The Unusual Evolution of Disney’s Space Mountain

One of my most favorite attractions at Walt Disney World, and especially at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, is Space Mountain. It was the first “big” roller coaster I ever went on and, as a 12-year-old, it was very exciting.

It wasn’t until years (decades, really) later that I learned about the history and evolution of Space Mountain. The original concept and various design changes back in the 60s. How it was supposed to open at DL but wound up being delayed and then opening at WDW first, followed by an opening at DL a couple of years later. Why/how the scenes you go past on WDW’s exit came to be. Lots of other stuff, like this…

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WDW’s Space Mountain: The Tricky Way They Increased Capacity But Maintained Safety

As any Disney fan who’s been to Walt Disney World in the past decade or so, WDW is crowded almost 100% of the time. The larger the crowds, the longer the waits, especially if you don’t have a Fast Pass for a certain attraction.

One way that Disney helps to make the queues shorter is to increase ride capacity; whereas an attraction may be able to run XX number of cars at any given time, they may only run YY number of cars during slower times (this decreases wear and tear on the ride vehicles and saves Disney having to pay for more Cast Members [Disneyspeak for employees], but will increase it to XX number of cars when things are busier.

Depending on the type of attraction, that “XX” number may still be pretty low, so they figure out how to increase its capacity in other ways. Dumbo The Flying Elephant is a perfect example of this – this attraction originally opened with 10 ride vehicles when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. It was updated in 1983 and then had 16 ride vehicles, but that still wasn’t enough for the massive lines the ride would get, so in 2012 they built a second Dumbo ride (after moving the original to another area of the park so there would be enough room), which doubled the ride’s capacity.

(Above: 1971 & 1983 versions, artist rendering of 2012 version)

But then you have an attraction like Space Mountain, where the way to maintain a decent capacity becomes a little trickier…

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