On June 1, 2017, just a few days after the 40th anniversary of its debut in Disneyland, classic Space Mountain will return to Tomorrowland after a brief refurbishment to transition it from the Star Wars themed Hyperspace Mountain overlay. More than 450 million guests have enjoyed one of those thrilling experiences since the attraction opened.
The attraction means something extra to me as my grandfather, Vic Greene, was involved in the early planning for the ride. Walt Disney himself asked the Imagineers in 1964 to build an indoor roller-coaster that would take place in the dark. Disney’s Imagineers started working with Arrow, the same company that had just finished the world’s first tubular steel coaster 5 years earlier at Disneyland – The Matterhorn.
Here are some fun facts to celebrate the ride’s 40 years of out-of-this world fun:
- The opening ceremony for Space Mountain in Disneyland Park took place on May 27, 1977.
- The ceremony was attended by the original crew of Project Mercury: Captain Scott Carpenter, Colonel Gordon Cooper, Senator John Glenn, Captain Walter Schirra, Admiral Alan Shepard and Donald “Deke” Slayton, along with Betty Grissom, widow of former Mercury and Apollo 1 astronaut Gus Grissom.
- The summer that Space Mountain opened in 1977 saw new attendance records set at Disneyland.
- The idea for Space Mountain originated with Walt Disney way back in 1964. He wanted to build a roller-coaster-style ride but in the dark, which no one had ever done before. With the technological explosion in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the team of Walt Disney Imagineers were able to utilize lighting, music and pinpoint projection technologies to finally transform Walt’s dream into a reality.
- Space Mountain at Disneyland was built on the site previously occupied by the Flying Saucers attraction (1961-1966).
- Space Mountain was only the second attraction to premiere first at Walt Disney World in Florida, then in California. (Country Bear Jamboree was the first.) Space Mountain opened at the Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World in 1975.
- When the attraction opened at Magic Kingdom Park in Florida, it was the first computer-controlled thrill ride and the first Disney attraction to use computers in its design.
- In order to preserve the scale of Tomorrowland buildings in Disneyland, the base of the Space Mountain structure is set 17 feet below ground level.
- The design of the “Space Probe DL05,” suspended over the Spaceport boarding area inside Space Mountain, was inspired by the iconic Discovery One spacecraft from the classic 1968 science fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
- An onboard musical score to accompany the rockets as they rush, plummet and turn through Space Mountain was first added in 1996. Composer Aarin Richard worked with Disney Imagineers to fuse two musical forms of the 1960s, surf music and Sci Fi sounds. The score was based on Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals, featuring synthesized music that culminated in the beach-sounds of guitarist Dick Dale.
- From 2003 to 2005, Space Mountain underwent a major refurbishment. The track was recreated, using the same layout as the original design, and the attraction featured a new generation of effects, lighting, music and technologies. A highlight was the addition of the unique rotating rings through which guests travel as their rockets voyage upwards toward their Space Mountain flight.
- The attraction’s 2005 “re-launch” featured, as guest of honor, astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
- The enhanced 2005 Space Mountain featured a new musical score by Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino (“Lost,” “Mission Impossible: III” “Ratatouille,” “Up”). The new score employs the eerie sounds of the theremin, an early (1920s) electronic musical instrument, along with other electronic and classical instruments.
- Space Mountain is an adaptable attraction and undergoes special transformations from time to time:
- In summer 2006 it became “Rock It Space Mountain” with separate daytime and nighttime experiences including Grand Night 2006. The nighttime version incorporated the song “Let It Out” by Hoobastank.
- The following year brought “Rockin” Space Mountain” for several months through April 2007 as part of “The Year of a Million Dreams.” It featured the song “Higher Ground” by the Red Hot Chile Peppers.
- The Halloween-inspired Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy debuted in 2009 and has become a Halloween Time tradition at Disneyland. Through the use of projections and other special effects, guests are blasted into an uncharted section of the universe full of ghostly apparitions, creepy sounds and haunting music.
- Space Mountain launched into a galaxy far, far away in November 2015 for the Star Wars Season of the Force. Guests in Hyperspace Mountain find themselves in an action-packed battle between Rebel X-Wing and Imperial TIE Fighters.
There are versions of Space Mountain in five Disney theme parks around the globe Orlando, Anaheim, Toyko, Paris, and Hong Kong. Do you have a favorite Space Mountain?