Saturday, July 05, 2014

Trees Can Be Scary!

Walt Disney sure had a knack for scaring the crap out of little kids. 77 years later, the scene from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" where Snow White flees for her life through a forest of trees that have come to life still packs a punch that is guaranteed to give the little ones nightmares.

What's so scary about a few branches? Typically, not much, unless you're running from danger and you get stuck on a few. The limbs of the tree literally come to life, holding her back, causing her the worst case of paranoia possible.

Old logs in a creek come to life as alligators, scaring the poor little lass even more.

When Disneyland was being built and an attraction created that would allow guests to actually ride through scenes from the movie, naturally the Dark Forest scene had to be included! Although I don't have any shots of what the original attraction was like, this art from the Mickey Mouse Club Magazine gives you an idea of what the intent was:

Kenneth "Ken" Anderson, one of the art directors of the 1937 movie, adapted the script for the ride and led the original design team that included Bill Martin (in charge of the track layout), Herbert Ryman (created several interior backgrounds), and Claude Coats. This is about as close as you can get to the movie's roots.

In 1981, the Snow White attraction closed down and went under the knife with the rest of Fantasyland. The Dark Forest returned, but by all accounts, the scariness of the attraction was toned down. Here are two concept model shots of what the trees would look like in the newly revised attraction.

A few shots from the actual attraction, taken by me about 4 cameras ago! Please excuse their amateurish appearance.

This section of the attraction is so dark and the vehicle moves so quickly that it is difficult to absorb all of the not-so-scary details that are meant to be somewhat scary, like the alligator logs from the movie shown here:

The look of the trees is a bit disturbing, but typically, kids are more scared about this being a dark ride than the actual elements within.

Word on the street is that all of the dark rides will be closing and undergoing a revamp (Alice has already been completed).

My recommendation: Imagineers should go FULL TILT with a totally scary-ass version of Snow White (and the rest of the dark rides) using projections and moving figures. For the bulk of the Park's operating hours, these effects could be turned off, allowing little kids to experience a less scary attraction. For late night, Halloween, or other special adult-only occasions, these scarier effects could be turned on, creating a special event overlay similar to the Haunted Mansion Nightmare Before Xmas and small world Holiday overlays.

Disney was not alone in seeing the scary potential of a forest. "The Wizard of Oz" also contains sequence guaranteed to make the little ones cringe in their seats. On the way to the Wicked Witch's Castle to capture her broom, our heroic quartet must make their way through the Haunted Forest.

Even the owls in this sequence look demonic!

A year later, "The Blue Bird" showed a terrifying sequence of Shirley Temple and friends running for their lives through a burning forest. Tylette (Gale Sondergaard) wants to stay human forever and she elicits the help of Royal Oak, convincing him and the other trees to scare the hell out of the kids.

The plan goes awry when the trees decide they must kill the children instead. Oops.

One of the group does actually perish, but you'll have to see the movie to find out which one it is.

What scared the hell out of you as a little kid?

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K. Martinez said...

Hug a tree today!

Brother Bill said...

And sometimes those spooky Snow White trees appeared in the park as costumed characters...

PsySocDisney said...

Awesome! I like your idea for mild/"scary-ass" (love the adjective) versions of dark rides. I'm not a huge fan of incorporating the newer projection effects into classic dark rides but if there were two versions where one could opt out of it I would be okay with that. I love that something so simple as an old-school dark ride with cutouts and figures can be so eerie!

Irene said...

By all accounts I've been told that as a child I was scared silly riding Snow White at Disneyland (the old original version). I was told it scared me so much my Mother refused to let me ride it again for years!

Gotta love an Arbor Day blog about scary trees :)

MRaymond said...

Snow White scared me as well. Even more than the Haunted Mansion. But I would always try to ride it if the line was short.

Fifthrider said...

Poltergeist. Tree. Nuff said.