Snow White’s Not-So-Scary Ride Reimagining

Snow White’s Scary Adventures closed for refurbishment earlier this year, with the Fantasyland dark ride behind construction walls before the parks closed. Disneyland has since offered a preview of the park’s only ride-through princess attraction, which has been reimagined and renamed as Snow White’s Enchanted Wish.

While Disneyland has been closed, Walt Disney Imagineering has been working on this attraction overhaul, which is now finished and will open with the park…whenever that happens in 2021. (See When Will Disneyland Reopen? for predictions.) Since that could still be months away, Disney offered a preview of the reimagined attractions, including familiar elements, modified story details, and all-new scenes.

None of this is new news. Disneyland offered this sneak peek at the beginning of last week and we didn’t immediately cover the story. However, it was unsurprisingly controversial among Disneyland fans, and I can’t stop thinking about it…so I’ve decided to offer some belated commentary about the preview of Snow White’s Enchanted Wish…

Let’s start with the details provided by Disneyland (skip down to the Muppet Christmas Carol photo for commentary.) Imagineers have updated this classic Fantasyland attraction with new details inside and out. Using state-of-the-art audio and visual technology, including new music, LED black lighting, laser projections and a new animation system, the attraction brings to life Snow White’s “happily ever after.”

There are new appearances of beloved characters, including Snow White cheerfully dancing and twirling with the Seven Dwarfs in their cozy cottage. There’s even the scent of Doc’s handiwork — a baking apple pie ­— wafting through the air, before heading “off to work we go!”

Vibrant new shadow projections bring to life the dwarfs as they march happily off to work in the mine singing “Heigh-Ho.” The most dazzling scene is the mine, which sparkles with shimmering lighting effects and glittering jewels all around.

During one of several dark scenes in Muppet Christmas Carol, Rizzo the Rat says “Whoa, that’s scary stuff. Should we be worried about the kids in the audience?” Gonzo the Great Charles Dickens brushes of the concern with a simple “nah, this is culture.” In typical Muppet fashion, it’s a humorous and incisive remark. When thinking about Snow White’s Enchanted Wish and the fan debate surrounding it, I keep coming back to this exchange.

This used to be the view of Walt Disney Animation Studios. If you go back and watch older films, things often get dark. Not just Bambi’s mother dying (although that’s probably the most memorable example), but in a variety of ways big and small. Disturbing, confusing, and intense scenes are fairly commonplace, as the studio saw the value of challenging kids, raising big questions, and delivering emotional lows and highs.

Historically, Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions have done similar things. It’s not just roller coasters that are rite of passage attractions–so too are Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, Dinosaur, Indiana Jones Adventure, and even Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Really, just about any attraction can qualify, as different things will evoke fear in different kids. I was terrified of Universe of Energy.

Whether there should be anything scary in Fantasyland attractions is a matter of perspective. As someone without kids, my viewpoint is probably of little value here to most readers. I can only speak to my personal experiences growing up, which often involved confronting fears. My dad was a military man who could be likened to Calvin’s dad, touting a range of unpleasant things as life lessons that “build character.” With the benefit of hindsight, I now really value this, but most definitely did not at the time.

This itself raises the question of the role Disney theme parks should or do play, which is also very much a matter of perspective. Touching again on my personal experience, Disney has been a gateway to the world for me, and my view is unquestionably colored by that. I grew up in a small Midwestern town, attended a small Midwestern college, and despite the aforementioned challenges, was fairly sheltered.

Disney theme parks have expanded my horizons by presenting the unfamiliar in approachable ways. Disney has exposed me to different places, cuisine, and customs. The parks have made the globe just a little smaller and within reach. As for attractions, I like the idea of rides offering exhilaration and provoking strong emotional responses via an experience that is ultimately unthreatening.

Others have very different views of Walt Disney World and Disneyland. For many, the parks aren’t just sentimental and nostalgic–they’re familiar and reassuring. The annual trip to Disney presents something safe and relatively predictable. It’s about the comfort, not the challenge.

There’s no value judgment here–neither approach is “right” or “wrong.” Disney theme parks are like open world video games that can be “played” a variety of ways–so long as you’re having fun, you’re doing things correctly. This is simply to illustrate two extremes of how the parks can be experienced; in reality, most guests are likely doing a blended approach. (That’s even true for us–especially in a year like this, we strongly value the familiar, reassuring, and comforting.)

This might seem like quite the rambling digression, but just stick with me…

All of this is to establish that I’m probably at the far end of the spectrum here in terms of how the parks should challenge guests. There are a lot of ways I think Disney coddles and condescends to guests, and many of those are concerning to me. I worry that the natural progression to a lot of this is vanilla experiences that lack personality and flavor. If you aim for the lowest common denominator to appease everyone, you’ll end up with something bland and uninteresting that pleases no one.

However, Snow White’s dark ride is absolutely not the hill to die on when it comes to any of that. Even with my “extremist” viewpoints, I can recognize that. Which is why I’m somewhat surprised there has been such an online backlash to Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. Of course, I shouldn’t be. Many Disney fans are uncomfortable with any changes because…see above section about the familiar and reassuring nature of the parks.

We’ll be blunt: Snow White’s Scary Adventures was not very good. In our Rankings of All 70 Disneyland & DCA Attractions, it placed #49. We called Snow White’s Scary Adventures the “weakest of the Fantasyland dark rides…dated and disjointed.”

There’s a reason it has been tweaked so many times over the years, with incremental improvements but no fix to its core issues. Its abrupt ending with no real conclusion or proper closure to the story has always been a problem, and this reimagining should remedy that.

Above is the video Disneyland released previewing Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. It’s premature to make any definitive assessment from that, but I’m optimistic.

The previous modernizations to Peter Pan’s Flight and the Alice in Wonderland dark ride did a good job of balancing technology and maintaining the charm of the original incarnations. Snow White’s Enchanted Wish looks like more of the same. I’m also optimistic that it will port over some of what works from Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, while leaving behind the creepy projected faces that have already aged poorly.

While we love the idea of Disneyland attractions that are “scary,” there’s a time and a place for that. Rides that work on multiple levels and strike the right balance between ominous and lighthearted are great. Haunted Mansion, for instance, conveys its nature in the name and does a better job with mature themes and the macabre.

A Fantasyland dark ride based on a princess-helmed fairytale is probably not the best place for scares, even if “Scary” is on the marquee. Moreover, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was not startling because it necessarily needed to be for the sake of storytelling–it was that way just because with a surplus of mindless jump scares used as a crutch to prop up its weaknesses.

Ultimately, I suspect the biggest driver of outrage with the reimagining to Snow White’s Enchanted Wish is that Disneyland fans fear that it means they’re coming for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride next. That’s a valid concern, especially as several Fantasyland dark rides have been modernized, and it would make sense for that to be next up.

The difference is that every bit of irreverence and zaniness is essential to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Disney would never build something like that today, but hopefully Imagineering has the sense not to ruin it. The very things that make that attraction so special are its oddities; it’s an oddball attraction, great precisely because of that. By contrast, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was never great at all, and whatever goodness it possessed had literally nothing to do with cheap scares and dark qualities. I’ll be right there with a pitchfork if they give Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride the same treatment. With Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, a wait and see approach is warranted.

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of the Snow White’s Enchanted Wish preview? Looking forward to this, or will you miss its predecessor? Do you think Snow White’s Scary Adventures was a good attraction? Was it too terrifying for your kids? Concerns about this being a slippery slope for other changes? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

25 Responses to “Snow White’s Not-So-Scary Ride Reimagining”
  1. Erin December 29, 2020

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