Behind the Attraction: Space Mountain
I’m just diving into the new series on Disney+, “Behind the Attraction.” We’re going to cover each of the five episodes that were released on July 21 separately, starting with Space Mountain.
Space Mountain debuted at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 1975. Imagineers, especially Disney Legend John Hench, had been working on concepts of Space Mountain for Disneyland since the early 1960s. But they had to shift their focus to Walt Disney World.
The Matterhorn successfully debuted at Disneyland in 1959. Walt asked his Imagineers to make a space-themed roller coaster for Tomorrowland that would be more technologically advanced than the Matterhorn, and twice as big.
“Walt and the team had an idea to do a spaceport within Tomorrowland,” Disney Imagineer Owen Yoshino said in the Space Mountain episode of Behind the Attraction. “The featured anchor attraction would be Space Voyage.”
Early sketches from John Hench show a “Space Voyage” coaster with four tracks weaving in and out of each other and through a large mountain —similar to the Matterhorn track layout.
The big technological advance — a computer-controlled brake blocking system to keep coaster trains from colliding — was way ahead of its time.
The Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain ride ended up with two tracks instead of four — both of them indoors. The Florida version of the ride was essentially Disneyland’s Matterhorn track layout built inside a fully-enclosed mountain.
The instant success of Space Mountain at Walt Disney World prompted Imagineering to fast-track a version of the ride for Disneyland that debuted in 1977. The Anaheim mountain would be 200 feet in diameter — significantly smaller than the Florida mountain that was 300 feet in diameter.
Space Mountain updates
Surf guitarist Dick Dale added a sci-fi soundtrack to Disneyland’s Space Mountain in 1996. A 2005 renovation brought a new score by “Incredibles” composer Michael Giacchino along with a new coaster track. Big rig flatbeds were trucked into Space Mountain to remove and replace the coaster track that was built atop a dirt floor, according to Yoshino.
“It’s like a ship in a bottle,” Yoshino said in the Disney+ episode. “Parts by parts, they had to get the track out.”
Through the years, Halloween-themed Ghost Galaxy and Star Wars-themed Hyperspace Mountain seasonal overlays have been added to Space Mountain.
As cited in the OC Register,
The “Behind the Attraction” episode ends by making a connection between the Space Mountain ride initially dreamed up for Disneyland and the 2016 Tron Lightcycle motorbike coaster built in Tomorrowland at Shanghai Disneyland.
Another Tron coaster under construction next to the original Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland is expected to debut in 2022. A Tron coaster would be an obvious choice if Imagineering ever decides to once again update Tomorrowland at Disneyland.
The DisneylandForward plan includes concept art of the Tron Lightcycle coaster at Shanghai Disneyland intended to provide a “flavor” of what future expansion could look like over the next couple decades under a reimagined long-term vision for the Anaheim theme park resort district.
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