Sunday, June 30, 2013

The History of Space Mountain

The History



Back in 1967, Disneyland was in the works to completely renovate Tomorrowland. It had been a showcase for corporate sponsors like Monsanto and Bell Telephone for many years, and the outdated retro-future needed a new upgrade. Gone were the antiquated structures like the World Clock and Moonliner. In came the PeopleMover, Carousel of Progress, and Adventure Thru Inner Space. But the most highly anticipated attraction of the 1967 Tomorrowland remodel was a new high-speed space-themed ride, imagined by Walt Disney in conjunction with Arrow Development Co. (now Arrow Dynamics). The ride was shelved after the death of Walt in 1966, and so 1967 came and went, with no sign of Space Mountain in sight.

Early Space Mountain concept art
But Walt Disney World in Florida longed for the same type of success that the Matterhorn was bringing to Disneyland, and there were talks of bringing a Matterhorn to Orlando. Unfortunately, Disney World's Fantasyland was not large enough to accommodate a Matterhorn, and the idea of Space Mountain was brought back to life.


Space Mountain would join the relatively new Carousel of Progress (moved from Disneyland in 1974), and the Tomorrowland of Disney World was finally coming into shape. The Space Mountain in Florida is essentially a similar track layout to the Matterhorn, and was quite like its Disneyland counterpart when Space Mountain arrived here in 1977. However, as the years went by, these old coasters became increasingly out-of-date. The Matterhorn received some new decoration in the '70's, including the now-famous yeti, and the Skyway was removed in the 1990's. Space Mountain received similar treatment in Florida, with new waiting queues and frequent updates. But California's Space Mountain was a smaller, less-impressive copycat of the one in Florida. By 1998, Tomorrowland was in need of refurbishment, and the now infamous redesign of Tomorrowland in Disneyland took place. New rides like Astro Orbitor and Rocket Rods appeared, while others received updated features and colors. Aside from fixing the many issues of Space Mountain, someone thought it needed a new coat of paint. And Space Mountain was painted brown and green.


Why they chose to do this is an absolute mystery, as it was well-hated by guests and didn't fit the "theme" of Tomorrowland whatsoever. Of the countless mistakes of the 1998 "New Tomorrowland", this ranks as one of the worst. Fortunately it didn't last long, and in 2003 Space Mountain was shut down.

2005 was a monumental year for Disneyland, as the park celebrated its 50th anniversary. Two days before Disneyland's birthday, Space Mountain reopened unannounced, with an entirely new waiting queue, ride decorations, and most importantly, a brand new track layout. The new Space Mountain trumped not only the old, but also its once dominant Disney World rival. Today it enjoys average wait times of 1-2 hours and doesn't disappoint. It remains to be arguably the best roller coaster in all of the Disney Parks.

My Perspective

Though my memories of the original Space Mountain are rather vague, I still recall the white tunnels and viewing platform of the queue (guests could actually watch the roller coaster while waiting in line). The original track was bumpy and uncomfortable, not unlike the Matterhorn, whereas the new track is smooth and fast. I first rode the Space Mountain in Orlando several years ago and couldn't stand it. It was like the Matterhorn, but in the dark with no cool scenery to look at. The awesome music adds so much to the experience of the one in Disneyland, and the only soundtrack that can be heard on the one in Disney World is the loud noise of the tracks and machinery. Which isn't to say I'm biased towards Disneyland. My favorite ride is Splash Mountain, and I much prefer Disney World's adaptation of it. But I hate the Space Mountain there, and it won't be one of the first rides I go to when I next visit. For now, the one here will more than suffice.

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