As a roller coaster enthusiast, I thrive on the adrenaline rush of exciting attractions like Splash Mountain. But I understand that everyone doesn’t share the same passion for theme park thrill seeking. So is Splash Mountain scary to ride on, or is it all mostly just hype? Well, in this article, I’m going to answer this exact question, as I’ll dive into Splash Mountain’s theming, its speed, how many drops it has, and my overall personal estimation of just how scary this attraction really is.
How Scary is Splash Mountain?
On my personal Disney Parks Scary Scale, where a 1 correlates with a pleasant and relaxing stroll down Main Street, U.S.A., and a 5 represents a thrilling drop down the elevator shaft of the Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain qualifies as a 4. So, spoiler alert: I think Splash Mountain is pretty scary for the average Disney World guest.
Now with that said, this attraction features a relatively slow and gentle boat ride that transports guests to a charming world of larger-than-life, talking woodland creatures and Southwestern landscape. On a steaming, summer day in Orlando, it may actually be a welcome escape and relief from intense sunshine and humidity.
Although not a high-intensity roller coaster, Splash Mountain contains some fear and discomfort-inducing elements that may dissuade children and even adults from riding. So, in my opinion, one must consider all components of this attraction-–the delightful and the daunting–-when deciding whether or not it is an appropriate choice for their Walt Disney World vacation.
Splash Mountain Theming
Similar to neighboring attractions in Frontierland (including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad), Splash Mountain transports Magic Kingdom guests to the rural, American Southwest. Red rock, canyon walls, and desert plants surround a steadily flowing body of water dotted with wooden boats.
The setting and characters featured in this ride have been lifted from Song of the South, a Walt Disney Company film that most children do not recognize, due to the fact that it has been forever locked away in Disney’s vault for its insensitive and offensive portrayal of an African American character. Fortunately, one does not need to have seen Song of the South to appreciate the charm of the woodland creatures singing and dancing within Splash Mountain.
Yet, like the 1946 film from which they are derived, many of these animatronics are outdated and, for that reason, may scare or agitate guests. It should be noted, too, that Splash Mountain (because of everything I’ve mentioned above) is planning an entire rebrand and refresh, including its name, which will be called “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” (based on the character Tiana from “Princess and the Frog”).
Splash Mountain’s Story
With a charming grin and a red, polka dot bindle slung over his shoulder, Br’er Rabbit welcomes guests to Splash Mountain. He is the protagonist of the story, in which he evades certain death at the hands of Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
Adults traveling with small children can rest assured that this story has a happy ending: Br’er Rabbit escapes into the briar patch, where thorny branches protect him from bigger predators. Along the way, however, there are some close calls and scenes with imagery, including a noose, from which guardians may wish to protect the children in their care.
Splash Mountain’s Ride Speed
The speed with which boats travel on Splash Mountain varies according to section of the ride. For the majority of the experience, log flumes carrying guests meander through storybook scenes, giving their passengers plenty of time to study and absorb the lighting, props, characters, and soundtrack.
Near the end, however, there is a significant drop that temporarily accelerates the ride. Boats travel down this decline at approximately 40 miles per hour. This notable shift in speed may scare younger and more timid theme park guests.
Splash Mountain Drops
While much of the boat ride cruises along a flat channel of shallow water, occasional hills and valleys foreshadow the spectacle at its conclusion. From the outside of Splash Mountain, spectators view boats plummeting down the face of a waterfall, just over 52 feet tall. By comparison, the largest drop in a Walt Disney World park–found on Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom–is 80 feet tall.
This single, large drop has become the focal point of many guests’ fears. The thrill of the fall is rivaled only by the shock of the wave that splashes over each log flume upon impact with the water at the bottom of the drop. Some guests welcome this dousing, while others find it a source of discomfort and irritation.
Best Age for Splash Mountain
Splash Mountain is most suitable for kids ages six and up. Both the ride intensity and storytelling features, including animatronics, do have the potential to scare young children, though.
Some adults–my sister, for example–also feel wariness towards the aging, mechanical animals featured on this ride. Keep in mind the height requirement of 40 inches that is in effect for Splash and its Magic Kingdom neighbor, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. To ensure the safety of all guests, a Cast Member will stop and measure children who look close to or under 40 inches at the entrance of the ride.
Rider Switch passes are available for families with a child or children who are too small to ride and who require adult supervision: The passes offer adults and older children in these parties the flexibility to split up and ride separately without doubling their wait time.
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Splash Mountain Speed and Safety
For the most part, Splash Mountain is a tame and gentle ride. Its log flumes coast lazily through a watery channel without twisting or flipping guests upside down. Occasionally, boats do bump together, as slow-moving pile-ups tend to occur within the briar patch, just before the final scene featuring one of Walt Disney World’s largest animatronic props, a showboat called the “Zip-a-Dee Lady.”
The safety of the ride was recently called into question when, for the third time in two years, Splash Mountain guests escaped a sinking boat. Fortunately, no injuries occurred, and the guests were compensated with dry clothes and Lightning Lane passes. If you or a member of your party suffer from neck or back ailments, please take the “bumper boat” potential of Splash Mountain into consideration when deciding whether or not to include it on your trip itinerary.
Splash Mountain Experience
In true Walt Disney World fashion, Splash Mountain is designed to fully immerse guests in the world of the ride from the moment one enters the queue, to the gift shop and photo viewing area at the end. While waiting in line for your boat, you will notice a multitude of small woodland animal homes nestled in your surroundings, from which various creatures chirp, bark, hoot, and scuttle. The ride, itself, features over 60 animatronic critters that dance and sing along to the soundtrack.
The majority of these moving props are sweet and inviting: In one scene, for example, the log flumes float past animatronic turtles that laugh, splash, and spit water to the tune of “Everybody’s Got a Laughing Place”. There is, however, a dark ride portion of the float during which Br’er Fox threatens Br’er Rabbit with a noose, and an ominous trio of crows looms atop an archway through which the log flumes must pass.
These scenes may be disturbing to younger guests, as may some of the older animatronic animals featured on Splash Mountain, which my 25-year-old sister recently described as, “creepy.”
Finally, to fully assess the comfort of the Splash Mountain experience, we must take into consideration the risk of coming into contact with water. As indicated by the name of the ride, you will get wet on Splash Mountain! Some claim that the back of the boat stays dryer than the front; however, in my experience, it is impossible to predict where you will get drenched on any given float through Splash Mountain.
On a hot, summer day, a dowsing may come as a welcome relief from the brutal Orlando sun and humidity; in cooler weather, it may be a source of discomfort and even tears from younger park visitors.
So, is Splash Mountain scary? Well, the answer depends on several factors, namely your fear of heights and wariness of animatronic creatures. On my personal “Scary Scale” meter, this attraction qualifies as a 4 out of 5 in terms of “scariness” due to the intensity of the final drop and the frightening impact of some scenes contained within the dark ride portion of the float.
Were I to take my 7-year-old cousin on Splash Mountain, I would want to brief her on these scarier elements prior to entering the queue. With proper warning, I believe she would enjoy Br’er Rabbit’s story and find the height of the briar patch waterfall thrilling
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