A Ride through Space in a Magic Kingdom

The first Space Mountain opened in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida in 1975.

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The ride opened as a response to the success ‘The Matterhorn Bobsleds’ had received when they opened at Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1959.  The Matterhorn Bobsleds ride was Disney’s first thrill ride, and they realized that thrill rides brought a wider range of people to their park, so the idea of Space Mountain was born.  In 1965, Walt Disney partnered with Arrow Dynamics for the second time, the first being with Matterhorn, to build Space Mountain.  Unfortunately, Walt passed away in December of 1966, and the main focus was on completing his Disney World project, so the Space Mountain project was suspended.  Disney World had huge success, and planned to build a new thrill ride due to its large population of teenage and young adult visitors in 1971.  A new Matterhorn was thought of, but the park in Florida didn’t have enough space, so Disney Imagineers went back to designing Space Mountain.  Although the park had enough space to build the ride, they chose to build it off park property and have RCA sponsor the 10 million dollar project.  It opened on January 15th, 1975.  The ride features many elements that have come from defunct rides in the park, including Epcot’s Horizons and the Submarine Voyage, as well as pieces from the old Disney Lounge at LAX airport.  The ride features single file seats, similar to Disneyland’s Matterhorn. This Space Mountain exists out of 2 nearly the same tracks (mirror) that have a height of 90 ft. maximum speed of 27 MPH, and the ride has a duration of 2 mins and 35 seconds.

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Due to its large success Disneyland started construction on a second Space Mountain shortly after the first one was completed.  After 2 years, Disneyland’s 20 million dollar Space Mountain complex was complete, with a stage/theater, a restaurant, and the Starcade, as well as the coaster.  Many famous astronauts such as John Glenn and Alan Shepard attended the opening.  The ride featured many high tech updates over the early years, including a moving sidewalk at the entrance of the ride, and, when FedEx became the sponsor of the ride, new scenery were added, such as TV screens with looping safety videos and FedEx robots added for scenery in the loading area.  In 1996, the ride added on board music, by composer Aarin Richards and show producer Eddie Sotto, which was explained as a combination of horror, sci fi, and surf music.  In 1997, the dome structure holding Space Mountain was repainted green and gold.  In 2003, the ride closed for track renovations, due to the tracks instability.  It reopened in 2005 for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, with new track, new effects, and a new storyline.  Although the track was new, it was the same original layout as its predecessor.  The ride was dedicated to Neil Armstrong on its reopening.  In 2006, the park added a new on-board soundtrack featuring a remixed version of the 1989 Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s song Higher Ground.  During the month of October from 2007-2008, the ride operated as Space Mountain: Nightmare Nebula.  Nightmare Nebula was never a large success, so it was change to Ghost Galaxy in 2009.  Ghost Galaxy features different lighting and scenery on both the ride and in the queue, and has been a large success.  This Space mountain has a ride duration of 2:48 min, has a track length of 3,459 ft. and has a top speed of 32 MPH. Riders will enter the dome and reach height by traveling through tunnels and special effects over 3 lift hills. While in the dome, projected stars will disorient riders as they travel down in repetitive motion, being confused by sudden twists and small drops. Before getting back to the station the ride makes another sudden movement and will slow down in a special effects tunnel.

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Space Mountain in Tokyo opened in 1983.  The ride is a clone of Disneyland’s Space Mountain, but in 2006, the rides theming was renovated, to make the ride seem more futuristic.

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Space Mountain of Disneyland Paris opened in 1995, and was originally called from ‘earth to the moon’. This Space Mountain is the only one with inversions. In 2005, it changed to Space Mountain: Mission 2, with upgraded theming.  The ride was the first ride to feature synchronized on ride music.  The ride’s crowning jewel is the large cannon on the outside of the mountain that launches riders in.  The new ride, although having the same track was to be considered a sequel to the original ride instead of a replacement.  Ex Disney CEO Michael Eisner said that this ride was the thing that kept Disneyland Paris alive. The ride begins with the riders (seated in a big rocket-like train) going around the corner entering the huge canon. (Based on Jules Verne’s “A Voyage to the Moon and a Trip Around It”.  In the story, the astronauts are launched from Earth by a giant canon.) The canon side closes, and some effects including fog simulate the launch. Just as the cable launch catches the car from underneath, the fog appears at the end of the tunnel, and the riders get launched up the canon into the mountain. Inside the mountain the synced audio matches with the inversions giving the riders a unique experience. In the middle of the ride there seems to be a rather slow part, this is where the train gets elevated a bit more to then again get more speed to go through some more elements before returning to the station. The ride has a max. speed of 44 MPH, has a track length of 3,281 ft, reaches the height of 105 ft., and has 3 inversions. These inversions are a sidewinder, corkscrew and unique tongue. Vekoma did a great job with this unique request, and to optimize the ride experience, the ride will feature the popular MK1212 trains in the near future.

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Hong Kong Space Mountain is very similar to Disneyland’s Space Mountain as well.  It has some differences though however, such as a different queue, and a hyper speed tunnel.

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