The first Splash Mountain opened at Disneyland in California on July 17, 1989. It tells the story of Brer Rabbit as seen in Walt Disney's 1948 motion picture, "Song of the South."
For sometime imagineers had been trying to find a way to breath new life into the lack luster Bear Country. Splash Mountain was first conceived of while an imagineer was stuck in a traffic jam and the first sketches were done on the back of a
napkin. Before long architectural plans were being draw, models were being built and Disney's first flume attraction was well on its way to begin born.
Many of the animatronic animal figures that populate the attraction were taken from the old Tomorrowland attraction, America Sings. Since there is a great variety of animals in the Splash Mountain animatronic cast, Bear Country was no longer just for bears and was renamed Critter Country
The queue for Disneyland's Splash Mountain officially begins just after you pass the view of the drop. However it is not unusual to find the line backed up all the way to the entrance of Critter Country. The queue leads you down and around the side of the mountain, under the railroad truss and finally through the doors of a barn-like structure. Inside the place is decorated with antique farm equipment. A large fireplace, very much like the one Uncle Remus told stories by, is at one end. As we pass the fireplace, rustic wooden plaques with sayings like, "Now this tale didn't happen yesterday, nor the day before, but long, long ago,"begin to set the mood. Briefly, the queue heads outside again as it takes us up a set of stone stairs to the barn's loft. If we look to the right as we head up the steps, we will see a carved wooden statue of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear.
As we reach the second story the plaques continue and we get a nice view from the windows of the pine trees and foliage that gives Critter Country its back woods feeling. We head down a passage and then turn right into the side of the mountain. After passing through a brief tunnel we find ourselves back in daylight. An opening in the rock wall to the right gives us our first view of the loading area. But we are not there yet.
Next we pass into a cave. We can hear singing through a small opening off to the right. As we get closer we catch a glimpse of Brer Rabbit leaning back in his home and signing, "Zip-a-dee-do-dah." Then we curve down and around through the cave and come out into the boarding area.
The ride vehicles are shaped like logs. Brer Rabbit's head is carved on the front of each one. A single bench runs length wise down the center of the log. Guests straddle it and sit in a tandem fashion. The seating areas are partitioned so that the front and middle section each fit two people. The rear seat will sit three. The first portion of the ride is outside. As the log leaves the station, it goes through a short tunnel and then up a brief lift hill. We go down a little dip and then in a semi-circle around the briar patch. We get an excellent view of the other logs going over the big drop and into the briar patch-- our future!
Next we travel into a mill. We watch the mill stones grinding away as we head up another lift hill. Above us, a barn owl looks down and hoots as we pass beneath him. At the top of the lift hill, we find ourselves out side once again. We pass by more antique farm equipment and the door to Brer Rabbit's home. Around the corner a sign points up toward Brer Fox's house which is balanced on the edge of a bluff high above us.
Around the next corner we get a tremendous view of the whole park. In fact, this is the only place in the park where it is possible to view all four mountains at once.
Once more around a bend we pass a cave where Brer Bear lives and can be heard snoring away. Directly after Brer Bear we go over our first drop. It is a small one which a sign names Slip'n Falls. This drop sends us shooting into the mountain where we encounter a gaggle of geese singing, "How Do You Do?"
Just past the geese we find Brer Bear hanging from a trap. Brer Fox stands near-by and hollers at him to come down.
Just past this scene we pass Brer Rabbit who has boarded up his home and is getting ready to leave for parts unknown.
We pass other animals such as Brer Turtle and Brer Alligator who try to hitch a ride with us. We see Brer Rabbit pass by above us on a rail road hand car. We pass several signs warning us that we are approaching the laughing place. Brer Rabbit himself is hunkering down behind a bush laughing. We come upon Brer Bear directly above us peering into a tree hollow. We pass beneath him and plunge head long into darkness as we hear him exclaim, "There's nothing in here but bees!"
Suddenly we are shooting upwards and as soon as we can see again we are surrounded by bees buzzing around their hives.
The song, "Laughing Place" plays as we rush down a gentle slope and past Brer Bear who has a bee hive stuck on his nose. A dog spins around in a row boat. A stork plays a spider web like a harp. Brer Rabbit has been caught in a bee hive and pleads with Brer Fox to let him go.
Suddenly the mood changes. Everything becomes much more somber. We pass Mrs. Rabbit and Mrs. Mole who are singing to their children about how Brer Rabbit shouldn't be messing with the fox and bear and the dangers of the laughing place. After this scene we pass underneath two vultures who taunt us about what lies in store for Brer Rabbit and for us.
Now we start up the lift hill which we know is going to lead to the big drop. It is a dark and narrow tunnel as we approach the top, we see Brer Rabbit to the left. He is tied up and being menaced by the shadow of Brer Fox. "Please don't throw me into the briar patch," pleads the rabbit. "That's Just where you're going," answers the fox.
Suddenly, we are at the top of the lift hill. We pause for a second and briefly enjoy one of the best views in the park. The Matterhorn dominates the skyline in front of us. Then we're over the edge and plunging into the briar patch. We see a flash as a hidden camera takes our picture and then we are shooting through a tunnel which emerges by the Rivers of America. The log then turns around and heads slowly back toward the mountain.
We pass more antique farm equipment and a small water fall and soon we are passing a beaver playing the drums and then we are heading back into the mountain. A Mississippi paddle wheeler is populated and surrounded by animatronic critters all singing the attractions signature tune, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah."
Brer Fox and Brer Bear get their comeuppance as they are menaced by an alligator. Then we float past Brer Rabbit relaxing at home as he explains that the briar patch is his home and that's where he is going to stay. Then we pass under an owl who shows us a picture of ourselves going over the drop and temps us to buy it at the end of the ride.
Just around the corner is the load/unload area where we get out of our log and depart the area through a hollow tree. We go through a short tunnel, where we once again pass by our displayed photo, and out into the park. Near by is the booth where we can purchase our photos.
Splash Mountain proved to be such a success at Disneyland that it wasn't long before versions of this attraction were going up simultaneously in Florida and Japan.
On July 17, 1992, three years to the day after the Disneyland version of the attraction opened, the second Splash Mountain opened at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
There is no Critter Country at Walt Disney World so the attraction was re-themed to fit into Frontierland. This consisted largely of giving the exterior a more weathered appearance and changing the music to guitar, banjo and harmonica as opposed to the playful orchestra arrangements in Disneyland's version.
The Disney World version is much more elaborate and colorful then it's Disneyland counterpart. They obviously had a larger budget and the benefit of experience.
The queue begins just past the view of the drop as it does at Disneyland. However, there is a large tower which marks the entrance. You first pass through a narrow furrow in the ground with tall, steep walls on either side of you. Then you come out and into an elaborate switch back system that leads you under the rail road truss just as it does at Disneyland. Except this railroad truss is actually the Frontierland station of the Walt Disney World Railroad.
The next area of the queue is a system of switchbacks which is contained in an area which gently mimics Disneyland's Critter Country. You pass by a series of tiny critter dwellings. Inside each of them you can hear high pitched critter voices have conversations -- usually about Brer Rabbit and his exploits.
You next enter the main doors of a barn. The rest of the queue is a more elaborate version of the Disneyland queue. The main addition can be found as you travel through the cave toward the load/unload area. In a tiny cavern you can see the shadow of Brer Frog as he rocks back and forth telling his grand kids a story about Brer Rabbit.
The logs in the Florida version have side by side seating as opposed to the tandem seating at Disneyland. There are four rows of two seats giving each log a maximum capacity of 8 persons. Disneyland's logs can hold 7 people at most. The side by side logs were developed for the Tokyo version of the ride because tandem seating would not fit into the Japanese culture. Since they gave the ride a higher capacity then the tandem logs, they were also used in Florida.
On the front of the log Brer Rabbit crouches ready to spring. At Disneyland, only Brer Rabbit's head is carved into the log.
As we leave the load/unload area, we round a corner and start up a small lift. On our left we see Brer Frog telling us that brer Rabbit's gotten himself into trouble. Then, just as in the Disneyland version, we circle around the briar patch and watch the logs plunge over the big drop. Then it's into the mill and up another lift. There are flour barrels and other props on either side of us as we go up but no owl as in the Disneyland version.
At the top of the lift we begin to float along exterior channels. We pass by a medicine wagon and little critter houses. We can hear the high pitched sound of the critters singing from within. We swing by the entrance to Brer Rabbit's hole and we hear him singing within. Then it is through a short tunnel by Brer Bear's cave where we can hear him snoring within. Now we hit our first drop, also called Slip'n Falls. It sends us shooting down and inside the mountain.
Although most of the scenes are similar to the Disneyland counterparts, The Florida version of the attraction is much more lavishly detailed. We start by passing geese who are singing, "Movin' Along." but then we pass a scene where Brer Bear and Brer Fox are hiding behind a tree watching Brer Rabbit tell the blue bird that he is leaving home. We round the corner and pass by a couple of critter dwelling. A beaver plays a turtle like and drum. Across the river from him, some young rabbits do their chores while a projected Brer Rabbit runs over a hill followed by Brer Fox and Brer Bear.
Around the next bend we come to the scene where Brer Bear has been caught in Brer Fox's trap and is hanging upside down. At this point we see an Audio Animatronic Brer Rabbit hop past us on the other side of a hedge.
Now the music changes to, "Laughing Place." We float past several other critter dwellings and up to a great tree. Above us and to the left, Brer Bear is sticking his head into a tree hollow. Directly above us Brer Rabbit laughs out of control. We hear Brer Bear say, "There's just bees in here." and then we are plunging into darkness and then back up out of it. Now we are in the tree and surrounded by bee hives. Brer Bear had one stuck on his nose.
We travel down a gentle slope past critters who are singing and playing the water. Serpentine fountains leap across our path but we never get wet. We round the next corner and find that Brer Fox has succeeded in capturing Brer Rabbit in a bee hive. The mood changes and now we pass under the vultures who taunt us just as they do at Disneyland. We start up the final lift. Once again we pass Brer Rabbit on the left. He is still pleading not to be thrown into the briar patch. Brer Fox promises that is just where he's going. We pause briefly at the top of the lift. Another magnificent view confronts us. The time Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain dominate the skyline. Then we plunge over the edge and our picture is taken. Before we know it we are winding around by the Rivers of America and heading back for the Mountain. On the way we pass a water fall. But this one is designed to get us wet.
We re-enter the mountain and find a scene almost exactly like the one at Disneyland. The biggest difference is that there is no Audio Animatronic owl hawking photos. As we get out of our log we exit through a rotting tree and into a series of hall ways that around the exterior queue area and to the shop where our photos may be purchased.
On October 1, 1992, two and a half months after Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World opened, the third version of the attraction opened at Tokyo Disneyland. An entire new Critter Country area was created in the Japanese park to accommodate Splash Mountain. As a result of this, Tokyo Disneyland's version of the attraction is the most elaborate and detailed Splash Mountain to be built so far.
Tokyo Disneyland's Critter Country involves many winding pathways and caverns. The Splash Mountain show building is covered by an elaborate mountain facade which involves many intricately detailed critter dwellings built into the side of the mountain. One of the nicest features is the restaurant, Grand Ma Sarah's Kitchen which is built into a cavern on the side of the mountain. It is almost like eating inside the attraction. An exterior dining area is right next to the channel the logs take after the drop and on the way back to the mountain.
The entrance to the attraction is designed to resemble a mill structure. It is very similar to the structure that houses the first lift hill in the other versions of the attraction. After passing through the mill we enter into a system of huge caverns. Walk ways run around the sides of the caverns which are as high as four stories. Water falls cascade around us as we wind along on our way. We pass several critter dwellings built into the walls of the caverns. There is even an audio animatronic owl who speaks to us as we pass. He speaks in Japanese and, unfortunately, I have no idea what he is saying.
The load/unload area, like the queue, is inside. Due to the inclement Japanese whether, many Tokyo Disneyland attractions have large interior queue areas. Splash Mountain has one of the most elaborate. Their logs are identical to the models used in the Florida attraction.
After boarding we head out and encounter the first small lift. Just like the Florida attraction, Brer Frog is there to give us some parting words. But in this case he is on the right and his words are Japanese.
At the top of the first lift hill we exit the mountain and head outside. We travel around the briar patch just as in the other attractions only here we are traveling in the opposite direction. We then enter a cavern which houses the first large lift hill. In the other two versions, this lift hill is inside the mill structure. We travel up it and then back outside. As we travel through the channel, what we see is very similar to the Florida attraction. However, we enter back into the mountain before we hit the first drop -- which in the other attractions is called Slip'n Falls. Here it has no name. We plunge down and right into the first scene which is Brer Rabbit leaving home with Brer Fox and Brer Bear watching from behind a tree. The song is, "Movin' along" The lyrics are sung in Japanese.
We travel along past the young sweeping rabbits and the projected Brer Rabbit being chased by Brer Fox and Brer Bear. Then we pass the scene where Brer Bear is caught in the trap. Brer Rabbit watches from behind some bushes.
Around the next bend, the song changes to, "Laughing Place" (sung in English) and we encounter the geese who are at the beginning of the other two versions. We travel past them and see the hopping Audio Animatronic Brer Rabbit. The scene that leads up to the great tree is almost exactly like it is in Florida. Brer Bear is in almost exactly the same spot but Brer Rabbit is on the other side of the river snickering behind a tree root.
Whoosh we go down and then up and the bee hive scene is again almost the same as Florida's. As we travel by the animals playing and singing in the water, we notice that this area is much more brightly lit then in the other two versions. We pass Brer Rabbit caught in the bee hive and the scenes play out just as they do in Florida. As we pause briefly at the top of the lift hill and admire the view, what stands out is the Mark Twain on the Rivers of America below us. We plunge down, our photo is taken and we pass by diners on our way back toward the mountain. We notice that this version of the attraction has left us much dryer then either of the other two. It was designed this way because many Japanese people dress up to go to Disneyland.
The last scene with the show boat is almost identical to the other versions of the attraction. Then we find ourselves back in the load/unload area. A short trip down the tunnel and past the photo display area and we exit back out into Critter Country. It is interesting to note that Nissan sponsors the Tokyo Disneyland Splash Mountain.
There has not yet been any mention of building a Splash Mountain in Disneyland Paris. Due to the harsh winters there, they would be unable to run the attraction year round. So it is unknown weather it will ever be built there.