Hyperion airship

Hyperion airship

The Hyperion is a fictional 1907 French airship, featured in the 1974 Walt Disney film “The Island at the Top of the World.” Although the airship only occupies a relatively small amount of the overall length of the film, it plays a prominent role, both as a memorable set piece and in the film’s plot line. The airship is visually stunning and is in the tradition of great Disney machines like the Nautilus from "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea." The airship has an obvious Jules Verne quality to it.

The Hyperion was featured prominently in all film promotional materials.

Film Plot

The plot of “The Island At The Top Of The World” revolves around a rich Victorian Englishman’s attempt to locate his lost son in the Arctic in 1907. The Englishman employs the Hyperion and its pilot, French aviator Captain Brieux, to fly his search expedition to the Arctic. During the search, the expedition discovers a lost Viking Civilization. In the plot of the film, the airship is completely destroyed.


The airship Hyperion (as depicted in the film) is a rigid, or semi-rigid dirigible approximately 200 feet long. The ship features a highly streamlined crimson or rose colored gas bag (envelope) and an enclosed control gondola suspended from a thin exposed service catwalk. Twin gasoline engines, positioned in the rear of the catwalk drive the two propellers that extend outward from either side of the catwalk on a metal truss. The rudders are also suspended from the rear of the catwalk. The envelope of the ship contains stabilizer fins in the rear and front and is crisscrossed by rope netting.


The Hyperion was designed by the film’s production design team headed by Peter Ellenshaw. The airship existed as several scale models built for the film. The press kit for the 1974 release of the film boasts that Goodyear blimp pilots were consulted on the Hyperion’s design and deemed it theoretically airworthy. The airship bears a resemblance to the real life Lebaudy Airship named République of 1908. However, it must be pointed out that it is only speculation that this real airship served as inspiration, but the resemblance is striking.


The Hyperion was also originally planned to be part of a major attraction called Discovery Bay, which was planned for the Anaheim, California Disneyland’s Adventureland. Some Disneyland planning models and sketches depict a large wooden hangar with the nose of a life-size replica of the Hyperion protruding from the hangar’s open doors. The hangar was to house a ride that was described as having the park visitors enter the hangar and climb aboard the Hyperion. They would then be taken on an aerial adventure over the Arctic. The ride was planned to use film and a moving platform to simulate the ride, at least two decades before virtual reality rides began to be installed in theme parks. However, the dismal box-office sales of "Island At The Top Of The World" caused Disney to scrap the ride concept.

Although the film did very poorly at the box office, the Hyperion lives on today in some aspects of the Disney empire. When Euro Disney was build outside of Paris, France, a life-size replica of the airship was incorporated into an entertainment pavilion and food court named Hyperion Café. The structure features the front portion of the airship protruding from the building. The Hyperion’s look was slightly updated and stylized from the actual look of the ship in the film. However, the essence of the original design rings true. The Hyperion built for Disneyland Paris was built in separate countries. The gondola was built in London and the balloon was built by a company named kolt in Germany.

Disney’s California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, California (adjacent to Disneyland) features the Hyperion Theater, named after the airship.


An unrelated airship named Hyperion is featured in the novel "Skybreaker" by Kenneth Oppel.

Hyperion is the name of Disney's book publishing division.
Early in The Walt Disney Company's history, their studio occupied a building at 2719 Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles.


* [http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID112080.asp "Laughing Place-Discovery Bay"]

* [http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2005/05/31/616.aspx "Jill Hill Media-Let's take a trip to "The Island at the Top of the World"]

* [http://www.airshipmodler.com Airship Modeler.com web forums]

* The Island at the Top of the World - Film: 1974, Walt Disney
* The Island at the Top of the World promotional press kit for the film

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