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Space Mountain has a story?!

Jim Hill

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Space Mountain has a story?!

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I know, I know. Today's column has next to nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day. Unless -- of course -- you're willing to count the people whose faces turn green while they're riding this indoor roller coaster.

But -- as I was tooling down the 5 the other day -- listening to a "Disney Rarities" CD that my good friend, Jeff Lange, was nice enough to prepare for me ... I came across this really intriguing recording.

Near as I can figure, this was a dub of the "Space Mountain" preview tape. You know, the recording that would have run in to the old Disneyland Preview center sometime in 1976. To give guests some idea what sort of thrill ride that enormous structure that was rising up behind Tomorrowland was going to house.

I mean, I was really kind of shocked to discover that "Space Mountain"'s designers really had worked out some sort of a storyline for this attraction. That this Tomorrowland attraction wasn't actually just this cool assortment of scenes that you whiz by at warp speed. But that -- as you zip through the dark in your "rocket car" -- the precise sequence of sensations that you feel is supposed to make you aware of the ride's plot.

Don't believe me? Then here ... read this transcription of that recording and see for yourself:

NARRATOR:

Earth man has long dreamed of exploring the mysteries of our galaxy and the inifinte wonders of the universe beyond. You will experience these wonders on your own space journey when Disneyland's spectacular super thrill attraction, Space Mountain, opens in June 1977.

Space Mountain, towering 140 feet into the sky, will complete Walt Disney's original dreams and visions for Tomorrowland. Within this futuristic structure, you will be the astronaut. Hurling through super-space in a high speed race into another galaxy ...

SECOND NARRATOR:

Launch Control, this is Space Center. Go ahead.

NARRATOR:

(Continuing) You and your fellow astronauts board rocket cars on a space station launching platform orbiting high above the Earth. As your journey begins, you'll race through a vast man-made solar field -- energizing your rocket car for its dazzling plunge into super-space. Hold on tight! You're on your way as you blast off into the void of the universe.

Sweeping around the giant glowing geodesic laser satellite, you become engulfed in a spectacular spiral nebula with flashing comets and whirling galaxy. This is super-space penetration.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, guests are already experiencing the sensations of Space Mountain. You will share these sensations when 'Space Mountain' opens at Disneyland.

Ascending the launch portal, amazed at the starry vista of the cosmos overhead. Blasting off on a breath-taking super-fast race through outer space. Your body actually experiencing the force of G. Zooming down the re-entry portal. Feeling the blast of hot air and rocked by a sonic boom.

Yes, you will experience what is truly the ultimate thrill ride attraction. So climb aboard, fasten your seat belt and prepare to blast off ... When Space Mountain opens in June 1977 in Tomorrowland.

Were you as surprised as I was by this allegedly storyline for Space Mountain? I mean, did you get -- as you were chugging up the load-hill inside of this Tomorrowland thrill ride -- that you were supposedly racing by this "a vast man-made solar field -- energizing your rocket car for its dazzling plunge into super-space."

And how about that "glowing geodesic laser satellite." I must have ridden by that thing dozens of times in my lifetime so far. But I have never thought "Gee, look at that glowing geodesic laser satellite." "Look at that big cool space thingy" maybe. But never "Look at that glowing geodesic laser satellite."

The nice thing is -- now that I have this information in hand -- I'll be able to annoy perfect strangers as we stand together in line for Space Mountain. As we slowly make our way toward the attraction's load area, I'll be able to say allegedly clever things like: "See that over there? That's supposed to be the launch portal. And -- overhead -- that's supposed to be a representation of a star-filled vista somewhere high above Earth." And the poor slob who's stuck there in front of me will then turn to his friends and say: "... does anyone want to change place with me?"

Speaking of Space Mountain ... I have some rather disappointing news for Disneyland fans. Though the signage in the Anaheim theme park says that this Tomorrowland attraction will be "relaunching in 2005" as part of Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, WDI insiders are telling me that there are going to be NO significant changes to this thrill ride.

To date, only one new special effect has been approved for this Tomorrowland favorite. A giant swirling galaxy projection. Which will be shown on the inside of the structure just above the ride's load hill. Which (for those of you who have been paying attention) will look an awful lot like the swirling galaxy projection that you see later on in the attraction.

That's it for the changes in the attraction, folks. No new ride vehicles. No new soundtrack. No surprise 360 loop. Just the same old thrill ride (which -- you'll have to admit -- was still a fairly snazzy thrill ride) that we had before.

Plus -- of course -- that new swirling galaxy effect projected onto the interior ceiling of the building.

It really is a shame that Disney management (to date) hasn't listened to any of the suggestions that the Imagineers have made regarding upgrading and/or improving this Anaheim classic. Among the ideas that have allegedly been put on the table are resurrecting Eddie Sotto's "Sci Fi City" concept (I.E. what Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland would have been renamed had the Oriental Land Company opted to go forward with Eddie's ambitious redo plans) for "Hyper Space Mountain," as well as a Muppet-based retheming of this Tomorrowland favorite.

"Muppet-based?" you sputter. "How would the Muppets have ever fit into the storyline of Space Mountain?" Well, would you believe "Pigs in Space Mountain?" Where -- as you walked into Tomorrowland -- you'd have seen the U.S.S. Swinetrek jutting out of the side of that giant cone-shaped mountain. Where it had evidently crashed earlier that day.

As you made your way through the queue, you were to have been told that you were about to join Miss Piggy, Captain Link Hogthrob and Dr. Julius Strangepork on a dangerous trip into deep space. Your mission: To deliver a pepperoni pizza to the Supreme Galactic Leader in 30 minutes or less. Otherwise, our universe faces total annihilation.

Most of the Muppet appearances allegedly would have been on the overhead monitors as you made your way through the queue. Though I told that the Imagineers were hoping that they might be able to persuade Disney management to spring for a Piggy, Link and Julius figure to appear somewhere inside the attraction.

Sadly, neither "Hyper Space Mountain" or "Pigs in Space Mountain" made it off the drawing board. So I guess we're stuck with just our plain Jane, old "Space Mountain" now. When this Tomorrowland thrill ride opens in the Spring of 2005.

On the upside, now you at least you know the official storyline of "Space Mountain." So -- as you zoom along the same old ride track -- you can at least amuse yourself by saying things like: "Look, I'm moving past a vast solar field as I energize my rocket car" or "Look out! We're coming up fast on that glowing geodesic laser satellite!"

Okay. It's not much. But it's at least something.

Your thoughts?

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  • Old article I somehow missed! Great info. Wow, I don't see it though. Sounds more like marketing hype than an actual ride naration. Hmm?

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