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The First Ride

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Splash Mountain Today

We were taken down a set of steps next to the exit, past storage area for logs, up some steps, and to the unload side of the station. Cast members were waiting on the other side, a line of them stretching into the shadows.

As we stood on the unloading platform, taking everything in, a couple of managers said hello to us. We replied, but other than that we were pretty quiet. We were just nervous and expectant, hoping that 1) we weren't found out, and 2) that we'd actually get to ride all the way through. Tony took off in one of the first logs after telling us that what we were about to see was like the rough cut of a film.

As the moment neared, Ken's intense acrophobia suddenly popped up and he thought that he wouldn't be able to go through with it. A split second later, that thought was obliterated as he realized that this was a moment he'd been waiting for and obsessing over for years. Log 47 approached, and we loaded in at 9:36. Bruce Gordon sat in the back by himself. Off we went.

It was sensory overload. All of the stuff we'd been hearing about, reading about, and discerning from the artwork, model, rumors, and articles flashed through our heads. We were experiencing pure wonder. The amount of color in the show buildings was more than we could have ever imagined. Songs filled the rooms in a way we have never experienced, and the black-lit effects in the Laughin' Place was simply unheard of in a log flume attraction before. This was Disney magic at it's best, and we were experiencing it first.

Finally, we approached the final lift, and we all knew what it was. The log climbed up the long incline, reaching the peak and offering a breathtaking nighttime view of the park.

It wasn't until we reached the peak and the log started to descend that we accepted that we'd finally made it. The drop seemed to last forever. Once we reached the bottom and caught our breath we started to cheer, clap, and sing.

About a quarter until 10, we emerged from our triumphant ride, thanking Tony and Bruce. We were on our way to City Hall, excited and pumped up as we could be, to meet up with the others and our rides home.

A journey had ended, but friendships were just beginning. Bob, Ken, James, Jesse, and David were the Original Splashtranauts!

Tony Baxter was not there for the general soft opening of the ride. He was busy in Paris working on Euro Disneyland. He returned for the Grand Opening ceremonies, during which Eisner first mentioned to the press that it was time for Anaheim to get a second Disney theme park. Ten years later, and it is underway, finalized in the form of Disney's California Adventure.

While we took ride after ride on that opening day, we were able to catch up with Tony a few times. At one point, Jesse stood by while someone approached Tony and told them how much they liked the new addition to Disneyland. (Tony was in a suit and wearing a name tag, making him an easy target of guests.) The guest asked "Who came up with this stuff?"

Jesse simply pointed at Tony and said, "He did!."

In actuality, lots of talented people work together to produce new Disney experiences. Some people have childhood obsessions with movie and rock stars. We focused our youthful passions on Disneyland, and had a big dream come true as the result of two very kind "Imagineering" stars.

We've all grown up now. David Prince, the youngest of the Splashtranauts, is attending college in Colorado. Jesse Prince is studying architecture in Washington. Ken Pellman is a writer and also works as a cast member at Disneyland Park. Bob Barber is on the staff of Theme Park Adventure magazine, and runs the Knott's Berry Farm Information Center (online), an unofficial site. James Uwins likes to run marathons at Walt Disney World in his spare time.

-- Story by Ken Pellman (http://www.Pellman.com | [email protected])
         and Bob Barber (http://users.deltanet.com/~bobbytpa
         [email protected])
-- Photos by Rebekah Moseley and Doobie Moseley
-- Pre-opening photos courtesy of Theme Park Review
       Copyright Robb Alvey. Used with permission.


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