Imagineering Awesome: In Sleepy Hollow

This post is part of the Imagineering Awesome series

This is the THIRD post in the Imagineering Awesome series … so if you’ve missed any of the previous posts, click on the link at right.

Today’s post is brought to us by the loose cannons from Mickey Mutineers. I like to imagine that they’re the male version of my Disney nerdiness, but in fact, they’re about 150% cooler than me, and I am not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it. And this post … well, it just proves how totally cool they are. Read and enjoy.


If we here at Mickey Mutineers have learned anything, it’s that cotton balls taste nothing like cotton candy. You know what else we’ve learned? The popularity of an attraction has nothing to do with the popularity of the movie it is based on.

For example, in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot we have a Three Caballeros ride. When was the last time you watched The Three Caballeros? Now take a look at Splash Mountain. Arguably one of the most popular attractions of all time! Hell, Disney won’t even release the movie it’s based on!

So when asked to come up with our own attraction based on a movie with unlimited gold coins at our disposal, we didn’t go for the most beloved or the most recognized. Instead, we just picked a movie that would make one kick ass ride: The animated classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

New Sub-Land in Liberty Square
The first thing you have to do with a new ride is to ask “Well, where the hell am I going to put it?” Bend over and I’ll show you! I’m sorry, that was rude. The best place we decided it would naturally fit is in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. Now, we know what you’re thinking. Where is there room for a ride? There’s not.

After debating over whether to rip out Haunted Mansion or the Hall of Presidents, we looked at Google Earth and discovered there’s a crap ton of land just sitting behind the Haunted Mansion! So what we want to do is cut and paste the outside queue for the Haunted Mansion and move it slightly to the right, leaving just enough room for another path to go between that queue and the Rivers of America and heading north. Unfortunately this also takes out the Haunted Mansion’s new Pee and Poop McInteractive Queue. But it dies for science! Or something.

Sleepy Hollow Land
Click for a larger image with more detail

The new “area” to Liberty Square is best described right out of Washington Irving’s own mouth from a story that has nothing to do with this: Rip Van Winkle!

Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Catskill Mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains, and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.

At the foot of these fairy mountains the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province… and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, with lattice windows, gable fronts surmounted with weathercocks, and built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland.

Path to Sleepy Hollow
The Path

Okay, so we don’t have mountains, but we have trees and a river, and two outta three ain’t bad! So to recap, tree-lined pathway along the river to give the new area a truly out-of-the-way feeling. Because, let’s be honest, it will be out of the way.

Since this area will be out of the way, one ride would not suffice. The walk needs to be worth it. In broad strokes, there is enough room for two rides, a restaurant, restrooms, and a gift shop.

Oh, and since we killed the Haunted Mansion’s interactive queue, we can even add a nice cemetery-themed play area. You know, for kids! But what we want to focus on here is just the one flagship ride. Someone else can hammer out all those other details. Let’s jump into the ride!

VanTassel Farm House
VanTassel Farm House

Entrance and Queue
First of all, we enter the ride through the Van Tassel farmhouse. It’s an outdoor/indoor queue with the indoor portion starting to tell the tale of Ichabod Crane’s arrival to the town of Sleepy Hollow. Perhaps some journals sitting out on desks. Pictures on the wall showing stills from the movie of Ichy, Katrina van Tassel, and good ol’ Bram Bones!

Sprinkle the area with items you’d expect to find in a village such as this. Wooden tubs. Barrels. Apples. Maybe a nice pie sitting in a window! Why the pie? If you remember anything about the cartoon, you remember the pie sitting in the window, steaming hot, and the scent catches Ichabod, hook line and sinker! There’s always room for pie!

And naturally, playing throughout the queue will be the Ichabod theme song, sung by Bing Crosby. But so the patrons and cast members don’t go insane from repetition, add a dash of other instrumental music pieces from the film. Okay, let’s get on this ride!

Wooden Tub Thing
Wooden tub thing

The Ride
Here’s where things get awesome! And I’m sorry it took this long. Anyway, the ride system is a trackless ride system… which is exactly what it sounds like, because we really want one in this country! The ride vehicle will be a large wooden-ish tub-like basket thing with a high back. Like this picture of one!

Why the high back? Well, we don’t want you turning around and spoiling the magic! And not being able to see behind you will have an effect later in the ride. There will be two rows in each vehicle, with each row sitting two or three people.

The ride will start with a quick daytime jaunt through the town of Sleepy Hollow. You’ll see animatronics of Bram and his crew drinking their brews, Ichabod wooing Katrina, and just briefly showing the general atmosphere of this friendly town and its inhabitants.

Sleepy Hollow Party
It’s a party!

From there, our ride vehicle goes into the front door of the Van Tassel farmhouse just in time for the Van Tassel Halloween Party! Here’s where the trackless ride system starts to kick in, as our vehicle starts to meander through the party as if we were on the guest list when we came through the door.

We see the people dancing, that little lady in the corner giving Bram the cutie-eye, the table of food … and then we move into the next room.

In here is Bram singing the catchy-as-hell Horseman song, telling the story of the Headless Horseman and the safety of crossing yonder covered bridge. Again, we, in our ride vehicle, are guests of the party, listening in on this upbeat, yet slightly horrifying song. Then the party ends.

Our ride vehicle slips out the back door and into the night, and in the words of Marlin the clown fish: “Good feeling’s gone.”

From here on out, this ride needs to be horrifying. Alien Encounter-style terror. When we leave the party we assume the role of Ichabod on his way home through the woods at night. The first scene after the party has the same anxiety-ridden build-up as the movie. The frogs are eerily chanting “Ichabod…Ichabod…Ichabod…”

There’s creepy noises around, wind blowing through the reeds, and then you hear it: the sound of a galloping horse. The ride vehicle turns to one side and starts moving sideways to focus in on the fact that in front of you, the galloping sound is nothing more than cattails beating against a hollow log. Whew. That was close. Then the ride vehicle turns back to its original direction for the big reveal.

Headless Horseman
Oh crap! It’s the Headless Horseman!

Bursting through the woods directly in front of you (and dangerously close) is a glorious full-sized animatronic of the horseman on his horse.

But this is where we need to skew a bit from the movie: we can’t have this horseman being completely cartoonish in looks. This thing needs to be set a little more in the real world while still retaining its qualities from the movie. This thing needs to give you nightmares!

The horse will be all black, with matted dirty fur and flecks of old spittle around its mouth. You’ll feel an actual blast of hot air from it’s mouth as it rears up in front of you with a little smoke coming from its flaring nostrils and glowing red eyes. It needs to look like it galloped out of Hell itself.

The horseman would be clad in a period-fitting uniform. Leather straps, gloves, those sorts of things. His cape will be tattered and flowing out behind him. In one hand he will be holding the fiery pumpkin, and in the other hand, his old blood-smeared sword, which at this point in time is now swinging towards your head.

From here, the ride vehicle cuts to the right and the chase is freakin’ on!

Now, watching videos of these trackless ride systems, the vehicles don’t seem to move fast enough to give a feeling of speed, urgency, and danger, which this ride desperately needs to be effective. To solve that problem, we came up with an idea that is sure to be an engineering nightmare. The scenery (trees, reeds, rocks, etc) around the ride vehicle begins to move the opposite way of the vehicle giving a sense of speed, but synced with the scenery’s movement will be mist screens and projection mapping, giving an even greater sense of speed and chaos. Audio will give you the sense that the horseman is constantly only a few steps behind you in the dark.

At this point, your trackless vehicle is making all kinds of quick turns and blind escape maneuvers. Every now and then, you will come upon the horseman, him having somehow cut off your path of travel and swiping his sword at you and your vehicle lunging to one side or the other to narrowly avoid the cutting edge.

And then you will see it: the covered bridge.

Speeding through woods towards the covered bridge, the horseman gallops alongside your vehicle through the trees. Yeah, an actual animatronic riding next to you, trying to kill you and doing that terrible horseman cackle the entire time.

Your vehicle will lunge towards the bridge, which is now much closer, only to have an eerie fog fill the entrance. You will hear the horseman race ahead and will pop out again right next to the bridge. He swings! This time, the sword is a projection against the fog and as it passes directly over the guests, a blast of air splits the fog, giving that feeling that you probably just lost a few hairs up top.

Flaming Pumpkin
Did you wet your pants?

You will race through the bridge and turn around just in time to see the flaming jack-o-lantern flying at you. This will most likely be another projection on the fog so the damn thing can hit you. At the point of impact, cue flames, bright flashes, blood-curdling screams, and then complete darkness.

In the darkness, your vehicle slowly moves to the final scene, which is a sunny country road with a large smashed pumpkin next to it, and hoof prints in the mud.

Your vehicle rolls up to the unloading zone, you disembark, and head to the restroom to change your pants.


Are you scared? Me too. Let us know what you think of the Mutineers’ ride idea in the comments below! 

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