Splash Mountain, the beloved log flume ride at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland has been a fan favorite since it first opened in 1989. From its revolutionary track & car design to its unforgettable characters and catchy soundtrack, Splash Mountain has made an undeniable lasting mark on the world of theme parks.
But what makes this iconic ride so special? Let’s explore the history, the development, and the impact that Splash Mountain has made on Disney parks around the world.
The Creation of Splash Mountain
Designed by legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter and built by Hopkins Rides, Splash Mountain first opened at Disneyland in 1989 after many years of planning and development. This iconic log flume was once considered one of the most high-tech rides ever constructed and was designed to bring people into the Briar Patch, a journey through swamps, dark caves, and backwoods. Riders ultimately end up soaking wet after hurdling down a fifty foot plunge to The Laughin’ Place!
Of course, no discussion of Splash Mountain would be complete without mentioning its enchanting characters—Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox—or its iconic soundtrack featuring songs like “Everybody’s Got A Laughin’ Place” and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” The characters and setting were based on Song of the South; a 1946 American live-action/animated musical drama film. These elements, along with its charming animatronics, made Splash Mountain a truly memorable ride experience.
A New Standard for Animatronics
Not only did Splash Mountain revolutionize water rides, but it also set a new standard for animatronics. The figures inside the ride were some of the most detailed and life-like ever created by Disney Imagineers at the time. From Br’er Bear to Br’er Rabbit, each character is brimming with personality and movement—which inevitably made this attraction so memorable and beloved by fans around the world.
Combining Ride Types
Splash Mountain also helped break down barriers between different types of attractions within a single park. Whereas many theme parks tend to separate their “thrill” rides from their “family” rides, Splash Mountain manages to be both thrilling and family-friendly at the same time—a feat that has been attempted by many and duplicated by few other attractions since then. This made it an ideal choice for families looking for something fun (and wet) that everyone can enjoy together.
An Unexpected Ending?
Despite decades of enjoyment at the parks, in recent years there has been increasing controversy behind the origin of the ride’s characters and setting, and therefore the ride itself.
A 2020 online petition to the Walt Disney Company asking for the removal of all Splash Mountain’s references that harken back to their infamous feature film from 1946, “Song of the South” gained resounding support. With over 14,000 signatures in two days, clearly this is hot topic on many people’s mind!
Considered one of their most controversial movies due its racial stereotypes – including a black plantation laborer named Uncle Remus – “Song of the South” has never been released on home video or streaming services like Disney+, though other vintage Disney films containing offensive caricatures such as Peter Pan and Dumbo being available on their streaming platform with disclaimers.
In June 2020, Disney announced that the iconic Disneyland and Magic Kingdom attractions will get an enchanting makeover inspired by the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog” (more on that below!). According to Disney, they had already taken the initiative to work towards an inclusive overhaul of the ride, long before petitions surrounding George Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide dialogue around racial injustice.
Inspiring Other Rides
Since opening in 1989, Splash Mountain has inspired countless other rides around the world. Its innovative ride system and car design was cloned and expanded for doublewide seating at Magic Kingdom Park in Florida and at Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.
Tokyo Disneyland’s version of the legendary log flume ride, Splash Mountain, is in many ways a reflection – quite literally! As it has been built as an exact mirror image of its Florida counterpart due to being on the “other side” of the river. A splashdown experience with just enough differences for some added thrill value!
Perhaps most famously of all, Splash Mountain certainly inspired its upcoming retheme to The Princess and the Frog! After months of anticipation, Disney unveiled the name for its reimagination of Splash Mountain: “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” This magical journey is set to make a splash (sorry!) in late 2024 on both coasts. Fans can expect beloved characters from “The Princess and The Frog” as they explore this new story that takes place after the movie finishes. It might still be years away, but we already feel like our feet are tapping’ with excitement!
Splash Mountain’s Lasting Legacy
It’s clear that Splash Mountain has had an enormous impact on Disney parks and their fans worldwide over the last three decades:
It was lovingly created with a groundbreaking design that set a new standard for amusement park attractions. Its memorable characters and music have become classics enjoyed by generations all over the world. Its influence can be seen imitated—from its groundbreaking use of animatronics to its revolutionary bridging between different types of rides within a single attraction.
For many of us, riding Splash Mountain brought back nostalgic childhood memories from our first visit while its thrilling finale kept us coming back for more adventure.
On its final days of operation, generations of Splash Mountain fans visited to get their final rides in! With deep crowds and queues spanning hours, the beloved attraction was given a grand send-off as people bid farewell to its iconic characters, scenery and soundtrack.
Whether you’ve been fortunate enough to experience this classic attraction or not, there’s no denying that it will remain a beloved part of theme park history for years to come.