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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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Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort via Getty Images
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Big Questions
How Did the Super Bowl's 'I'm Going to Disney World' Slogan Originate?
Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort via Getty Images
Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

It’s a Super Bowl tradition as recognizable as catchy commercials, lengthy halftime shows, and mounds of leftover guacamole, but how did the famous "I'm going to Disney World" and "I'm going to Disneyland" slogans make their way to (almost) every big game since 1987?

The idea for the slogan itself can be credited to Jane Eisner, the wife of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. In 2015, he recounted the story behind the tagline to Sports Illustrated:

"In January 1987, we were launching Disneyland’s Star Tours, an attraction based on Star Wars. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, my wife, Jane, and I had dinner with George Lucas, as well as Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who had just become the first people to fly around the world without stopping. It was late and the conversation hit a lull as we waited for our food. So I asked Dick and Jeana, 'Well, now that you’ve accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?' Rutan responded, without hesitation, 'I’m going to Disneyland.' And of course I go, 'Wow, that’s cool! You made the right choice.' But my wife interjects: 'You know, that’s a good slogan.'"

Around this time, the NFL playoffs were well underway, with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos set to face each other at Super Bowl XXI. What better time to unveil this new marketing slogan than at the biggest TV event of the year? Once Eisner decided on a time and place to debut the phrase, the teams’ two quarterbacks, Phil Simms and John Elway, both received identical offers: $75,000 for the winner to say "I’m going to Disney World" and "I’m going to Disneyland" to a Disney camera as they ran off the field after the game. This would then be used in a commercial with Disney World or Disneyland being shown depending on where it aired. (This is then oftentimes followed by an actual trip to a Disney park within the next few days, where the spokesperson takes part in a parade in his team's honor). 

Simms was hesitant at first, but once he heard Elway agreed to it, he was on board. The NFL also signed off on Disney’s plan, so now it was up to the company to find a way to get their cameras on the field before all-out madness could erupt. Tom Elrod, Disney’s president of marketing and entertainment in 1987, told Sports Illustrated:

"We wanted it to be authentic, but that meant being the first camera on the field, in the most frenetic environment you could possibly imagine. We’d be competing with broadcast crews and journalists and hangers-on and teammates, just to have some guy look into a camera and say, 'I’m going to Disney World.' It’s wild if you think about it. That first year, I don’t think anyone thought that was achievable."

It’s a good thing the reluctant Simms changed his tune about Disney’s offer, because his Giants beat Elway’s Broncos 39-20. Not only was Simms awarded his first Super Bowl win and the game’s MVP award, he also got a cool $75,000 for uttering two simple sentences (though he had to say both sentences three times each, just to be sure). 

The tradition has carried on ever since, except in 2005 for Super Bowl XXXIX and in 2016 for Super Bowl 50, when no commercials aired (though Super Bowl 50's winning quarterback, Peyton Manning, went to Disneyland anyway).

The slogan now extends beyond football, having been uttered by everyone from NBA players to Olympians and American Idol contestants. And even if they don't wind up in a commercial, chances are a championship team will still be greeted by a Disney park parade, like the one thrown for the Chicago Cubs in 2016. 

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Disney/Pixar
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entertainment
Watch a Screenplay Go from Script to Screen in This Clip From Inside Out
Disney/Pixar
Disney/Pixar

If a movie were a person, its script would be the skeleton. The essentials—narrative, protagonists, dialogue, etc.—are all there, but they need to be fleshed out to fully come to life. Enter characters (either played by actors or animated), music, and special effects, and suddenly simple words on a page have transformed into a motion picture.

In the new Pixar-produced video below, which was first spotted by Gizmodo, you can compare the screenplay of 2015's Inside Out with the theatrical version released in theaters. The text scrolls down the screen's bottom half as a corresponding scene from the film progresses, allowing viewers to juxtapose what they're watching with what they're reading. This way, aspiring screenwriters and Pixar fans alike can see firsthand how a movie moves from a bare-bones script to a fully realized film.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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