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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Disney's Splash Mountain Goes On A Western River Expedition With Brer Roadrunner

This vexes me.  I'm terribly vexed.  I need a mystery solved.

I recently found this very interesting concept art for Disney's Splash Mountain.  I happen to think this is the most interesting version of Splash Mountain that I've seen.  It's too bad it was never built.  It looks like the perfect match for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, you'll find Splash Mountain in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, right next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Frontierland is based on the Wild (South) West.  The source material for Splash Mountain is Song of the South, a movie based in the South East of the United States.  How do you create a mountain for Song of the South in the middle of Frontierland?  Another logical question might be, "Why would you do that in the first place?"

In this case, it was a place where a water-based attraction had always been planned for Frontierland.  Instead of southern rabbits and foxes, it would have had some kick-a$$ cowboys, designed by legendary Disney artist Marc Davis.

The look of the Western Splash Mountain seems to take inspiration from The Western River Expedition, a cowboy version of Pirates of the Caribbean that was planned for Walt Disney World's Frontierland (where Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain currently exist).

The Western River Expedition is famous among Disney enthusiasts.  This attraction was teased for years in the 1970s, and even appeared on early maps of the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.  How cool is that Pecos Bill type cowboy, by the way?

Instead of cowboys, the park got a copy of Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland.

Is this Western Splash Mountain artwork for real?

I decided to ask someone I know (a former Disney Imagineer who worked on Florida's Splash Mountain, which opened in 1992) about this mysterious version of the attraction.  The Imagineer had never seen this art before, but noted that it looked too much like the Southwest to fit a ride based on Brer Rabbit.

The most shocking thing mentioned is that Florida's Splash Mountain was considered early on to be part of Adventureland.  If that is true, it is totally F***ing Insane.

To make things even crazier, Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain features a character named Brer Roadrunner.

In case you wondered, there was not a character named Brer Roadrunner in Song of the South.  Because roadrunners do not live in the southeast.  But they can live in a cartoon southern mountain right next to a southwest mountain in a wild western town in a theme park in central Florida.  That's logical.

Brer Roadrunner is actually a copy of an animatronic roadrunner from the Western "Home on the Range" section of a show called America Sings that played at Disneyland in California from 1974 to 1988.  Most of the animal cast (who were designed by artist Marc Davis) became secondary characters in Disneyland's Splash Mountain in 1989.  Then many of the America Sings animal characters were duplicated for versions of Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland (both opened in 1992).

Note that the roadrunner's color was changed to blue when he was duplicated for Florida's Splash Mountain.  I am guessing that many people riding Splash Mountain think that Brer Roadrunner is Mr. Bluebird.  Then again, most people probably have no idea who Mr. Bluebird is, either.

It's kind of amazing that Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear and all their southern friends have not yet been evicted from Splash Mountain by a much more merchandise-friendly cowboy.

Could there ever be a Splash Mountain starring Woody, Bullseye, and Jessie?

Would Stinky Pete ever invade Frontierland and threaten Woody, Jessie and their desert animal friends?  Could the interior of the mountain contain just a handful of animatronic characters, and use digital mapping technology (seen in Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor and Tokyo Disneyland's Jungle Cruise) to bring sweeping Western vistas and critters to life?  Would a TNT explosion caused by Stinky Pete send the Splash Mountain logs down the final drop?

Could the Splash Mountain finale change from Zip A Dee Doo Dah to You've Got a Friend in Me?

Brer Rabbit is probably safe, but you have to wonder if someday we'll be hearing Woody and Jessie sing "Cool Clear Water" as part of a new Western River Expedition for Splash Mountain.


  1. Brer Roadrunner's inclusion could just be because he was an America Sings figure used in the Disneyland version and was cloned for WDW. it might not be any more complicated than that.

  2. Eric, I'm glad you brought this up. Of all the America Sings animal figures they had the option to clone, why would they choose a Roadrunner?