Ride Review: The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Published: June 29, 2014 at 2:49 PM
Walt Disney World's new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train might be the most beautiful attraction in the history of the Magic Kingdom. Set on and in a mountain that forms the heart of the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland, this mine train rolls through lush forest, past detailed rockwork, and into a whimsical gem mine worked by the eponymous dwarfs, the supporting cast for Walt Disney's first feature film, 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. You ride what look like hand-carved wooden carts, which will respond to your movement by rocking gently from side to side.
But might this ride's beauty betray it? With such abundant visual rewards, the attraction draws your eyes toward countless details that command your attention. It's the overwhelming visual experience that generations of theme park visitors have come to expect from Disney's dark rides, including Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Yet the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train doesn't allow you the time you enjoy to take in its detail that those other attractions offer. As a roller coaster, the Mine Train sweeps you through each scene so quickly that you can form only an impression of the rich detail before you. Let's take a ride:
With just over two minutes from dispatch to the final brake before the unload station, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train offers an average-to-better-than-average ride time for a roller coaster. But since the visual experience, coupled with the relatively mild ride itself, so strongly suggests "dark ride" than roller coaster that those two-plus minutes instead feel scandalously brief. Throw in a wait time that routinely tops an hour (we waited 60 minutes on a weekday morning when the wait was posted at 105 minutes), and perhaps that's why so many riders have been leaving with more of a sense of frustration than elation. (Check out some of the comments on our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train reviews page.)
An hour's wait provides an attentive visitor plenty of time to eavesdrop on those around one's self. And I heard at least two sets of parents trying to tell their children who these "seven dwarfs" were. It makes sense that kids wouldn't know. After all, the first generation to grow up with Disney's Snow White is now into their 80s. Their children, grandchildren, and maybe even great-grandchildren discovered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through frequent re-releases in theaters. But Snow White hasn't played widely in U.S. theaters since 1993, and Disney makes no attempt to introduce (or re-tell) the Snow White story in the Mine Train's queue. Sure, we've got props and interactive games with which to play and pass the time, but there are no storyboards nor screens telling us who these dwarfs are and why Snow White fled into the woods where she met them.
For those who don't know the story, the ride provides an opportunity just to enjoy the beautiful scenery, then giggle at these silly characters who whistle and sing while they work in a mine where already-cut-and-polished gems abound. But what of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train's ending?
As we approach the station, we pull up next to the Dwarfs' cottage, where we can see the previously-unseen-and-unreferenced Snow White dancing with some of the Dwarfs, recreating a delightful scene from the film. But as we pull into the station, we see the Wicked Witch revealed at the cottage door, cackling, the poisoned apple in her in basket.
For those who don't know the story, the moment is bound to confuse. It's a dark note that evokes Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the original Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean, and Singapore's version of Universal's Revenge of the Mummy — attractions that conclude without the requisite happy ending. But anyone who has seen the film or knows the story knows that this is not the ending. In fact, it's the moment where "stuff" is just about to get real.
If you were frustrated with not having enough time to see the abundant detail on the ride, multiple additional rides can provide new chances to see more. But no amount of re-rides will give the opportunity to see the rest of the story — after the witch knocks on that door — a story we did get to experience in the Magic Kingdom's old Snow White's Scary Adventures.
Sure, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is pretty — beautiful, really. But the appeal of the roller coaster always has been that delightful yin and yang of anticipation before the drop, satisfied by the power and rush of the drop itself. Physically, the Mine Train delivers that with a few pleasing little drops of its own. Yet, narratively, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train commits the grandest sin of all for a roller coaster attraction — it just leaves you hanging.