Snow White’s Storied History at the Disney Parks

To this day, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains one of Disney’s most classic and beloved films. It was Walt Disney’s first full-fledged animated movie and set the foundation for not only Disney’s movies but also animation as a whole. So it’s no wonder that the original princess, the dwarfs, and the witch have appeared at a wide range of Disney parks, starting with Disneyland in Anaheim at its grand opening. But perhaps the most interesting story to explore is how Snow White has been featured at Walt Disney World, with everything from rollercoasters to straight-on horror.

Snow White at Storybook Dining at Artist Point isn’t the full-on horror we’re referencing above… .

The Beginning in Disneyland

Snow White’s first Disney park attraction, Snow White and Her Adventures, debuted as a dark ride at Anaheim Disneyland’s opening in 1955.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures is under construction in 2020.

While it followed the basic premise of the original movie, it, like several other attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, placed guests in the actual role of Snow White herself rather than as bystanders in her story. In fact, the original Disney Princess never appeared in the ride at all.

The apple that the Witch gives Snow White in the ride kept being stolen, so Disney eventually replaced it with a projection. The apple here is a separate decoration in the wait queue.

The lack of Snow White in her themed attraction threw off some riders, but it also set a precedent by creating a spookier experience. Because you were taking Snow White’s role, the many dangers she faced – from freaky trees to the Evil Queen/Witch – were now after you! The Witch even seemed to focus on you, offering you the poisoned apple. Also, the ride took you to dark places Snow White never went in the movie, like the Evil Queen’s castle. It was a confusing and frightening experience, and it influenced the subsequent version in Walt Disney World.

Hyping the Horror at Disney World

When the Snow White ride was brought to Disney World in 1971 along with other Disneyland attractions, they all went through upgrades and changes. Peter Pan’s Flight, for instance, addressed the concern of not actually seeing the main character and added him into the ride. Snow White’s Adventures, on the other hand, kept with the notion of you (the rider) being the focus of attention in the ride and then built on the terror by having the Wicked Witch after you the entire ride.

There was little merriness to be found in this adventure, with even the Dwarfs scared.

You started the ride by seeing the Evil Queen ranting at her reflection, until she turned around to reveal herself to be the Witch. Things escalated from there, with you fleeing the dungeons and across a haunted bog, with the Witch around every turn. Even the Seven Dwarfs’ house lacked merriment, with the Dwarfs anxiously tiptoeing up the stairs and the Witch waiting by the front door. Worst of all, there was no happy ending. Instead, the ride ended with her dropping a giant gem onto the ride, presumably killing you on the spot.

The scene where the Evil Queen turns around and reveals herself to be the Wicked Witch was especially frightening.

It was arguably the scariest ride at Disney World, even to this day (although some might argue Rise of the Resistance creates intense feelings, too). Other rides like the Haunted Mansion mixed spooks in with humorous antics, but Snow White’s Adventures maintained the tense atmosphere – and the feeling you were being hunted – for the entire experience. As a result, it left a lasting impression on most riders for its over two decades of operation.

Spreading the Adventure

Following the success of Snow White’s Adventures in Walt Disney World, its heightened horror theme carried over to other parks. In 1983, Anaheim’s Disneyland renamed the ride Snow White’s Scary Adventures and changed parts of the ride around, such as adding in Disney World’s scene with the Evil Queen’s mirror and her sudden turn into the Witch; it also added in a happy ending with Snow White and the Prince.

The final happy ending in the revised Disneyland ride set the tone for future versions.

Tokyo Disneyland’s version best mimicked Snow White’s Adventures, with the sequence of the castle, dungeon, and water scenes playing out similarly; on the other hand, Snow White appears briefly in the Dwarfs’ house, and the ride ends with the Dwarfs and Witch fighting. In various ways, parks around the world have drawn inspiration from this frightful adventure. This includes Disneyland Paris, whose 1992 ride Blanche Neige et les Sept Nains (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”) gave the ride a happier ending – which had ramifications back in Disney World.

Ironically Less Scary

In 1994, Disney World replaced the ride with Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Despite the emphasis in the title on “Scary”, it actually significantly cut the terror elements of the former ride. One critical change was that the riders were no longer taking Snow White’s place. Snow White appeared throughout, and the Witch’s actions were toward her and the Dwarfs. This meant that riders had the safety of being onlookers rather than the direct targets of the scares.

The returned merriness of the Dwarfs highlighted the changed tone of the ride.

Moreover, the new ride lost its sense of originality by defaulting to a play-by-play of the movie. You started by seeing the Queen talking to the Magic Mirror (no transformation) and the Huntsman warning Snow White, and it climaxed with the Dwarfs fighting the Witch. Previous scenes like the ambush in the mine and the boat encounter were cut. Plus, rather than end with a fright, the final scene showed the Prince saving Snow White and everyone celebrating. Snow White’s Scary Adventures had a mixed reception. Some longtime fans disliking the change in tone and originality, while others enjoyed the more lighthearted romp through the beloved tale.

A New Fantasyland, A New Ride

The next change not only impacted Snow White’s ride but Fantasyland as a whole, when in 2009 Disney announced plans to revamp and expand Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. New Fantasyland would feature more immersive settings highlighting classic Disney movies, as well as having rides to enjoy. One such attraction would be a new Snow White-themed ride, focusing less on Snow White’s adventures and more on the Seven Dwarfs.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which opened in 2014, is a mild rollercoaster (no sharp turns or drops) that combines the thrill of a rollercoaster ride with a tour of the Seven Dwarfs’ mine. The mine is more spectacular than ever, utilizing projection technology that makes the Dwarfs’ expressions vivid and animated. The Mine Train ride is pretty simple, lacking the thrills of a roller coaster and the chills of the original Snow White ride. Still, it brings the fanciful fairy tale to life, making it a worthy successor of sorts to Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

Farewell to Snow White’s Scary Adventures

At the same time that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was being built, though, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was reaching its end. The new Mine Train ride was placed in the New Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom, separate from where the old ride was, but Snow White’s Scary Adventures still shut down in May 2012. In September 2013, a new attraction took its place: Princess Fairytale Hall for meet-and-greets with Disney Princesses (typically Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, and Elena of Avalor).

At Fairytale Hall, you have the chance to meet not only Snow White but also Jasmine, Cinderella, and many other Disney Princesses.

Even so, parts of Snow White’s Scary Adventures – and its predecessor – continue to live on at Disney World. Some of the props for the Mine Train Ride – particularly the final scene with the Dwarfs and Snow White celebrating in their cottage – came from the previous ride.

You’ll see the dastardly vultures in the mines, but don’t worry, this time they don’t forebode danger.

In addition, versions of the old ride continue to operate at other parks. Disneyland Paris’ ride, for instance, continues the version that inspired Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and Tokyo Disneyland still runs the scarier version of the original ride. Disneyland in Anaheim also still has its version of Snow White’s Scary Adventures. However, just this year Disney has begun to refurbish and upgrade it with new features and scenes.

With Disneyland’s ride undergoing refurbishments, we might see a new version of a Snow White ride in the near future.

As you can see, Snow White’s rides have had an amazing history both at Walt Disney World and around the world. And not only have she and her adventures inspired multiple rides, but she has also been a popular Disney Princess, meeting countless children and inspiring them to follow their own dreams. With different rides for Snow White at Disney World and other parks, her story will continue to live on for years to come.

Which Snow White rides have you ridden on? Leave a comment below. 

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