A Brief and Incomplete History of Splash Mountain

PiratesMansion

Well-Known Member
I feel a lot less surprised/shocked than I thought I would at the announcement of Splash closing. I still feel angry and sad about it but I guess the years of nonexistent maintenance + general fear of inevitability of SotS being permanently excised from the company built up a certain degree of unconscious inevitability of the ride having its days numbered.
Yep.

The signs were there, we just didn't want to connect the dots and so pretended they weren't.
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
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OK, I told SS that I would write something for the thread.

I am going to share the starting of Splash Mountain from Bud Hurlbut's point of view.

I have to be careful, much of this is from memory, with things told to me by Bud.

I got to know Bud from him walking up to me as a teen at Knott's when he noticed that I was really studying the Mine Train Ride.

He came up and asked what I was looking at. Well, I knew he was a Knott's employee (Learned later who he was), but told him I was trying to figure out how things work. Well, Bud's pride came out, and was happy to share his work.

He said to look him up the next time I visited Knott's, and we became social friends, or a bit of a mentor relationship.

Later, I started to join a group of folks involved in the Theme Park industry (Let me use a name, call it the "Circle" to protect the real name), anyways, this group had folks from different parks and different segments. It is how I became friends with Jack Falfas and many others, including some CM's.

So the info is from Bud and others, and much came from at least two people, so a decent chance of the truth, or as close as can be repeated.

In case you don't know, Bud designed the modern Log Flume Ride.

When Walter Knott wanted to expand his Ghost Town to offer more attractions, he decided to become a Landlord, and offered a lease on his land in exchange for the operator to install and operate an attraction. The first attractions were not really Carnival Rides, but things that could be removed and located elsewhere if things didn't work out. The agreement was basically a split of the ticket sells, Walter's Share was the rent payment.

Bud wasn't the first to operate an attraction, but the first one placed in the park was a Merry-Go-Round he had in storage. Bud had his own Amusement Company, mainly trains he built.

But Walter and Bud got along, and Bud's attractions were making both of them a decent profit.

Well, Walt Disney and his staff started to visit Knott's quite a bit in the early 1950's, and everyone talked to each other in a friendly manner, and answered each other's questions.

Walter and his staff got invited to both the Sunday and Monday opening events in June, 1955. Bud was out of the loop, as that was around the time Bud started to work with Walter Knott. Anyways, the friendly visits and discussion continued past opening day, and Bud became part of that Circle. One Attraction that caught both Bud's and Walter's attention was the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction that opened in 1956.

Bud said he would like to do his own version. Well, Walter was interested, but now we had a challenge. To do the attraction correctly, a building had to be built to host the attraction. Who would pay for what, and who own what. This wasn't going to be something you could disassemble and move.

An agreement was made, Walter basically built a traditional building frame, and Bud then built the attraction, and outer Façade (Mountain) on top and inside the building.

Well, it went well, and both were very happy with the outcome. Of course, you could tell the Bud took some basic ideas from Rainbow Caverns, including the trains, and some of the interior scenes, but mainly new and improved things.

When Walt Disney came over to check out the Mine Ride and was impressed. He called Bud a Sneaky S.O.B. in regards to how he designed things.

So, after the Mine Ride success, Bud started to dream and design something new and different, not borrowing from Disney, though both parks had some things in common, partly due to the regular visit to each others parks and discussions in the Circle.

Bud came up with the idea for the Log Ride, and planned to build it at Knott's. But like the Mine Ride, Bud would have to build the Flume, the Façade and all the interior scenes, plus the Logs, etc. Walter did help a bit in the basic frame. But we are talking a lot of money, and Bud was having problems coming up with the Money. Six Flags over Texas heard about the idea, and was interested in hiring Bud to design and build a Log Flume ride for its park. This time, Six Flags/Arrow was paying for everything. Well, Bud wanted to open the Knott's version first, but Arrow said it would only pay the bulk of the money upon completion of a working attraction. Side note, Arrow helped build the Matterhorn track and cars for Disneyland.

So Bud finally agreed to do it, and after getting paid by Arrow, he took the money to build Timber Mountain in 1967-68. The final cost was around $3.5 Million, and at the end, the funds had to be scrapped from anyone willing to help out, including a loan from Walter Knott.

And of course, it became a hit, making Bud and Walter very happy. By this time, Tony Baxter was part of the circle.

So now we have the background, and in 1983 Tony Baxter approached Bud with a few questions, which led Bud to figure out that Tony was interested in building a Log Flume ride. Well, Bud was proud to be known as the inventor of that type of attraction.

Bud knew that Disney would do all the sets and designs, but figured that Disney (the company) would seek Bud's help for the actual flume.

But a lot of things have changed from the Disneyland of the 1960's to the one in the 1980's. The easiest way to describe it was the corporate feel and how lawyers got much more involved.

Bud was told that Disney wanted to do the entire project in house, translated to "thanks for the offer, but please leave and don't let the door hit you on the way out." And the lawyers told the CM's to not talk to Bud, because he could claim you used his ideas, and sue us.

This caused an awkward situation for everyone, especially in the Circle group.

Well, you know the story about the Flume. What wasn't discussed was how Tony and his crew solved the problems with the drop, and other problems. It was Bud who came to the rescue. Tony told Dick Nunis that he needed help, and knew the perfect person. But that person was ****ed at us, and the only way to make him happy would be a consulting contract, aka Money.

Well, a deal was struck, and in typical Disney attitude at the time, a clause that did not allow Bud to disclose his arrangement, so Disney could claim the glory.

That made Bud almost a very happy man. He felt he got the last laugh (and Bud loved to tell jokes!), even though he couldn't publicly let it be known. But in the circle, he loved to bring up the fact he was the savior.

He sat down with Tony and his team, toured and watch the attraction in operation. He had fixes in regards to the angle, and more importantly, the design of the logs, which need some major changes.

And I know Tony would tell the story differently, but still admit that Bud was a key to dealing with the issues.

Now, Bud liked to tell stories, so I do want to say it is one sided, and he kept to the agreement in not discussing in detail the fixes, he emphasized the fact he saved the day, and got a big, fat check, without disclosing the amount. But boy, to the few people he felt comfortable in being able to tell the story, he really enjoyed the fact he got the last laugh.

I was very fortunate to get to know Bud, had permission to drop in at his Barn, and knock on his "workshop" door, which was next to his formal office. But he was much more comfortable in the Workshop.

Our house has a lot of artwork that my parents collected, including a full sized painting of supposedly the wife of a San Diego Mayor, Fully nude. And so many other unique pieces, many from Europe. But on the wall next to my office, I have the aerial photo of Castle Park after the first expansion in the late 70's, the one that was right above Bud's Desk in his workshop. Another favorite piece was some color concept art for the Antique Auto Ride that was used to pitch Walter Knott.

I am very lucky that Bud saw something special in a young teen that liked amusement rides and how they worked. He was a proud man, who tried to keep his working life and personal life separate, a skill that I learned was valuable. And also, people are people, being famous makes you no better or worse than anyone else, you treat everyone the same, the way you would like to be treated by them.

Any Theme/Amusement fan needs to understand that we were fortunate that Bud Hurlbut decided to make Amusement attractions his life's work.
 
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SuddenStorm

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
OK, I told SS that I would write something for the thread.

I am going to share the starting of Splash Mountain from Bud Hurlbut's point of view.

I have to be careful, much of this is from memory, with things told to me by Bud.

I got to know Bud from him walking up to me as a teen at Knott's when he noticed that I was really studying the Mine Train Ride.

He came up and asked what I was looking at. Well, I knew he was a Knott's employee (Learned later who he was), but told him I was trying to figure out how things work. Well, Bud's pride came out, and was happy to share his work.

He said to look him up the next time I visited Knott's, and we became social friends, or a bit of a mentor relationship.

Later, I started to join a group of folks involved in the Theme Park industry (Let me use a name, call it the "Circle" to protect the real name), anyways, this group had folks from different parks and different segments. It is how I became friends with Jack Falfas and many others, including some CM's.

So the info is from Bud and others, and much came from at least two people, so a decent chance of the truth, or as close as can be repeated.

In case you don't know, Bud designed the modern Log Flume Ride.

When Walter Knott wanted to expand his Ghost Town to offer more attractions, he decided to become a Landlord, and offered a lease on his land in exchange for the operator to install and operate an attraction. The first attractions were not really Carnival Rides, but things that could be removed and located elsewhere if things didn't work out. The agreement was basically a split of the ticket sells, Walter's Share was the rent payment.

Bud wasn't the first to operate an attraction, but the first one placed in the park was a Merry-Go-Round he had in storage. Bud had his own Amusement Company, mainly trains he built.

But Walter and Bud got along, and Bud's attractions were making both of them a decent profit.

Well, Walt Disney and his staff started to visit Knott's quite a bit in the early 1950's, and everyone talked to each other in a friendly manner, and answered each other's questions.

Walter and his staff got invited to both the Sunday and Monday opening events in June, 1955. Bud was out of the loop, as that was around the time Bud started to work with Walter Knott. Anyways, the friendly visits and discussion continued past opening day, and Bud became part of that Circle. One Attraction that caught both Bud's and Walter's attention was the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction that opened in 1956.

Bud said he would like to do his own version. Well, Walter was interested, but now we had a challenge. To do the attraction correctly, a building had to be built to host the attraction. Who would pay for what, and who own what. This wasn't going to be something you could disassemble and move.

An agreement was made, Walter basically built a traditional building frame, and Bud then built the attraction, and outer Façade (Mountain) on top and inside the building.

Well, it went well, and both were very happy with the outcome. Of course, you could tell the Bud took some basic ideas from Rainbow Caverns, including the trains, and some of the interior scenes, but mainly new and improved things.

When Walt Disney came over to check out the Mine Ride and was impressed. He called Bud a Sneaky S.O.B. in regards to how he designed things.

So, after the Mine Ride success, Bud started to dream and design something new and different, not borrowing from Disney, though both parks had some things in common, partly due to the regular visit to each others parks and discussions in the Circle.

Bud came up with the idea for the Log Ride, and planned to build it at Knott's. But like the Mine Ride, Bud would have to build the Flume, the Façade and all the interior scenes, plus the Logs, etc. Walter did help a bit in the basic frame. But we are talking a lot of money, and Bud was having problems coming up with the Money. Six Flags over Texas heard about the idea, and was interested in hiring Bud to design and build a Log Flume ride for its park. This time, Six Flags/Arrow was paying for everything. Well, Bud wanted to open the Knott's version first, but Arrow said it would only pay the bulk of the money upon completion of a working attraction. Side note, Arrow helped build the Matterhorn track and cars for Disneyland.

So Bud finally agreed to do it, and after getting paid by Arrow, he took the money to build Timber Mountain in 1967-68. The final cost was around $3.5 Million, and at the end, the funds had to be scrapped from anyone willing to help out, including a loan from Walter Knott.

And of course, it became a hit, making Bud and Walter very happy. By this time, Tony Baxter was part of the circle.

So now we have the background, and in 1983 Tony Baxter approached Bud with a few questions, which led Bud to figure out that Tony was interested in building a Log Flume ride. Well, Bud was proud to be known as the inventor of that type of attraction.

Bud knew that Disney would do all the sets and designs, but figured that Disney (the company) would seek Bud's help for the actual flume.

But a lot of things have changed from the Disneyland of the 1960's to the one in the 1980's. The easiest way to describe it was the corporate feel and how lawyers got much more involved.

Bud was told that Disney wanted to do the entire project in house, translated to "thanks for the offer, but please leave and don't let the door hit you on the way out." And the lawyers told the CM's to not talk to Bud, because he could claim you used his ideas, and sue us.

This caused an awkward situation for everyone, especially in the Circle group.

Well, you know the story about the Flume. What wasn't discussed was how Tony and his crew solved the problems with the drop, and other problems. It was Bud who came to the rescue. Tony told **** Nunis that he needed help, and knew the perfect person. But that person was ****ed at us, and the only way to make him happy would be a consulting contract, aka Money.

Well, a deal was struck, and in typical Disney attitude at the time, a clause that did not allow Bud to disclose his arrangement, so Disney could claim the glory.

That made Bud almost a very happy man. He felt he got the last laugh (and Bud loved to tell jokes!), even though he couldn't publicly let it be known. But in the circle, he loved to bring up the fact he was the savior.

He sat down with Tony and his team, toured and watch the attraction in operation. He had fixes in regards to the angle, and more importantly, the design of the logs, which need some major changes.

And I know Tony would tell the story differently, but still admit that Bud was a key to dealing with the issues.

Now, Bud liked to tell stories, so I do want to say it is one sided, and he kept to the agreement in not discussing in detail the fixes, he emphasized the fact he saved the day, and got a big, fat check, without disclosing the amount. But boy, to the few people he felt comfortable in being able to tell the story, he really enjoyed the fact he got the last laugh.

I was very fortunate to get to know Bud, had permission to drop in at his Barn, and knock on his "workshop" door, which was next to his formal office. But he was much more comfortable in the Workshop.

Our house has a lot of artwork that my parents collected, including a full sized painting of supposedly the wife of a San Diego Mayor, Fully nude. And so many other unique pieces, many from Europe. But on the wall next to my office, I have the aerial photo of Castle Park after the first expansion in the late 70's, the one that was right above Bud's Desk in his workshop. Another favorite piece was some color concept art for the Antique Auto Ride that was used to pitch Walter Knott.

I am very lucky that Bud saw something special in a young teen that liked amusement rides and how they worked. He was a proud man, who tried to keep his working life and personal life separate, a skill that I learned was valuable. And also, people are people, being famous makes you no better or worse than anyone else, you treat everyone the same, the way you would like to be treated by them.

Any Theme/Amusement fan needs to understand that we were fortunate that Bud Hurlbut decided to make Amusement attractions his life's work.

Excellent post! Really helps shed a little light on what happened during Splash Mountain's opening delay. And also helps explain why Disney is so mum on the topic of Splash Mountain's history.

Rides like Pirates and Mansion had a long and interesting development that are well documented by both the company and fan blogs and books- while each of those attractions went through many iterations during development there was nothing like Splash that caused major budget overruns and reworking of both the show and technical elements of the attraction last minute.

It's a bit of a pipe dream but I'd love for the Imagineers that worked on Splash to discuss the ride much more in interviews- it's rarely mentioned and when it is it isn't in depth.
 

Figments Friend

Well-Known Member
Part of the reason for there being 'gaps' in the information regarding 'Splash Mountain's' development and build is because of all the headaches and drama involved in the process.
It's no secret it was very difficult...and some mistakes were made that needed to be corrected, thus the delay.
But what usually isn't talked about is the incredible stress the team responsible for the Attraction was under during all of this.

There were some very real moments when things seemed to go in a direction where it looked like this was'nt going to work as intended.
I have heard stories about major issues involving the installation of the flume / ride path and operational nightmares in trying to get everything running smoothly.

One gent once described his eye witness account of seeing first hand the 'failures' happening on one day during construction and how stressed the team was.
Literally sweating bullets, because of the delays and the pressure on them to deliver by a certain date since they missed the first one.
Yes, that is all a part of the job.....but in this case it seemed a real tangle that needed serious un-knotting.

But as they say in show business,
"A terrible rehearsal, a fantastic opening night!"

Such was the case with 'Splash Mountain'.
All the delays, stress, sleepless nights, tireless work, re-designs, re-thinking, and great expense lead to what we have been able to enjoy over the last 30 years!

:)

-
 

KIGhostGuy

Active Member
Which America Sings animatronics DIDN’T make the transition to Splash Mountain? I always see blogs of which ones did, but never which ones didn’t. Or did they all “immigrate?”
 

George Lucas on a Bench

Well-Known Member
DEfZUx6W0AA7pXB.jpg
 

Figments Friend

Well-Known Member
Which America Sings animatronics DIDN’T make the transition to Splash Mountain? I always see blogs of which ones did, but never which ones didn’t. Or did they all “immigrate?”

Disney's official statement some years ago ( forget which book...) noted -
'all figures were reused....except two. Sam the Eagle and his Owl friend.'

It was also stated that the reason these two weren't used is because they were far too recognizable as the characters they were and remained absent from the roundup of critters re-used for 'Splash Mountain'.

Sam was saved and I beleive is in the Walt Disney Archives.
Not sure on what became of his owl friend....

-
 

SuddenStorm

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Disney's official statement some years ago ( forget which book...) noted -
'all figures were reused....except two. Sam the Eagle and his Owl friend.'

It was also stated that the reason these two weren't used is because they were far too recognizable as the characters they were and remained absent from the roundup of critters re-used for 'Splash Mountain'.

Sam was saved and I beleive is in the Walt Disney Archives.
Not sure on what became of his owl friend....

-

The Old Gray Mare figure didn't make it into the finished attraction either, I believe.

And now I have yet another reason to attend the archives. I was allowed into the lobby when I toured the studio last fall, and had a neat photo op with an academy award. But the actual cool stuff was kept hidden.
 

Brer Panther

Well-Known Member
Which America Sings animatronics DIDN’T make the transition to Splash Mountain? I always see blogs of which ones did, but never which ones didn’t. Or did they all “immigrate?”
Let's see... in addition to Sam, Ollie, and the two geese who wound up in Star Tours before America Sings closed, the ones not to make it over to Splash Mountain were...
- The hound dog from "My Old Kentucky Home" (the dog in the Laughin' Place is the one from the Modern Times section)
- The coyote on the handcar in the "Headin' West" section (I saw somebody on MiceChat claim that it was reskinned as the Brer Fox animatronic being attacked by Brer Gator, but I doubt it)
- The sombrero-wearing dog who sang "Who Shot the Hole in My Sombrero?"
- The snake and prairie dogs from "Home on the Range" (unless the prairie dogs are among the weasels in the Laughin' Place)
- The policeman dog
- The Old Grey Mare
- The fox from "Bird in a Gilded Cage"
- The waiter pig from "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay"
- The blue guitar-playing crane from the Modern Times section (apparently, he's now used to train future animatronic programmers)
- The stork and frog from "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
- The birds on a motorcycle from the Modern Times section

However, I have found concept art for Splash Mountain that features some of these characters - the Old Grey Mare and the Waiter Pig in the Laughin' Place, the "Shake, Rattle and Roll" frog in the finale, and the snake by the vultures at the bottom of the lift hill, for example.

I've also heard rumors that one Sam the Eagle animatronic was reskinned as Brer Fox in the "How Do You Do?" scene, and at least one of the Ollie animatronics was reskinned as Brer Rabbit, but I have no official confirmation.
 

Figments Friend

Well-Known Member
The Old Gray Mare figure didn't make it into the finished attraction either, I believe.

And now I have yet another reason to attend the archives. I was allowed into the lobby when I toured the studio last fall, and had a neat photo op with an academy award. But the actual cool stuff was kept hidden.

At the D23 Expo in 2015, the Archives set up a special '60 Years of Disneyland' display that included Sam the Eagle's head.
Yes, his head...and only his head.
It was odd seeing just his head in a acrylic display case along with two other 'Sings' critters heads....but there they were.

-
 

EagleScout610

Well-Known Member
Disney's official statement some years ago ( forget which book...) noted -
'all figures were reused....except two. Sam the Eagle and his Owl friend.'

It was also stated that the reason these two weren't used is because they were far too recognizable as the characters they were and remained absent from the roundup of critters re-used for 'Splash Mountain'.

Sam was saved and I beleive is in the Walt Disney Archives.
Not sure on what became of his owl friend....

-
I believe Sam was skinned into Br'er Fox at least once, possibly in the rope trap scene.
Untitled.png

Owl I'm guessing became this BR:
Untitled.png
 
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Brer Panther

Well-Known Member
I believe Sam was skinned into Br'er Fox at least once, possibly in the rope trap scene.
View attachment 483654
Owl I'm guessing became this BR:
View attachment 483656
I saw somebody on Twitter say that the Brer Rabbit animatronic outside his briar patch in the "How Do You Do" scene is a reskin of the Ollie animatronic from the "Headin' West" scene (not the one on the donkey pictured above, the other one). Dunno if there's any truth to that.
 

EagleScout610

Well-Known Member
I saw somebody on Twitter say that the Brer Rabbit animatronic outside his briar patch in the "How Do You Do" scene is a reskin of the Ollie animatronic from the "Headin' West" scene (not the one on the donkey pictured above, the other one). Dunno if there's any truth to that.
I was under the impression that was the Opening/Closing act Ollie
 
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