“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain
It was a storybook ending about a storybook ending. On May 31, 2012, Ben rode the Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride on the ride’s final day. He rode it as the last visitor ever to do so. Even more importantly, it was his 3,500th time, a culmination of a ten-year love affair he had with the beautiful young princess.
Ben was diagnosed with autism shortly after 14 months. He did not speak until almost age eight and he was prone to temper tantrums.
He loved Disney videos and watched short clips obsessively. His parents, Ron and Sara, decided to take him to Disney World to see if he would respond to the park the way he responded to the videos.
In 2002, nine-year-old Ben visited Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the first time. The effect on him was magical: once inside the park, he broke his silence and talked; he became patient and quiet. He recited names and places that he recognized from the videos.
His transformation was so dramatic that his parents, divorced by then, relocated to Orlando from Seattle just so that Ben could visit the park regularly. From then on, Ron would refer to Disney World as a giant therapy session for his son.
Of all the rides, his favorite was the first one he tried: Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Over the course of ten years, Ben reached ride counts of 1,000 and 2,000, with Disney helping him celebrate each milestone with appearances of Snow White and commemorative photos.
At one point, Ben averaged 18-24 rides on Snow White’s Scary Adventures per visit and three visits per week!
When Disney announced that the ride would close on May 31, 2012, Ron braced for the catastrophe. On that final night, Disney went way above and beyond to make sure Ben reached his final milestone, 3,500 rides, and in memorable fashion.
Blogging since 2005, Ron recorded many details about Ben’s infatuation with Snow White and in particular, that closing night.
Ron has just published an account of those ten years in 3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White.