By AJ Willingham, CNN
Walt Disney World’s iconic Splash Mountain ride is officially closed, but hardcore Disney fans are going to creative lengths to keep pieces of the attraction forever.
Throngs of people crowded Orlando’s Magic Kingdom theme park to witness the log flume-style attraction’s final runnings on January 23, decked in all manner of Splash Mountain merchandise and ready to wait upwards of four hours for one last soggy ride.
While more politically minded Disney fans honored the occasion by fighting over the reasons for the ride’s closure (it is based on the infamous 1946 Disney film “Song of the South”) others got down to business buying, selling, trading and showing off whatever Splash Mountain merchandise they could get their hands on.
Splash Mountain water in particular caught a lot of interest on eBay and Disney-themed online communities. Disney experts who spoke to CNN suspect that most of them are joke listings, which isn’t unusual. (Take a Cheeto bearing a passing resemblance to Harambe the Gorilla that allegedly sold on the site for nearly $100,000 in 2017.)
Anyone looking to genuinely secure some of that sacred aqua vitae should take care: Several of the listings for “Splash Mountain Water” have the same image, yet were listed by different sellers. One listing requests a starting bid of $5,000. Another listing, clearly making fun of the trend, offers a “Great Value Sandwich Bag of Toilet Water from Restroom by Splash Mountain.”
CNN has reached out to eBay and Disney Parks for comment.
Regardless of whether the water sales are real, two very important truths remain:
- 1. Disney regulars get extremely emotionally attached to park attractions.
- 2. Disney water is just different.
Perhaps it’s the levels of chemicals needed to kill whatever biological horrors are shed by the park’s 57,000 estimated daily visitors. Perhaps it’s the decades-old patina marinating in the nooks and crannies of the ancient, vacant-eyed animatronics on rides like It’s A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. But Disney ride water is a thing among fans, many of whom swear they could identify that sweet, sweet brominated smell anywhere in the world. People even sell Pirates of the Caribbean water-themed candles on Etsy, which seems like a secure alternative to a jar of water with dubious origins.
For those whose Disney shrines require a slightly different offering, eBay also saw an uptick in other items that are one man’s trash, but a Splash Mountain fan’s treasure. The Walt Disney World location has been sponsored by Ziploc since 2018, and the ride offered nifty little bags to keep people’s belongings dry. Those bags are now on sale online for as much as $40, which is not a lot in the grand scheme of things but astronomical for the single Ziploc bag market. Replica props from the sets lining the (extremely long) ride queue have gone on the auction block in the days surrounding the ride’s closure, as have cast member badges, old paper ride passes, plastic cups and pressed pennies.
If it seems like a lot — too much, perhaps — you don’t know Disney World very well.
According to attendees, the scene around the ride, which was located in the Western-themed Frontierland area of Orlando’s Magic Kingdom Park, was part celebration, part funeral and completely packed.
Clint Gamache, the founder of theme park news site ThrillGeek, was on hand for the festivities. Throughout the day, he saw plush dolls of Splash Mountain characters lined up along the bridge leading to the ride, left behind as tributes by fans. He also saw groups wearing homemade Splash Mountain shirts with phrases like “Last Splash,” an unsurprising iteration of the vast cottage industry of custom-made Disney trip apparel.
“In-park merchandise for Splash Mountain has been sold out for months,” he told CNN. “As soon as they made the announcement last year that the ride was closing, people have been buying up all the merchandise they can get their hands on.” While some collectors were undoubtedly led by nostalgia, there’s a decidedly mercenary side to Disney Parks swag, which can fetch outlandish prices on secondhand markets.
Gamache says he’s been to closings of other rides, and noted that Splash Mountain’s last day seemed to have less official fanfare than, say, the closing of the iconic Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2017.
Still, there was plenty of sentimentality on display.
“Nostalgia is the big thing for Disney,” he says. “There are so many people that have so many memories connected to a certain ride. When, down the road, the ride closes, all of that nostalgia and all of those emotions come back.”
As the day wore on into evening, Gamache says little groups of people would stop to watch the ride, and cheer on the logs as they took the attraction’s climactic drop.
The T-shirts, the pageantry, the stories; they’re all absolutely par for the course when it comes to Disney Park fandom. A single character in a single ride can inspire endless lore and merchandise. Splash Mountain was one of the longer, more involved rides at Walt Disney World, clocking in at a leisurely 10 to 11 minutes full of music and animatronic antics of Br’er Rabbit and his nemeses, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. All of those characters are featured in “Song of the South.” The film has been widely criticized for decades for what the NAACP once called a “dangerously glorified picture of slavery.”
The Orlando location is scheduled to reopen in 2024 as a “Princess and the Frog”-themed attraction called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California is expected to close at a later date. No plans have been announced for the version at Tokyo Disneyland.
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