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Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

15 Out-Of-This-World Facts About Space Mountain

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Space Mountain isn't the fastest ride around, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World. Since its debut in 1975, the rollercoaster has attracted millions of visitors—and inspired counterparts in Disney Parks across the world. Read on to find out more about the classic ride.

1. THE SUCCESS OF THE MATTERHORN BOBSLEDS CONVINCED WALT DISNEY THAT THRILL RIDES COULD WORK AT THE PARK.

Disney wasn’t sure that fast rides had a place in his family-friendly park, but his mind was made up after the Matterhorn Bobsleds proved to be a huge success.

2. AFTER THE RIDE WAS CONCEPTUALIZED, DISNEY HAD TO WAIT 11 YEARS FOR TECHNOLOGY TO CATCH UP.

Disney Legend John Hench designed the attraction in the early '60s, more than a decade before the technology needed to make it come to life was readily available. And the technology that was available was too slow. In fact, it would take hours just to model the data for just one curve. When the machinery finally caught up, work on the roller coaster resumed, and the first Space Mountain debuted at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 1975.

3. EARLY NAMES FOR THE RIDE INCLUDED "SPACE PORT" AND "SPACE VOYAGE."

By 1966, however, the roller coaster had been dubbed what would eventually become its iconic name: Space Mountain.

4. THE DISNEY WORLD AND DISNEYLAND RIDES ARE SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT IN HEIGHT.

Florida's mountain is more than 180 feet high and 300 feet in diameter. Because Disneyland is built on a much smaller scale than the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland’s Space Mountain would have towered over Main Street and ruined the illusion of scale had it been an exact replica. A precise copy also wouldn't have fit, as Magic Kingdom is a bigger space. As a result, the California Space Mountain is significantly smaller at 118 feet tall and 200 feet in diameter.

5. DISNEY HIRED ASTRONAUT GORDON COOPER AS A CREATIVE CONSULTANT.

When Disneyland started working on their version of the ride, they called in Mercury 9 and Gemini 5 astronaut Gordon Cooper as a creative consultant. “Space Mountain is about as close as you can safely get to actually being in space," he later claimed.

6. THE RIDE COST MORE TO BUILD THAN THE ENTIRE DISNEYLAND PARK.

By the time Disneyland officially opened on July 17, 1955, the final price tag was $17 million. Twenty years later, the construction of the Space Mountain complex cost $18 million, including an arcade and a permanent amphitheater.

7. SPACE MOUNTAIN WAS THE WORLD'S FIRST COMPUTER-CONTROLLED COASTER.

Imagineers used computers to create the path of each track, making the ride feel as much like flight as possible. The innovation wasn't limited to just the design phase—it also became the first roller coaster in history to be controlled by computer.

8. IT'S ONE OF THE SLOWEST THRILL RIDES AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM.

Though the darkness, the projections of the galaxy, and several sudden drops make the roller coaster seem like you're careening wildly through space, the rockets only reach a top speed of 28 miles per hour. By comparison, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad can get up to 30 miles per hour, and the Splash Mountain descent can reach 40. The only thrill ride that goes slower is the 25-mph Barnstormer, a coaster intended for smaller children.

9. THE RIDE ONCE ENDED WITH RCA'S "HOME OF FUTURE LIVING."

Disney convinced RCA to sponsor the ride by pitching them “Home of Future Living,” a post-show feature at the end of the ride that allowed guests to see themselves on RCA color televisions. Riders could also look out “spaceports” to catch a glimpse into outer space, where they would see RCA communications satellites at work.

10. THE GRAND OPENING INCLUDED FIREWORKS, ASTRONAUTS, AND A 2000-PIECE MARCHING BAND.

Space Mountain's grand debut at the Magic Kingdom was quite the affair, including NASA astronauts and Disney astronauts (Mickey and friends wearing spiffy new space suits), along with a 2000-piece marching band that the music director had just four hours to organize. When the ride launched at Disneyland two years later, U.S. Mercury Astronauts Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Donald “Deke” Slayton and Betty Grissom (widow of Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom) were all there to experience space from Earth.

11. NEIL ARMSTRONG STEPPED IN TO RE-LAUNCH THE RIDE IN 2005.

In 2003, Disneyland closed Space Mountain for two years in order to rebuild it in time for the park's 50th anniversary celebration in 2005. When it reopened, Neil Armstrong himself was on hand for the unveiling.

12. WANT 10 MORE FEET OF RIDE? PICK THE "ALPHA" TRACK. 

There are two tracks to choose on the Magic Kingdom ride: Alpha and Omega. For a slightly longer ride, opt for the Alpha track, which is 3196 feet long versus Omega's 3186 feet.

13. LOOK FOR A FEW EASTER EGGS THE NEXT TIME YOU WALK THROUGH THE QUEUE AND EXIT.

The next time you walk through the queue for the Disneyland attraction, look around for the “Space Station 77” symbol that pays homage to the year Space Mountain first took flight there. And at the Magic Kingdom, space travelers are welcomed to Starport Seven-Five, a nod to the ride’s debut year in Florida. When exiting the ride, there's a blue panel at the end of the moving sidewalk that mentions "Closed Sectors." The acronyms listed actually stand for closed attractions and the lands they were once located in:

  • FL-MTWR=Fantasyland, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
  • TL-SK2FL=Tomorrowland, Skyway to Fantasyland
  • MSU-SB=Main Street USA, Swan Boats
  • FL-MMR = Fantasyland, Mickey Mouse Revue
  • TL-M2M = Tomorrowland, Mission to Mars

14. IT'S AN ATTRACTION AT FIVE OF THE DISNEY PARKS.

Even though it's more than 40 years old, Space Mountain has continued to be so popular over the years that there's a version of it at five of Disney's resorts. The Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney versions of Space Mountain were almost identical to Disneyland's Space Mountain; Tokyo's received a bit of a facelift in 2007. Disneyland Paris originally had Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune, a Jules Verne-inspired design that included inversions. It was renovated in 2005 and re-emerged as Space Mountain: Mission 2.

Shanghai Disneyland is expected to break tradition when it opens later this year, however—instead of a Space Mountain coaster, guests will experience a thrill ride based on the lightcycles from the movie Tron.

15. THE RIDE GETS REVAMPED FROM TIME TO TIME.

Disney isn't afraid to mess with a classic. Disneyland has featured "Rockin' Space Mountain" with a Red Hot Chili Peppers soundtrack, and also transforms the ride into "Ghost Galaxy" during the Halloween season, a tradition started at Hong Kong Disneyland. Last year, riders got to join in on an X-wing Starfighter battle in the "Hyperspace Mountain" overlay, part of a seasonal Star Wars event called Season of the Force.

BONUS: EVER WONDER WHAT SPACE MOUNTAIN LOOKS LIKE WITH THE LIGHTS ON?

Wonder no more.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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12 Brazzle-Dazzle Facts About Pete's Dragon
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Walt Disney Productions

Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.

1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.

Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.

2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.

You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”

3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.

Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”

4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.

The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.

5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.

The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.

6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.

Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.

7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE. 


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He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.

8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.

Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.

9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.

The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.

10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.

The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.

11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.

Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.

12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.

It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.

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