Music Behind the Ride: Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in the Disney parks. In this edition of Music Behind the Ride, I'll explore the history of the attraction, music, problematic past and future status.

Splash Mountain was a combination of ideas - adding more thrilling "teen" rides to Disneyland, adding more traffic to Bear Country and figuring out a use for the animatronics from the soon-to-close America Sings. By the ride's opening, Bear Country would be renamed to Critter Country. So from there, the original log flume idea could turn into much more.

By the early 1980s, Song of the South had a few releases in the theaters since the 1946 debut. The cartoon characters Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear were used in merchandise and Disneyland park costumed characters.  Most known was the Oscar-winning song - "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" - used by Disney television shows, Sing Along Song videos and throughout the park. To avoid controversy (that have existed with the film since the original release), Imagineers
intentionally focused on the animated sequences of Uncle Remus' stories. This gave them a chance to use the songs, characters and avoid the Reconstruction-era setting.

Originally planned as Zip-A-Dee River Run, Michael Eisner later gave it "mountain status" and linked the name to the recent unrelated film, Splash (1984). Over 100 animatronic animals were brought over from America Sings attraction. Since Imagineer Marc Davis designed the characters for the attraction, they would blend with his past character designs from the film. After a blown budget, animatronic staging issues, and intense boat issues, the ride opened in Disneyland in July of 1989.

The ride generally has the same layout in subsequent versions, so here's the basic ride story: After winding through the queue, you get to the loading area and into the log boat. You rise up a small hill, float around the briar patch, up another lift hill through a barn as we hear an instrumental version of "How Do You Do?" We pass by the houses of the main Br'er characters and go over the first drop of Slippin' Falls.

As you enter the indoor portion, we see animal animatronics around fishing holes singing "How Do You Do?".  The boat passes by little vignettes of Fox talking to a strung up Bear and Rabbit singing to Br'er Turtle. Bear follows Rabbit and gets attacked by bees as the boat goes down another dip. The next section features "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place" in the Rainbow Caverns with plenty more animatronics. We see Fox has caught Rabbit in a beehive. Next, we see two animal mothers sing a snippet of "Burrow's Lament" offering a warning to Rabbit as well as two vultures above giving their warning. As the boat travels up the big lift hill, we see Fox about to eat Rabbit. As Rabbit escapes down into the briar patch, the boat goes over the edge down the 52 foot drop. The ride continues into the next section and begin to hear the melody of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah". We see all the animatronic characters celebrate singing aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat and sing a full rendition of the song. Fox and Bear are clinging to the briar patch, avoiding alligators and Rabbit is lounging happily at home.

Naturally the hit ride was brought to other parks - Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland in October 1992.  WDW got a few changes in the ride: the logs fit two people across, a few more small drops and not as many animatronics throughout the ride.

Musically, the rides have a lot in common except some of the musical arrangements.  Disneyland's sound is a bit more Dixieland jazz inspired while Magic Kingdom and Tokyo are country inspired with banjos and harmonicas.  As mentioned before, the ride uses several songs from the film - "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place", "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" (written by Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert), and "How Do You Do?" (written by Robert MacGimsey).  Disneyland's "Burrow's Lament" reprise of 'Laughing Place' is sung by characters but is an instrumental version everywhere else.  Originally in the burrow scene, the ride used the film song "Sooner or Later" (written by Charles Wolcott and Ray Gilbert).       

Instrumental arrangements of the listed songs appear in the area and queue, and also include the film songs "Let the Rain Pour Down" (written by Ken Darby and Foster Carling) and "Uncle Remus Said" (written by Eliot Daniel, Hy Heath, and Johnny Lange).  Many arrangements still heard for Splash Mountain were done by John Debney.  

Music from Splash Mountain has been a mainstay on several Disney parks albums over the years - typically it's been just the favorite songs "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place" and "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah", but some albums have a longer medley with dialog.  Later albums included the country version heard in Walt Disney World and Tokyo.  

In June 2020, Disney announced that Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Walt Disney World would be reimagined and rethemed with The Princess and the Frog.  Presumably because of the news, some digital park albums have removed the Splash Mountain Medley and "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" has disappeared from a few Disneyland music loops.  
Setting the ride firmly in the New Orleans bayou, we'll see the characters from the film and hopefully some more Randy Newman music from the film.  So visit the Br'er animals while you can before Tiana, Louis and Mama Odie start their adventure.        

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