Space Mountain (known as Hyperspace Mountain from 2015 to 2017) is an indoor, space-themed roller coaster in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Opened on May 27, 1977, it was the second roller coaster built at Disneyland, and was the second of the five versions of Space Mountain built by The Walt Disney Company. Its exterior façade is one of Disneyland's four "mountain" structures that serve as park landmarks.
Walt Disney originally conceived the idea of a space-themed roller coaster for Disneyland following the success of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which opened in 1959. However, a number of factors including lack of available space, Walt Disney's death, and the Disney company's focus on building what would become Walt Disney World led to the project's postponement in the late 1960s. After the early success of the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World, Disney revived the Space Mountain project and opened the first Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in 1975. Soon after, Disney began plans to build a smaller version of Space Mountain at Disneyland, and opened Disneyland's Space Mountain in 1977. The design of Disneyland's Space Mountain was replicated at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983 and Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005; the Tokyo version was significantly changed in 2006.
Space Mountain has undergone a number of major upgrades and refurbishments over the years, including the addition of an onboard soundtrack in 1996, repainting of the exterior in 1997 and 2003, and a complete replacement of the original track and ride vehicles from 2003 to 2005. It has also been given a third roof up the mountain during late 2013 and early 2014. Every September during Halloween Time at Disneyland, the mountain is given projections for the Ghost Galaxy event. Most recently in November 2015, Space Mountain was given a new overlay and theme in anticipation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The attraction takes the name of Hyperspace Mountain during Tomorrowland's Season of the Force. Following a two day closure, The original Space Mountain has been restored and opened on June 1, 2017.
The early success of the Matterhorn Bobsleds – opened in 1959 – convinced Walt Disney that thrill rides did have a place in Disneyland. In 1964, Walt Disney first approached designer John Hench with an idea for an indoor dark roller coaster. The roller coaster's design evolved over the next couple of years, and the name "Space Mountain" was first used for the concept in June 1966. The design was later deemed impossible due to technological limitations as well as the limited space available at Disneyland. Walt Disney's death in December 1966 as well as the company's focus on the Disney World project led the company to shelve the Space Mountain project.
Like Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom also lacked thrill rides at the time of its opening in 1971. However, the park became unexpectedly popular with teenagers and young adults, and as a result, Disney began plans to add thrill rides there as well. Designers determined that the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland lacked the necessary space to replicate Disneyland's Matterhorn, but noted a large amount of space available in Tomorrowland. This, coupled with advances in technology since the project was shelved, led Disney to revive the Space Mountain project. The original Space Mountain opened at the Magic Kingdom in 1975, and its early success led Disney to re-visit the idea of building Space Mountain at Disneyland. Disneyland's Space Mountain was designed by Bill Watkins of Walt Disney Imagineering, including a tubular steel track design awarded U.S. Patent 4,029,019. Because of space limitations, the dual-track layout of the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain was not replicated at Disneyland, and a much smaller building was constructed.
The second Space Mountain opened in 1977, invigorating a decade-old Tomorrowland as Disneyland's second roller coaster. The $20 million complex opened May 27 including the roller coaster, 1,100-seat Space Stage, 670-seat Space Place restaurant, and the Starcade video arcade.
Six of the original seven Mercury astronauts attended Space Mountain's opening – Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Sen. John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. The lone exception was Gus Grissom, who had died along with two other astronauts in a tragic launchpad 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.
The attraction continued operating without much change: sponsors would come and go, and various minor changes, including the addition of a Goodyear "Speed Ramp" (moving sidewalk) in the entrance, happened without fanfare. In 1995, FedEx (which had by this time was holding sponsorship for the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain) became the official sponsor for the ride, sparking a number of significant alterations. The queue area was revamped with television monitors looping safety videos, the loading station had a new Audio-Animatronic robot FedEx worker, and other scenic areas were modeled to include FedEx trademarks.
In 1996, composer Aarin Richard and show producer Eddie Sotto teamed up to create an on-board music track. The creative vision was to fuse two iconic musical forms of the 1960s – sci-fi horror music and surf music – into a sensory ride experience. All of the music written for the 1996 version was based on "Le Carnival Des Animaux: Aquarium" (The Carnival of the Animals), written by Camille Saint-Saëns. The first section of the ride's music was synthesized and entirely devoted to the sci-fi aspect as the rockets left the station to begin their slow climb to the top of the mountain.
After the vehicles crested the third lift hill, a rocking surf rendition of the piece kicked in as gravity pulls the vehicles down through the ride's interweaving turns, hills, and dips. (Guitarist Dick Dale was brought into the Disney Imagineering recording studio to play his famous surf guitar riffs for this section of the music.) As the rockets reentered the loading station, a brief musical finale concluded the experience with a soft, synthesized rendition of "Aquarium."
In 1997, the exterior of the structure was painted in a green, gold, copper, and bronze, to match the recent facelift to Tomorrowland, and the Goodyear Speed Ramp was removed, but the main ride itself was unchanged (Space Mountain's changes were rather minor compared to other changes made in the 1997–1998 facelift).
The ride closed suddenly on April 10, 2003, with an announcement that it would remain closed until Disneyland's 50th anniversary. The ride had become unstable and would need a complete track replacement. On June 25, 2005 Disneyland surprised its guests by announcing that the reopening of Space Mountain would open early on July 15, instead of the projected November date.
On July 15, 2005 (with "soft openings" starting July 1), only two days before Disneyland's official 50th Anniversary, Space Mountain reopened from a major refurbishment that started in April 2003. The mountain was restored to its original white. A re-opening ceremony was held that day which featured a guest speaker, Neil Armstrong, who received a plaque that read "Presented to Mr. Neil Armstrong for his courage and adventurous spirit that continues to inspire all mankind to reach for the stars". The plaque also features the Disney quote "It's kinda fun to do the impossible". The new Space Mountain featured new rocket sleds, new special effects and a storyline.
The completely rebuilt track is exactly the same layout as originally designed by Walt Disney Imagineer Bill Watkins in 1976. The only original track from the 1977 ride extends from the back end of the station, to the top of third lift, and the storage and spur tracks, as evidenced by the weld marks on these two track sections where the original and new tracks were joined together. The foundation was laid 30 feet deeper, and floor of the mountain was lowered about ten feet to make evacuation procedures easier, making the ride much safer than before. The rockets no longer glow in the dark. Before it had a major renovation, the ride was manufactured by Fabriweld Bending Company. After it had a major renovation, it was manufactured by Dynamic Structures.
In 2015, the ride was given a Star Wars overlay titled Hyperspace Mountain. Among the changes are that the ride vehicles are now referred to as "reconnaissance vessels", the setting being the planet Jakku from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the pre-flight safety video featuring a briefing from Admiral Ackbar.
The ride begins in the loading station where guests board the trains. Once the trains are loaded, they move forward to a holding area, where a lap bar check is made and so the train may wait its turn to start the circuit. When the rocket is released, the red strobe lights surrounding the train flash and it makes a right turn, before climbing the first lift hill. At the top, two strobe lights flash on and the rockets enter a tunnel of flashing blue lights to signify the transfer of power to the trains. Leaving the tunnel, the train then climbs the second lift hill, a long tunnel filled with screens. As the trains begin their climb, red beams stretch along the screens and spin as a galaxy is seen swirling at the very top of the tunnel. As the trains crest the lift, the galaxy swirls up and vanishes. The music climaxes as the trains emerge into the main part of the ride, the inside of the dome. Trains make a u-turn before ascending one more small lift hill. A countdown begins as the vehicles crest the hill and the rockets are sent into a high-speed ride through the dome. The ride consists of many turns and small dips with the illusion of speed given by the fact that the track is barely visible to the riders. The ride approaches the end by plunging in a series of tight right hand turns, gradually picking up speed. With a sudden left turn, the trains enter the re-entry tunnel with many colorful stars flying towards them and two flashes of light as the onride photo is taken. The trains hit the final brake run and make a final right u-turn back into the station.
Also part of this major "new" Space Mountain was a nighttime transformation of the attraction to Rockin' Space Mountain, in which the calmer soundtrack of the attraction in daytime hours was to be replaced at night by a driving rock soundtrack, and different special effects. The original version of Rockin' Space Mountain, called RockIt Mountain, premiered for Grad Nite 2006 as part of the Happiest Homecoming on Earth.
Rockin' Space Mountain premiered during the "Year of a Million Dreams" Celebration, and was promoted alongside Rockin' California Screamin, a similar modification to Disney California Adventure Park's California Screamin' roller coaster began January 3, 2007 and ended April 26, 2007. Contrary to the original plans for the attraction to only be "Rockin'" in the evening, "Rockin' Space Mountain" ran during all operating hours of the park. Rockin' Space Mountain does not use the Dick Dale soundtrack. This soundtrack, however, makes one final appearance on Disneyland's 60th Anniversary 3-CD box set.
On December 28, 2006, Disneyland announced that the soundtrack to be featured for "Rockin' Both Parks" are two songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Space Mountain received an edited version of the band's 1989 song "Higher Ground". The song has been remixed to "heighten every twist, turn, rise and drop of the attraction." Rockin' Space Mountain's counterpart at Disney's California Adventure, Rockin' California Screamin', uses a remixed version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Around the World".
The main differences between the regular and Rockin' Space Mountain include: a different soundtrack, new projections within the mountain, and many lights alongside the track. Riders begin their journey with "Uncle" Joe Benson, a radio disc jockey from the Disney-owned 95.5 KLOS, introducing the riders to the "Space Stage" where the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be "broadblasting live." Just like the original, the Star Tunnel was there. The "rocket rockers" continue the flight with a "sound check" with guitar riffs accompanied by projections of bright colors and sound waves. While looking up the second lift hill, the spiral galaxy is no longer in place, but instead riders see a sun going nova. Finally, once riders crest the lift, the sun explodes. Once on the 180 degree turn next to the asteroid, there is a few seconds of no screaming.
This allows riders to hear the sound of screaming riders and the soundtrack from other trains in the mountain. The soundtrack then transitions into the song, "Higher Ground" at the bottom of the third lift hill. During this lift hill, "Uncle" Joe Benson comes back to say "No matter which planet you're from, we're about to rock your world. And it's all gonna happen in 5, 4, 3, 2, rock and roll!" Some of the new special effects include colored strobe lights, projections of dancers and other bright visualizer images.
Many colored lights line the tracks strobing in sequence and projecting on walls and the surroundings. Re-entry and the station remain mostly unchanged except for some added instruments (drum set, air/electric guitar, etc.) floating in space with the astronaut in the "planet orbit" screen. Another notable change to the station is that the "neon" lights that flash when a rocket train is "launched" to the right remain on and do not shut off, which makes the station a tad bit brighter. Also, the front attraction sign included "Rockin'" above "Space Mountain" while a color-changing light illuminated the spire above the sign at night. The design of the on ride photos were changed as well, which included the Rockin' Space Mountain logo, and many musical notes floating in space around riders.
After the failure of Space Mountain: Nightmare Nebula on October 2007, another transformation took place in the form of a scary replacement, called Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy, which includes special effects ghosts in space, new audio, and projections on the outer mountain of the building. The overlay was first featured at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2007. It was a huge success so they decided to bring it to Disneyland for Halloween Time 2009 and returned seasonally every year.
Noticeable modifications to the ride include a change in lighting during the first lift, the dimming of the hyper-speed tunnel, the addition of lightning visuals during the second lift and ghostly images inside the mountain itself. These ghostly images interact with the rocket trains, swiping, chasing and "throwing" the trains around the mountain. The Starfield is unchanged. Even though the reentry tunnel is the same, a skull-shaped nebula appears as the trains make a right-hand turn back into the station.
Two-thirds of the queue have been unchanged but the Space Mountain sign is now changed to Ghost Galaxy. Inside the Space Port, the planet screen at the front of the station has been changed to reflect the overlay, as well. While viewing the planet, a green "storm" appears over the planet, causing interruptions to the video feed. Static appears, then a blue screen, reminiscent of the Windows Blue Screen of Death, saying "SIGNAL LOST," "SEARCHING..." and "SIGNAL ESTABLISHED". Outside on the mountain, six projections play, with several Halloween-themed color schemes appearing between these projection shows:
On November 14, 2015, a Star Wars-themed overlay known as Hyperspace Mountain debuted as part of "Season of the Force"—an event celebrating the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The overlay featured a soundtrack with selections from John Williams's score of the Star Wars films, with projections depicting a mission towards the planet Jakku (a site introduced during The Force Awakens) to investigate the presence of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer as commanded by Admiral Ackbar, flight through a hyperspace jump and battles with X-wings and TIE fighters. The overlay was temporarily removed on September 6, 2016, for the Ghost Galaxy recreation. The overlay was brought back the following November then was removed again on June 1, 2017.
The park website lists for guests to transfer from wheelchair or electric convenience vehicle "by themselves or with assistance by members of their party". A maximum of 3 groups can ride at a time or a maximum of 12 people (if three or fewer groups). A track transfer table installed for the 2005 reopening permits positioning of a rocket at the ready platform, enabling unlimited time for accessibility loading and unloading contrary to the time-critical ambulatory-guest load process.
On August 14, 1979, a 31-year-old woman became ill after riding Space Mountain. At the unload area, she was unable to exit the vehicle. Although employees told her to stay seated while the vehicle was removed from the track, other ride operators did not realize that her vehicle was supposed to be removed and sent her through the ride a second time. She arrived at the unloading zone semi-conscious. The victim was subsequently taken to Palm Harbor Hospital where she remained in a coma and died one week later. The coroner's report attributed the death to natural causes: a heart tumor had dislodged and entered her brain. A subsequent lawsuit against the park was dismissed.
In 1983, an 18-year-old man from Quartz Hill, California, fell off Space Mountain and was paralyzed from the waist down. A jury verdict found that Disneyland was blameless in the accident that left the teenager partially paralyzed. During the trial the jury was taken to the park to ride Space Mountain, and several of the cars were brought into the courtroom to demonstrate how they work.
On August 2, 2000, nine people suffered minor injuries when a wheel on a Space Mountain car became dislodged and the ride's safety control systems caused the train to stop abruptly. This was Space Mountain's first mechanical problem since its opening in 1977.
In April 2013, Disney voluntarily closed Space Mountain, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Soarin' Over California due to OSHA-related issues so employee safety protocols could be reviewed. Downtime for each attraction differed, with Space Mountain being closed the longest at one month. The safety review stemmed from seven OSHA fines that were initiated from a contractor injury in November 2012, where the worker fell down the outside of the Space Mountain building and broke several bones.
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