An Iconic Mountain gets the Cynical treatment!
Today, I’ll be giving you a little history on the topic of the day, making observations and pointing out the utter stupidity along the way. I’ll also let you experience the topic through my eyes. I dare you to defy my descriptions. They’re not only shockingly accurate, but you’ll never be able to look at things the same way again.
Today’s topic is Space Mountain!
Space Mountain opened January 15th, 1975. This is why you’ll see references to Star port 75 at various spots along the way. Additionally, there is a Star port 77 at Disneyland, because that version of the ride opened in 1977. That is the stupidest way to name a “star port”. What if more than one star port opens in a year? What if they open the following century? Do we go by the Star Trek numbering system and just start adding letters to the end of each thing?
Anyway, Disney basically stole from itself and took the Matterhorn Bobsleds from Disneyland and slapped a bunch of space BLEEP on it. There was a major refurbishment of the ride in 2009, in which FedEx ended its sponsorship and Disney removed all of their crap from it, making the end queue seem out of place and awkward; I’ll get to that in a bit though. Space Mountain should be noted as the most aptly poorly named attraction of all time. There aren’t any random mountains that float around in space, yet it is a mountain of space space stuff.
Let’s get to the queue to the ride. What’s the first thing you notice upon arriving at the queue to Space Mountain? If you answered the smell of sweat of a thousand suns and tank tops, give yourself a pat on the back. You don’t win a prize though, because we have none to give you and I can’t verify that’s what you said. Upon entering the building, look on the ground as you proceed down the ramp to the hallway of space. What the hell is on the ground? Are those cannonballs? Did the pirates of the Caribbean just decide to dump their spare ammo in there? Was this meant to be a ball pit for kids to play in? So many unanswered questions, so little time.
When we reach the “hallway of space” as I call it, we’re immediately immersed in the attraction. We’re not in Orlando anymore, we’re on a space station. You know this because there are windows looking out into space, and for this Star Trek fan, I feel amazed…right up until you reach that one window where it looks like the stars are literally jumping at you, then it takes me out of the theme and makes me wonder why Imagineers needed to give us an acid trip right before we get on a sensory deprived roller coaster?
Proceeding down the “hallway of space”, on the wall to your left is a giant map of bull-BLEEP. They point out things like the Horse Head Nebula, which from literally any other vantage point in the universe doesn’t look like a horse head and presupposes that horses are common forms of life on other planets, which I can’t fathom being true. The hallway proceeds to a point where Disney expects us to get bunched up, because they put a BLEEPING game there for us to play. Why would you do this? We all have iPhones or Androids with Tetris or something on them. Don’t bunch up the line. Even the kids are distracted by their parents phones; there’s no need for this.
We soon (and by soon I mean 87 minutes later) approach the split between the Alpha and Omega lines. There is literally one difference between the two sides, the Alpha side being 10 feet longer in track than Omega. The area of the split also serves as “mission control”, as ride operators and monitors are behind the tinted windows of the enclosure seen at the split. It used to be that they entertained us with a crappy video staring AC Slater and various other 90’s “F-list” celebrities. Search on YouTube for Space Mountain TV and you’ll be able to watch this pre-show video staring that one chick from an Adam Sandler movie and some other guy from that one thing you can’t quite put your finger on.
Finally! We’ve made it to the actual ride itself! The ride features two cars of three people. Tall people and fat people need to get in the front of one of those cars. As a fat person who is 6’4″, I can assure you that any other seat will be uncomfortable. Shorties to the back yo! After making sure a piece of plastic is secure (and therefore you won’t fall out), the ride begins with a trip down a “warp tunnel”, which is an epileptic nightmare but never has 9 mph felt more exciting. The break out of the warp tunnel is also where they take your picture. Look to the opposite side of the turn of the track to make sure you get your full face in view!
You’re then dragged up a hill. This has always bothered me, because it’s not inconceivable that one would travel slowly next to a space station, but you wouldn’t ever fly that close with literally ALL THE SPACE to use if you’re leaving the station. I also doubt sincerely that the sensation of flying super slow next to a space station is akin to being dragged up a hill, but I digress. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of out of place people on the TTA, making you wonder, if you’re immersed in the story of the ride, why the hell they don’t have helmets on.
We reach the top of the hill and the ride gets going! It’s just light enough inside the building for you to make out the track of the coaster, making the tall person in me terrified to raise my hands up. That, along with the twists and turns of the ride make me feel like I’m going to fly out of the damn rickety car, held in place by only a thin piece of metal and plastic as we roar throughout “space”. Dim lights make it appear as though stars are around you, and I believe they once used a chocolate chip cookie as a stand-in for an asteroid, giving you the complete spaceflight experience without the use of a helmet or a pressurized vessel of some kind. Finally, we do a “breaking maneuver”, and enter a second warp tunnel only to start slowing down and approaching the final landing platform.
Story-wise, the unloading area doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. You literally go from space to underground on Earth? The hell is that? And you know damn well that you’re underground because you’re thrust upon a conveyor belt taking you past scenes of a robot on a distant planet talking to a robot next to you. There’s also the photo viewing area, allowing you to see if you timed the picture just right to make ridiculous faces or had some sort of seizure at the beginning of the ride. Toward the end of the conveyor belt, there are TV’s that I believe are from 1987 that adorn the walls, allowing you to feel like you’re on TV, something that was a big deal in yesteryear but no longer holds any value since the only thing you have to do to be on TV these days is act like a jackass.
Be sure to check out the gift shop at the end, where for some reason you can pick up a plush three-eyed alien from Toy Story. Seems out of place to me, but then again, I’m cynical. Also, if you have a hankering for a new phone case, the Space Mountain gift shop is apparently the place to go. You can literally pay out the nose (especially if you’re good with slight of hand for your magic band) to design your own crappy phone case that will get damaged the first time you drop it.
Space Mountain has been around for 42 years. Despite its flaws, it’s a childhood favorite of mine, and for nostalgia’s sake, I still find it to be an entertaining ride. In fact, I believe it to be the best of the “mountain rides” at Magic Kingdom, and I happen to like it more than the other “mountain attractions” across the parks. The wife disagrees with me though. She happens to think that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the best of the “mountain rides”. I don’t know. I may be the creative genius behind this little endeavor of ours, but I’m damn sure not her boss.
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-The Disney Cynic
“I’m all beers!”