Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 375: FAF: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Remember my New New Year's Resolution, or Missions rather? Yeah, since one is already off the map, I figured that I might as well REALLY try to get the other one done, right? Seems like a good plan. So here we are, in the very first Featured Attraction Friday! I've got a "Template" basically made up for how each of these are gonna go, and then I suppose I will just go from there.

When I was planning this a year ago, I also came up with a great idea for how to sort out the different weeks and decide which attractions to do when. I mean, while there are TONS of attractions at Walt Disney World (and Disneyland and the rest of the world of course,) there are a bunch that you just HAVE to talk about. So, each month I'll have a theme, and the selected attractions will go along with that theme.

With means that this particular month we'll start the same way I attempted to last year: Starting Out! Here's four of the most well known, classic attractions you can find at Walt Disney World. I picked one from each park, just to make it nice and even. And of course, that means that we're starting out with Magic Kingdom, and specifically Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!

What's On The Map: 

Since this is the first FAF post, I'll explain a little bit about what each section of the post means as well as actually talk about our Featured Attraction! "What's On The Map," is where we go straight to the source, meaning three things: The WDW Website, The Park Map & The Birnbaum Guide (I am using the 2013 edition). I figured it would be a good place to start things out, just for general information. 

Ride through a gold-mining town on a runaway train on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! This 2.5 acre mountain is "chock-full of gold." Unfortunately for the residents of Tumbleweed, the local mining town, a flood has ruined any chance of uncovering the remaining gold. Before they prospectors find drier land, they are having one last party at the saloon to celebrate their riches. Even though in danger of washing away, they don't seem too worried, and guests who decide to take a trip on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad have nothing to worry about either" (Birnbaum 118). 

"Legend has it that a supernatural force dwells within he mountain. When gold was first discovered in the 1850's, a mining company was established. But soon, eerie things began to occur. Miners heard ghostly sounds, cave-ins became frequent and equipment mysteriously failed. Trains would take off and race through the mine and around the mountain driverless! Word got out that the mine was haunted and Big Thunder became another ghost town. Years later, when eyewitness accounts had faded into folklore, new prospectors resurrected the Mining Company and began blasting into the spooky mountain once again. But as the new settlers became aware, some legends turn out to be true" (WDW Website). 

A Brief History Lesson: 

Now that we've gone through the classic, and quite humorous descriptions, it's time for a little bit of history. I mean, the creation of the attraction is often just as important, and as interesting as the attraction itself. I mean, there really are so pretty great stories out there as to how these things came to be (and just wait until you see what I have planned later this year!)

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad probably has one of the more interesting stories behind it. I am a huge fan of the books by Jason Surrell (although I haven't had the chance to read them all yet, sadly). A year ago I actually read most of "The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak," but never got to finish it for a couple of reasons. Either way, there's a whole section in the book on Big Thunder, so I felt that I'd use that as my source for this one. 

The road to unforgiving mine train didn't start out perfect for our beloved mountain though. Actually, it started out with Pirates of the Caribbean. Back in 1971, when Walt Disney World opened, guests were astonished to find that the classic attraction, and the last Walt Disney Worked on himself, Pirates of the Caribbean, hadn't made an appearance at WDW, nor was it on the schedule right away. With no E-Ticket attractions ready for the park, the attraction Western River Expedition came into play. Head creator Mark Davis was ready to top himself from the "Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland" attraction at Disneyland, and he had plans for an Audio Anamatronics Extravaganza. 

But they hit a road block: Roy Disney, who had taken over the company after his brother's death and was the main supporter of WRE, died. When Pirates of the Caribbean did open in 1973, the project lost even more interest, as the two shows would be very similar. But they still needed a new thrill ride, a first thrill ride, at Walt Disney World. So work began again, only this time on a split attraction, half mine train, half boat expedition that would be built later. Tony Baxter had been working with Davis on other attractions at Walt Disney World previously, and had grand ideas for what would eventually become Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. 

Still, the long, complicated road continues. When Space Mountain opened as the park's first E-Ticket, Thrill attraction, the project was put on hold yet again, due to the fact that the "Space Race" was still fresh in the minds of Americans. But at Disneyland, there was a need for a new attraction, and so Big Thunder Mountain Railroad changed a bit and moved into the space on the exact opposite side of the Rivers of America at Disneyland as it would have been at Walt Disney World. 

It wasn't until 1980 that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Tony Baxter's first hit attraction, came to Walt Disney World, moving in on the banks of the Rivers of America and rising above as the backdrop for Frontierland. 

Fun Facts:

Of course, when we talk about attractions like this, we have to have some awesome fun facts about them too! I have a book, called "The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World" by Susan Veness. It's a great book, and I do suggest reading it...and it's where I'll be getting all of my interesting Disney Facts for these posts (I also used it for the Disney Fact of the Day Earlier this year). 

  • Halfway through the attraction, there is a Miner taking a bath, and the bathtub he sits in is one of two full size bathtubs in the entire Magic Kingdom. The other is located in the Carousel of Progress. A third bathtub used to reside in Mickey's Toontown Fair as well. 
  • The names of the trains are I.M. Brave, U.R. Courageous, I.B. Hearty, U.B. Bold, I.M. Fearless and U.R. Daring. 
  • A second-floor window of the saloon, viable as your train roars past, reveals a party in progress. It's the "wildest party in the wilderness," but you will see it only at night. During the day, the party-goers are probably sleeping it off. 

My Thoughts: 

Of course, this is still my blog, and I couldn't have a post on these different attractions without actually giving my own opinion on them. I have to say that my opinion WILL change from attraction to attraction. I mean, while I love Disney that doesn't mean I have to love all the different attractions. I mean, it would get kind of difficult if they were all my favorite. I can't ride everything over 100 times like I've done with SSE. 

When it comes to Big Thunder, I've been a fan for quite some time, and I always end up on it at least twice during my trip (although that will change come June of course). Of all the attractions in Magic Kingdom, it's most likely in my top five favorites...actually I know it is. Although back when I did my Favorite Attractions I know I said that while my top is Haunted Mansion, and then my second is a tie between Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain, the honorable mention did go to Big Thunder Mountain. 

I think my honest to god only complaint about it though is how much I miss the earthquake scene. I'm not sure if it's fixed or if they took it out (I really can't's been 6 months since I was at Disney now), but I remember it worked when I was a kid, and I miss it now. It just doesn't feel right without it. 

On the other hand, I really do love the new additions to the line. I think the entire concept of an attraction while waiting in line is a wonderful idea, and I love it at Haunted Mansion too. It's probably one of my favorite things that Disney has ever done actually, not that their queues were anything to laugh at before. They have some of the best ones in the entire world (Pirates? Space Mountain? Expedition Everest? Need I List more?), and the new interactive additions at Big Thunder are not only hilarious, but also awesome. I can't wait to go back in March and explore the line more than I did this past July. 

And so, there you have it, the very first Featured Attraction Friday (although quite a bit late...sorry about that). I have to say that I think I understand why I didn't do this last year. It's a lot of work. BUT, I don't have Disney History to work on anymore, and without the Disney Facts we need something that happens like weekly around here, and this is just the ticket. I'm gonna make this mission work! 

What are your thoughts on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? 

Have a magical day!