Expedition Everest – Legend of The Forbidden Mountain opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in 2006. A steel roller coaster built by Vekoma, it was listed in the 2011 book of Guinness World Records as the most expensive roller coaster in the world ($100,000,000).
The ride is themed around the Yeti protecting the Forbidden Mountain next to Mount Everest. At 25′ tall, the Yeti inside the mountain structure is the largest and most complex audio-animatronic figure ever built by Walt Disney Imagineering. Its movement is controlled by 19 actuators when functioning in “A-mode,” which is its full mode of operation. In “A-mode,” it can move 5 ft (1.5 m) horizontally and 18 in (46 cm) vertically. Unfortunately, a few months after the attraction opened, the Yeti figure’s framing split, which threatened catastrophic malfunctioning if it continued to be operated in “A-mode.” So since then it’s been operated only in the alternative “B-mode,” in which a strobe-light effect is used to give the appearance of movement. That’s what gave it the nickname “Disco Yeti.”
Joe Rohde, the Imagineer in charge of building (and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for that matter), was asked about the malfunctioning Yeti at a Disney convention in 2013. His response was:
“You have to understand, it’s a giant complicated machine sitting on top of, like, a 46-foot tall tower in the middle of a finished building. So, it’s really hard to fix, but we are working on it. And we continue to work on it. We have tried several ‘things’, none of them quite get to the key, turning of the 40-foot tower inside of a finished building, but we are working on it… I will fix the Yeti someday, I swear.”
That wasn’t the only time Rohde was approached about the Yeti:
Disney Imagineering has even gotten into the act and made this not-so-subtle nod to “Disco Yeti,” in the form of an advertisement for a fictional distillery on a building at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
There aren’t many videos of the Yeti in “A-mode,” most likely because he was in working condition for such a short period of time, on top of the fact that you’re not supposed to be videotaping while on a roller coaster ;-). But one daring soul managed to get this rare footage of the Yeti in his glory:
(Note: because the videographer was on the actual roller coaster, the footage is bumpy and the Yeti portion is just a second or two long. If you want to jump straight to the Yeti section, go to 3:02).
I also found a slow motion video of the Yeti, so it’s easier to see his movement:
I also found this on Reddit, which shows the full movement of the Yeti (I don’t know where they got this footage – I’d be happy to give credit where it’s due)
It’s been well over a decade since “Disco Yeti” has taken up permanent residence in Expedition Everest – Legend of The Forbidden Mountain. Hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future, Disney will take the time and money to fix him to his original glory.
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