For some Disney fans, a single ride can be synonymous with their most precious memories of a Disney vacation. It might be the first ride they had ever experienced or, perhaps, an attraction that has become part of a family tradition over the years.
For me, like many other guests, that ride is Splash Mountain. The adventurous experience is firmly cemented in my childhood as a highlight of our trip, time and time again. The cool relief of the tunnels while you wait, the exciting music keeping you company. I’ll never forget the feeling of running my hands down the indented grooves of the faux-wooden handrails.
I remember fighting with my sister for the exhilarating front seat when I was younger and then with my husband over the shelter of the back when I was older. The song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” rings in my mind whenever I am worried, reminiscent of when my mother would sing it to me anytime I was afraid as a child.
Fast forward to my grown-up years, I remember nervously waiting for my daughter to become upset on her first ride through the laughing place before the big drop, only to have her break out in an unexpectedly loud cackle instead. Needless to say, this ride means something to me.
When I heard about the official closing date, I considered making a trip to experience this classic Disney attraction one more time. Being Australian summer holidays, flights were virtually impossible to find, and the affordable last-minute sale of days gone by was nowhere in sight.
I know it sounds crazy, taking a vacation to do something frivolous like that, though, really, sometimes those irrationally spontaneous trips are the very best ones. Alas, it wasn’t on the cards, not without selling a kidney or two anyway. Though, I did take a moment to realize how much I am going to miss this attraction.
I know it has to go, and I am excited for what is to come, but there’s an ending here to a lifetime of beautiful memories that I’m not ready to close the book on. My grandparents, who are no longer with us, rode this with me as a child. My parents, my family, and my sister’s family; I have enjoyed moments of joy and excitement with each of them, from laughs in the queue while we sing along to buzzing our way down the internal dark slide. I’m sad for the next generation that won’t be able to claim their own recollective piece of this Disney landmark.
While I will be sad to see this attraction go, I am so pleased that the re-imagining of this ride focuses on the substance and beauty of Tiana’s story. A strong effort is being invested in creating an authenticity that is true to the New Orleans spirit and culture I absolutely love. Rich food, Jazz music, community, and diversity are all elements that fill this incredible city that I had the pleasure of falling in love with many years ago.
It warms my heart to think that this won’t just be another Pixar-themed overlay with a patchy storyline making little-to-no sense that Disney knows if the ride underneath it is good enough, it won’t really matter; Disneyland California Adventure Incredicoaster, I’m looking at you! I can appreciate that, especially in its Disneyland setting; it ties in nicely with the New Orleans Square theme. Its position is further connected to the area by the new retail store and restaurant, also themed around Tiana from Princess and the Frog.
On the other hand, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom will be a different story, one that I feel will ignite a necessary reshaping of the surrounding areas to soften the rigid edges of Frontierland’s theming.
I know it will take many years to win the hearts of Disney Parks fans on a fundamental level, more than just the novelty of a new ride or enthusiasm for a change that doesn’t attract the same negative connotations as the original. Building those core memories with family will take time, and the attraction will have some big shoes to fill when it does open in 2024.
So, I’m wondering how many of you will make the pilgrimage to visit this Disney staple one more time before it closes. On the flip side, who can’t wait to see the new attraction and would be swayed to visit around the opening to be a part of it? If it weren’t for the distance (and the inclination to keep my vital organs), I would be putting my hand up for both.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.