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Snow White's Scary Adventures: The Missing Magic Kingdom Classic

Let's keep this straight: Disneyland opened with Snow White and Her Adventures in 1955. It was a subtly spooky dark ride a little more imposing than most of Fantasyland's, with riders living out the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through Snow White's point-of-view.

When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, it brought with it an overtly terrifying version of the ride – called Snow White's Adventures – that more closely resembled a classic carnival spook house than a fairytale retelling, filled with classic dark ride gags, jump scares, and loud noises.

Image: Disney

Now, through the '80s and '90s, both would change.

Let’s jump forward a decade and fly back to California to insert a piece of the story that will become very important very soon.

California: New Fantasyland and Snow White's Scary Adventures (1983)

While Walt Disney might’ve adored the concept of Fantasyland and the childlike wonder its dark rides inspired when Disneyland opened in 1955, one thing he never hid was his disdain for the low budget look of the land. A showbuilding crudely disguised behind pastel awnings and medieval tournament tents looked like something from a cheap Renaissance fair, not the kind of cinematic world Walt was determined to showcase.

BEFORE. Image: Disney

To be clear, Fantasyland at Disneyland looked low budget because it was. Disneyland opened literally one year and one day after the first shovel of dirt shifted at its groundbreaking, and Fantasyland was evidence of the quick timeline. But Imagineers say it was always on Walt's mind that when the time was right, he'd craft Fantasyland into the detailed land he had imagined from the start.

Walt never lived to see the Fantasyland he wanted, but he would be proud of the one Disneyland recieved. In the early 1980s, Fantasyland was nothing but a construction-wall-lined pathway connecting Frontierland and Tomorrowland. In 1983, Sleeping Beauty Castle's drawbridge was lowered for the first time since Disneyland's opening, welcoming guests into a New Fantasyland.

AFTER. Image: Disney

Pinocchio's Daring Journey joined the auspicious dark ride lineup from the '50s, and the Carousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and the Mad Tea Party all moved to new homes. But most importantly, each of Fantasyland's dark rides was expanded not only to include new ride scenes and extended queues, but to finally transform the Renaissance fair style into a quaint European village. 

The entrance to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride became a full-sized Toad Hall; nearby, Tudor-style towers and turrets marked the entrance to Peter Pan’s Flight. A new Wonderland area was crafted for the Alice in Wonderland dark ride (where the Mad Tea Party found a new home), and a German marionette theater was built as the entrance to the new Pinocchio’s Daring Journey…

Click and expand for a larger view. Image: Disney

And right next door, in the tower of an imposing German courtyard, an ornate iron-lined window looks out over the land. Every few minutes, the curtains part as the Evil Queen glares out…

It's not just that the Snow White dark ride looks different on the outside. The Imagineers behind New Fantasyland had swept through the rides themselves, updating, expanding, and "plussing" the dark rides – sometimes from scratch! – to entirely new versions of the originals.

That's true of Snow White, too. Refreshed, reimagined, and redesigned, the new ride gained a more fitting name: Snow White's Scary Adventures

Image: Ruth Hartnup, Flickr (license)

Despite the addition of “Scary” to the ride’s name, Disneyland’s dark ride had, in many estimations, become slightly less scary, as the 1983 renovation to Fantasyland’s dark rides inserted each story’s main character. That means that Snow White herself was now visible – though only once! – in the ride. That was enough to lessen the scare-factor, as it cast guests not as the victim's of the Evil Queen, but as friends of Snow White, just a few steps ahead of her as the Queen prepares for her trickery.

The more well-balanced ride featured a yodeling sing-along in the dwarves' warm cottage, glistening gem mines with the echoing of "The Dig Song" in the distance, and a few happy woodland creatures. Still, the ride's emphasis was on the spookier aspects of the tale – sinister woods, snapping crocodiles, and the cackling Witch – up to and including the ride's abrupt finale.

Image: Disney

While Florida's ended with the Queen smashing us under a gemstone, California's had the Witch's attempt to pry a boulder onto us cut short by a lightning strike that instead puts an end to her. The next sight? A mural with the words, "And they lived happily ever after!" Abrupt and unexpected as it may be, the sudden end to the ride has become one of its charming features.

Well-balanced and fittingly "modern," the refreshed version of the ride in Disneyland was a more traditional re-telling of the story. And it should be no surprise that when Tokyo Disneyland opened the same year as California's New Fantasyland, the Japanese park included the New Fantasyland version of the ride. Keep in mind that all-the-while, the terrifying and jostling Snow White's Adventures continued to scare visitors in Florida, making it the only one of the three Snow White rides to be grotesquely out-of-sync. 

It was clear that the new Snow White ride at Disneyland was destined to become the standard. But the concept became even more assured thanks to a simple addition across the sea... 

France: Retelling the Story of "Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains" (1992)

Image: Disney

A decade after Disneyland's new Snow White ride debuted, Disneyland Paris opened. In many of our Lost Legends entries, this momentous 1992 opening becomes a turning point after which everything goes south. That’s because Paris was overbuilt and initially disowned by the French, leading to a tremendous financial loss that convinced then-CEO Michael Eisner to suspend any and all major projects, downsizing budgets across the Disney Parks division for a decade or more.

But in this story, Disneyland Paris’ opening was actually a good thing. Tony Baxter – famed Imagineer and Disney Legend behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and its never-built Possibilityland: Discovery Bay, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Lost Legends: Journey into Imagination, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and STAR TOURS – was given the unique opportunity to be the creative director for the entire Disneyland Paris park, and he ingeniously crafted completely new versions of Disney classics from the Haunted Mansion to Space Mountain.

Image: Loren Javier, Flickr (license)

And since Tony had also been integral in Disneyland’s 1983 New Fantasyland, he was eager to expand on the lessons learned there in Paris’ Fantasyland. There, Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains largely looked like the Snow White dark ride Disneyland had debuted as of the 1983 Fantasyland redo – balanced, with a nod to the story's darker elements – but for one significant and noteworthy addition: a happy ending.

Now, the lightning strike still foils the Witch's attempt to crush us alive, but the doors we pass through beneath her lead to a welcome sight: a glowing castle in the distance, with Snow, Prince Charming, the Dwarves, and a menagerie of adorable animals waving us goodbye to the angelic chorus finale of "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes"

You can watch Paris' ride – an evolution of California's with the addition of a happy ending – here:

Now, three of the four Snow White dark rides on Earth were in-sync: modern, carefully-crafted, slightly-shadowed tellings of the story. And Disney's experiment in Paris – the addition of a happy ending – had convinced executives that they might have found the definitive version of the ride.

That meant that it was high time for Imagineers to take a second look at the one remaining outlier: the opening day original from Magic Kingdom. The legitimately terrifying Disney World original was due for an upgrade... On the next page, we'll ride through Magic Kingdom's Snow White's Scary Adventures and relive the spooky experience that left many Millennials cowering in their mother's shoulder...

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There are 4 comments.

You should have talked about how Universal Studios has a Marvel land and how that probably angers Disney to no end.

Great report - really interesting. I'm shocking to hear, if I've read it correctly, that the huge space that made up the original Snow White ride is only housing 2 princess meet and greets?! Does this mean there's a whole lot of space being wasted??

Another GREAT article Brian! I really didn't expect to learn so much more new information in addition to the previous article written about this attraction or for this one to tie in Islands of Adventure as well as the most touching story about the closing of this attraction. Seriously read the link one of the most touching Disney stories and yet another reason why I will continue to support the company.

I'm a big fan of the original Snow White's Adventures as it scared the pants off me back in the early '80's and started a life long love of very scary dark rides. I'm sure I'm not alone in this!

I would also like to note that Disney never throws anything away. I've done the runDisney Tower Of Terror 10 miler and they have featured the Wicked Witch figure that dips the apple from the ride along the course as well as a submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. These kind of Easter Eggs are what make me always go back to Disney for more.

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