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Unlike many Disney attractions, the Magic Kingdom is home to the original Space Mountain. Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain opened January 15, 1975, two years before the Disneyland version. The attraction can be found in all five Magic Kingdom style parks.
The Space Mountain concept was a descendant of the first Disney "mountain" attraction, the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, which opened in 1959. The Matterhorn's success convinced Walt Disney that thrill rides had a place in his parks. In 1964 Walt began working on plans to renovate Disneyland's Tomorrowland and asked designer John Hench to start working on a new idea for a 'Space Port'. The renovation was set to open in 1967, and the new 'Space Port' area -- dubbed 'Space Voyage' -- was to include a roller coaster ride in the dark, with lighting effects. In June 1966 the name was changed to Space Mountain.
Four WED designers: John Hench, Clem Hall, George McGinnis, and Herb Ryman did the concept artwork for the proposed attraction and WED partnered with Arrow Development Company, the company that had helped design the Matterhorn's roller coaster systems. The initial concept was to have four separate tracks, but technological limitations and the lack of space inside Disneyland park meant the four track concept would not work. The project was set aside after Walt's death in December 1966 as WED turned its focus to building Walt Disney World.
After Magic Kingdom's opening WED considered adding more thrill rides to the park, partly because of the parks popularity with teenagers and young adults. Designers first looked into a Matterhorn style attraction but there was not enough room inside Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. With improvements in technology and more land available the Space Mountain idea was set to become a reality. Card Walker, CEO of Walt Disney Productions convinced RCA chairman, Robert Sarnoff to sponsor the ride, providing design and construction support for the attraction. Disney had previously contracted with RCA to provide communications equipment for the Walt Disney World Resort. The contract stated if Disney presented an attraction of interest, RCA would provide $10 million to support it.
Space Mountain has four large design elements: structure, track, queue, and post show. Each element went through several design changes. Originally, the mountain was to be built on the south side of Tomorrowland, which was where the Disneyland ride was built in 1977. Instead, it was placed outside the park's perimeter berm, due east of Cinderella Castle, with an access tunnel to the ride (called the "star corridor") under the Walt Disney World Railroad tracks.
Space Mountain has not seen many major changes over the years. The first major change to the attraction was a replacement of the roller coaster cars in 1989. The original cars were very similar to those found on Disneyland's Matterhorn: two cars hooked together, each car having two seats that could each accommodate two passengers--the front rider seated in the lap of the rear rider--for a total of 8 passengers per train. Trains still had two single-file cars, each car had three seats that held only one passenger, for a total of 6 passengers per train.
RCA's sponsorship ended in 1993 and FedEx picked up the sponsorship the next year which resulted in change overs of signage and logos. Small changes were also made to wall coverings and flooring in the queue and entrance. Also, passengers now exited through the Tomorrowland Arcade and gift shop instead of a dedicated entrance and exit building--which was an undeveloped Tomorrowland train station stop for the Disney World Railroad. FedEx ended its sponsorship in 2004, and most references to FedEx were removed from the attraction.
In April 2009, Space Mountain closed for a lengthy renovation. Originally the renovation was to include replacement of the ride's entire track, but this was scaled back and only small sections of track were replaced. Other changes did included a ceiling above the loading area--which darkened the ride even more, on ride passenger photos, interactive games in the queue (which can accommodate 86 players for a 90 second game), new ride cars with an updated color scheme and in-ride music presented in 'Starry-O-Phonic' sound through speakers placed around the track. Up to this point there had never been in-ride music, unlike Disneyland's on-board music.
The 2009 renovation also brought changes to the ride's post show. Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain is the only version of the attraction to have a lengthy post-show (also visible from the People Mover). Because the attraction is located outside the berm, guests must travel some distance from the entrance to the loading area and from the unloading platform to the exit. This allows for a long post show area. The original post-show was RCA's "Home Of Future Living," which demonstrated how consumer electronics would shape our lives in a "typical" home of the future. It featured the song "Here's To The Future," which was briefly replaced by "ColorTrak Keeps The Color On Track," promoting televisions employing RCA's ColorTrack color television technology. In the mid-1980s, the Home of Future Living was replaced by "RYCA-1," which showed what life might be like living in a space colony on another planet. The RYCA-1 got some minor re-decoration when FedEx took over sponsorship, and the plot was changed to sending packages across spatial distances.
The current post show is a 'space port' exit, with baggage claim, lost and found, and vignettes presenting intergalactic travel destinations such as the Crater Caverns and the Coral Moons of Pisces 7. Within the post-show are references to the former EPCOT attraction --Horizons. The Horizons attraction explored life in the future -- in space, the ocean, and the desert. Here is a list of references to Horizons within Space Mountain:
For a larger image click the Postshow pictures.