This is the fourth in a series of six blog posts about my son and his experience on the last night of operation for Snow White's Scary Adventures at Walt Disney World. To read the entire series from the beginning, start with SWSA Final Night - Prelude. Thank you for reading.
Having just spent fifteen solid minutes with Snow White, you might think that Benjamin would need to take a few minutes to digest what had just happened, or even that he might try to follow her to the door she disappeared through. No, Ben just let out another laugh and then led us all back for another round on Snow White's Scary Adventures. His mother and I were still reeling from how amazing the visit was, but Ben was ready to keep going full steam ahead. As he took both our hands and pulled us back to his ride, the best we could do was turn back and mouth "thank you so much!" to Stacey while being dragged away. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, the Twittersphere was lighting up.
My Day In Disney
Ben is riding #SWSA with Snow White herself. pic.twitter.com/OQWnV7YO
The crowd in front of SWSA was buzzing about Ben, while our family remained inside a kind of Snow White Bubble. During the next ride I suggested that maybe it was time for a break, and that I would take Ben to the restroom next. Aside from the obvious fact that he probably needed it, it would also be good for him to have a few minutes completely alone inside a nice quiet stall in order to decompress a little. His mom readily agreed, and for the first and last time that evening we left the immediate premises of SWSA. Meanwhile back in the line apparently talk was spreading about Ben and his history with the ride. I discovered this blog the next day:
Today the Disney community truly joined together to pay honor to this classic attraction that is leaving way too soon. While most would think people would be fighting over who would be the last to go, something much more magical happened. There was a boy present who has always considered Snow White’s Scary Adventures to be his favorite attraction. Him and his family have ridden over 2,000 times prior to this week and Disney has helped him this week hit 3,000 rides.
At 7, he was accompanied by Snow White herself for one final ride. I stood near the exit and the look of pure happiness upon the boys face brought tears to everyone’s eyes. It was at that moment everyone seemed to have a mutual understanding: he must be the last rider on this attraction.
- excerpted from Brent Dodge at Brent's Blog
By a quarter to eight we were back at the ride and settling into a groove. The alternate entrance wasn't quite as backed up as it had been, but basically Ben's mom and I started taking turns standing in line. While one was on the ride with Ben, the other would be waiting in line for the next go-around. We were up to around ride 3,460 when Ben's mom said that Ben could absolutely get to ride number 3,500 before the end of the night. I looked at my watch and did the math, and pointed out that it was just mathematically impossible. Impossible? Ha! Full steam ahead, and by God we'll make it! I never believed it for a moment, but it was something to keep us old folks engaged as Ben rapturously drank in ride after ride.
The evening became a blur, and throughout it we kept meeting interesting people. There was Kenneth Sundberg (a.k.a. KenNetti), author of the website Snow White's Adventures: The Tribute
. He had flown all the way from Finland to come witness the closing of the ride first hand. There was the guy wearing a "Save Snow White's Adventures!" t-shirt, who was thrilled to be able to say hello to Ben. We met a mother with her two young autistic children, also looping through the alternate entrance at the same pace as us. At one point I noticed another mom with an autistic boy who was only a year or two younger than Ben. This boy's entire demeanor reminded me of Ben so much - the hand flapping, the huge smile, the big hugs... he was having a great night as well, and his mom was rightly proud. On one ride while Ben and I were sitting in the second row of a mine cart when the guy in the front row turned around and introduced himself as Kevin Yee. He started to explain who he was, but I recognized the name immediately as I had read his columns on MiceAge.com
many times. He told me that he had taken several pictures from Ben's ride with Snow White, and he would be happy to send them to me.
I was lucky enough to have Ben in my mine cart for my 33rd ride today. You can really see him light up when he's on #SWSA.
More rides, more people. As nine o'clock came and went we had counted up to 3,475 rides total while the clock counted down to the ride's closing. Ben was still going strong with no sign of tiring at all, as his normal bedtime flew past. Meanwhile the crowd continued to be festive and celebratory. Among those coming to pay their final respects was a mother dressed impeccably as the Evil Queen (complete with a lovely red apple in her hand) along with her young daughter dressed as Snow White. If you head over to AttractionsMagazine.com you will see an excellent picture of the two of them
. They were real crowd pleasers.
Throughout the night, my friend Robert Lughai continued filming Ben as much as possible without intruding or distracting, but as it got darker out and Robert had to start using his lights it became yet another indication to the crowd that something big was going on with Ben. Periodically Stacey would check in to see that Ben was doing ok, and the other cast members were performing like rock starts keeping everything rolling along.
Around 9:30pm we were delighted by the surprise appearance of Ben's grandfather. He works in Maintenance for the Magic Kingdom, and I gather he decided to come in a little early for his shift that night so that he could see Ben. Not surprisingly, Ben was thrilled to see Grandpa the next time he came through the line. Of course, not quite so thrilled as to slow down his pace. By then Ben was up to 3,482 rides and he wasn't slowing down for anything. I think it was somewhere around then that the Fantasyland courtyard was cleared in preparation for the Wishes fireworks show. The line for SWSA was rerouted to run back in front of the Seven Dwarfs Mine gift shop and along back by The Friar's Nook. I could no longer tell by looking just how long the line was, I just heard snippets of conversation about how far back it stretched. And still the steady countdown to the end marched onward as Ben's ride count ratcheted up and up.
The fireworks started going off at 10pm, and for those of us in front of SWSA it felt like they were all for us - a fitting pyrotechnic salute to an attraction that had served the Magic Kingdom proudly since opening day on October 1st, 1971. Normally Ben doesn't like the loud thundering of the fireworks shells, but he was in the zone
and not letting up. Somewhere shortly after the fireworks I had a brief conversation with Stacey, and mentioned that Ben was actually up to 3,490 rides. "It's crazy," I said, "but he just might make it. All you have to do is slow down the line!!!
" I said it with a laugh, and I was by no means serious. The line had been capped at 10pm, and I knew that it wouldn't be much longer before it was all over. There certainly wasn't a half hour's worth of people left waiting in the queue, and Ben would finish his SWSA career somewhere in the low 3,490's.
And then suddenly, at 10:27pm, it was the moment of truth. The clock had run out, and there were no overtimes remaining - we came off of ride number 3,492 to find that there was nobody else left in line. A crowd had gathered along the rope line to cheer on the last rider, and Ben was led to the empty loading zone along with the rest of us. The last few guests cycled out of their mine carts and then along came a cart that was empty but for an orange traffic cone that had been placed in the front seat to indicate that there were no other occupied carts behind it.
Ben and his family are the last guests to ride #SWSA I'm about to cry again
The final mine cart to run through Snow White's Scary Adventures during normal operating hours was occupied by Ben and his mother in the front row, Ben's grandfather in the second row, and then me in the back. As we were about to load into the cart, we stressed to Ben that this was it -- this was the last time ever that he would get to go on the ride. With swirling emotions we all climbed in and then the ride operator sent us off on the final ride. The crowd cheered as we rolled around the wishing well, and then we were past Snow White singing on the steps of the palace and through the doors into the dark.
The magic mirror intones his prophecy. The Evil Queen transforms into the Old Hag. The skeleton rots in his jail cell as the Old Hag douses her ruby red apple into the poison-filled cauldron. Through some gates as the Huntsman shouts his warning to the princess, with her startled figure suddenly appearing among the dark roots of the trees ahead. The Old Hag punting her little boat as the log-crocodiles growl, and then on through the dark forest filled with the hag's cackling while the trees reach in from every direction. Suddenly a light ahead, as we make a turn through the Friendly Forest and into the Cottage of the Seven Dwarfs. There they are, all lined up dancing and singing a silly song, while just around the corner Snow White accepts the Old Hag's poisoned apple. Then out the cottage doors on a mad chase to catch the witch, running through the jewel-encrusted mines as Bashful implores, "She's getting away... hurry!" And there atop the rocky crag stands the Old Hag herself, about to push a huge boulder down upon us before a surely-divinely-sent bolt of lighting ends her evil quest. And now, a ray of hope -- there is the young and handsome Prince Charming, awakening the princess with Love's First Kiss. The music swells, the forest fills with light, and the prince leads Snow White away along a beautiful stone bridge towards his castle shining in the distance while the dwarfs wave a final farewell. Just above the last door is Dopey with is big silly grin and waggling ears, waving goodbye for the very last time.
Standing ovation for last rider of #swsa brought tears to my eyes. Good night sweet princess
We exited the ride to thunderous applause, and I was satisfied that the old girl had received a fitting fare-thee-well. Sure, Ben had missed a huge milestone number by only seven rides, but honestly 3,493 felt pretty dang good. And terribly sad.
But the amazing thing was, the night wasn't over. Stacey still had one more trick up her sleeve.
Next Up: SWSA Final Night, Part 4 - The Big Ending