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Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain



With the popularity of Jim Varney's character Ernest P. Worrell in the eighties, Disney recognized this unique sensation and featured him in his own film that debuted in 1987.  Ernest Goes to Camp was discussed on the Out of Touchstone podcast recently, but this comedic wonder made another Disney entry with a short film called "Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain".

Splash Mountain opened in Disneyland on July 17, 1989  - a ride that was also influenced by a Touchstone Picture, as it was originally to be called Zip-a-Dee River Run, until Michael Eisner suggested it be changed to help promote the film Splash.  Ernest was used to create more excitement for the opening of this new ride by being the "first Splashronaut" to ride it.  This 22 minute short film debuted on July 7th on the Disney Channel and features news-style commentary of Ernest preparing for his ride, and his "harrowing" experience on it.

The usual Ernest gags and comedic sensibilities are showcased in this short film.  Ernest is a character that speaks directly to the audience (or the always unseen "Vern") and while he is also being interviewed for the news coverage of this event, he also addresses Vern and the audience in this film.  I suppose at this time, there was something quaintly amusing about an adult man who acts like a child, and claims to know everything while being oblivious to most things.  And while I don't think this kind of comedy holds up well now, it was more enjoyable in this film than in Ernest Goes to Camp.  Somehow, the premise of someone like Ernest testing out a new log flume ride fit the fun, silly atmosphere of a Disney theme park and also showcased the ride very well.

It's also fun to see Disneyland in the late eighties - it's much the same as now, but there is a sense of nostalgia in seeing it before millenials (like me!) became obsessed with everything about the park.  It's interesting to think of Disney filming something like this with what I'm guessing are some regular park patrons participating in the background.

This film short is characteristic of Ernest and his humor, and while I'm not a fan of his obvious gags and pratfalls, I did find this to be a charming look at Splash Mountain and Disneyland in 1989.  Watch for Brer Rabbit as a character in the background, reacting to Ernest.

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