This week we will dive into one of the most popular attractions in the Disney Parks. At a time when the parks needed some help to get guests to lesser-visited lands and attractions, along comes Imagineer Tony Baxter. Join us for a Zippity Do Da adventure for the history of Splash Mountain.
In the summer of 1983 Disneyland was facing an issue of how to increase guest experience and popularity in two different sections of the park. First was Bear Country, The Bear Country Jamboree was created by legendary Imagineer Marc Davis but there was a lack of interest due to the location at the far corner of the park. America sings was over in Tomorrowland and was also created by Marc Davis. The show celebrated the Bicentennial featured many of Davis’s Audio-Animatronics was only drawing half crowds. Tony Baxter was brought in to figure out what needed to be done.
Dick Nunis was the president of Walt Disney Attractions at the time and had the idea that he wanted to bring another water ride to the park. He wanted an attraction like Pirates of the Caribbean but a log flume and an E-ticket attraction. They put their faith in Baxter to come up with the idea. While sitting in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway the idea came to him. He tapped in an untapped resource, Song of the South. He developed a log flume that would follow the adventures of Br’er Rabbit and his friends. They came up with the idea of The Zippity River Run.
With the idea in place, the brand new CEO of Disney Michael Eisner wanted to have his input in the attraction. At the same time, the movie Splash starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah was being released. Eisner wanted to feature a mermaid on the ride and the movie. Baxter and the other Imagineers shot down the idea of the mermaid but did go with his idea of a name change and from there Splash Mountain was born.
To accommodate the five-story drop planned for the attraction, most of the attraction built well underground so it would not overpower Sleeping Beauty Castle and make sure it remained the focal point of the park. Baxter also from the beginning planned on showing respect to the legendary Imagineer Marc Davis. They decided to close the America Sings and Baxter used all most all of the audio-animatronics on Splash Mountain in one way or the other.
On July 17th, 1989 Splash Mountain opened at Disneyland in California in the newly named Critter Country. It was an instant success and just what the park needed at this time. Eisner was so happy with success he immediately green-lit the two more Splash Mountains to be built. One at Walt Disney World in Florida and the other at Tokyo Disneyland. A fourth one talked about in Paris but the budget and constantly changing climate scrapped the idea. Exactly three years to the day Splash Mountain opened at Walt Disney World on July 17th, 1992 in Frontierland. In Tokyo, it opened on October 1st, 1992. The one big difference in California and Florida is the ride vehicle itself. Disneyland has the traditional log flume log while WDW has double seater logs. Hopefully, you enjoyed our brief history on Splash Mountain. Please let us know here at the Disinsider which attractions you would like us to feature. I’ll leave you with a few more facts about Splash Mountain, Have a Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Day.
A couple of Fun Facts about Splash Mountain at the Disneyland Resort:
- 89 feet tall
- 52-foot drop at 47 degrees
- Top Speed 40mph
- 965,000 Gallons of water
- 103 Audio-Animatronics