Archive for the ‘The Disney Mountains’ Category

Book Review – "The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak"

October 27, 2007

The newest “peak” into Walt Disney Imagineering is informative, fascinating, and fun, but leaves its readers thirsty for more by the time their expedition has concluded.
By Blake
Originally posted October 27, 2007.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest are some of the most popular attractions to be found in Disney theme parks worldwide. They’re exhilarating, exciting, fanciful, and fun . . . and they all just so happen to be mountains.

In Disney Editions’ new book “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak”, author Jason Surrell (a Show Writer for Walt Disney Imagineering) delves into the making of these monstrous mountains and tells each attraction’s individual story of its initial conception and journey to open. Quite a fascinating treat for Disney fans, this collection of stories provides a plethora of background information about each attraction, and includes interviews with some of the rides’ key creators.
The first mountain the book delves into is the Matterhorn, a Disneyland original that hasn’t been duplicated at any other Disney park (though, interestingly enough, was at one time scheduled to open at a never-built Switzerland pavilion in Walt Disney World’s Epcot). We learn that if not for Walt Disney’s visit to the set of the 50’s film First Man on the Mountain, the Matterhorn might not have ever been built. Additionally, the Matterhorn revolutionized the concept of a “roller coaster”. Instead of using a wooden track, which wouldn’t be very well managed inside a concrete mountain, the track was built using metal pipes, a concept that has since been used on most roller coasters of today.
Next up is Space Mountain, which was actually originally built to draw an appeal for the teenage audience at the then-four-year-old Walt Disney World. After being put on a hiatus of nearly a decade after Walt Disney’s death, Space Mountain finally opened in 1975.
After Space Mountain is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, probably the most appealing section of the book, as it provides an in-depth look into what this attraction almost became: a part roller coaster, part “Pirates of the Caribbean”-ish journey through the wild west. Originally to be called Thunder Mesa, the main attraction would be a boat ride featuring a full cast of Audio Animatronics portraying a story of cowboys and Native Americans. Surrounding the mountain would be a train roller coaster ride. Eventually, the entire boat ride concept was flushed, and the train concept was conceived into a bigger role; and Big Thunder Mountain was born.
Next is Splash Mountain, which was conceived when the Audio Animatronics show “America Sings” was closing and Disneyland and Imagineers needed a use for the 114 robots used in the show. Hence, Splash Mountain was born. Splash Mountain, though not many guests realize it, is based on the 1946 Disney film Song of the South (which is currently not available for sale in America), which in turn is based on the classic Uncle Remus stories. Originally supposed to be called “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah River Run”, Splash Mountain was also ALMOST going to incorporate mermaids from the Touchstone movie Splash, which, the Imagineers fortunately convinced Michael Eisner, was not a very wise idea.
The final mountain we delve into in “The Disney Mountains” is Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, the newest Disney “E-Ticket” attraction that recently opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2006. Probably the most research-driven Disney attraction in history, Imagineers actually went on several voyages to China to explore mountains there and ask local residents just what a mysterious legendary “yeti” figure might look like. And their research paid off, as Expedition Everest is very much the most authentic Disney attraction ever. The queue line is abundant in cultural artifacts and figures Imagineers retrieved on their journeys to China, and the overall attraction experience is stunningly spectacular. Additionally, the yeti revealed at the ride’s finale is rightfully the most complex Audio Animatronics figure to ever be built in history.
Not only are we treated to full-fledged “making-of” stories in “The Disney Mountains”, but also scattered throughout the book are several 2-8 page looks at some of Disney’s smaller, less popular mountains such as Grizzly Peak at Disney’s California Adventure, Mount Prometheus at Tokyo Disney Sea, Mount Gushmore at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, and Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Also included is a fascinating look at a mountain that was planned for Disneyland but never built: Candy Mountain.
Although all the components of “The Disney Mountains” add up to an exciting look at some of Disney’s most beloved attractions, it leaves readers wanting more. Surely there is more than 20 pages’ worth each of information on these massive attractions. After all, the book’s author Jason Surrell has recently written entire individual books dealing with the creation of Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as The Haunted Mansion. If those attractions were given the treatment of an entire book to themselves, why aren’t the attractions featured in Disney Mountains given the same recognition?
So, while “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak” is a superlative journey through classic Disney adventures, its lack of full treatment for each of the attractions leaves readers thirsty for more. This is by all means fine for the time being, but hopefully sometime soon full credit will be given for the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest.
How do I rank “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak?” (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

“The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak” will most likely please: Disney Fans – Teens – Young Adults – Adults – Older Folks

By Blake; originally posted October 27, 2007. All images (C) Disney.