March 19, 2009

Pinvestigative Reports: Matterhorn Bobsleds

The Matterhorn Bobsleds opened in 1959 as apart of the Tomorrowland redo. This attraction has many firsts, from the first rollercoaster in Disneyland, to first rollercoaster to use tubular steel tracks. But first lets back up several years to the making of one of Walt's Live Action features, the Third Man on the Mountain. Where Walt fell in love with the mantain and the Swiss culture and architecture. So once done, Walt went back to Disneyland and wanted to put it somewhere in the park.

His first design was just a decorative overlay on a skyway pylon. Then it evolved into a ridethrough ice glacier/ cavern for the Skyway attraction, like the Primeval World Diorama is to Disneyland Railroad. Finally evolved into a rollercoaster because Walt wanted something thrilling in his park. It was envisioned to be apart of Tomorrowland's new line up for 1959, as it opened up among five other attractions in Tomorrowland.
Opening on June 14, 1959, this Matterhorn mountain was 1/100th scale size of the real thing in the Alps. With two intertwining rollercoasters and two different entrances in two different lands. One side on Fantasyland and the other on Tomorrowland, so two attractions, in two lands, and still one attraction. When built, small trees were used to create a forced perspective of the mountain to make it look bigger than actually is. In 1971 sometime, the mountain was moved without anyone knowing. On a 1970 guidebook, Matterhorn Bobsleds is shown in Tomorrowland, then in a 1972 guidebook, it was in Fantasyland.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds served inspiration to Walt Disney World about thirty years prior to even conceiving Expedition EVEREST. Matterhorn Bobsleds was the inspiration for Space Mountain, using the steel tubular track and two sides, even though they share similar concepts the layouts for the two rollercoaster mountains are far from the same.

IN 1978, Matterhorn Bobsleds had a major rennovation. THe main purpose was to have a more convincining theme. THe vehicles were changed from one 4 passenger vehicles to two cars of 8 passengers. THis made the attraction have a better CPH (Capacity per hour). Along with changing the vehicles, the mountain got more rockwork inside. Instead of having a giant open grotto in the middle of the mountain, it was transformed into seperate smaller ice caverns to imprive the theme and thrillingness. Also this transformation added a key element of the attraction today, Harold. Who is Harold you ask? Well, Harold is the Abominable Snowman, three audio-anamatronics were added. One were both tracks can see and the two others were placed one on each track, for a second and final encounter.

As with all mountains, the Matterhorn has its fair share of legends and rumors about the mountain. One legend that is true is that the Matterhorn has a half basketball court inside the mountain. It was built to give climbers of the mountain, in the beginning, a break between climbs with Mickey and the gang. The basketball court was recently taken up and closed due to dry rot, now is an empty room. Even though that was the only room inside the mountain, another cast member break room is on the bottom floor of the mountain. Then in the early 1970s, there were rumblings that the Matterhorn was going to be moving East.
Thanks to Wikipedia,,,, and pinpics, and Jim Hill Media for the pics and info for this column.

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