In the final days of Walt Disney World’s Splash Mountain, hundreds of fans flocked to the ride with empty jars, bottles and plastic bags. Later, some emerged thousands of dollars richer.
Splash Mountain speculators have earned as much as $15,099, $13,100 and $7,100 selling water they claim came from the ride in the three weeks since the log flume with a history of racial insensitivity closed Jan. 23 for a makeover with a new theme.
Collector frenzy is nothing new to Disney fans. Some waited in line for seven hours last year for a dragon-shaped popcorn bucket, and suspected resellers bought up Splash Mountain plush toys after Disney’s announcement of the ride’s changes in 2020.
But this latest example is unique in the Disney record, not only because of fan fervor surrounding the ride’s transformation to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure but also because the water can’t be verified as actually coming from Splash Mountain.
“There are a lot of folks who just have happy family memories of riding this attraction, and it’s kind of hard to let go,” said Disney historian Jim Hill. “It’s coming from a well-meaning, if weird, place.”
Disney spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.
On eBay, the water sellers’ preferred platform, some people have attempted to verify their listings by providing a “certificate of authenticity” with the water or posting a photo of the container at the attraction. But neither of those proves anything.
eBay said in an unsigned statement that it works to ensure “certifications and certificates of authenticity are valid and issued by a legitimate independent expert or certifying organization.” Listings that do not meet those requirements violate eBay’s Authentication and Grading Services policy, the company said.
eBay has attracted attention for other high-profile items with difficult-to-verify origins in recent weeks, like $100,000 sand purportedly from the Miami beach where Tom Brady made his re-retirement announcement. The company would not discuss its policy on such memorabilia.
Resellers began advertising water from Splash Mountain as fans waited in nearly four-hour lines during the closing weekend.
One of the earliest sales fetched $202.50. Then the Splash Mountain market spiked for a short time, and the wave crested with the $15,099 sale.
Of late, the majority of vendors part with their theme park water samples for about $20 or less, information about eBay sales show.
The market remains saturated. eBay had 169 active listings for “Splash Mountain water” Tuesday, with asking prices ranging from 99 cents to $10,500.
Disney collectors may see a resurgence of the sales when Disneyland’s version of the ride closes sometime this year for its changeover. Tokyo Disneyland’s Splash Mountain will keep its motif.
Hill, who has written about Disney for nearly 40 years, said Disney has auctioned off parts of defunct rides for decades, but this is the first time fans have tried to profit from a ride’s end on this scale.
“The national media picked up on the closure. If you think about the weekend it was closing, how many of the social influencers or folks who have YouTube channels were in there documenting the giant crowds?” Hill said. “So I think that fed into it.”
Since the online market for the water is fueled by nostalgia, some looking to buy may not care if they cannot confirm the water actually came from Splash Mountain, Hill said.
“Anybody who’s actually bidding on this material, it’s one of these things where they’re thinking not with their head, they’re thinking with their heart,” he said.
Fayetteville, Ark.-based Disney fan Phillip Halfacre saw the first batch of “Splash Mountain water” sales on eBay Jan. 24 and wanted to poke fun at the absurd situation.
He posted a joke listing, “Splash Mountain bag and tap water from my sink,” for $25,000 with a description that began, “This is obviously just for fun and to make fun of the people who are really selling water from a ride.”
Halfacre, who was first interviewed by the New York Times about the joke, said he got 40 to 50 messages from people that day thanking him for the laugh and offering a few dollars for the official Splash Mountain zip-close bag. eBay closed the sale the next day because it was not legitimate, he said.
Though he said he is baffled by the earnest water sales, he understands the fan mindset as a Disney pin collector himself.
“At the end of the day, people have nostalgia for things. What’s one man’s water is another man’s treasure,” he said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel.
Collectors buying water from Splash Mountain is ironic because the base attraction is not changing, Hill said.
Disney announced the flume would be adapted to the 2009 movie “The Princess and the Frog,” its first to feature a Black princess, in June 2020.
The news came amid a national movement for racial justice sparked by the murder of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd by police.
It reignited discussions about the source of Splash Mountain’s setting and characters, Disney’s 1946 film “Song of the South.” Upon the movie’s release, the NAACP said it portrayed a “dangerously glorified picture of slavery.”
Disney has distanced itself from the movie in recent decades and has never commercially released it on home video in the United States. CEO Bob Iger said Disney+ will not stream “Song of the South” because it is “just not appropriate in today’s world.”
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in late 2024.
Halfacre, 42, said he hopes those upset with the change realize the ride will still have the same Disney whimsy they liked about Splash Mountain.
“Future generations will have the same magic for Tiana’s ride,” Halfacre said. “[Disney’s] a business, they’ve got to adapt.”
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