Magic Mirror on the wall...
The Queen makes her transformational spin into Witch #1 whose head tilts down as you pass by...
Entering the dungeon...
Spell book and cauldron. Witch #2 dunks the apple into the poison brew...
Witch #3 poles her boat thru the swamp...
The less oft-seen solo croc moves along the right side of track...
Witch #4 offers the poison apple to Snow White...
Witch #5 escapes to the rocky cliffs...
The dwarfs give chase. Doc's lamp shakes in his hand. Hidden black lights set the mood...
Lightning strikes as Witch #6 attempts to dislodge the boulder...
True love's first kiss...
Of course there are newer, faster, and much more technologically advanced theme park attractions, and I certainly enjoy many of them. Yet, my encounters with Snow White's Scary Adventures have always left a very lasting impression. I loved its classic dark ride design, simple yet clever special effects, and its incorporation of both music and sounds from the film. These all combined to re-tell the story and create an experience that was very much alive for me.
Now just three hours remained before it would close forever. More people than ever were lining up to say farewell, and as they exited, cameras flashed and actual "goodbyes" were spoken by many. An energy of both melancholy and celebration seemed to be simultaneously permeating the queue area, or at least that was my sense of it.
At one point, the line stretched all the way down to Winnie-the-Pooh. I'd never been around so many Snow White fans. There were the diehards who kept riding over and over. One I ran into rode all day long, from the rope drop at 8:00 am until close at 10:00 pm. With only a few short bathroom breaks and a quick 20 minute lunch at nearby Pinocchio Village Haus, he managed to ride in each of the different dwarf mine cars for a grand total of 37 round trips (which is quite good considering the length of the queue line).
Several Disney website and blogger folks were on hand including Kevin Yee of MiceAge.com. Both active and off-duty cast members were now showing up. The only one who probably didn't quite understand that this was indeed the end was Ben.
While his parents took turns riding with him, Ben kept racking up the numbers. With less than an hour left, I asked Ron about the current ride total and was surprised to hear how close they were to 3500! Around a dozen I think it was. At the start of the day, they needed 49 rides to reach their goal. Yet, the park would be closing soon. Ron did the calculations and mathematically, it just didn't seem possible. But Sara said not to worry; they were gonna make it!
Sara and Ron takes turns riding with Ben.
I knew there were numerous guests in line who were hoping to be aboard that very last mine car. But as Ron wrote in his blog post...
As the night progressed, virtually everyone in the crowd seemed to understand what was going on with Ben and gladly helped in making his experience a special one. I didn't realize it until the next morning, when my wife pointed it out to me, but as my family was so focused on Ben's last night with SWSA, dozens of random strangers were tweeting and blogging about Ben and how much his experience was touching their hearts.
At 10:00 pm, the line was capped. No additional guests could get in, yet all those already in line would be able to have their last ride. This did not apply to the wheelchair/disability loading area. Along with just a couple of other people, Ben was able to continue boarding while the regular queue line slowly began to dwindle.
It took about a half hour but by 10:30 pm, no one was left in line. A crowd had gathered out beyond the ropes, and they were cheering and applauding each and every remaining guest as they came out and exited their ride vehicles. The operators had placed a green cone in one of the mine cars to mark that the last of the guests had come thru.
The green cone
Then Ben, both his parents, and his grandfather who works maintenance at night in the park, all boarded their vehicle to become the last "official" guests to ever ride Snow White's Scary Adventures.
The last "public" ride on SWSA.
Three minutes and ten mine cars later, the crowd burst into applause as Ben came thru the doors.
Park guests and cast members alike were cheering and clapping for Ben and his parents as they made their way out of the queue.
Camera flashes lit up the area. It was truly an amazing scene.
Yet in actuality, this was not the last ride aboard the Scary Adventures. As it turns out, Ben missed the goal of 3500 by just seven rides. Cast member Stacey Patrone was aware of this and once again stepped up to make this a night to remember for Ben's family.
In the darkness out beyond the ropes, the standing crowd of fans did not immediately disperse. This was the end for SWSA and many of them stood in silence as if to pay their last respects.
Cast members and security guards quietly held position.
The ride operators made themselves look busy around the queue.
Stacey had instructed Ben's parents to wait by The Friar Nook's while the crowd slowly dwindled. Ron allowed both Ken Sundberg and myself to join them. It took a little time, but the last of the park guests finally made their way toward the Fantasyland exit.
Our small group was then invited back to the queue where the cast members fired up the ride for one last set of Scary Adventures. When they turned the key in the control panel, an alarm began to sound, apparently because it was after hours or maybe because the attraction had already been shut down for the night. Anyway, it took a moment before they managed to silence it. Then they asked how many trips Ben still needed to make 3500. Seven!
Ben and his mom got into the first seat, Ron and I in the second, and Ken in the third. We were off! Disney was holding the ride open after park hours just so Ben could reach his goal. Ben's family (and a couple of Snow White fanatics) were thrilled. I personally never thought I'd ride it again, but here I was.
It was clear how special this moment was for Ben's family. After nine years and 3493 rides, they were nearing the end of a very long journey that had started with their move from Seattle to Orlando. I made a decision not to film our little group during these last rides. Everyone was having such a good time, talking and laughing. I didn't want to infringe upon it.
We joked about how you're supposed to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle. Sara said that after several thousand times, she'd always wanted to reach out and touch the wishing well. So Ron, who was sitting on the right side of the mine car, did just that. Next time thru they switched positions and Sara got her hand on it.
As we approached the swamp, Ron mentioned that the third crocodile is a tough one to reach because it moves, and you have to be in the right place at the right time. I happened to be sitting left center and got my first touch on its snout as we whizzed by.
We were all having such a good time. It was a perfect release to an intense emotional day. Then on the sixth round, Sara had a splendid idea to let Ben go solo on the final ride. I could see Ron was a little apprehensive at first. In all of the previous 3499 trips, Ben had always been supervised by at least one of his parents. I thought it was a brilliant way to end. For me, the Snow White story has always held deep symbolic meaning. Ben was now eighteen. So there could be no better way to finish than for him to go thru the dark ride on his very own mythological rite-of-passage.
We all exited the mine car, I grabbed my camera, and Ron and Sara led Ben to the boarding area. He hopped in the empty vehicle, but when his parents didn't follow, the curious look on Ben's face said it all.
Stacey Patrone ran the control panel for the last time.
Number 3500! The Sneezy mine car carried Ben thru Snow White's Scary Adventures on the last ride ever.
Video of Ben entering and exiting the ride for the very last time...
"Magical" is a descriptive which can sometimes be over utilized by the Disney marketing machine. But on this evening, the Magic Kingdom really was. What a night! What a last couple of days! I'll really miss the Scary Adventures on my next visit, but I won't soon forget the connection I felt to it and to the other fans who also enjoyed this classic dark ride on its final run.
If you haven't yet read them, be sure to check out Ron Miles' blog posts:
- SWSA Final Night - Prelude
- SWSA Final Night, Part 1 - The Beginning of the End
- SWSA Final Night, Part 2 - The Fairest One of All
- SWSA Final Night, Part 3 - Counting Up, Counting Down
- SWSA Final Night, Part 4 - The Big Ending
- SWSA Final Night - Epilogue
Some other nice write-ups, photos and/or videos from the final night:
Matt Roseboom at Orlando Attractions Magazine
Ricky Brigante at InsideTheMagic
Chris Barry at MousePlanet