Sunday, 6 April 2008

Spotlight on...Space Mountain: Mission 2

From time to time, I'd like to shine a spotlight on some of the Disney Park's E-ticket attractions. With my most recent trip being to Disneyland Paris, I thought I would start with the marvellous Space Mountain.

Unlike the majority of other Disney parks throughout the world, which houses the attraction in Tomorrowland, Disneyland Park Paris has Space Mountain in Discoveryland. As soon as you step into Discoveryland, you can tell that the Imagineers found their inspiration from historical figures such as Jules Verne. And, of course, most Disney geeks know that a lot of the ideas for the Land came from the idea that "never was", Discoveryland. I'll explore this Land in a later blog entry.

One of the largest icons of the Land is Space Mountain, designed as a giant cannon Columbiad, from the Baltimore Gun Club. A giant over-sized gun barrel, which is ready to send unsuspecting guests from the Earth to the Moon, just like the Jules Verne novel of the same name. Originally named "Space Mountain - De la Terre à la Lune" (Space Mountain - From the Earth to the Moon), the attraction opened 1st June, 1995. I can remember the 'big deal' that surrounded the opening, even here in the UK. With corkscrews, loops and special effects inside the mountain, including the shoot-off at the start from the cannon, this introduced a brand new style of coaster into the Space Mountain dynasty. The cannon blasts riders amidst a puff of 'smoke' uphill at a speed of 43mph (in under 2 seconds), setting the ground for future Disney rides Rock N' Roller Coaster and California Screamin' at WDW and Disneyland respectively.

The ride was originally to be called "Discovery Mountain", and this can still be seen on certain items around the loading and unloading area of the cars. The cars also had "DM" on them, but I'm not sure if that has been removed now.

After almost 10 years, Space Mountain had a re-theming, mainly due to the nearby and closely themed "Visionarium" attraction closing down. The ride changed to "Space Mountain: Mission 2", with the Columbiad shooting guests into the depth of the universe, rather than just to the moon. This has allowed the ride to incorporate more special effects, such as meteorites and supernovas. Mission 2 re-opened on 9th April 2005, with new music composed by Michael Giacchino (Rataouille, The Incredibles). The new theme introduced additional references to George Méliès.

Some information for you fact fans: the ride lasts approximately 2 and a half minutes, with a track length of around 3280 feet and a car capacity of 24 people.

From a personal viewpoint, this is probably one of my favourite rides from all the Disney theme parks I've been lucky enough to visit. I never had a chance to ride the original Space Mountain, but I love Mission 2. The blast-off is fantastic, and the music times brilliantly with the inversions of the ride. It's a relatively smooth rollercoaster, and the theming is impeccable. As you walk to the cars, you pass through a fantastic room, with star constellations on the ceiling, and diagrams of the Columbiad cannon on the walls. The theming is like something right out of a Jules Verne novel, and you could imagine him sitting with the Imagineers as they develop this attraction.

If, however, you don't like rollercoasters or rides in the dark, the building itself is something magical to look at. There's plenty of details throughout the building, and just the fact that the outside is based like a cannon shows the painstaking planning and attention to detail from the Imagineers. This is definitely something I recommend you see if you visit Disneyland Paris - and if you can, take some time to appreciate the building in the evening, as it is even more beautiful and brilliant at night.

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