Today In Disney History ~ April 19th
Space Mountain is an indoor outer space-themed steel roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Opened on January 15, 1975, Space Mountain is the oldest operating roller coaster in the state of Florida, and is the original version of the iconic attraction that has since been replicated at all of The Walt Disney Company’s Magic Kingdom-style theme parks worldwide, except for the Shanghai Disneyland Resort. RCA helped fund Space Mountain’s construction and sponsored the ride from 1975 to 1993; FedEx sponsored Space Mountain from 1994 to 2004.
The Space Mountain concept was a descendant of the first Disney “mountain” attraction, the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, which opened in 1959. The Matterhorn’s success had convinced Walt Disney that thrilling rides did have a place in his park.
In 1964, Walt first approached designer John Hench with his idea for a new attraction that would be the focal point of a renovated Tomorrowland planned for 1967. His “Space Port” would include a roller-coaster-style ride in the dark, with lighting and other special effects. Originally called “Space Voyage” with concept artwork by John Hench, Clem Hall, George McGinnis, and Herb Ryman. The attraction concept continued to be refined over the coming years by WED Enterprises, and in June 1966, the “Space Port” attraction was called “Space Mountain” for the first time.
WED partnered with Arrow Development Company, the same company that had helped design the Matterhorn’s roller coaster systems years before. The initial concept was to have four separate tracks, but the technology available at the time, combined with the amount of space required versus that which was available within Disneyland, made such a design impossible. Walt Disney’s death in December 1966 and the new emphasis on preparing for the newly announced Disney World project forced WED to put aside the design of Space Mountain indefinitely. The Magic Kingdom’s early success, and its unexpected popularity with teens and young adults, prompted WED to begin planning thrill rides for the new park shortly after its opening in October 1971. A new Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was considered, but it wouldn’t fit within Florida’s Fantasyland.
Ultimately, designers returned to designing Space Mountain. The Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland had the right amount of available land, and computing technology had improved significantly since the initial design phases. To help cover the cost of developing and building Space Mountain, Card Walker, the CEO of Walt Disney Productions, convinced RCA chairman Robert Sarnoff to sponsor the new attraction; RCA was contracted by Disney to provide the communications hardware for the Walt Disney World Resort, and their contract stated that if Disney presented an attraction of interest, RCA would provide USD $10 million to support it.
The interior of the structure, the queue area, the tracks of the roller coaster, and the post-show each went through a large number of various design changes before the current layout was selected. Originally, the mountain was to be positioned in the southern portion of Tomorrowland, which would be where Disneyland would install their version of the ride in 1977. Instead, it was placed outside the park’s perimeter berm, roughly due east of Cinderella Castle, with a tunnel, called the “star corridor”, under the Walt Disney World Railroad tracks installed for people to reach it, while Carousel of Progress opened in the originally planned location. This is contrary to the Disneyland counterpart, where people directly enter through the side of the building.
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart; Wiki
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