When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, he included the “Snow White Ride-Thru” as seen in the guidebook “The Story of Disneyland.” Guests boarded a mine car and went on Snow White’s adventures, but many guests were disappointed. They never saw Snow White in the attraction, and they wondered why. Where was Snow White?
The missing princess wasn’t the only problem parents had with the attraction, which took them and their children on a 3D ride through the 1937 movie story line. The witch shows up numerous times, threatening, changing into the old apple peddler, and the mine cars head through the castle dungeon and into the scary forest, which in the film is a figment of Snow White’s imagination. This attraction was terrifying for some of the younger audience.
According to “The Disneyland Encyclopedia,” the attraction changed to make clear what was going on. Snow White was added to the interior, and “scary was added to the official attraction name. But why wasn’t Snow White in the original plan?
“The park achieved a kind of reality. Like these virtual reality games the children are playing with. I told them we were doing this 40 years ago! Disneyland is virtual reality.” – John Hench
The attraction developers wanted people to experience the attraction as if they were Snow White. This may be one of the earliest examples of first-person shooters if you don’t count the Frontierland and other shooting galleries themselves. It was a way for Disneyland to immerse its guests in the films they loved, but for some this proved too traumatic, and even through 2019, Snow White’s Scary Adventures were, well, scary.
When Disneyland reopened after the COVID pandemic on April 30, 2021, the Snow White attraction changed names. It is now called Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. Disneyland Resort Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering Kim Irvine said:
“The Snow White attraction has such a rich history. We wanted to take into account the beautiful scenic work that has always existed and retell the story in a special way. We believe guests will enjoy this sweet story line in a stunning experience.”
The Snow White Ride-Thru has been a part of the park since the beginning, and like the park, it was meant to change and grow. This latest incarnation reminds us of Walt Disney’s words, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” It also shows us that scary things can become less scary when we use our imagination to create new solutions.
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(This article contains affiliate links. If you order something using these links, it doesn’t cost you more, and I get a small advertising fee.) In 1937, Walt Disney released “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The first animated feature was often known as Disney’s Folly. People said no one would sit through such a long cartoon. Some said people’s eyes would bleed if they watched that much animated film in one sitting. When it premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater, it was an instant hit. Celebrities cried. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” became the highest grossing movie of all-time until “Gone with the Wind” knocked it off the top spot in 1939.
In Disney Alice in Wonderland (affiliate link), Alice says that she picked up from her father the habit of believing six impossible things before breakfast. In Victorian England where the imagination, in women especially, was held with disdain, this is a curious habit indeed. Why would her father teach here to believe in (not think of or imagine) six impossible things before she starts the day?
She couldn’t believe what had happened. The hunter had taken her out into the forest and raised his knife as her back was turned. Only the shadow on the rock told her how close he was to her. When she turned, the light glinted off the cold steel. She raised her arms and inhaled sharply. The hunter dropped the knife and then dropped to his knees. His hands covered his face as he cried. Through the sobs, she could hear him explain to her that her mother wanted her dead, but he couldn’t do it. Instead, he left her frightened and alone with one word: Run!
The Walt Disney Company traditionally rereleased its
animated classics to theaters about once every seven years. Even as video
cassettes were becoming popular, Disney kept its animated classics “in the
vault” and off the shelves. Rereleasing films was profitable because Disney
could fill out its movie slate for the year with a film that had no additional
production costs. The money from the rereleases was almost pure profit minus
the advertising budget.
With pent-up adult demand for something from childhood that
they could share with their children and the importance of introducing the
characters to a whole new generation that would then want to see those
characters in the parks, Disney’s rereleases were more than just profitable.
They kept the company in the news, and they made the attractions in the parks
more relevant to children who otherwise wouldn’t have seen the movies.
The rereleases, in essence, drove profits at the box office
and at the parks, especially during some of the Walt Disney Company’s rougher
periods. It wasn’t enough.
When Michael Eisner took over the company, things changed
drastically as he followed through on Ron Miller’s (the then defunct CEO) plan.
For the first time, Disney classics would be available in their entirety on VHS.
The video series reaped immediate cash rewards and provided a much need capital
input into the company while possibly sacrificing future profits and relevancy
in the process.
Eventually, Disney would return videos “to the vault.” The
announcement would increase demand for the videos because they would no longer
be available for purchase though they would remain on video rental store
shelves until the videotapes wore out. Videos would also be released in
different versions and levels, including Masterpiece, Gold Series and Platinum
series. This strategy kept the profits flowing while also keeping the films and
their characters relevant. It still wasn’t enough.
To drive further interest in its intellectual property and
keep the park characters relevant, Disney offered up direct-to-video sequels.
Unable to rerelease the classics to movie theaters on a wide scale, (Who would
go see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on the movie screen when they could
stay at home and see the same movie with the family at a much cheaper price?) the
new videos were often inferior in quality and storytelling, but they were effective
for the price and benefits reaped. On television, other characters made it to
Saturday Morning. “Tailspin,” based on the Jungle Book characters, and “Timon
and Pumbaa”, based on the Lion King characters, were relatively successful and
kept the spirit of the shows (and their related tie-in profits) alive.
Still, Disney needed a way to produce box office profits and
buzz with as little risk as possible. Remaking the classics has accomplished that
In 1994, Disney had a moderate hit ($44 million) with a live
action “The Jungle Book” starring Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes and Lena Headley.
In 1996, it had a much more successful live action film ($320 million) in the Glenn
Close vehicle “101 Dalmatians.”
While some may classify Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”
as a remake, it is really a retelling. It has many elements similar to the
animated classic but is different enough to rate its own story. Still, it’s $1
billion box office take certainly didn’t deter Disney from the remakes. “Maleficent”
($758 million) is another live action film, based on Disney’s telling of “Sleeping
Beauty,” but still different enough to be its own story. Even “Pete’s Dragon” didn’t
stick strictly to the script of the original. “Christopher Robin” (not quite
$200 million) and “Dumbo” ($352 million on a $170 million budget – whoever authorized
that budget didn’t understand why the firs was released) had different
storylines compared to the originals and were considered flops as they didn’t
score highly with critics or at the box office.
“The Jungle Book” (2016), which almost made $1 billion,
featured groundbreaking cinematography and stuck close to the original animated
feature. “Beauty and the Beast” was a lot like the original, too, and this may
be the beginning of the downfall because it brought in $1.2 billion. Why write
a new script if you can just use the old one?
Enter the ultra-busy actor, producer, executive producer, director,
chef and whatever else Jon Favreau. Favreau is responsible for directing “Iron
Man” and for starring as Happy in several of the Marvel films. He’s taken part
in the “Star Wars” movies and shows Disney has/is creating. He is also the producer
and director of “The Lion King” and “The Jungle Book” (2016). He made a cooking
show in his spare time “The Chef Show” because he missed the time that he spent
with the chef that taught him how to cook on his movie “Chef.” Look up his IMDB
and be amazed, and then understand the problem.
Favreau’s box office dominance isn’t in question. His
ability to be original is. When someone is so busy with as many projects as he
is, it’s inevitable that he or she will take the easiest road. Adapting “the Lion
King” from the old script and giving it originality, in addition to wrangling
the photo-realistic “not” animation, would’ve have been too much if it were the
only project on his plate. After all, “The Lion King” made almost $1 billion.
More importantly, it’s beloved by millions of fans the world
over. If he had messed it up by taking a risk to make it more original, he
would’ve seen his career with Disney take a dive. Favreau had no choice but to
fulfill expectations and keep the animals looking live-action rather than
animated. Follow the script and no one gets hurt, except those parts that
living animals couldn’t literally do – like dress in drag and do the hula or
march in fascistic fashion.
Favreau was out in a no-win situation. In order for the “not”
animated “Lion King” to have been a better film, he would’ve needed to cut some
of the fluff (literally and figuratively) out of the film while concentrating
on character and using human expressions to get the animals to show emotion. He
would’ve needed to take a risk in the same way that the gorgeous and expensive
Broadway show took a risk. He would’ve needed to lead the innovation and story
team to bring something new to the screen that would’ve added to the film’s
legacy. He didn’t have the time to do what he needed to do to make the film
better, so rather than create something new, he took the safe road to
profitability. And we’re all creatively the worst for it.