Snow White's Scary Adventures - A Retrospective
May 30, 2012 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Snow White's Scary Adventures - A Retrospective [via mefi projects] The author can't post it here for obvious reasons, but I can. I think. Now to wipe these tears from my eyes...
Tomorrow, May 31st, will be the last day of operation for the ride Snow White's Scary Adventures at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The ride has played a significant role in my family's life for the past decade (my son is autistic, and has ridden the ride more than 3,400 times), and I wrote a retrospective about the history of the ride. This is a subject that is too close for me to post on the Blue, but Matthowie and Jessamyn both suggested that I post about it here. The linked blog post itself contains links to a four part series about my son, and also a link in the footnotes to the single best reference site on the web for the ride in all its permutations. I know it's just a silly old fairy tale dark ride, and not on many people's "must-see" list when they come to Disney World, but I hope my article can help at least a few people understand why it really is an important piece of history.
posted by COD (32 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I'm in awe of parents like that.
posted by dejah420 at 5:16 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This ride actually haunted my childhood dreams. I dreamt over and over again of Maleficent. It is sure tame for adults, but it was absolutely terrifying to me as a child.

So . . . very mixed feelings about seeing the ride go. And I think relief predominates.

This is a scary fairy tale in all its incarnations, to be fair to Walt Disney.
posted by bearwife at 5:17 PM on May 30, 2012

bearwife, this is Snow White, not Sleeping Beauty.
posted by grouse at 5:21 PM on May 30, 2012

That was really beautiful and heartwarming - I'm not ashamed to say I got a little choked up reading it. What incredible, dedicated parents, and the bevy of wonderful Disney staff who came together and made it happen.

I have vivid memories from my own visit to DisneyWorld as a Disney-holic ten year old Australian, and how special it was - even for a kid who was ostensibly too "old" and cool for such thing - to see Donald Duck and Pluto and others right there.

I don't know if it was school holidays in the States when we were there, but queues were large - there was no Space Mountain for us with a two hour wait. The scariest, and my favourite ride we went on in DisneyWorld, was in fact Snow White's Scary Adventures! I loved hearing the soundtrack from the movie I knew and loved, though I confess the three minutes went awfully fast after waiting in line for 45 minutes!

I love Disney, and always have - despite my awareness of the many problematic aspects of the company and some of their texts. I actually wrote my Honours thesis on Beauty and The Beast. Reading stuff like this really resonates with me, and brings up a lot of emotions that I grew up associating with Disney and their fairy tale adaptations in particular.

I love that there are things like this in the world - for all their negative aspects - these shared cultural myths, as it were. Disney as it exists in me, its stories and its resonance, doesn't exist anywhere in the corporeal world, but I unabashedly love the feeling that this internal, mythic Disney that lives in me, also exists in so many other people, and that there are places where people can come together and essentially celebrate that Disney - the better Disney, the best Disney, and try to tease out that metaphysical entity into something real, whatever its problematic aspects.

When I read and see stuff like this, a shared communal effort to make that internal Disney more real than the "other" one; the cathartic and emotional power those texts can engender, and the celebration of what they can mean to people, it really thrills and gladdens me.
posted by smoke at 5:25 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

That is really touching, And I agree; I am in awe. Raising kids with no special needs is so difficult; I don't see how people rise beyond that, even after watching my own Mom do it.
posted by thelonius at 5:26 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

That is very touching. Great post.
posted by caddis at 5:46 PM on May 30, 2012

That was a great read. Thanks
posted by Uncle at 6:02 PM on May 30, 2012

Great post; what amazingly dedicated parents, and it's nice to see the level of awesomeness that the DisneyWorld cast members ascended to in order to make this child's dream come true time after time after time.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:05 PM on May 30, 2012

That cast member who walked the ride and took pictures so Ben could see it while it was down for renovations is my hero today. What an exceptional thing to do.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:12 PM on May 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

This made me all teary. Thank you for sharing it. My nephew has autism and I'd like to think that people would do as much for him to help him enjoy something he loved, if he needed it. What great parents and what kindness from the Disney cast members!
posted by Aquifer at 6:53 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

For Ben's Dad:

Lokheed, you are an amazing father! I am very touched by what you and Ben's Mom did, moving from Seattle to Florida so that Ben could be near Disney (and ride SWSA thousands of times!). You've probably had an ear worm for what, the last 8 years? I bet some nights you hear that witch's cackle in your sleep.

What a great kid you have in Ben, too-- no wonder everyone wanted to make these rides special for him! In those pics of him, as a little boy experiencing his 1000th and 2000thride his smile is so joyful and engaging, it's infectious. You just can't help but smile, too, seeing him so happy, can you? :)

Growing up in Florida, I rode Snow White's Scary Adventures myself as a kid many times (though not nearly so often as you and Ben), and I'm also saddened they have decided to close it down. Thank goodness it is happening now that Ben is older and not 7 or 8 years ago, at least!

Speaking of which, how is Ben doing these days? He must be at least 18 now (my oldest was born the same year as Ben and will be 19 next month). I have my fingers crossed for you that Ben makes it through the ride's final day and be okay with moving on now.

I've collaborated with a lot of the folks at Disney in Orlando and also in LA, and they've ALL been great people to work with. Glad to hear you've experienced the same and they've helped make Ben's time on the ride even more special over the years.

I am hoping Disney finds a way to get Ben the Snow White's Scary Adventures soundtrack as a memento.
posted by misha at 7:06 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great story!
I am hoping Disney finds a way to get Ben the Snow White's Scary Adventures soundtrack as a memento.
Surely, there is no way this can't happen.
posted by unliteral at 7:13 PM on May 30, 2012

Meh, this is nothing compared to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Part of that actually sent you to hell.

Still, it was awesome.
posted by GavinR at 7:49 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great story, thanks for sharing it. Excellent FPP material. Three cheers for Ben's 3,000+ rides.
posted by arcticseal at 7:50 PM on May 30, 2012

I worked with Ben's dad and he is a stellar geek. I was thrilled to see this story here.
posted by NickPeters at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2012

It was a sad day when "Toad's Wild Ride" closed. When I took my five year old to Disney he was not so sure he wanted to go on any of the rides. We had recently read the Toad book so he agreed to go on that ride and he loved it. We went back multiple times. It broke the ice on some other rides but he always had a soft spot for Toad. When it closed we were both a little heartbroken.
posted by caddis at 8:13 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Growing up in Florida, WDW was a huge part of my life, and became such a major factor in my relationship with my (then) boyfriend that we ended up getting engaged there. I also tend to keep DisneyCorp separate from Disney World in my own brain, and I am not surprised that the staff went out of their way for this boy's happiness. What a marvelous story. Thanks for sharing.
posted by blurker at 9:09 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

As someone with autistic tendencies, I don't think glorifying this type of obsessiveness is helpful. It would be like dedicating huge amounts of time with a schizophrenic person, role-playing along with their delusions and encouraging others to do so. Having the ride count in the first place just seems ... unhelpful, enabling, and autistic spectrum behavior
posted by crayz at 9:30 PM on May 30, 2012

Always has been the creepiest ride at any park I've been to. I've passed on it, even at closing time when nobody is in line...
posted by Chuffy at 9:44 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Crayz I don't think we're really in a position to judge what's right for someone with possibly profound autism based on the limited glimpse of their life we see in these posts.

I've worked with children all across the spectrum, and there's a wide variety of means and methods that work best for different kids. It's been several years since I've been on top of best practice in the field, but especially for kids on the more profound spectrum, it's really not always a matter of - I don't know - "training" a kid out of their autism, which it what it sounds like you're saying.

I mean, this kid sounds like he's only a little verbal, and my experience of working with autistic kids around that level is, well, very challenging. The world can be a very scary, unpredictable place for kids like that, and it's very frequently not a very happy place. When you have something that gives those kids a form of comfort and happiness, you want to capitalise on it, if you can in a safe, harmless manner.

I don't know very much about schizophrenia, but I don't think that analogy is very helpful at all. Schizophrenia is totally different to autism, and delusions are very different from an autistic affinity for routines, objects, and texts that give pleasure and comfort.

Ben has obviously made great strides since he first went on the Snow White ride, and I'm sure his parents and carers would agree that Disney World and Snow White has been more of an aid than a detriment in that. The fact he doesn't love the Snow White ride as much anymore surely refutes your basic contention.
posted by smoke at 9:49 PM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

crayz, it sounds like the park (and the ride) helped him open up, helped him meet and talk to people who shared his interests, and led him to explore different layers of that reality (the movie, the ride, the park cast-members, etc.) Maybe he would have gradually outgrown the ride on his own, maybe not. Either way, it sounds like it presided over a very important phase of his development and treatment, and was an important bonding experience for he and his family.
posted by hermitosis at 10:05 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for your kind words. I promise you I am not particularly amazing - bear in mind that everything you read was written by me, so of course I'm going to look like a hero.

Crayz, you are actually more than a little bit right. I was talking about that exact thing yesterday morning to a friend of mine, how it's actually probably a good thing for Ben that the ride is closing. On the one hand, it made for a tremendous carrot to dangle in front of him in order to work on all kinds of skills. But yes, on the other hand, it certainly feeds into an obsessive tendency. The best I can say is that he was already gradually letting go of the ride. You'll notice that it took less than two years for him to reach the thousandth ride, whereas in the last 18 months he's only been on it about 250 times. That may still seem like a lot, but five years ago he hated to step outside of Fantasyland. He would ride SWSA three times and then maybe to to Pooh or Dumbo (something very close by) before he was right back to Snow White. Now we are usually in the park for an hour or so before he even makes it to SWSA, he spends time in all areas of the park (he loves both Pirates and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, among others), and on a typical visit in total he usually only winds up on SWSA around six times.

As for the counting, I will readily admin that's me and not him. I started counting out of a combination of boredom, incredulity, and as a kind of coping mechanism of my own. Out of those 3,451 rides so far I have been on at least 3/4 of them. You have no idea how grateful I am that he picked SWSA instead of Small World....
posted by Lokheed at 4:11 AM on May 31, 2012 [21 favorites]

When I was on my honeymoon, my wife and I went on Snow White's Scary Adventure (because the line for Peter Pan was four hours long, and we were in Fantasyland already, and she had already given in and done Small World with me), and it was fantastic.

The one thing I remember most was that a family was in front of us — father, mother and small child, and when we turned the corner where the stepmother turns into the witch, the poor kid lost it. Poor child spent the rest of the ride bawling while his parents tried unsuccessfully to calm him down. I was impressed how a very old ride could be so effective, even if I felt bad for the poor kid.

I am a little sad that they are going to replace it with a Disney Princess Meeting spot; the Disney Princess thing is sort of annoying, because they try to shoehorn in characters that don't really satisfy the Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty sort of role. I'm also a little sad that they are going to build another roller coaster. I know that Disney World is a business, and they need more thrill rides to keep people coming, but I think that another park with nothing but roller coasters loses some of the magic that less thrilling rides like Snow White and the Haunted Mansion provide, and while make Walt Disney World somehow more cohesive than Universal down the street.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:44 AM on May 31, 2012

What a great Dad. It's always hard to lose pieces of our childhood but in this case it's particularly tough.

Vis-a-vis dark rides, the tiny resort town of Sylvan Beach, New York, has a truly wonderful old (1954) dark ride. It's a rare surviving Pretzel, "LaffLand." It doesn't have the Disney pedigree, the "tricks" inside are ancient, simple and mostly original, the screams are real and the sounds, from the buzzing and bumping of the car to the jangling cowbells are authentic.

If the real estate were worth more, the thing would have been torn down years ago. Fortunately, it hasn't, although the crowds are thin and some evenings it seems like nobody rides at all.

If you are of a certain age, though, it performs magic: one ride and you're a kid again. Never fails. Definitely worth the price of the ticket. I recommend it highly.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2012

bearwife, this is Snow White, not Sleeping Beauty.

Doh! Right ride, wrong fairy tale reference. It was Evil Queen who scared me silly. Again, not so sorry to see this ride go.
posted by bearwife at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2012

Lokheed, thanks for sharing your story. It warms my heart to know that there are people willing to go the extra mile, whether they are directly or tangentially involved. I also like Disney's response, because to me it shows that sometimes even businesses understand that it isn't just numbers, it's people, how we interact with them, and their experiences.
posted by CancerMan at 10:02 AM on May 31, 2012

Lokheed, you're awesome (in the strictest awe inspiring sense of the word). Please let us know if they do anything for your son today, I loved reading the stories about 1k and 2k, and hope something special happens.
posted by MattWPBS at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2012

Yes, Disney helped create a spectacular night for my son. I'll be writing it all up over the weekend, and will post back in this thread once I do. It's a *lot* to write about.
posted by Lokheed at 4:53 AM on June 1, 2012

Lokheed has started posting about the last night with SWSA. NSFT (Not Safe For Tears!)
posted by bluefly at 1:16 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry, yes, I intended to come here and post this link once I finished writing about that night. It turned out to take a six part series of articles to tell the whole story. The series starts here:

There is a link at the bottom of each part that leads you to the next.
posted by Lokheed at 4:30 AM on June 7, 2012

Thank you for posting all this. It's so amazing how you've documented his (and your family's) whole journey with this ride as a touchpoint. And it's wonderful to hear how Disney has responded to Ben's devotion. I very much hope things go well with the transition to a post-SWSA era in his life.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:00 AM on June 9, 2012

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