Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

"Hang onto your hats and glasses, folks, cause this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness!"
Although Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in September 23, 1980; it's Grand Opening took place on this day in history, November 15, 1980.
I was just 11 when I first experienced Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the summer of '81 and it definitely made an impression on me.  I adored the ride and still do today.  While it's not considered by most to be a high intensity roller coaster, it suits me just fine.  
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, circa early '80s
Located in at the far end of Frontierland, past Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a wonderfully themed coaster.  Guests board ore cars in the headquarters of the Big Thunder Mining Company for a 3 1/2 minute journey through scenery reminiscent of Arizona's Monument Valley.  Throughout the attraction you will see caves, a waterfall, big horned sheep, dinosaur bones, an abandoned mining town, and sulfur pools.  Speeds can read 24-30 miles per hour and if you are sitting in your mine car by yourself, the centrifugal force as you round the turns will pull you from one side to the other.  As an added bonus, if you ride in the late afternoon the ride is supposedly faster because the grease on the track has heated up allowing less friction between the wheels and the rails.  While I can't attest to the speed, I can say the back cars do experience a great deal more whipping action around the turns.  In addition, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is beautiful at night.  Be sure to ride after dark if you have the chance.
Like most Disney attractions, there is a backstory.  The backstories fascinate me and adds an additional layer of theming to the visual and auditory experience.  The story goes that some time in the late 1800s, gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American southwest.  Overnight, the small town of Tumbleweed became a booming mining town. Mining was prosperous, and an line of mine trains was set up to transport the ore. Unknown to the settlers, the Mountain was sacred to local Native Americans and was cursed.  Before long, the settlers' desecration of the mountain caused a great flash flood, which destroyed the mines and town, and the town was abandoned. Some time later, the locomotives were found to be racing around the mountain on their own…without engineers or a crew. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was founded in the old mining camp to allow tourists to take rides on the possessed trains.  
I amazed how realistic the rock structure appears.  Special care was taken by the Imagineers to make it appear that the rocks were there originally, and the track was built around the rocks.  The action of the ride takes place completely in and around the tunnels of the mountain.  The thrills on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are meant to come from the perceived instability of the mine and its threats of collapse. Sound effects of a typical locomotive are piped into the surrounding scenery to add realism to guests, including the steam whistle sounding, even though there is no whistle on the locomotives.
Throughout the attraction you can hear old west songs like Big Rock Candy Mountain, Blue Tail Fly, Red River Valley, Oh My Darling Clementine, among others.  
Interesting facts:
  • The names of the six trains are: U.B. Bold, U.R. Daring, U.R. Courageous, I.M. Brave, I.B. Hearty and I.M. Fearless.
  • During construction, workers used 6,500 tons of steel beams, rods and mesh, 4,675 tons of concrete, 90,000 gallons of water and 4,000 gallons of desert paint
  • There are 20 Audio-animatronics throughout the attraction including chickens, donkeys, possums, a goat, a resident in his long-johns spinning through the flood in a bathtub, and a rainmaker named Professor Cumulus Isobar.
  • Three rusty gears laying on the grass as you enter the station form a Hidden Mickey.
  • The main butte is 197.6 feet above sea level and 100 feet above ground.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, circa early '80s

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, circa early '80s

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Phantom Manor

Welcome to those of you joining me from Delightfully Disney and those of you just hopping aboard.  I am your 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail. 

Our topic this month on the blogorail was chosen by our resident Disneyland Paris expert, Amanda over at Manda’s Disney Blog.  I think this is Amanda’s payback for all the Walt Disney World topics that we, on the Magical Blogorail Black loop, have bombarded her with.  You see, until recently, she had never been to Walt Disney World in Florida.  Thanks, Amanda, for turning the tables on us with a topic on Disneyland Paris!  You go girl! 

Not having been to Disneyland Paris, or France for that matter, writing about the theme parks there is proving to be little bit difficult.  However, the question on the table is “What would you, or do you, look forward to the most if you were to visit Disneyland Paris?”   I should be able to answer the "would" part of that question, right?  I don’t have to go to “plan” a trip in my head. 

So, what would I look forward to on a visit?  Wow, where do I start?  There are so many, that I’ll just pick one. 

I’m going to say I would most look forward to seeing the alternate version of my favorite WDW attraction, The Haunted Mansion.  In Disneyland Paris, it’s called Phantom Manor.  I just watched a youtube video of it, and did a little research on it.  In typical Disney style, it appears amazing; and I love the backstory with its ties to Thunder Mesa and the Western River Expedition.  Thunder Mesa and the Western River Expedition was an original attraction concept developed by Marc Davis, WED artist and former Disney animator who was largely responsible for Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean.  This attraction would have been designed for Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom in Florida but for a variety of reasons, never came to be, so it’s interesting to see that concept brought forward in Disneyland Paris.  

Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor is located in the Frontierland section in Disneyland Paris. Sharing a similar theme with the Haunted Mansion attractions at the other Disney parks throughout the world, this version has a different plotline.

The influence for the story of the ride is Leroux's novel, The Phantom of the Opera, as well as many European gothic legends, which have been altered for the Western setting. The architectural style of the house is Victorian Second Empire, and bears a strong resemblance to Bates Manor from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

The Story of Phantom Manor:
Henry Ravenswood was a Western settler who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain and founded the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, thus creating the city of Thunder Mesa (and Frontierland as a whole). Ravenswood became rich and built himself a Victorian manor high on Boot Hill overlooking Big Thunder Mountain, where he raised a family and had a daughter, Melanie Ravenswood.  A series of unfortunate events culminated in a great earthquake which destroyed Henry's family and fortune.  

But all is not as it seems.  Henry's daughter may have been planning to marry against her father's wishes. The body we see hanging from the rafters at the beginning of the attraction may, in fact, be the unfortunate groom-to-have-been. And, perhaps, the Phantom of the Manor is Henry Ravenswood himself, driven to madness after losing his fortune and family. Perhaps the Phantom is doing whatever he can to keep his family together... forever.

Creepy, huh?

The ride mechanism is the same as the other versions.  Guests board Doombuggies, each buggy accommodating two adults, that traverse an Omnimover track through the Manor and associated ghostly scenes. 

In the Manor house guests see familiar sights such as a twitching suit of armor, corridor of doors, a demonic grandfather clock spinning backwards, and Madame Leota in her Séance Room.  Here she summons ghost and dark creatures to a mysterious ball: 
  • Goblins and Ghoulies, creatures of fright, we summon you now, to dance through the night!
  • Esprits et fantômes, sur vos fiers destriers, escortez dans la nuit la belle fiancée! (Spirits and Phantoms, on your proud Stallions, escort the beautiful Bride into the night!)
  • Warlocks and Witches, answer this call! Your presence is wanted at this ghostly ball!
  • Des douze coups de minuit aux mâtines sonnantes, nous valserons ensemble, macabre débutante! (As twelve strokes of midnight sound from the bells, we shall waltz together, gruesome debutante!)
  • Join now the Spirits in Nuptial Doom, a ravishing Bride, a vanishing Groom...    
As guest leave the Séance Room, they are taken into the Ballroom where a ghostly wedding party is taking place.  Drunken ghosts swing from the chandelier and elegantly dressed ghostly dancers twirl around the ballroom.  From the Ballroom, guests enter the Bride’s Boudoir where Melanie (now an old lady) weeps in front of a mirror.  Out the window the Doombuggies go (or were they pushed by the Phantom?) and down into a vast graveyard.  The Doombuggies then travel underground, past open coffins and the famous marble busts of four Phantoms singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts”.  Through a hole, the Doombuggies enter Phantom Canyon, a twisted, supernatural version of a post-earthquake Thunder Mesa.  Guests pass the ruined town hall where a mayor (whose dialogue consists of clips from the Haunted Mansion by Paul Frees, the original Ghost Host) stands, inviting guests to be the Manor's 1000th ghost.

The Phantom then leads guests towards the exit of the ride, where Melanie's corpse is pointing to the way out. The vehicles enter a chamber lined with large mirrors in which the ghostly image of the Phantom can be seen above the Doombuggies. Vehicles travel through the wine cellar, where Castmembers help them disembark their Doombuggies.

As guests walk towards daylight, a tiny figure of Melanie stands to the side of the passageway behind bars, telling guests to "hurry back" and to "bring their death certificates". Finally, guests exit into Boot Hill, a Cemetery filled with humorous gravestones.

So, that’s it for my pick of what I would most look forward to on a trip to Disneyland Paris.  Alas, I don’t see a trip to France in my near future, but I can always dream! 

Thank you for joining me today.  Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is The Disney Chick.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Manda’s Disney Blog
2nd Stop ~ Mommy Mouseketeer
3rd Stop ~ Delightfully Disney
4th Stop ~ The Magical Mouse Pad
Final Stop ~ The Disney Chick

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fun Fact - World of Motion

World of Motion’s theme “It’s Fun to Be Free” was written by X. Atencio, writer of Haunted Mansion’s “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and Pirates of the Caribbean's "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)".

I didn't know this fact until last week!  There's something fun about that quirky tune.   I like it so much, I have part of it at the top of my blog.
It's fun to be free
To be on the move
To go anywhere with ever a care to
Do all you've wanted to do
It's fun to be free

It's fun to be free
To be on the move
You go where you please
With comfort and ease to
See all there is to be seen
It's fun to be free

It's fun to be free
To be on the move
To go for a hike
Whenever you like to
Do all there is to be done
It's fun...
To be free!

I remember World of Motion, do you?  The former attraction sponsored by General Motors was located in the current location of Test Track.  World of Motion operated from 1982 to 1996.  It was an opening day attraction at EPCOT Center in '82.  Guests boarded Omnimover vehicles and would be taken through scenes that took a whimsical look at the history and achievements in transportation, from the invention of the wheel to present day transportation and the future.  The end of the attraction attempted to predict future transportation by putting illusions of guests into futuristic vehicles using the Pepper's Ghost illusion technique (similar to the hitchhiking ghosts in the Haunted Mansion).  At the end of the ride, guests disembarked into the TransCenter, an interactive area showcasing new products by GM.  World of Motion closed in 1996 to make way for a new attraction, Test Track.  General Motions continues to be the sponsor of the attraction today.