April 7, 2006, the grand opening of Expedition Everest. Yes, today is the anniversary of the day the Yeti became a big part of Animal Kingdom.
The ceremonial grand opening is led by Disney CEO Bob Iger and theme parks chairman Jay Rasulo. The attraction, which features a snowy mountain setting and an “abominable snowman” figure, is sculpted from 1,800 tons of steel, and covering more than six acres!
It is listed in the 2011 book of Guinness World Records as the most expensive roller coaster in the world. Including sets and extras, its total cost was reported to be US $100 million, following 6 years of planning and construction. It is the tallest of the artificial mountains at Walt Disney World and in the world. Contrary to popular belief, Expedition Everest is not Florida’s tallest mountain. Expedition Everest stands at 199 feet tall while Walton County’s Britton Hill is 345 feet tall. However, it is Disney’s 18th mountain-themed attraction.
The Yeti is the largest and most complex audio-animatronic figure ever built by Walt Disney Imagineering. It is 22 feet tall. Its “skin” measures 1,000 square feet, and is held in place by 1,000 snaps and 250 zippers. Its movement is controlled by 19 actuators (when functioning in “A-mode”, its full mode of operation). It can move 5 ft horizontally and 2 ft vertically when functioning in “A-mode”.
The Yeti has not been in full “A-mode” operation since a few months after the ride’s opening, when its framing split, causing significant risk of catastrophic malfunction if it were operated. It currently only operates in the alternative “B-mode”, which is limited to a strobe-light effect designed to give the appearance of movement, earning it the nickname “Disco Yeti”. The problem was caused by damage to the yeti’s concrete base structure, which is unlikely to be repaired until a major refurbishment in the future, because the design limits access to the Yeti without major deconstructing of the superstructure.
Even without the full Yeti movement, this is still by far one of my favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World.