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Behind the Ride: Space Mountain

Space Mountain is the alpha and omega of Disney roller coasters. Its legendary status is so significant that it’s a pop culture reference virtually everyone understands. Perhaps no other theme park attraction in the history of the industry has better name recognition. How does the attraction pull off all the tricks that have made it such a theme park behemoth? Let’s go Behind the Ride to find out all the dazzling secrets of Space Mountain.

The Experience: The original indoor roller coaster

The Trick: An idea literally a decade in the making

Image: DisneyHere are three facts about the design of Space Mountain.

  • Space Mountain debuted in 1975.
  • Walt Disney was involved in the planning of Space Mountain.
  • Walt Disney died in 1966.

The above reflects just how much planning was involving in the building of the world’s first indoor roller coaster. Disney employees at WED Enterprises loved space travel, one of the most popular subjects of the 1950s and 1960s. Their job duties occasionally allowed them to interact with the heavyweights of the field. Disney even aired “science factual” programming during the 1950s that used Wernher von Braun, the father of Rocket Science, as a technical advisor.

Nobody cared more about getting the science of space travel right more than Walt Disney. When his cohorts presented plans for a space travel simulator called Space Port, Uncle Walt loved the idea. He financed concept art for the attraction and even argued for a critical component of its design. He fervently believed that Space Port would only work as a dark ride. An indoor dark ride.

Image: DisneyConstructing an outdoor recreation of outer space wasn’t ideal to Disney. He knew that sunlight and inclement weather were both factors that could disrupt the illusion of interstellar travel. An indoor setting would provide a controlled environment, a better backdrop for the emptiness of outer space. Imagineers could paint the walls and control the lighting, recreating the unforgettable imagery of mankind’s first escape from its atmosphere. While Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon was still several years away, scientists already knew the mechanics of orbital launch. Innovators such as Wernher von Braun could provide Disney with advice on building the most realistic Space Port.

There was just one problem…

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