Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)

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Space Mountain
Space Mountain January 2012 Magic Kingdom Nighttime.JPG
Magic Kingdom
Park section Tomorrowland
Coordinates 28°25′09″N 81°34′38″W / 28.41917°N 81.57722°W / 28.41917; -81.57722Coordinates: 28°25′09″N 81°34′38″W / 28.41917°N 81.57722°W / 28.41917; -81.57722
Status Operating
Opening date January 15, 1975
General Statistics
Type Steel
Manufacturer Dynamic Structures
Designer WED Enterprises
Alpha Omega
Height 90 ft (27.4 m) 90 ft (27.4 m)
Drop 26 ft (7.9 m) 26 ft (7.9 m)
Length 3,196 ft (974.1 m) 3,186 ft (971.1 m)
Speed 27 mph (43.5 km/h) 27 mph (43.5 km/h)
Inversions 0 0
Duration 2:35 2:35
Height restriction 44 in (112 cm)
Sponsor RCA (1975–1993)[1]
FedEx (1994–2004)
Ric Flair [2]
For other uses, see Space Mountain.
Music Michael Giacchino (2010 version)
Fastpass available
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Must transfer from wheelchair
Space Mountain at RCDB
Pictures of Space Mountain at RCDB

Space Mountain is an indoor outer space-themed steel roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Opened on January 15, 1975, Space Mountain is the oldest operating roller coaster in the state of Florida, and is the original version of the iconic attraction that has since been replicated at all of The Walt Disney Company's Magic Kingdom-style theme parks worldwide. RCA helped fund Space Mountain's construction and sponsored the ride from 1975 to 1993; FedEx sponsored Space Mountain from 1994 to 2004.

Walt Disney originally conceived the idea of a space-themed roller coaster for Disneyland following the success of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which opened in 1959. However, a number of technological limitations and the Disney company's focus on building what would become Walt Disney World led to the project's postponement in the late 1960s. After the early success of the Magic Kingdom park in the early 1970s, the Disney company started looking to build its first thrill ride at the Magic Kingdom. Disney decided that a duplicate of Disneyland's Matterhorn was not feasible at the Magic Kingdom, and instead opted to re-visit the Space Mountain project. Advances in technology since the project's postponement made Space Mountain more feasible, and the ride opened in 1975.

Space Mountain has undergone a number of changes since its opening, including complete replacement of the ride trains in 1989 and 2009 as well as incremental upgrades to incorporate modern roller coaster technology. It has also seen a number of cosmetic renovations to its entry, queue, and post-show elements, many of which were necessitated by changes in its corporate sponsorship over the years.

On January 15, 2015, the Magic Kingdom version celebrated the 40th anniversary of the ride.

Original concept and design[edit]

The Space Mountain concept was a descendant of the first Disney "mountain" attraction, the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, which opened in 1959.[3] The Matterhorn's success had convinced Walt Disney that thrilling rides did have a place in his park.[4]

In 1964, Walt first approached designer John Hench with his idea for a new attraction that would be the focal point of a renovated Tomorrowland planned for 1967.[4] His "Space Port" would include a roller-coaster-style ride in the dark, with lighting and other special effects.[4] Originally called "Space Voyage" with concept artwork by John Hench, Clem Hall, George McGinnis, and Herb Ryman.[1] The attraction concept continued to be refined over the coming years by WED Enterprises, and in June 1966, the "Space Port" attraction was called "Space Mountain" for the first time.[5]

WED partnered with Arrow Development Company, the same company that had helped design the Matterhorn's roller coaster systems years before.[6] The initial concept was to have four separate tracks, but the technology available at the time, combined with the amount of space required versus that which was available within Disneyland, made such a design impossible.[6] Walt Disney's death in December 1966 and the new emphasis on preparing for the newly announced Disney World project forced WED to put aside the design of Space Mountain indefinitely.[7] The Magic Kingdom's early success, and its unexpected popularity with teens and young adults, prompted WED to begin planning thrill rides for the new park shortly after its opening in October 1971.[8] A new Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was considered, but it wouldn't fit within Florida's Fantasyland.[8]

Ultimately, designers returned to designing Space Mountain. The Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland had the right amount of available land, and computing technology had improved significantly since the initial design phases.[9] To help cover the cost of developing and building Space Mountain, Card Walker, the CEO of Walt Disney Productions, convinced RCA chairman Robert Sarnoff to sponsor the new attraction; RCA was contracted by Disney to provide the communications hardware for the Walt Disney World Resort, and their contract stated that if Disney presented an attraction of interest, RCA would provide USD$10 million to support it.[10]

The interior of the structure, the queue area, the tracks of the roller coaster, and the post-show each went through a large number of various design changes before the current layout was selected. Originally, the mountain was to be positioned in the southern portion of Tomorrowland, which would be where Disneyland would install their version of the ride in 1977. Instead, it was placed outside the park's perimeter berm, roughly due east of Cinderella Castle, with a tunnel, called the "star corridor", under the Walt Disney World Railroad tracks installed for people to reach it, while Carousel of Progress opened in the originally planned location. This is contrary to the Disneyland counterpart, where people directly enter through the side of the building.

Ride experience[edit]

The "energizing" tunnel leads the trains to the lift hill.

Queue[edit]

After visitors enter the building, the queue line opens into a large room filled with small, silver, ball-pit like balls. The room also contains a "star map." The line then dips into the "star tunnel." The queue descends under the Walt Disney World Railroad and levels flat for several feet. At this point, the post-show tunnel is running parallel to the queue. The queue then begins to ascend and passes by "space windows" in the walls featuring planets and spaceships. The queue continues to turn until riders are deposited in the space station. (This is the location of the video-games in the post-renovation ride)

Original ride (1975–2009)[edit]

The 180 degree turn-arounds at the top of the lift hills, as seen from the queue with the work lights on. This view is no longer possible because of ceilings installed over the loading stations. These turnarounds are still visible when riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover through Space Mountain when the lights are on.

Visitors board the trains in the Space Port, which is enclosed within the dome itself. The ride dome is hollow and 300 ft in diameter, allowing waiting people aboard the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover to see many of the different effects used in the attraction.

As the rockets leave the loading station, they travel past the loading area, the queue, and the Mission Control Booth for the Space Port, where they make a brief stop to await their turn to proceed to the lift hill. After this brief stop, the vehicles wind down a small slope and enter a tunnel of circular and flashing blue lights, while a repetitive sound, meant to signify a building of energy, propels the trains along the track to the opposite end of the dome. At the far end, the trains make a 180 degree turn around and then climb the lift hill. A mirror positioned on the turn at the end of the tunnel gave the illusion that riders are about to collide with another rocket.

A projection of Earth, stars, comets, meteors, and asteroids can be seen when looking past the lift hill bay's open ceiling. It is possible to make out trains climbing the lift hill on the other side and also rockets passing through on the side, as well as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority passing through the lift hill bay. Once at the top, space shuttles then make a small and quick dip before plunging into numerous twists and turns as the shuttles travel through the dome in near-complete darkness, including the coaster's steepest drop of 39 degrees. The ride ends with the trains passing through a red swirling wormhole, before hitting the final brake run and entering the unload station.

Current ride (2009–present)[edit]

Space Mountain closed on April 19, 2009 for a lengthy renovation.[11][12][13] It was the first extensive renovation since a previous closure in September 1999,[13] and was estimated to cost USD $12.3 million.[14] It reopened November 2009.[15]

The queuing area for the Alpha track after the 2009 refurbishment

Blue neon lights light up the ceilings above the queue, with black windows looking out into space recessed into the ceiling, where people can see projections of stars, nebulae, comets, planets, and a space station. The track was rebuilt completely by Canadian based Dynamic Structures. Riders will then be assigned to one of two tracks: Alpha, the left hand track, or Omega, the right hand track. On busy days with long waits, Alpha is usually used for standby riders and the Omega track for "FASTPASS". But when lines are short (usually fifteen minutes or less), an attendant will stand at the division point and assign a group to a track. Unless they kindly ask, riders cannot choose between Alpha and Omega. The two tracks have near mirror-image layouts of each other. Both offer the same experience, with effects equally shared and duplicated, but the Alpha track is 10 feet (3.0 m) longer than the Omega track in order to permit the two tracks to cross each other.

The loading area for the Omega track after the 2009 refurbishment

Riders then queue at newly installed loading gates. The trains are unchanged from before, but they no longer glow in the dark. Pulling out of the loading station and approaching the control tower while receiving the safety spiel (unchanged from before), the trains make a 180-degree turn and come to a stop at a holding brake, and wait for the train in front to clear the block on the lift hill. After a few seconds, the holding brake is released and the trains roll down a drop into the strobe tunnel. The strobe lights flash at a slower rate, but the frequency rate gradually increases as the train progresses down the tunnel. A repetitive warping sound signifies an energy charge as the riders roll towards a blue orb. At the far end of the tunnel, a field of stars appears as the blue strobe lights turn off. As the train starts its 180 degree turn to the lift hill, the white flash of a strobe light is seen. This is actually the flash of a new on-ride photo camera.

Another train may pass by the riders climbing the lift hill. It is also possible to make out riders on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority passing through the lift hill bay, as well as riders on the other track climbing the lift hill. At the top, riders descend a short drop and then descend through a series of turns, sharp climbs, and steep drops in the darkness of the dome. The ride ends with trains passing through a red swirling wormhole and then hitting the final brake run, before returning to the unload station.

In August 2010,[16] the ride received "Starry-O-Phonic Sound" effects. These new sound effects play throughout the dome, to further enhance the ride experience.[17]

"Walt Disney Imagineering has added a new composition that’s exclusive to the attraction at Magic Kingdom Park that will play with varying sound effects throughout all “flights” on 100 newly installed speakers. “Starry-O-Phonic Sound” compliments a slew of enhancements that debuted on Space Mountain last year, including new lighting, storyline elements and updated decor."[18][19]

References to Horizons[edit]

When Space Mountain was refurbished, a number of tributes to the defunct Epcot attraction Horizons were added into the ride.

  • One of the bags in the baggage claim (located on visitors' left at the start of the exit moving sidewalk) features the words "Mesa Verde" written on it.[20]
  • The undersea post-show scene after the desert scene is reminiscent of a scene in Horizons. This scene was the only new scene added to the post-show in the refurbishment – all of the other scenes were tweaked or redressed. The flatscreen display in the new scene describes the scene as "20,000 Light Years under the Sea," a pun on "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," which is a reference to both the original 70s post-show scene depicting a futuristic family watching the Disney movie of the same name, as well as to the defunct Magic Kingdom attraction 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage.[21]
  • The robot valet and futuristic city skyline, which is the last post-show diorama, are similar to a scene in Horizons and to the lounge that Disney used to operate in LAX.[20]

Trains[edit]

Prior to the 2009 refurbishments each train had luminescent stripes that would glow during the ride.
The same trains above after the 2009 refurbishment.

Space Mountain has 30 trains, 15 for each track, though only 13 are usually in operation at any given time. Each train consists of two single-file rocket-shaped cars. From 1975 to 1989, the trains featured two seats, each seat designed to hold two passengers (the front passenger rode in the rear passenger's lap, again like the Matterhorn Bobsleds), for a total capacity of eight passengers per train. Each rider had his/her own seat belt.

In 1989, the current trains were first introduced. They are externally and cosmetically very similar to the originals, and still consisted of two rocket cars joined together. While still seating riders single-file, the current trains have three seats, with one person per seat, reducing each train's potential capacity from eight riders to six. The 1989 vehicles introduced the use of lap bars, but in 1998 the lap bars were replaced with a new T-bar design, rather than the square design previously used. The trains were originally painted white. In the 2009 refurbishment, the trains received new seat fabric and were repainted in a blue and gray paint scheme.[22]

Building characteristics and sponsorship[edit]

Sponsorship (1975–2004)[edit]

From 1975 to 1993, Space Mountain was sponsored by RCA. The left entrance wall had the words "Space Mountain" displayed in bold, blue colored letters. The RCA logo was above this, and under the Space Mountain lettering was the slogan "A Journey Through Time and Space", beneath which was the phrase "presented by RCA".

The ceiling and flooring for the entrance building was done in reds, yellows, and oranges. A large white pylon structure had the RCA logo placed above it in three areas, and four passengers, dressed as astronauts, were placed in an original four seater vehicle, which was attached to the pylon. Below the pylon, in a planter was Space Mountain's dedication plaque which read: "ONE GIANT STEP... Dedicated to the men and women whose skills, sacrifice, courage and teamwork opened the door to the exploration of man's exciting new frontier...outer space. Because they dared to reach for the stars and the planets, man's knowledge of his universe, earth and himself has been greatly enriched. Presented by missile, space and range pioneers. January 15, 1975."

Inside, riders entered the spacious lobby, which did not feature the current mural of the Milky Way, but was simple black and blue walls with various yellow and orange angular designs. There were also floor to ceiling mirrors, support columns, and blue lighting under the floor. The floors themselves were made out of a combination of plastic and vinyl and featured black textured circles sticking out of the flooring. The rest of the inside of the structure, with the exception of the warning film, and the changes made to the vehicles, remains nearly the same from 1975.

For the first year or two of operation, a model of an RCA communications satellite was on display. After that, a flying saucer with RCA's Nipper mascot ("His Master's Voice") replaced the satellite.

Exterior of the ride as seen from the Monorail.

In 1989 RCA had the entrance cosmetically refurbished. The entrance door now had a yellow and black pattern around it. The entrance walls were repainted with the 1975 white and blue color scheme, but with solid and different patterns. The roof was still the same blue and white, as was the roof border, a solid white, but the ceiling was now also a solid white. The left entrance wall still featured the RCA logo, but a new font was selected for the phrase "Space Mountain", still bold, but was more angular, and now colored white. This was reflected in the phrase underneath it, "A Journey Through Time and Space", and "presented by RCA" was not included in the 1989 refurbishment.

Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom as viewed from the monorail

The RCA logos atop the pylon were removed, and a new three seater vehicle replaced the old four seater vehicle that was attached to the pylon, a result of the original trains on the ride being replaced by the current trains. Everything else, including warning signage and other features dating back to 1975, remained the same. RCA once again had the entrance refurbished in 1992, this time all the entrance walls were covered over with blue vinyl covers. Some patterns were different from others. The 1989 left entrance wall lettering was simply placed on top of the new wall coverings. The yellow and black pattern around the entrance door remained the same. The ceiling and flooring remained the same, but the roof was now solid white, and the border to the roof was now red, white, and blue.

Starting in 1994, Space Mountain's sponsorship was held by FedEx. The 1992 entrance remained very much the same, but now the entrance and exit building was partially demolished, forcing those exiting Space Mountain to exit into an arcade and gift shop that occupies part of the still vacant space left for the proposed but never built Tomorrowland railroad station. The left hand entrance wall, that served for years as the signage for Space Mountain was demolished in the 1994 refurbishment. The right hand entrance wall was now used for signage and simply had the words "Space Mountain" in a tall, thin, orange font, that was meant to reflect the architecture of the New Tomorrowland.

The large entrance door was kept, but now had storm shutters placed within the frame, creating a smaller entrance. New warning signage and warning spiels also came in 1994. A new, but different pylon tower was placed over the site of the old one. It too featured the new Space Mountain font and FedEx sponsorship. The warning film was also changed in 1994 for updated footage and to also feature FedEx Sponsorship. The film included both the warning footage and the futuristic but funny "SMTV" with its space themed news program. The warning film has so far changed only three times. The original in 1975, and two updated versions both in 1985 and 1994. The FedEx footage was removed in 2005.

The entrance lobby was refurbished with an orange and brown color scheme, but still maintained the blue floor lights, and black vinyl flooring, while adding in a FedEx sponsored intergalactic tracking network mural of the Milky Way. In 1998, the original flooring was removed and a staircase was added in the left hand queue, which is now the Stand By queue. The right queue, which has a ramp instead of a staircase, making it wheelchair accessible, is for the FastPass return line. FastPass machines were also added outside of Space Mountain at this time.

Sponsorless (2005–present)[edit]

In 2004 FedEx left as sponsor, leaving Space Mountain sponsorless; the majority of FedEx logos and sponsorship themes were removed in 2005, but some were not removed until 2009. In the 2009 refurbishment, the Skyway terminal was partially demolished after sitting abandoned for years, to create an expanded entry plaza. The existing infrastructure was not changed significantly, although the orange tones in the pylon were replaced with a lime green. The murals in the entry building were also changed accordingly to fit the boarding station's new theme.

Off-ride musical score[edit]

From 1975 to 1985, the entrance and exit building had overhead speakers playing the big band and orchestral portion of RCA's song "Here's to the Future and You". The entrance lobby had the softer portion of this song, however the music heard in the Star Corridor and in the Zig-Zag corridor near the loading station remain original from 1975. (For a brief period in the late '70s, RCA switched the song over to "Colortrak Keeps The Color On Track!", in reference to the company's new line of Colortrak TVs.) The warning spiel for the trains, and most sound effects are also original from 1975. Riders could hear music to the song "Music Makers" and "Sentimental Journeys" where the left and right side unload corridors merged to form the line for the post show.

In 1985 RCA removed their theme song, and instead commissioned new generic music for Space Mountain. Since 1985 there is no outside area music around the exit and entrance building. Only the current warning narration spiel is played. In the lobby a composition to RCA's new song "We've Come So Far" can be heard and has remained since 1985. When riders unloaded from their ride vehicle, they entered the ride's post-show, which was also accessible for those who decided not to experience the main roller coaster ride. From 1985 to 2005, the unload and merger corridor both had a slightly different soft tune to RCA's new song "We've Come so Far". The main version of "We've Come So Far", which included sung lyrics, was heard in the exit tunnel until RCA's sponsorship ended. A single, low-quality recording is all that exists of the version with singers, and was posted to YouTube on March 6, 2014. [23]

In 2005, this was replaced with a musical score commissioned for Disneyland's newly refurbished Space Mountain. After the 2009 renovations,[24] the same songs in the queue line play, but the musical score commissioned for Disneyland's Space Mountain is no longer played in the post-show. Most of the main ride sound effects were updated and replaced.

Post-show[edit]

Currently, the Space Mountain ride in the Magic Kingdom has the most extensive post-show experience. After disembarking the ride, passengers board a moving walkway taking them back to Tomorrowland. A flashing warning sign and spiel are located above the platform entrance, both original from 1985. While aboard the moving platform, riders pass multiple rooms and displays, many of which received extensive changes in 2009 along with the rest of the ride.

The original post-show was RCA's "Home Of Future Living," which showcased how consumer electronics would shape our lives in a "typical" home of the future.[25] The attraction featured the theme song "Here's to the Future," [26] briefly replaced by a song (apparently) titled "ColorTrak Keeps The Color On Track," designed to promote televisions employing RCA's ColorTrack color television technology. In the mid-1980s, the Home of Future Living was replaced by "RYCA-1," which showed what life might be like living in a space colony on another planet. The RYCA-1 sets went through minor re-decoration when FedEx took over sponsorship, and the plot of the show revolved around sending packages across spatial distances. All traces of FedEx were removed after the company relinquished its sponsorship.

The post-show also received major changes and upgrades along with the rest of the ride in 2009. Many of the rooms received renovations to appear more futuristic in relation to current-day standards, as many of the previous renditions could've been considered as outdated. This included replacing their increasingly retro appearances and refitting the rooms with sleeker, modern designs. In addition, the ride retained some of its notable post-show features while still receiving an update, including the monitors displaying the riders as they pass by the overhead cameras.[27]

All of these rooms are shown and viewed on an even surface, but after the final octagon room, the speedramp dips down at an angle, where riders go under the train tracks for the Walt Disney World Railroad. As riders travel back up to ground level, and toward the exit to Tomorrowland, they pass by other outer-space destinations. The first two octagon rooms and the first four hexagon rooms can all be viewed from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover just after passing through the lift hill bay because they have no ceilings.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover[edit]

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (then known simply as "Tomorrowland Transit Authority") was also closed with Space Mountain on April 19, 2009, during which time it also underwent a refurbishment.[28] The closure was necessary due to extensive construction work planned for the roller coaster, and the inherent safety risks such activity would pose to Transit Authority riders. Additionally, Space Mountain has access doors that open onto the TTA track which can not be safely used while the attraction is running.

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority reopened on September 11, 2009. Although traveling the same path through the dome, the ongoing renovation inside was obscured by walls and posters announcing Space Mountain's re-opening date. On November 11, 2009 the construction walls were removed, providing an early glimpse of the refurbished roller coaster and post show.

Incidents[edit]

There have been two fatal incidents that have occurred at the attraction, both in 2006. One was a seven-year-old terminal cancer patient who died due to a metastatic pulmonary blastoma tumor,[29] and a 73-year-old man who died of natural causes due to a heart condition.[30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Janzen (Fall 1998, #30). "Disney's Space Mountain". The "E" Ticket: 30–41.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Flair, Ric. "Ric Flair". Wikipedia. 
  3. ^ Surrell, Jason (2007). The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak. New York, New York: Disney Editions. pp. 37–49. ISBN 978-1-4231-0155-0. 
  4. ^ a b c Surrell, p. 37.
  5. ^ Surrell, p. 38.
  6. ^ a b Surrell, pp. 38–40.
  7. ^ Surrell, p. 40.
  8. ^ a b Surrell, p. 41.
  9. ^ Surrell, pp. 41–44
  10. ^ Surrell, p. 43
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Walt Disney World Resort – Operational Updates". www.disneyworld.com. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  13. ^ a b Jason Garcia (2009-01-08). "Walt Disney World's Space Mountain closing for 'refreshment' on April 19". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  14. ^ Jason Garcia and Sara K. Clarke (2009-06-08). "Wait may be more fun at Disney's Space Mountain". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Disney Parks Blogs
  17. ^ Starry-O-Phonic Sound report
  18. ^ http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2010/08/new-music-added-to-space-mountain-at-walt-disney-world-resort/
  19. ^ Original Article @ DisneyParks Blog
  20. ^ a b Space Mountain soft-opens to visitors – JeffLangeDVD
  21. ^ Space Mountain soft-opens to visitors with enhanced queue and video games – Attractions Magazine
  22. ^ http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2009/11/space-mountain-attraction-update/#comments
  23. ^ "We've Come So Far (Promising Tomorrows)". YouTube. TheMellowPumpkin. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  24. ^ 2009 renovations
  25. ^ YouTube film of the Home Of Future Living.
  26. ^ Here's To The Future (YouTube)
  27. ^ Space Mountain Full Ride and Post.
  28. ^ "Magic Kingdom Park Operational Updates". Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  29. ^ "Safety report: Boy died after ride at Disney". Orlando Sentinel. October 18, 2006. Retrieved October 24, 2006. [dead link]
  30. ^ "Orlando Sentinel – Quarterly state reports cite "natural" death, injuries – Jan 30, 2007". Blogs.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 

External links[edit]