Thursday, 16 July 2015

Disney History: Matterhorn Bobsleds

Today we are going to go over a classic attraction! The Matterhorn Bobsleds!

The Matterhorn Bobsleds opened in 1959, 4 years after the park opened. Before the Matterhorn opened, that area of the park was empty. It was just a giant hill caused by the dirt from excavating the Sleeping Beauty's Castle Moat. This "hill" was called Holiday Hill before changing to Lookout Mountain before closing to become the Matterhorn.

Holiday Hill is the hill on the far right. 
View from on top of Holiday Hill.

When the Matterhorn Bobsleds opened in 1959, they were ahead of their time. The whole idea of it changed the game of the modern day roller coaster. Before the Matterhorn, roller coasters were all wooden roller coasters. It became the first steel tubular roller coaster in the world. Not only was that the first the Matterhorn did, but it was also the first roller coaster to be able to have multiple cars on the track at the same time. This was due to brake zones placed throughout the mountain. It was also the first roller coaster to use water as the main way to brake the cars.

The water being used the same way 56 years later.

Of course with a ride being open for such a long time there will be changes constantly. From the ride vehicle, to the mountain, to things in the interior, the ride has seen many different things. First off, the ride vehicles have changed twice, but have had huge impacts on the ride. It started off with a simple single tandem car that seats four. In 1978, the cars were rounded out, re-painted, and doubled up to fit 8 people instead. This style of sats was used the longest as it was used all the way until the 2012 refurbishment. In the 2012 refurbishment, the seats changed to be single seats with three in each cart seating a totally of six people be vehicle. To this day, there are still people that like the old style of seats (including me). The one advantage of the new cart system is an awesome single rider line if you don't mind being split up. It turns the wait from 45 minutes or so to having a 10-15 minute wait.

The original 1959 cars.
The cars for the 1978 refurbishment.
The new, 2012 cars.

So while not only has the cars changed, but so has the mountain. When the mountain first opened, there was a large hole right through the middle for the skyway/ There were also a lot of holes through the rest of the mountain, particularly on the South West side of the mountain. With the 1978 refurbishment they started to either fill holes in, or combined holes to make them more defined. They also repainted to outside in this refurbishment to be more white. In 1994, the Skyway closed so there were these large holes right in the middle of the ride. These were filled in almost immediately. The next change to the outside came in 2012 when they scrapped off all the white paint as most of the mountain was now "snow-filled". When repainting it, they didn't just put white paint back on the mountain. They combined it with glass beads so that it would shine and shimmer like real snow does.

The Matterhorn in 1959.
The same spot but in 2002.
How the Matterhorn looked from the lagoon in 1959.
How it looks as of 2004.

The other large change happened on the inside. At the top of the mountain, you could see out the Skyway holes as there was not a lot of theming done on the inside. That started to change in the 1978 refurbishment. In that refurbishment, there was more theming done inside with snow and ice but that was also when Harold the Yeti moved in. It was advertised as "What's gotten into the Matterhorn?" with at the bottom you see Mickey, Goofy, and Donald looking at large footprints in the ground. The next change on the inside was after the Skyway closed. At this time they closed the holes while putting more theming into that area and around the Yeti. Another thing that was added was the Frank Wells tribute. At the beginning were you see the crystals there is some mountain climbing gear. On one of the boxes it said Wells Expedition as a tribute to Frank Wells who was the President of the Walt Disney Company but also a well-known mountain climber. He died in a helicopter accident in 1994, with the tribute being but in in 1995.

 Very bright and bland in there.
The advertisement for the Abominable Snowman.
A much more ice and snow packed cavern.
The Frank Wells Tribute.

Now I am just wrapping up but there is one thing I have to go over that can't be ignored with any Matterhorn post. The legendary basketball court in the top of the mountain. That is both right and wrong. It isn't a full court, not even a half court, just a backboard and hoop screwed into a set of stairs in the break room. People say it was put in there as it needed to be deemed a sports complex due to it's height. That is also wrong. There were no laws that were this strict to the height of a building needed to correspond to what the building had to be. It was put in because Walt asked the castmembers what they like to do in their free time as he was looking for something to put up there and they responded with they like basketball and the rest is history.

Sorry about the delay, it took a lot longer than I was planning. Here is the first one, expect one tomorrow on time!

As always,