Mansion suggest this.

However, there may be another reason why the Snow White ride got its very first skeleton. In an interview for the StoryboarD/The Art of Laughter magazine (Aug/Sept 1991) Ken Anderson reminisced about one of the very first Audio-Animatronics built by Ub Iwerks. It was a skeleton sitting on a table, opening his eyes and greeting whoever was looking at it. "The thing was talking to you", Anderson recalled, "I was actually very impressed." Perhaps this is the reason why the original Dungeons included a talking skeleton already in 1955, apparently uttering "go baaack! go baaack!" to the approaching vehicle.

Ken Anderson's original artwork for Snow White's Adventures includes the chained skeleton (above). The skeleton has more elaborate chains and a particularly striking pose than what its actual three-dimensional dark ride counterpart had in early 1960s. Despite of the heavy chains restraining its arms and neck, Anderson's original skeleton looks like it's about to take flight. In the 1960s the three-dimensional counterpart still had both wrists in shackles, but the skeleton's pose was, probably by accident, a faithful representation of the first skeleton in the 1937 movie (below).

Several people remember fondly the Dungeons in the original Snow White's Adventures. The aforementioned skeleton's skull moved towards the approaching vehicle. This movement has been captured forever in the movie "40 Pounds of Trouble", released in 1962 by Universal Studios. The skeleton may have had also red shining eyes in the skull's eyesockets. One can only imagine how shocking the skeleton may have appeared in the authentic, original darkness of the ride, gleaming in eerie slimy-green fluorescence. The skeleton was apparently intact in the ride's Dungeons scene till 1981.

Although some sources claim that there have been more than one skeleton in the original ride's Dungeons, KenNetti hasn't been able of finding any proof of those other skeletal individuals. The ride's final layout shows only one skeletonand it is the aforementioned one. However, it has to be remembered that the ride was improved significantly between 1959 and 1965 by a team lead by the effect wizards Yale Gracey and Roland "Rolly" Crump. Perhaps the many improvements brought new denizens into the dungeons. Whether an original feature or an improvement, the talking skeleton and other ghostly voices emanating from the darkness contributed enormously to the eerieness of the Dungeons scene. The voices told the guests to "go baaack! stay out! keep awaaay!".

In the 1971 Walt Disney World (WDW) version of Snow White's Adventures the Dungeons were the second major scene in the interior ride. The scene featured at least two very realistic-looking skeletons (à la Pirates of the Caribbean), moving their jaws as if pleading for helpand probably moaning to the same audio as in the Disneyland mother attraction. The first skeleton was lying on the floor of his cell while reaching out through the bars. He was obviously based on the similar individual in the 1937 movie scene (of the Witch kicking the skeleton). After the first skeleton, the journey through the dimly lit Dungeons in the 1971 WDW version continued towards gate-like "crash doors" which opened automatically. Behind the doors was the second skeleton, chained to the wall with arms spread wide apart, although the rest of this skeleton was sitting "peacefully" on the floor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is unknown if this skeleton has ever been dangling completely on the wall, like its descendants in the 1983 versions for California and Tokyo.

In 1994 the Walt Disney World ride was made less scary and only one of these scary skeletons was left intact, though it was the most justified individualthe one lying on the floor of his cell. Noteworthy is that even after the 1994 remodeling and "toning down" this skeleton continued to move its jaws.

The Dungeons scene layout in the "Scary Adventures Formula"perfected in 1983 for California's Disneylandhas three significant skeletons: one hanging in a cramped cell, the other one hanging chained to the wall with arms spread wide apart and feet not touching the ground, and the third lying on the floor of his cell but stuck between tight bars. While two of these skeletons are not specifically from the 1937 movie, the third one is a clear descendant of the 1971 WDW individual and, again, inspired by the infamous movie scene. Even though the Tokyo, California and Paris versions of the Dungeons share these three similar skeletons, their order, features and details are quite different.

The largest amount of skeletons in all Snow White rides has been seen in the Tokyo version of Snow White's Adventures, where five individuals and a few scattered remains were still intact in 2011. The Tokyo version of the Dungeons scenean expanded combination of the 1971 WDW and 1983 California versionsis larger, more detailed and definitely more grotesque than in any other of the ride's versions. The skeletal remains of the tortured prisoners seem even more ghastly and the crowded space is genuinely horrifyingeven if these Japanese-talking skeletons are only pleading for help and warning us not to go further. KenNetti calls the Dungeons in the Tokyo ride as the "Tokyo Gothic".

Nowadays, when the 1994 WDW version has been closed, the structural design of the "Tokyo Gothic" is also the most unique. Of the five skeletons the second oneslumped behind barsis seen first before the vehicle actually enters into the dungeon area. After a slight turn the first skeleton is revealed, dangling chained to the wall. The entire sequence gives the impression that the Dungeons area is huge. At least in the 1994-2012 version the WDW Dungeons had a similar structural designalbeit without a forewarning skeleton, (and the only skeleton reaching through the bars) and a reduced area that only seemed to be large at the first glance.

While in the 1971 WDW version the First Skeleton was reaching out through the bars of his cell in a desperate fashion, the Tokyo counterpart of the cell is seen later, featuring two skeletons creeping out in a significantly scarier fashion, even though they are still stationary figures. The California and Paris versions feature the first chained skeleton dangling behind iron bars of a cramped cell, but in Tokyo this individual is the last one, tied to a rope and dangling over a dark pitwithout the cell and the iron bars. The Tokyo counterpart of the skeleton chained to the wall dangles almost as loosely as the 1992 Disneyland Paris individual, but doesn't smile as much. (For reason or another, this Paris individual seems to grin quite happily in the ultraviolet illumination). Both of these skeletons have their feet "chained" above the ground, but without actual manacles or chains.

Of all the skeletons chained to the wall, the California 1983 individual (who should still be intact) is the only one featuring actual manacles around his ankles and wrists. This California skeleton gives by far the most realistic impression of a brutally tortured human being, dangling with strained arms and head drooping on its chest. There is even more to this skeleton than meets the eye!

The Disneyland Paris version of the ride (Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains) opened in 1992. The Dungeons scene in the Paris ride is almost a replica of the 1983 California version, but with an additional, fourth skeleton. This very scary surprise, hanging in the airalthough without any chains, manacles or ropeemerges from a dark archway at the end of the Dungeons scene and descends upon the approaching vehicle in a true spook ride fashion. It surpasses even the grotesque Tokyo skeletons and thus deserves a name of its own, the "Paris Fright". This extremely scary skeleton has occasionally disappeared from its place - quite possibly due to complaints - but has made as many victorious returns. (KenNetti's latest eye witness reports from Paris are from 2009, when the "Paris Fright" was intact).

As in the 1955 mother attraction in California, the imprisoned skeletons in the Tokyo version continue to speak in ominous fashion, but in the current California version (at least in the late 1980s and 1990s) and also in the 1992 Paris version, the skeletons have never spoken nor moved their jaws.

The Dungeons scenes have also had some other denizens. In the 1971-1993 WDW ride the skeletons were accompanied by rats with gleaming eyes and a fat, giant spider. While the gleaming eyes have been seen at least in the remodeled 1994 WDW ride, the spider was probably trampled by the Wicked Witch.

In each current Snow White ride (except the Tokyo version), the gruesome ambience of the Dungeons scene is supported strongly by a chilling music excerpt from the 1937 movie soundtrack, a snippet from the “Transfiguration” underscore composed by Leigh Harline. Instead of using music, the Tokyo version of the ride creates truly spooky ambience with very few sound effects. The most significant sound of these is the ethereal but eerie "banshee wail" that was apparently created for the great Disney movie Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959). This specific sound effect has made cameos in several other Disney productions, including the legendary Disneyland Record "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House" (1964) and The Haunted Mansion attraction (1969)but in the Tokyo version of the Snow White ride, the "banshee wail" gets a real leading role. Echoes of this sound effect are heard already in the Dungeons scene, but the wailing grows really spooky during the epic Dark Forest sequence.

Legacy of the Scary Dungeons

While the concept of skeletons dangling in chains in gloomy dungeons is not specifically initiated by Disney, the legacy of the Snow White dark ride Dungeons may pop up in the most curious places.

Disney's Aladdin trilogythe original 1992 movie and its sequels Aladdin: The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996)did include some minor dungeon scenes, but did not feature skeletons in chains or cruel instruments of torture. However, on a DVD game Aladdin's Magic Carpet Adventure there was an entire sequence inside the creepy dungeons of the Sultan's palace. This beautifully computer-animated (though totally silly) game was produced for the original 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of Aladdin. The game contains several different segments, but the dungeon sequence is definitely the most detailed: you fly through dimly-lit corridors where walls converge with spikes, snake statues spit darts, razor-sharp pendulums threat to slice you up, and skeletons of former prisoners reach out from their cells. After crashing into a pile of bones and skulls you descend to the deepest part of the dungeons, where in a dark torture chamber even more grisly skeletons hang chained to the wall while one is strained to utmost limit on a stretch rack. None of these horrors come from the Aladdin trilogy!

While most of the aforementioned booby traps seem to be borrowed from the Indiana Jones movies, the deepest torture chamber is curiously reminiscent of the Dungeons scene in Snow White's Scary Adventures dark ride (the Paris, Tokyo and California versions) with eerie fluorescence, strong blue colours, the strange laboratory equipment and the totally grisly skeletons dangling on the walls. The spiky iron maiden and the uniquely cruel stretch rack are among things you'd never expect to find in a Disney product aimed at young kids.

In January 1955 the McCalls magazine published a full layout for the Snow White ride. This plan, presumably drawn by Bill Martin, was not used as the final layout for the ride. The published plan featured a very bare and bleak opening scene through a torture chamber with an instrument called the "Wheel". This opening scene actually foreshadowed the 1971 ride version for Walt Disney World, which began at the Queen's castle and introduced the Dungeons as the second interior scene. How this preliminary 1954 layout ended up published as promotional material is no mystery. (Please pop by the Secret Laboratory page!).

The real mystery is that the legendary Eyvind Earle's original artwork for the 1957 Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough for California's Disneyland featured the very same torture instrument as seen in this preliminary Snow White ride layout. The same preliminary art (depicting the evil fairy Maleficent's domain) included also another torture instrument resembling a rack, on which a curiously feetless man has been stretched in spread-eagle position. It would have been quite macabre to see the Sleeping Beauty movie's (1959) Prince Phillip dragged into this torture chamber imagined by Eyvind Earle.

Ken Anderson worked also on the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough and did enjoy working with Eyvind Earle. Whoever recycled the wheel idea, the cruel torture instruments were eventually left out from the walkthrough attraction's counterpart scene. There is a bit irony to this particular mystery, because the movie Sleeping Beauty recycled an abandoned Snow White concept (described on the next chapter). After the cruel torture chamber didn't make it in either Disneyland attraction, it was scrapped. But when Anderson returned to "keep an eye" on the 1983 remodeling of the Snow White's Adventure, some abandoned controversial concepts slithered once again out from a can full of wonderfully squirming worms.

Darkest Secret of the Dungeon

In 1983 a team led by Tony Baxter, with Ken Anderson as a consultant, remodeled Disneyland's Snow White ride into Snow White's Scary Adventures. They brought elegance and spellbinding magic into the ride, being surprisingly faithful to the 1937 movie masterpiece's perfectly balanced essence. Yet, with the new Dungeons scene the team went farthest from the movie.

In the 1983 Dungeons, the skeleton chained cruelly to the wall was apparently never seen in the preceding 1971 WDW ride. The skeleton's arms were strained wide apart, wrists in manacles, skull drooping and ankles in shackles with feet not touching the ground. Such horrifying torture was definitely not the typical Disney material. However, more than 75 years ago such shocking material was actually planned for the original animated motion picture of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with story adaptation by Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Merrill De Maris, Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Dick Rickard and Webb Smithand initiated, of course, by Walt Disney himself.

Among the many abandoned story concepts for the 1937 movie there was an entire subplot filled with skeletons, dungeons, torture, horror and deathcontrast with spectacular romance, beauty, love, and everything that makes life worthwile. In this infamous storyline the Prince (also known as the Prince Charming) had indeed a far more significant role than to just pop up in the beginning of the movie and reappear in the ending. Refusing a marriage proposal by the Evil Queen, the Prince is dragged down to the castle's deepest dungeon, whereamong grisly skeletal remains of former prisonersthe helpless young man is taunted and tortured in order to change his mind. The Prince is eventually rescued by Snow White's bird friends, but not before several long hours of unimaginable horrors.

This abandoned subplot included a particular chained skeleton of "Prince Oswald" pointed out by the Evil Queen. (Oswald the skeleton may have been named after Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who was "kidnapped" from Walt Disney before the creation of Mickey Mouse). The original storyline had Oswald and the other skeletons doing a "danse macabre" at the Evil Queen's biddingreminiscent of the 1929 cartoon short The Skeleton Dance. Despite of these delightful plans, the final 1937 animated classic ended up including only a few skeletal remains in the castle cellars and not a single so cruelly chained skeleton as Oswald hanging on any wall.

Most sources claim that this exciting subplot was scrapped mainly because the animators had major difficulties animating the Prince as a convincing male. However, the abandoned storyline would also have resulted in much darker and maybe even “too adult” movie, but it would have also made the story much more adventurous, thrilling and epicand, yes, extremely scary!

In the Dungeons of the 1983 Snow White's Scary Adventures the skeleton chained to the wall has an uncanny resemblance to the preliminary skeleton sketches for the 1937 movie. Thus the 1983 Dungeonsspread also to the Tokyo and Paris ridesseem to refer more to the abandoned storyline than to the final movie! The 1983 dangling skeleton may be "Prince Oswald" himself. The only thing that is missing from this dark ride skeleton, is the cruel collar locked with a padlocka feature that is found in several original sketches for the movie, including the conceptual drawings of the heavily chained Prince.

KenNetti reminds that this is not an official fact, but the delightful skeleton-filled Dungeons in the Snow White dark rides may have found their inspiration in the abandoned storyline of the Prince's cruel capture.

You can find much more on these
abandoned Snow White storylines – and
some totally shocking processed images
inspired by Snow White's Scary Adventures
and its descendants –
at KenNetti's
The Fairest... and the Scariest of Them All

The Dungeons
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.

The Skeletons
The 1960s SWA Skeleton
The California "Oswald" 2007

The California "Oswald" (Collage)
On the Floor - The California Version
Dangling in the Cramped Cell
The "Formula" Dungeons
The Paris Skeletons (Collage)
The Paris "Oswald"
"Make-It-Yourself" Skeleton
(Built from Tiny Bits)

Aladdin's Magic Carpet Adventure
Torture Chamber Scene

Original Sketches
In Chains - Original Sketch
In Chains - Slightly Enhanced
Flooding the Dungeon - Enhanced
Flooding the Dungeon - Original
Skeletons In Chains

1983 Poster Style "Echoes"

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

All original artwork © Disney

To Entrance Hall
(The Tribute's Main Index
and Full Credits)

This is the
last page on KenNetti's
Snow White's Scary Adventures
T r i b u t e


KenNetti is a totally non-commercial website by Kenneth Sundberg to pay tribute and to honour the work of the talented people behind some of the most wonderful things found on this planet. All the material is gathered here only to inform, to promote things that need to be noticed, and to entertain people all over the world. KenNetti and Kenneth Sundberg are not affiliated to any of the companies, theme parks, movies, people, ghosts or other things appearing on this site. No rights of reproduction have been granted to KenNetti or Kenneth Sundberg, except where indicated. If You feel that some image or material whatsoever should not appear on this site, please CONTACT Kenneth Sundberg so that we can quickly resolve the problem.