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

Florida: Snow White’s Scary Adventures (1994)

Image: Disney

In 1994, Magic Kingdom’s Snow White ride re-opened from a lengthy refurbishment as Snow White’s Scary Adventures, in line with the name used in California. However, the ensuing ride was much, much less scary than the ride that had come before. Instead, it more closely followed the dark-but-even rhythm of the rides in California, Tokyo, and Paris, offering a spooky-but-survivable adventure through the more sinister settings of Snow White’s story just frightening enough to leave kids plugging their ears and burying themselves into their parent’s lap.

That meant that by the mid-1990s, all four versions of the ride in California (1983), Tokyo (1983), Paris (1992), and Florida (1994) were all approximately the same: the ride many readers will remember.

Image: Disney

While the experience of Fantasyland's dark rides may differ wildly, they typically have one thing in common: gorgeous murals set as a backdrop to their loading areas. In the case of Magic Kingdom's Snow White's Scary Adventures, the mural is decidedly benevolent: a wooded glen with sunlight streaming through the trees overhead, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs smiling together outside their storybook cottage, beside a babbling brook. Prince Charming himself is depicted stepping down from his horse, smiling mid-step as he walks toward her. Your only indication that something "Scary" might be afoot is the Wicked Witch, sneering from behind a tree in the distance.

With that in mind, you'll step aboard a high-capacity, three-rowed cart seemingly carved from wood, each adorned with the name of one of the Dwarfs.

The first scene is a Florida exclusive, as your cart enters the courtyard of a towering Germanic white castle with red-tile turrets. In the center of the courtyard is a beautiful stone wishing well with white and pink flowers blooming along vines that creep across it. The cart circles the wishing well where Snow White comes into view, dressed in rags and sitting on the stone steps of the castle. A number of doves tweet around her, with one sitting on her finger singing as Snow vocalizes.

Image: Disney

But in a tower beyond, we get our first sign that something is amiss... the red velvet curtains part behind a window to reveal the Evil Queen, staring at Snow in disgust.

The cart turns again, heading now toward a set of heavy wooden doors. They part to reveal an otherworldly, undulating mirror against the wall ahead, with the mask-like face of the Magic Mirror calling out, "Alas! Snow White is the fairest one of all..."

Image: Disney

The cart presses past the mirror and into a dark stone throne room where the Evil Queen is facing a mirror opposite us. "NEVER!" She yells, laughing darkly. As we grow closer and closer, sneaking up on the self-absorbed Queen, the sinister laughter becomes maniacal and nasal... We're a few feet away now and the Queen turns toward us... Only, the Queen is a queen no more... Somehow, the regal reflection we saw with our own eyes was a trick, and a transformed, hunched Wicked Witch stands before us now.

As tense strings build, the cart moves forward through the castle's dark lobbies past chained skeletons and dripping puddles until we reach a cauldron where the Witch is reciting incantations, dipping a glowing red apple into a frothing, fogging mix. "With one bite, Snow White will sleep forever, awakened only by love's first kiss."

Image: Disney

As the cart pushes through another set of wooden doors, we come upon the Huntsman standing against a tree in a dark forest. "Quickly Princess, run away... and never come back!" To our left, flashes of lightning reveal the startling sight of a frightened Snow White with gnarled branches tearing at her dress.

Then, the cart faces a clouded horizon and a river that cuts through the dense forests. The Witch appears at the Riverbank carrying a woven basket of apples. Then, we find ourselves in the dark woods, where trees appear to have sinister faces, their branches reaching for us. Hanging moss obscures any light and terrified eyes in the darkness soon become evil themselves. But in this version of the ride, terror is much more temporary. Indeed, it seems that we might've only been dreaming... A musical cue and sunlight trees ahead signal our exit from the terrifying forest.

Image: Disney

And rounding the corner, we see a charming cottage with warmth glowing from the windows. As the doors open, we're overcome with laughter and celebration as the Seven Dwarfs sing and play music together! But as the Dwarfs dance, woodland creatures gathered in the window look on in horror. As we round the corner, we see why: beneath the stairs, the Witch is positioned at the open window. "That's right, dearie!" She hands Snow White an apple. "Now take a bite and all your dreams will come true!"

As we exit through the cottage's back door, we hear her laugh. "Now I'm the fairest of them all!" A barren, rocky landscape lies ahead with midnight's dull blue glow. The only sign of life is a misshapen tree with two vultures overhead. They spot the cart and, together, look to the right as if pointing us on. But a flash of lightning reveals the Wicked Witch again, her dark cloak speckled with age.

The cart takes a shortcut through the Dwarfs mine, glowing with carts full of gems.

Then, it's back to the rocky peaks where the Dwarfs look upward. "She's on the cliffs! Let's go!" Higher and higher, the Dwarfs encircle the jagged rocky path as it ascends until we spot her. "I'll crush you fools!" She cackles, leaking back as her wooden cane pries a tall boulder, suspending it directly over us! But as she laughs, a lightning strike bolts from the sky! Just as we pass beneath, she screams!

After a few seconds in darkness, a set of doors open to a new sight: moonlight streaming through the trees as Prince Charming hovers over Snow White's coffin, growing closer and closer.

 

A symphony of finale music signals something grand is about to happen. As daylight breaks, we see, in the distance, Snow White and Prince Charming, smiling as they make their way into the sunrise toward his glittering castle. On a stone bridge carved with "SW" overhead, Dopey waves us goodbye as we pass beneathe and return to the loading area's mural.

As always, we try to end our Lost Legends ride-throughs with a point-of-view video to bring the memories back to life. You can relieve the experience of Snow White's Scary Adventures here:

Fright Factor

So in Florida alone, Snow White's ride had existed in two very different forms: the horrifying Snow White’s Adventures (1971 – 1994) and the much less frightening Snow White’s Scary Adventures, beginning in 1994. The inevitable comparison is a point of contention for Disney Parks fans. Some will allege that Snow White’s Adventures went too far, choosing the wrong aspect of Snow White’s story (fright) to highlight. Others remember it as a pivotal and memorable ride that left a lasting impression and shaped a generation of scaredy-cats through exposure therapy.

Maybe that’s why it’s hard to decide if that original version deserves Lost Legend status itself. It’s controversial and – admittedly – didn’t work well enough to last. Was it merely a poorly conceived stepping-stone on the way to the much more fitting Snow White’s Scary Adventures that opened in 1994? Or was it a masterpiece in its own right, taken too soon?

Image: Disney

In her own in-depth look back at the terrifying Snow White’s Adventures, another author here notes that the “new” version of Snow White’s tale lost a bit of the artistry, swapping Claude Coats’ gothic colors and patterns (above), imposing special effects, and zippy ride for a subdued journey through a carbon-copied scenes and feel-good, book report finale. In that sense, it’s easy to see that the closure of the imposing original is a shame, and many would agree.

It’s also true that placing static figures of Snow White among scenes recast as “happy” ones did turn the ride (and other Fantasyland rides) into the dreaded “book report” ride that fans detest, cramming a 90-minute story we already know into 180 seconds and (worse) turning riders from participants to observers.

It’s also worth arguing that the exaggeration of the “fright” factor was intentional, and zooming out a bit we can see that each Fantasyland dark ride is deliberately unique in its delivery: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is “zany,” and Peter Pan’s Flight is “graceful,” and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey is “daring,” and Alice in Wonderland is “wild,” and Snow White’s Scary Adventures is… well… “scary.” And it doesn’t hurt to remember that a child’s imagination can be all of the above, including sometimes being a scary place.

Image: Disney

Even if the retooled Snow White’s Scary Adventures lost the petrifying horror, echoing screams, and deliberate terror of its predecessor, it still scared a generation of riders, and most every ‘90s kids who visited Disney World will remember keeping their ears plugged, buried into mom or dad while riding. Even in its more subdued form, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was a classic, ready to ride on.

But it didn’t last. On the next page, we’ll dissect what led to the closure of one of the Magic Kingdom’s opening day dark rides and where it lives on today. 

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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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