Nuggets of Wisdom

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Top 11 Favorite Disney World Attractions (#3)

#3: Space Mountain/Big Thunder Mountain/Splash Mountain

What could be more appropriate for my number three spot than a three-way tie among the three mountains of the Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain?

I had to make this a three-way tie, not because I couldn’t decide which of them I liked the best, but because each of them alone wouldn’t suffice for single entries, and putting all three on the list would simply clutter it. After all, there’s not really much I can say about roller coasters (and a log flume).

But that’s really the thing: these rides aren’t simply roller coasters (and a log flume). Like every other Disney attraction, they’re experiences in and of themselves with all of the storytelling and attention to detail that Disney has become famous for.

Any amusement park can build a roller coaster or a log flume, but only Disney can have you following the misadventures of a trickster rabbit, or zipping along on a runaway mine train through a ghost town, or soaring through the deep recesses of space.

That leads me to my all-time favorite roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain. True to its name, the coaster really does make you feel as though you’re riding a rocket ship through space as you pass through swirling stars and wormholes.

What makes this roller coaster the most thrilling is the very fact that it’s set indoors in total darkness. With most other coasters, you can see the track, so you can anticipate the twists and turns when they come along.

But in Space Mountain, everything is set in the dark. As such, there is no way of knowing which direction you are going, and all of the twists and turns come as complete surprises, adding to the overall thrill factor.

Interestingly enough, did you know that Space Mountain was built in Disney World because the Imagineers couldn't think of a way of incorporating the Matterhorn Bobsleds into the park? So instead, they decided to create an entirely different ride made specifically for Disney World, and which would later be imported to Disneyland and all other Disney Parks.

Speaking of which, did you also know that the ride is completely different in Disneyland Paris? While most Space Mountain rides are sit-down steel coasters with a few twists and turn, over in Europe, it’s an inverted roller coaster with a launch made to appear as though you’re being shot out of a cannon. Now that’s hardcore!

Moving on from the world of tomorrow to the world of the Wild West, we have the second best roller coaster in the park: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is also the only coaster in the park with a storyline.

The back story is that the ride takes place in an abandoned mining town called Rainbow Ridge that was built during the hay day of the Gold Rush. The town had been built on land sacred to the Native Americans, and as such, met with a catastrophic fate as an earthquake wrecked the town and caused it to be abandoned. The mine train still remains to this day, and is said to continue running on its own, allegedly powered by the mountain’s curse.

The roller coaster may be set outdoors, but it is equally as claustrophobic as Space Mountain. The ride’s tracks are set within narrow canyon walls and constantly dips in and out of tunnels, caverns, and gullies.

The special effects also add to the thrill, with shifting rocks that fell as though they’re going to topple down upon you, water that sprays upward as you pass through, and humorous scenes involving the townsfolk of the old town, including a man still taking a bath in a tub.

The ride was first designed for Disney World, but was first built in Disneyland before being imported to the other park. Interestingly enough, both rides are mirror reflections of each other, as both are set on opposite sides of the Rivers of America in each park.

Lastly, we have the log flume ride, Splash Mountain. Of course, the big attraction of this, well, attraction, is that it’s based on the songs and characters from the animated portion of Song of the South.

Most people would scratch their heads as to why Disney would create an attraction based on such a controversial movie, but you have to remember that the ride was being constructed during a time when the movie was still being released, and right before the controversial move to stop showing it altogether, at least here in America. (Besides, it was better idea that the original concept of the ride, which was going to be based on the live-action movie, Splash.)

If anything, the attraction does a good job of sharing the story of Brer Rabbit and friends, along with Disney’s most famous song, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!, for future generations. Kids these days aren’t able to watch Song of the South, so Splash Mountain is the best way for them to be exposed to such characters.

Speaking of which, did you know that in Disneyland, many of the characters were imported from a former Disney attraction, America Sings, which also featured singing animals? At that time, Splash Mountain was over budget in its construction, and since America Sings had run its course, most of its characters were moved to Splash Mountain…

…that is, with the exception of two geese animatronics, whose feathers were stripped and exteriors scrapped in order to convert them into robots for another more futuristic attraction. Which one is that? Well, it happens to be the next item on this list.