Let’s Say Goodbye to Splash Mountain
For more than 30 years, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain have stood side-by-side in Frontierland. The two-ride combo has thrilled guests for decades now, but those days have sadly ended.
As of Sunday, January 22nd, 2023, one of those rides went extinct. Let’s say goodbye to Splash Mountain and look forward to its replacement, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
One Last Hurrah
Approximately 50 weeks per year, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train averages the longest wait at Magic Kingdom. This past week represented one of those rare instances where the roller coaster didn’t win.
Instead, park guests spent most of their time at Frontierland as they enjoyed one more trip down Splash Mountain. Throughout the week, the wait time hovered in the 100-120-minute range. Finally, on Sunday, guests stood in line for up to four hours (!) to get wet one last time.
Disney thoughtfully allowed visitors to enter the line until Magic Kingdom technically closed at 11 p.m. Due to the sheer volume of people unwilling to say goodbye, the ride stayed open into the early morning of January 23rd.
Walt Disney World Cast Members were the last people to ride Splash Mountain. And the crowd went wild. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/EbsqYlCg7W
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) January 23, 2023
Meanwhile, Briar Patch, the longtime gift shop at Splash Mountain, experienced another massive rush of guests. The first instance occurred when park officials announced Splash Mountain’s closing. Disney said it wouldn’t resupply some of the merchandise, which caused a tidal wave of shoppers for the unique Everything Must Go! sales event.
On Sunday, even pressed pennies counted as lifelong keepsakes of Splash Mountain. People happily snagged any piece of memorabilia they could get.
All this behavior underscores one simple fact: for all its questionable connotations, Splash Mountain won the hearts of Disney fans. For decades, we embraced the unforgettable soundtrack and delightful denizens of The Laughing Place.
Once Disney identified the final date for the ride before its closure, fans flocked to Orlando for one last hurrah. Then, they stayed until the last possible moment.
Looking Back at Splash Mountain
Disney Legend Tony Baxter loves to recount the creation of Splash Mountain. As he sat in traffic, he suddenly had an epiphany. A bunch of Audio-Animatronics from the failed America Sings attraction would work perfectly as animals for a different sort of ride.
Even then, The Song of the South had a negative association that was challenging to overlook. Still, Baxter loved the movie and felt its anthropomorphic characters and soundtrack would set the stage perfectly for a different kind of ride.
Splash Mountain was by no means the first log flume ride at an amusement park – it missed that honor by more than 20 years – but it was unquestionably the best for generations. In truth, it might have still held that title the day it closed at Magic Kingdom.
Even talking about Splash Mountain in the past tense isn’t accurate. The Disneyland Park version remains open. Its lines have similarly increased in size as West Coast fans say goodbye for another few months. Sadly, at Walt Disney World, Splash Mountain has joined a long line of extinct attractions, though.
From now on, when Disney fans sing How Do You Do and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, they’ll remember what used to be. Objectively, Splash Mountain needed a reboot since its existence violated one of Disney’s Five Keys, Inclusion. Even so, the memories of splashing down into the water will remain for parents to share with their children and grandchildren.
Walt Disney World has closed other beloved attractions in the past – most notably Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and The Great Movie Ride – but I’m not sure any of them impacted Disney fans on the same level as the Splash Mountain ride experience.
Often, we’d walk away from the area in our soggy socks and shoes, idly wondering whether we should ride again. After all, we were already drenched.
Disney Prepares for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
For the next year or so, this section of Frontierland will feel incomplete and somewhat empty. Yes, Baxter’s other brilliant attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, will continue to anchor the themed land. Still, Frontierland won’t seem whole again until Splash Mountain’s replacement arrives.
Imagineers have taken care in deciding what they can do to rectify the representation issues on Splash Mountain. Fittingly, they have chosen a Disney Princess and bona fide heroine as the replacement.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will celebrate the events of The Princess and the Frog. We’ll catch up with Tiana, who is currently living out her happily ever after as a successful chef and entrepreneur in New Orleans.
As a town leader, Tiana seeks to throw a party for the people who have helped her along the way. Alas, ever the perfectionist, the chef seeks the perfect ingredient for her recipe. She’ll only find it by venturing back to the bayou, the main source of this component.
Disney fans will join Tiana on her adventure, and Louis, the trumpet-playing gator, will come along, too! In fact, many characters from The Princess and the Frog will appear in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. I’m happy to report that the unforgettable Madam Odie is one of them!
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Plan for 2023
Park officials have stated that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in late 2024. As such, we’ll only go without a companion ride to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for 22 months or so.
In the interim, Disney has adjusted by pushing guests toward New Fantasyland instead. Over the past few days, Disney has reopened Ariel’s Grotto and Storybook Circus. Then, Enchanted Tales with Belle will return next month, followed by Tron Lightcycle Power Run’s debut in early April.
Disney clearly has a plan here. Alas, modernizing the park means no more Splash Mountain. It’s the end of an era at Magic Kingdom.