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Entries in Big Thunder Mountain (3)

Friday
Mar212014

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Construction- Magic Kingdom

It's January 20, 1980. Let's hop aboard the Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat to see the the construction of Walt Disney World's latest E-Ticket attraction.

Wait a minute... TWO Riverboats?? Yes.

Look! A totem pole.

These wonderful photo were taken by Dan Hiller aboard the Riverboat in 1980. The attraction opened ten months later. Disneyland's Big Thunder opened 14 months prior to Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder.

We often hear that the track layout of the Magic Kingdom Big thunder is almost a mirror image of the Disneyland Big Thunder. How true is this? Below we see both mountains side-by-side. The Magic Kingdom layout is, indeed, almost a mirror image, but with bit of added track. 

Here we see the Magic Kingdom version flipped horizontally and placed over the Disneyland version.

Big Thunder Mountain history goes way back and is extremely interesting. From Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland to Marc Davis to Thunder Mesa and Western River Expedition to Tony Baxter and everything since.

Thank you, Dan, for talking these photos back when few people thought of photographing theme park construction.

If anyone else would like to share their old photos of the Disney theme parks, share them with us via our PHOTO HUNT.

 

Related posts:

The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland
Big Thunder Mountain Model
Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain Construction
WDW Construction: Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World in 1971 [Part 1]


Friday
Jun012012

Big Thunder Mountain Model

We've got lots of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad love for everyone. This marvelous 1/4" = 1' scale model can be seen in the lobby of the "Frontierland Tower" at the Disneyland Hotel. It's the wildest model in the wilderness!

 


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Origins

Young Imagineer Tony Baxter had recently worked on the install of some Magic Kingdom Fantasyland attractions prior to Walt Disney World opening. He landing work in the model shop and was working with Marc Davis on plans for Thunder Mesa and Western River Expedition. The area would have included a train ride and a very elaborate boat ride sometimes explained as “Cowboys of the Caribbean” or “Pirates of the Caribbean with Cowboys and Indians”.

Rising 1970s gas prices, lower-than-desired park attendance, and guests expecting a pirate ride ultimately led to the management-promoted idea of axing Marc Davis’ Western River Expedition and the entire Thunder Mesa complex in favor of Pirates of the Caribbean at a fraction of the cost.

Baxter himself was not very happy with the current state of his mine train ride concept. “It has no story, no theme. It’s just a train rolling across a hillside, nothing more.” The train wasn’t very thrilling until later in the ride. Baxter pitched to executives his ideas of a bat-infested cave, an earthquake, and a more thrilling experience starting from the beginning of the ride. Card Walker told Baxter to start work on a stand-alone E-Ticket runaway train thriller, independent of Marc Davis’ project.

Meanwhile the concept of Space Mountain was becoming more and more attractive to Magic Kingdom management. America had recently landed on the moon, people were more interested in space flight than the Old West, and the park needed its first “thrill”. Space Mountain became top priority amongst Imagineers at W.E.D. Space Mountain opened in January 1975 at Walt Disney World. Shortly after construction started on an entire Space Mountain complex at Disneyland which opened in May of 1977.

Everyone in both parks had thrill fever– guests and management alike. Disneyland management had grown tired of Frontierland’s great Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland and it’s high maintenance costs. They wanted yet another thrill. Tony Baxter’s mine train now had new potential. Would his Florida concept fit in MTTNW’s location? Plans were “flipped” and the more-fitting rock style of Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park was selected. The style was to allow for a nice transition between this part of Frontierland and the very nearby Fantasyland.

Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened September 1979. The name “Big Thunder” came from a large waterfall in Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland. Magic Kingdom wanted a thrill for its west side and debuted their Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in November of 1980.


Thoughts

I, for one, love the Big Thunders. They are very well crafted, have great layouts, a touch of thrill without being obnoxious, and are super immersive. As nice as it would be to ride Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland (it was like three time larger in footprint than its replacement) Big Thunder Mountion wonderful. It lacks a lot of the "nature" of Nature's Wonderland and it's difficult to watch any animal for more than a few seconds (many of which were originally in Nature's Wonderland!). It lacks that charming ride narration and the ride ends much much sooner than the original but really it's a gem.

 

Related posts:

The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]
The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 2 ]
Buena Vista Street Model
Swiss Family Treehouse Model
Disneyland 1955 Model Close-ups
Mars and Beyond Robot


Saturday
Jun122010

The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]

[ PART 2 Now available ]

A trip earlier this year to Yellowstone National Park inspired me to post about one of Disneyland's greatest retired pieces, Nature's Wonderland. Beware. You may just love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a little less after enjoying the following.

Listen to this fantastic narration. But watch out! It may get a little sexist along the way:

"We have ‘stocked’ our preserve with over 200 amazingly realistic animated animals and birds - including almost every specie still roaming the North American continent."

 

 


Timeline 1955-PRESENT

1956 Rendering of Rainbow Caverns Mine, Rainbow Ridge Mule Pack, and Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches
Story

"Here, in a primitive setting that duplicates the remote wilderness country, you may watch beavers, busy as always, on home-building and tree-cutting chores; coyotes and mountain lions; clown-like bears, romping without a care in the world; Olympic Elk engaged in battle for survival, just as it is enacted daily in the natural wilderness."

 

 

 


Rendering by Marc Davis
Photo courtesy of Pete


Rendering by unknown artist

Layout

Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland overlaid on today's Big Thunder site.

 

Detail of 1962 souvenir mapFull-size map here.

Then and Now


Cascade Peak was removed in 1998 due to structural damage. The broken down Mine Train was removed in a recent Rivers of America rehab.

Photo (left) courtesy of Pete

The front of the rock tunnel is easily visible today as you walk on the trail that connects to Fantasyland just west of Big Thunder Mountain. The back opening of the same tunnel is visible along the east side of Rivers of America. If you pay attention you may see a jumping fish on the north side of this pond, thought sadly it's not often operational these days.

The "Assay Office" building (right) can be seen on the far left of the left photo.

The "Panhandle Hotel" and "Big Thunder Epitaph" buildings (right) can be seen behind the center tree in the left photo.

Live, wild cats hanging at the abandoned tracks! (Several, if not dozens, of wild cats live in Disneyland bushes.) They can occasionally be spotted during the day but more often they come out after hours). I took this photo from the Mark Twain in 2004 and thought to myself, 'if I were to be a mangy wild cat, I'd like to live on the site of an extinct Disneyland attraction too". Static mountain lion figures now sit between the old tracks facing Rivers of America.

The Must-see "Frontierland in Color"... though not all of this video is "in color"

Continue with [ PART 2 ]

Photos, scans, and graphics by Fritz. Additional photos submitted by friend and fan of the blog, Pete. Other photos provided by Daveland, Calisphere, and Tim's Disney News Archive. Videos originally posted on YouTube by our friend, Rustin.