There was something I have been thinking on for about the past week, with the closure of Snow White’s Scary Adventure we have also lost another attraction in one of my favorite category of attractions. That is, rides whose vehicles that, no matter how similar they are in design, give each vehicle its own name.
The long-lost Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride employed the naming of the out of control motorcars after the chaps from The Wind in the Willow. The rafts of Tom Sawyer Island bear the names of well-known Twain characters. The Jungle Cruise’s steamers and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s runaway trains both exploit wordplay to give their vehicles clever names. And lastly, but not least, the dwarfs of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were used on the front of the mine cars in Snow White’s Scary Adventures. More recent attractions give their ride vehicles well thought out designs and names, such as Time Rovers or StarSpeeder 3000s, but there aren’t a lot of individualized attraction vehicles.
I want take time for a quick aside to mention that while they aren’t unique vehicles, the assignments handed out to guests in MISSION: Space do have a similar feel to me. They give each guest a unique experience, but they aren’t entirely the same, are they?
While you may not think about it at the time, when you were boarding your Dopey mine car somewhere in your mind you realized there was probably someone with the same vehicle name already deep in dark forests of Snow White. Yet, I’m willing to bet, you stood in the queue waiting and wondering what vehicle you would get, and perhaps you even crossed your fingers to get a particular named vehicle. Does it change the attraction experience? Not one little bit, but that never stopped any of us from wishing and watching longingly as the vehicles took their last turn out of the exit and towards the loading area.
So, if they don’t add to the ride experience, why alter the details on the vehicles and give them names? I don’t know, it just always felt right, like something that should be happening. I’m not sure even the great brains of Imagineering could give you a solid answer as to why. Perhaps the inability to quantify the reasons to name the vehicles is why we haven’t seen any new individualized ride vehicles in quite some time. Not be able to explain why to do something isn’t, in and of itself, a reason not to do it.
Vehicles with names were a big part of visiting Fantasyland when I was a kid, and not just names but the colorful flying ships or Peter Pan or zany patterned tea cups of the Mad Tea Party. I can remember always wanting Moley or MacBadger cars in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, for no other reason than I thought they were funny names. As an adult, traveling with my wife who rode a horse named Doc for years, I wanted Doc to be our mine car. These seemingly trivial details added an unquantifiable bit of magic or randomness that I loved about them.
Just as I kept my fingers crossed for a particularly named vehicle, I now keep my fingers crossed that as the parks grow, change and expand, that some of these nonsensical details make triumphant returns.