- Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
Space Mountain at the
Magic Kingdomopened on January 15, 1975.Infobox Disney ride
type=Steel Roller coaster
opened=January 15, 1975
Original concept and design
The Magic Kingdom's version of the Space Mountain series of roller coasters began with many different proposals and designs. Early concepts ranged from an entire enclosed Tomorrowland/Space Port complex to a mountain that would have roller coaster riders weaving both inside and outside the structure, much like the original Disney "mountain," the
Matterhorn Bobsleds. Ultimately, inspiration was taken from Walt Disney Imagineer John Hench's initial sketch of the originally-proposed Space Port intended for a future expansion to Disneyland's Tomorrowland, an idea that didn't make it into the renovation that opened in 1967. The inside of the structure, the queue area, the roller coaster track(s), and the post-show each went through various design changes before the current layout was selected. Originally, the mountain was to be positioned in the southern portion of Tomorrowland, which is where Disneyland would install its Space Mountain 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 Railroadtracks installed for guests to reach it.
The roller coaster
Guests board the trains in the Space Port, which is enclosed within the mountain itself. The mountain is hollow and 300ft in diameter, allowing waiting guests and passengers aboard the
Tomorrowland Transit Authorityto see many of the effects used in the attraction. Guests can also see the glow-in-the-darkvehicles traveling along the respective left (Alpha) and right (Omega) side tracks. As the rockets leave the Space Port, they travel past the loading area, the Space Port 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 guests toward and eventually up the lift hill of both the Space Port and Space Station 75. A projection of Earth, stars, comets, meteors, and asteroids can be seen when looking past the lift hill bay's open ceiling. The space shuttles then make a small and quick dip before plunging into numerous twists and turns as the shuttles move around the Space Station in near-complete darkness, including the coaster's steepest drop of 39 degrees, before eventually coming to a halt.
The Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain is the only version that has two roller coaster tracks within the iconic mountain structure. They are mirror images of each other, with only minor variations to allow the tracks to cross one another as needed. The left side track is called Alpha while the right side track is called Omega. Both tracks offer the same experience for guests, with effects equally shared and duplicated.
Space Mountain has 13 trains for each side, each consisting of two single-file rocket-shaped cars. From 1975-1989, each of these two rockets 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 trains were completely replaced. These new trains were externally and cosmetically very similar to the originals, and still consisted of two rockets joined together. As before, guests ride single-file. Now, however, the rockets have three seats, with one guest 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.
Space Mountain is known for the numerous breakdowns that happen as a result of guests taking too long to get off the ride causing multiple trains to back up at the unload area resulting in the ride's computer system to stop the ride (a "breakdown"). To cast members, this is known as a Cascade. Worklights are turned on during the breakdown allowing cast members to go onto the track and reset the ride. This also allows guests inside the building (waiting in line and those riding through on the
Tomorrowland Transit Authority) a rare privilege to look up and see the actual track layout above them.
Building characteristics and sponsorship
From 1975-1993, Space Mountain was sponsored by RCA, who presented Space Mountain as an actual exhibit, more so than an experience as it is billed now. While the white and blue color scheme of the iconic Space Mountain structure remains the same, the entrance and exit building was also painted white and blue, and even included blue patterns painted on the exterior walls. 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 and still is Space Mountain's slogan "A Journey Through Time and Space", beneath this 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, guests entered the spacious lobby, which did not feature the current mural of the Milky Way, but was simple black and blue painted walls that had various angular designs in yellows and oranges placed upon them. 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.
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. 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. 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 than 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.
From 1994-2004, 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 guests 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 Train 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
FastPassreturn line. FastPass machines were also added outside of Space Mountain at this time.
In 2004 FedEX left as sponsor, leaving Space Mountain sponsorless; the majority of FedEX logos, and sponsorship themes were removed in 2005, but some, and even noticeable logos and sponsorship themes are still around today. Particularly interesting is the sign used to label Space Mountain for passengers on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. It is still the original 1975 frame, boarder, and bold and blue Space Mountain lettering. Only the phrase "A Journey Through Time and Space" was updated in font design, along with the visual and narrated mention of Space Mountain in 2005. The narration for Space Mountain via the WEDway Peoplmover, now Tomorrowland Transit Authority has had different spiels from 1975, 1985, 1994, and 2005.
From 1975-1985 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 and less loud portion of this song, however the music heard in the Star Corridor, and the music heard in the Zig-Zag corridor remain original from 1975. The warning spiel for the space shuttle vehicles, and sound effects are also original from 1975. Guests could hear music to the song "Music Makers" and "Sentimental Journeys" where the left and right side unload corridors merged together 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 guests unloaded from their space shuttle, they entered the post show area of Space Mountain, which was also accessible for guests who decided not to experience the roller coaster segment.
From 1985-2005, the unload and merger corridor both had a slightly different soft tune to RCA's new song "We've Come so Far". In 2005, this was replaced with the musical score commissioned for Disneyland's Space Mountain that was refurbished and reopened in 2005.
The post show for The Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain is unique only to itself. No other Space Mountain has an extensive post show like the Magic Kingdom version, which allows it to somehow maintain its original 1975 designs as an exhibit rather than as an experience. Guests board a moving walkway, known as a speedramp, that takes guests back to Tomorrowland. As guests enter the post show, above them is a flashing warning sign and spiel, both original from 1985. To the left is a half octagon shaped room. and on the right are four large octagon rooms. 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 guests go under the train tracks for the Walt Disney World Railroad. As guests travel back up to ground level, and toward the exit to Tomorrowland, TV Monitors on the right show live images of guests on the speedramp, just before they exit into Tomorrowland. The first two octagon rooms and the first four hexagon rooms could all be viewed the Tomorrowland Transit Authority because their ceilings were non existent, which allowed open space to look into.
Disneyland does not have a pre-show. It has recently disappeared, but a hidden
Winnie The Poohrepeatedly moved across a rock in the second octogonal room. See Hidden Mickeys.
A long line is typical of all popular attractions in the Walt Disney World Resort, and Space Mountain is no exception. Many people try to get to the parks as early as possible in order to quickly ride certain rides and thus avoid most of the wait time. Most famous is the rush to get to Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain as soon as the park opens, before the wait time reaches in excess of thirty minutes where it is likely to remain for the remainder of the day. It was dubbed "The Space Mountain Marathon" by those who would arrive before the Magic Kingdom's opening hour of nine, waiting behind the rope at the main gate until the minute the park is opened and then racing to the attraction, hoping to be the first ones of the day to ride. However, due to some guests running recklessly without regards to safety, the cast members have recently begun putting up ropes at the entrances to the various "lands", forcing guests to walk with them to the ride.
Former professional wrestler
Ric Flairreferred to himself as "Space Mountain," e.g. "It might be the oldest ride in the park, but it has the longest lines. Woo!"
* [http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/attractionDetail?id=SpaceMountainAttractionPage Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom Official Page]
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