Space Mountain is the name of a space-themed indoor roller coaster attraction located at five of the six Magic Kingdom-style Disney Parks. Although all five versions of the attraction are different in nature, all have a similar domed exterior façade that is a landmark for the respective park. The original Space Mountain coaster opened in 1975 at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Other versions of the attraction were built at the other Disney parks (all except for Shanghai Disneyland Park).
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.
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. However, it was decided the mountain would be built outside the park, on the opposite side of the train tracks that act as the perimeter of the park. 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. Space Mountain then opened on January 15, 1975.
The success of Walt Disney World's Space Mountain prompted designers to revisit their original plan to build one for Disneyland. After two years of construction, the $20 million complex opened on May 27, 1977, including the roller coaster, 1,100-seat Space Stage, 670-seat Space Place (fast food restaurant) and Starcade.
Six of the original seven Mercury astronauts attended Space Mountain's opening — Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Senator John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. The lone exception was Gus Grissom, who had died in the Apollo 1 fire ten years earlier. Largely due in part to the opening of Space Mountain, the Memorial Day day attendance record was set, with 185,500 guests over the three-day period. Space Mountain at Disneyland was designed by Bill Watkins of Walt Disney Imagineering, including a tubular steel track design awarded U.S. Patent 4,029,019. The track layout was different from that in Florida because of space limitations in the California park.
Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland opened with the park on April 15, 1983. It was the first version of Space Mountain to open concurrently with the park. From its opening in 1983 and until late 2006, Tokyo Disneyland's Space Mountain was an almost exact clone of Disneyland's Space Mountain. The ride was then redesigned to have a more sci-fi futuristic look to it, with new effects, and a new spaceport which features a futuristic spaceship hanging from the ceiling. Like its Walt Disney World counterpart, there is no ride audio to the seats.
The version at Disneyland Paris opened on June 1, 1995, three years after the opening of the park. It was originally called De la Terre à la Lune, and was originally designed as a view on space travel from a Jules Verne-era perspective, based on the novel From the Earth to the Moon. The track is significantly different from the other four, as it's the only one to include a launch and 3 inversions (Sidewinder, Corkscrew, Horseshoe). It underwent modifications in 2005 and became Space Mountain: Mission 2. This journey was slightly different to the first as it took riders beyond the Moon, to the very edge of the universe. In January 2015 the ride closed for yet another refurbishment and was reopened in August 2015. The ride temporarily closed in 2017 on January 8 and was replaced with Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain on May 7. Mission 2 will return in late 2018.
Hyperspace Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland is based on the refurbished Space Mountain at Disneyland, with a similar soundtrack and the same layout. It also features new show elements not presented in the refurbished California version (i.e. a "hyperspeed" tunnel). It will not feature the Rockin' Space Mountain configuration that was featured in Disneyland's Space Mountain in 2007.
Unlike most Space Mountains, the boarding area for the attraction is quite small. Not present is a Space Station of its two most similar counterparts at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. Instead, a dark queue featuring neon earth-tone colored planets along with star patterns decorate the area. Lining the walls of the station are colored neon light bars that are used for lighting and decoration.
Screenwriter Max Landis wrote a feature film based on the Space Mountain attraction, which was developed for a short time at Disney. The film was based in a 1950s retro-future. This idea of the future wouldn't contain the internet or cell phones but be powered by many large contraptions and robots. One key plot point of the film integrated the idea of people getting sent into hyperspace but when returning they would realize their soul had gone missing from them and they would eventually transform into terrifying monsters. The film was ultimately scrapped.