The experience of knowing it's your last time on a Disney ride

With the end of Splash Mountain and soon Dinosaur, here's why knowing it's your last time on a Disney attraction makes it more notable

Splash Mountain at Disneyland in Southern California will undergo a redesign and will reopen in 2024
Splash Mountain at Disneyland in Southern California will undergo a redesign and will reopen in 2024 / Sandy Hooper / USA TODAY NETWORK

Buzz is around today that suddenly, what was long considered the most skippable ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is suddenly hopping. Dinosaur seems busier than ever, thanks to word that Disney will soon be closing it down to make way for a revamped area of Animal Kingdom. It looks like the ride will now be transformed into a version of the popular Indiana Jones ride from Disneyland. 

This comes after the much-publicized massive long wait times for the final rides on Splash Mountain at both Disney World and Disneyland. It also showcases how the farewell tour of a Disney attraction can be a big deal. 

A major highlight of my Disneyland trip in March was being able to ride Splash Mountain one last time. True, the ride was a bit rough with a couple of effects not working. Yet it also felt magical, knowing the last time ever seeing it in its original form. I savored every detail I could, even ones I'd seen and heard countless times before.

Sure, there's always You Tube to have old ride videos but it's not the same at all. That goes for a lot of other Disney attractions over the years as video can't replicate the feel of a ride or the overall ambiance being inside it. From the smell of the water to that huge drop, I had to take it all in as I knew it wasn't going to happen again.

At least I knew about this. Too often, I had no idea my last time at some Disney attractions was indeed going to be my last time. It was a little better when my family lived in Jacksonville, so I was able to check out WDW a few times a year. Then, there was no Internet as we knew it so it took some talk from newspapers or the old Birnbaum books to know when an attraction change was coming. 

So, I was able to enjoy the last rides on World of Motion or Test Track or even Captain EO before they were changed over. When my family moved back to Chicago and WDW visits became annual, I thus didn’t realize how, say, a ride on Mr. Toad in 1998 would be the final time on that attraction. It happened with others and I would kick myself for skipping a ride on the idea that it would be there next time, only to find it wasn’t.

Thanks to the Internet, many folks get these alerts and the ones who visit the parks several times a year can fit the last rides in. Many of us aren’t as lucky to have grabbed the chance to immerse ourselves in these rides as before. Which is a shame as, while sad, it's also moving to take those final journeys.

It’s a unique experience when it happens, the memories of the past flooding in. It’s not just if a ride has been totally rid of but even a makeover like when the original Star Tours gave way to the current version. Even if the newer version is better, it’s something to lose the original look so many grew up on. 

Disney has been smart using that, such as farewell events for Splash Mountain and likely for when Dinosaur goes. In this case, it will also mark the loss of one of the few attractions in the Animal Kingdom that has been there since opening day and thus, in many ways, a farewell to the original vision of the park.

It showcases how some Disney fans just hate change, hate saying goodbye to attractions around since their childhood and they loved going on. Maybe the change ends up working with a new and fresher attraction that becomes just as loved. But even as I look forward to Tiana’s Bayou ride, I felt the weight of three decades of history when riding Splash Mountain. The knowledge that the huge drop will be there but it won’t be the same. 

With more changes planned at Disney parks, it’s inevitable these same farewells will take place over time. It’s a reminder time goes on and everything ages and changes, something many people don’t want to face. Yet it’s also a  reminder to not take what’s around you for granted. 

In short, these “farewell tours” of a Disney ride may be a metaphor for life itself and why Disney still holds such a  place in our hearts.