March 21, 2011
Splash Mountain is a Disney attraction based on the film Song of the South. The ride is based on Brier Rabbit, who leaves his humble home to look for his laughing place but has to run away from Brier Fox and Brier Bear, who want to eat him up. All the characters and the songs in the attraction are from this 1946 film According to Bakhtin “Carnival brings together, unifies, weds together, and combines the sacred with the profane, the lofty with the low, the great with the insignificant the wise with the stupid” (251). Bakhtin gives a coalescence description of the carnival setting elegance, which through analyzing, can be used as a lens to understand a carnival atmosphere in Disney vacation experience of the splash water mountain. The main point about a carnival atmosphere is the togetherness of people irrespective of their social differences, which Disney aims to achieve through its vacation attractions such as Splash Mountain that provides a different kind of environment and joyous experiences.
The attraction involves people getting aboard log boats that take one through caves, swamps, bayous and some drops, and towards the climax, 52 foot drop where the rabbit falls into the patch The riders, who are the spectators, are not subdivided as all come together in the attraction. According to Bakhtin, “Carnival is a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators. In carnival everyone is an active participant, everyone communes in the carnival act. Carnival is not contemplated, and, strictly speaking, not even performed; its participants live in it, they live by its laws as long as those laws are in effect; that is, they live a carnivalistic life,” (250). Disney has been able to achieve this through ensuring that the experience feels real and the spectators literary live in the mountain. From this attraction, people, irrespective of age, color of skin, or culture, are put together on log boats to go through an experience where none of these factors are considered, hence, every body feels equal, which according to Bakhtin, it is the carnival mood (251), where people put side their differences to embrace togetherness.
Carnivalistic life allows all people to interact; those who have statuses are de-crowned while those who are despised are crowned. This is demonstrated within the part where Disney does not recognize the status of its customers, rather, they are treated the same in the mountain experience, where those with a status come together with those who do not have one in the log boats. However, it is important to note that Bakhtin argues that “And he who is crowned is the antipode of a real king, a slave or a jester; this act, as it were, opens and sanctifies the inside-out world of carnival” (Bakhtin 252). That is what happens in the carnival society where we have crowning and de-crowning rituals. This is exemplary of carnival, which is termed as a place for strengthening relationships across all people who on a normal occasion were alienated from each other due to unbreakable hierarchical barriers. In the Disney attraction, de-crowning and crowning is not emphasized as Disney seeks to bring people together but their status is not considered, neither do they use any kind of language that suggest satire on its customers, rather, people only come together. However, people who might not meet in the society due to hierarchical social barriers can meet here and have an enjoyable moment. This is the main ideas of a carnival, where people do not have a chance of meeting in their daily lives come together to interact.
In Splash Mountain, the spectators are in a strange feeling where they are put in suspense by the music that is played, and a strange feeling that detach them from their usual activities. This creates a new environment in which all the riders reveal another side of human nature, where they show expressions of fear, which is shown by the pictures taken of them during the ride. According to Bakhtin, ”Eccentricity is a special category of the carnival sense of the world, organically connected with the category of familiar contact; it permits –in concretely sensuous form – the latent sides of human nature to reveal and express themselves” (Bakhtin 251). This has been emphasized in the attraction where passengers traveling in the log are able to detach themselves from what they are used to, and thus let out a carnival mood. This allows them to relate freely with each other regardless of any restrictions since it is a new environment where the person next to you does not matter who he or she is. Songs such as ‘How Do You Do’, which are sung by frogs and geese among other animals are not meant for a specific clientele, but instead, can relate to all the riders regardless of their social class, age, and education among other differences. This way, Disney is able to make the riders forget their problems and focus on one agenda, which helps achieve a carnival mood.
Although in a carnival environment all are supposed to be equal, the splash mountain does not prove this where the main story is about the brier rabbit that is running away from the brier fox and the brier bear, since this indicates two types of classes, where the rabbit is the hunted by the predators. According to Bakhtin, “In the carnival, social hierarchies of everyday life—their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths—are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. Thus, fools become wise, kings become beggars; opposites are mingled fact and fantasy, heaven and hell” (254). For the passengers, this quote holds true, while the story does not since the rabbit and the predators do not come together in harmony as Bakhnit suggests when he says that opposite facts are mingled. In the story, the Fox traps the Rabbit, although rabbit outsmarts him and manages to escape after tricking him, this is not supposed to exist in a carnival as all are supposed to come together harmoniously. The two characters, the fox and the bear are the opposite of the rabbit, and when they are not in harmony, it illustrates an anti-carnival environment, as well as the fight between the fox and the bear with the alligator.
A carnival entails that the foolish will become wise while beggars become kings. This happens in the ride, where Fox and Bear think that they are wiser than Rabbit but instead they are tricked by Rabbit, as he tells them to throw him down the briar patch, but this is where the rabbit was born and raised. He knew he would be able to survive in the patch, and he managed to trick the fox and the bear. At the end, the fox and the bear are in the position the rabbit was when they have to fight off a hungry alligator from eating them, just as rabbit had to trick them to survive. This would serve to teach the fox and the bear how it feels to be in the shoes of the rabbit. It also served to illustrate the point that beggars would become kings and vice verse, since the fox and the bear were now begging for their life through fighting the alligator. As the log drops to mimic the Rabbit’s fall, in the patch, the passengers’ are splashed with water, which acts to make the journey real. the fox and bear then have to fight off the alligator which provides a lesson to the passengers, as they learned to look at the world from another person’s view, and hence a feeling of togetherness was achieved, which is a depiction of a carnival atmosphere. This experience makes all the people aboard equal for they have to behave in the same way.
From the Splash Mountain, one can assume a carnival environment implies just people being together and it does not matter who sat in which log, since people who are closely related may want to share the same log other than with others. This is to mean that if people closely related sat together, as long as they are in the same place, it remains to be carnival, and not sitting in a mixed way, in the log remains carnival. The attraction uses rhetoric techniques such as repeated words in the music to convince people more, and making the experience look real such as the log boats falling in the patch to illustrate the rabbit falling, which has been used to modify the perception of the people towards the rabbit and the characters involved in the story.
Bakhtin put emphasis on the conditions, which should be fulfilled for the carnivalistic life to occur. He alleges that it all begins with the change of people’s mindsets about specific ideologies. People should free themselves from social hierarchies’ bondage; abandon their cultures’ cocoons, which hinder them from discovering their inner ability, which is essential in understanding each other (251). The Disney works succeed in the implementation of profanation-diluted sense alongside parody presentation. The splash mountain attraction brings out a unique life experience that puts people’s feet in other people’s shoes, which foster understanding to sow a seed of love for all humankind. People from all kinds of social classes come together in a way that makes them forget their social background and interact without any discrimination, regardless of the differences among people, which has made it possible for Disney to achieve a carnival atmosphere. Moreover, the choices they make, such as the music and the theme are well incorporated to fit all finds of people. Through the Bakhnit article on carnival and carnivalesque, one can easily understand how Disney has been able to achieve a carnival mood in their vacation attractions.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. New York, NY: Prentice Hall. 1998. Print.
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