Space Mountain

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  • Opened January 15, 1975
  • Was the first Space Mountain to open, although it was originally planed for Disneyland as “Space Port”
    • Designing started in 1964, but Space Port was stopped because of Disney’s death
    • It was revived because of the popularity of WDW with teens and young adults; the Magic Kingdom needed a thrill ride
  • Disney Artist John Hench drew the original concept art of the SM exterior
  • It was Walt who wanted the roller coaster to be in the dark so he could have precise control of the lighting and to project images on the interior walls.
  • Selling RCA on an attraction to spend $10 million sponsoring the attraction was key to the project
    • In the book “The Disney Mountains” author Jason Surrell writes about Marty Sklar’s efforts to sell the idea to RCA
      • Disney had an agreement with RCA in 1970 to do all the infrastructure communications for WDW
      • The contract stipulated that if Disney could come up with an attraction RCA would be willing to spend $10 million dollars
      • The original pitch was a new version of Mission to Mars that took people inside a computer
      • The meeting with the RCA CEO, Robert Sarnoff went horribly. Sarnoff sat at the head of a long conference table, and couldn’t hear the presentation and couldn’t see the materials. He asked his staff “who are these guys?”
      • That’s when Marty and John Hench regrouped and moved forward with the Space Mountain plans
      • The pitch for SM, Sklar brought Card Walker, Disney’s CEO to the meeting, as he and Sarnoff knew each other. They also insisted that Sarnoff sit in the middle of the table so he could see and hear.
      • The story for the SM presentation focused on communication, as RCA had pulled out of the computer business shortly after the first presentation. The attraction would still consist of a rocket ride through space, but guests would see RCA satellites orbiting in space and after the ride, guests would visit the Home of Future Living which showed off the latest RCA home entertainment products, and some future products, and the last thing guest would see before exiting was themselves on color TV
  • RCA approved the sponsorship, and the project started
    • The project was lead by John Hench and Marty Sklar, and George McGinnis and Claude Coats – of pirates of the Caribbean and haunted mansion fame— were on the team
    • Former astronaut Gordon Cooper, commander of Mercury 9 and Gemini 5, became a member of the Disney team and provided personal consultation to help insure the authenticity of Space Mountain.
  • The roller coaster was developed by Arrow (who built the Matterhorn) and Disney
    • It’s made up of 2 tracks: Alpha (to the left) and Omega. Alpha is 3,196 feet long while Omega is 10 feet shorter.
    • Top speed is between 28 – 35 mph
    • Ride duration 2 minutes, 30 seconds
    • It’s a pure gravity ride with no boosters or retarders; there are only braking zones. If the ride stops, the brakes are simply released and the trains coast back to the station
    • There are 30 trains (15 for each side), with two cars per train, with 3 people per car (although originally, the cars sat 4 people per car; this was changed in 1989)
  • The exit was the Home of Future Living from 1975 – 1985 and pretty much included everything that was presented to RCA during the pitch meeting:
    • featured the theme song “Here’s to the Future”
    • Guests stepped onto the Goodyear Speedramp and went past scenes of the Home of Future Living (from Widen Your World)
      • Started outside on the patio with the father on a lounge chair looking at a briefcase size TV screen on a business video call
      • Then, inside the rooms were a series of white hexagonal modules with white, yellow, orange, and brown decor
      • First, the nursery where a toy clown held a camera pointed at the baby; the camera signal was sent to the other screens so the family could monitor the baby
      • Next, the family room shows the grandmother taking a two way TV pottery lesson
      • Then, the Rec room, where a teenage boy took in some snow skiing on a SelectaVision simulator while the younger brother assembled a model rocket via televised instructions
      • Back outside, a boy is at the front door, talking to the mother inside via camera
      • Again inside, the kitchen shows the mother and a neighbor sitting in front of a large TV wall unit reviewing an online catalog system, along with a picture in picture of the boy at the door
      • Then, the teenage daughter’s bedroom watching a SelectaVision videodisc movie on a large screen
      • Finally, was the entertainment center where a young girl and boy watched a football game on a wall-sized screen
      • Then, you travelled under the train tracks on the speed ramp until you reached the incline and the TVs where you could see yourself
  • In 1985, it was changed to RYCA-1 which showed what life might be like living in a space colony on another planet; the sets are pretty much the same as they are today. They were changed to reflect sending packages across spatial distances using teleportation when FedEx took over sponsorship in 1994. And during the 2009 refurbishment, it was changed to the current design of Starport 75 and promoting different destinations around the universe to which Space Mountain’s rockets could take them
  • FedEx added TVs to the waiting area inside and played SMTV which had news clips from around the galaxy
  • Sponsors: RCA: 1975-1993 (19); FedEx: 1994 – 2004 (11); sponsorless: 2005 – now (14)

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