Back in June we received the exciting news that Splash Mountain at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom would be re-themed to the animated film Princess and the Frog. While I think this is a welcomed change to the ride, it did cause me to reflect on how much Splash Mountain matters to me. I’ve gone on record stating that it’s my favorite ride in Magic Kingdom, and I will still defend that. However, I’m not exactly sad to see it go either. I’ve always found it extremely important to welcome change, even if that change is happening to something that you care about. After all, it could always turn out better than it was!
All that said, I wanted to review Splash Mountain as a proper send-off to the attraction. Please note that while I am aware of this ride’s controversial history and it’s connection to a film rooted in racism, I’m not going to be focusing on that. I just want to take a look at it from a theme park attraction standpoint, not a cultural one. If I give this ride a high score, it’s because the ride is good, and nothing more.
Without further ado, here’s my review of Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.
Setting Up the Setting
When you approach Splash Mountain for the first time, you are greeted with one of the most ominous drops on a log flume. This drop is pouring out of a hollow tree that sits atop mountain filled with greenery. As you stand and watch, you see logs float around the watery trenches and down the massive plunge. There is so much to look at from outside the ride, which is a great testimony to how detailed it is. Out of all the Magic Kingdom rides, Splash Mountain definitely fills me with the most anticipation.
It doesn’t stop there. The queue features some great little details about the world that you are about to enter. These include the living quarters of Br’er Rabbit and other animals that inhabit the area. They are pretty easy to miss though, especially if you’re walking through the line at a quick pace or if you have a Fastpass.
As I previously stated, the ride vehicles on Splash Mountain are logs. However, instead of being single-file like at Disneyland, these logs have 4 rows of 2. They also feature lap bars, which isn’t very common on a log flume. It doesn’t really take away from the experience, but I do prefer the openness of Disneyland’s version.
I should clarify that I mean overwhelming in the best way possible. Once you leave the station you immediately turn right, climb up the first lift hill, and enter a different world. Things start off pretty calm, as the music isn’t very strong and you are slowly treading through the water. However, you do ride through the Br’er patch and past the ginormous drop, which is a signal of things to come.
After climbing the second lift hill, the music slowly begins to build. Music is an intricate part of the story, as it is playing throughout almost the entire ride. The first song, “How Do You Do?”, is quite possibly one of the catchiest songs in any theme park. It continues to grow louder as you pass by the houses of different animals. You can hear them singing the song, as if they are greeting both each other and the riders of the attraction.
After the first drop, known as Slippin’ Falls, you enter a mountain filled with even more talking and singing animals. Br’er Rabbit, the main character of the ride, has decided to visit the laughing place, which is…a place where he goes to laugh…I guess? That part has never been super clear to me. Once he leaves his home, he is pursued by the two villains of the story, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. Br’er Rabbit constantly outwits them, which often results in the two receiving some sort of punishment.
The ride progresses through a few more drops and scenes. The music transitions smoothly to the next song, titled “Laughing Place”, which is a bit of a more bouncy and anxious song. Things still feel relatively happy while it’s playing, but it gets progressively faster and more intense and the ride goes on, resulting in a tension that leaves the rider thinking “when is something going to go wrong?”.
Eventually something does. Br’er Rabbit gets captured by Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, and they decide to throw him into the Br’er patch that you passed through earlier in the ride. This is a pretty intense and frightening climax, as it takes place on the menacingly tall lift hill to the top of the final drop.
You plummet down the 50 foot drop and emerge safely on the other side. This is the only part of the story that has never been very clear to me, as it never exactly shows Br’er Rabbit escape. Supposedly he survives the fall into the Br’er patch, but I do wish it would show how that happened.
The ride ends on a positive note (literally). The log enters a final show room where all the characters from the ride are standing on a riverboat singing “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah”, which is the best and most popular song from the ride. Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear have met their match and are attempting to fend off Br’er Gator. Br’er Rabbit is shown back in his home, seemingly having learned his lesson that he should stay in his “home sweet home” and appreciate what he already has instead of focusing on what he doesn’t. It’s a relatively simple story, but it is so enjoyable to ride through and is complimented even more by a spectacular soundtrack.
The Right Amount of Thrills
Like pretty much every other attraction in the Magic Kingdom, Splash Mountain isn’t an extremely thrilling ride. It is definitely one of the most intense and exciting in the park, but at the end of the day it’s still just a log flume.
This isn’t a bad thing though. In my opinion, Splash Mountain is the perfect balance of thrilling and relaxing. There are four separate drops, but they’re all spread out enough to where the pacing of the ride feels great. Of course, the final drop is the most exciting part of the ride, but it’s not too intense for riders who might be a bit skeptical of thrilling attractions.
Is Splash Mountain a classic Disney attraction? Yes.
Is it also replaceable? Yes.
I still think very highly of this attraction, as it is an important milestone in the history of the Disney Parks. There are obvious flaws in the source material, but the ride itself manages to be one of the strongest offerings at the Magic Kingdom. It’s a near-perfect blend of theming, story-telling, thrills, and music. It’s bittersweet to see it go, but I’m super excited to see how the imagineers will top it in the coming years!
Final Score: 9/10
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