Your destination: Infinite space
Your speed : Astronomical
Your type of encounters: Asteroids
Between the Earth and the Moon begins… The Adventure!
It’s the late ’80s. Disneyland Paris, then EuroDisney, is still just a vast expanse of freshly turned over land on the outskirts of Paris.
Meanwhile, in California, in Glendale to be precise, some of the best Imagineers in the history of Walt Disney Imagineering are working relentlessly to design the most beautiful theme park ever created under the direction of Tony Baxter.
Tim Delaney, in charge of designing Tomorrowland, is racking his brains because he’s facing a double challenge:
On one hand, Tomorrowland has always been a problem land for the Imagineers. The difficulty of projecting oneself into the future is that it is constantly changing, so Tomorrowland needs to be very (too) regularly updated.
On the other hand, the French government has forced Disney to present a park that pays at least tribute to French culture.
So, looking for an idea, he came across an old project never done for Disneyland: Discovery Bay. A Land paying tribute to the world as imagined by Jules Verne, a French author!
That’s all it took for his Tomorrowland to focus not on the future, but on the future as seen by different eras, especially that of the end of the 19th century and therefore of Jules Verne!
Discoveryland was born…
Of Discovery Mountain – Volume 1
Now that Tim had a Land, it was obviously necessary to give him an emblem, or Weenie in Disney language. In the other parks, the Astro-Jets fulfilled this function from the 50s to the 70s, before being overtaken by an even more majestic emblem: Space Mountain.
Discoveryland would therefore follow the same path. Whilst dealing with the budget limitations and the choices of priorities. Initially, Discoveryland would therefore have Orbitron at its centre. A reinvention of the classic Astro-Jets based on Leonardo Da Vinci‘s vision of the solar system.
But Tim hasn’t forgotten that Space Mountain will eventually be able to get out of the ground and that his Discoveryland will therefore need a completely revised version.
Remembering that the Parisian climate is not reputed to be the mildest and most pleasant, he imagines taking the iconic shape of the Space Mountain building and creating a gigantic dome that would cover more than half of the Land, and from where we could access through different tunnels and covered passages to other pre-existing spaces such as Videopolis, Star Tours or Captain EO.
A dome that would have been about 100 meters in diameter!
It would have been reminiscent of the shape of a volcano, traces of which can be found among the rocky structures that still dot the Land to this day, and its centre would have been entirely dedicated to the universe of Jules Verne.
Several elements inspired by novels such as “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and of course “From the Earth to the Moon”, would have been established there.
But this idea, however brilliant it may be, will eventually prove impossible to materialise. Discovery Mountain would have been so huge that it would have literally supplanted the rest of the park and the many engineering difficulties would have literally blown the construction cost through the roof.
So Tim would have to revise his copy to make it feasible.
Of Discovery Mountain – Volume 2
So Tim and his team started by making the mountain a more reasonable size. Gone are the half-covered Land and the “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, Discovery Mountain will now be home to only one attraction that takes up the fundamentals of the other Space Mountains and will therefore offer a roller coaster inspired by “From the Earth to the Moon”.
But all was not lost in the process. The lagoon that was to serve as a showcase for the Nautilus was moved and put in the open air at the foot of the mountain, and rather than offering a top-of-the-range restaurant, guests will be able to walk around in a reconstitution of the submarine “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” as seen in the Disney film.
With only one single attraction, Discovery Mountain should nevertheless exceed all expectations and with a source of inspiration like Jules Verne‘s novel, there was plenty to do!
Thus, following the example of the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril ride, Discovery Mountain would include inversions all along its route through the middle of an asteroids field for this round trip to the Moon.
3 to be precise: a loop, a spin and a horseshoe. A record for a Disney theme park!
Too scary for many families? Not to worry, a path, called the Stellar Way, was added to allow people to discover the inside of the mountain and observe the flying carts between the asteroids.
But the Imagineers obviously didn’t stop there. The fabulous giant cannon Columbiad being the essence of Jules Verne‘s novel, it was unthinkable not to bring it to life.
So they turned to engineers at Dassault, who specialise in aircraft carrier takeoff systems, to design a variation on their technology that would allow a cart to take off at full speed on a slope. A world first that will leave its mark in the minds and imagination of millions of people.
In terms of staging, the Imagineers were even more inventive. The cannon would have many moving parts and special effects to simulate the loading and detonation of the cannon in the most realistic way possible.
We can mention for example the breech which opened to see the cart moving into position, the gears (one of which was decorated with a golden sun) which rotated to simulate the loading and of course the recoil movement of the front part of the barrel accompanied by the expulsion of a thick smoke to the sound of a BOOM audible from far away to make the moment of detonation as memorable as possible.
But something was still missing. Such an epic adventure deserved an exceptional soundtrack. So Steve Bramson composed a musical nugget that could be heard in sync with the journey.
In the early days of the digital era, it was a true technological feat that required a life-size test on another attraction: Casey Jr. – Le Petit Train du Cirque.
On paper, Discovery Mountain finally had everything it needed to be an exceptional ride that was as unique as it was unforgettable and that was finally financially and technically feasible.
Of Space Mountain
The beginnings of EuroDisney were far, very far from being as idyllic as The Walt Disney Company had imagined. Some would even say it was catastrophic.
To save the park, a vast readjustment plan was set in motion. But something unique and never seen before was needed as a final bouquet that would allow EuroDisney, then on the verge of being renamed Disneyland Paris, to finally find success.
And so, unlike many projects that ended up at the bottom of a box, Discovery Mountain got the green light for its construction.
The construction site was titanic and profoundly changed the shape of the park. In the summer of 1994, the Mysteries of the Nautilus attraction opened its doors, but all eyes were already turned to June 1, 1995 and the arrival of Discovery Mountain.
But by the end of 1994, the story of Discovery Mountain was about to take a major turn. Michael Eisner, then CEO of The Walt Disney Company, decided that Discovery Mountain was not a suitable name for the attraction, fearing that the use of the term Discovery would not match the intensity of the future adventure and would be too connotative of a museum.
Unlike Haunted Mansion, which became Phantom Manor in Paris, Discovery Mountain was renamed Space Mountain to match the success of its illustrious predecessors.
Thus, on the evening of May 31, 1995, after a grandiose show in front of an audience of celebrities from all over the world, Space Mountain / Le Mont de l’Espace – De la Terre à la Lune was opened.
Of the greatest adventure in the galaxy…
The adventure begins at the ride sign, flanked by 2 golden cannons and surmounted by a small Moon around which a cart is revolving. In front of you, the Columbiad in all its majesty, catapults 24 passengers towards the Moon every 36 seconds.
After entering the mountain through a small passage discreetly arranged on its side is a breathtaking view of yellow arrows fluttering around large bluish asteroids beaten by a rain of small red asteroids.
It is only after a few seconds that you realise that these are the carts.
After passing by a strange asteroid crushing machine of the Blue Moon Company, your steps lead you to the Electro Velocitor. A noisy machine with electric lightning bolts that allow trains to return safely to Earth at the end of their journey.
“Ad Luna in Flamma Gloria! which can be translated as “To the Moon in a blaze of glory!” ». With these words, you enter the station where the carts are running, to the sound of the regular blasts of the Columbiad.
Excitement and apprehension have just enough time to reach their peak that you are already settled. Let’s go to the Moon!
The brass instruments resonate in your ears, a short descent and you’re at the bottom of the barrel. The percussion becomes more insistent as you are quickly moved into the catapult position. The tension is palpable, it is soon the long-awaited moment of departure.
Suddenly, the bass explodes in your ears, and you’re glued to the back of your seat, on your way to the moon!
The light of day gives way to the darkness of space, in a very illusory slowness you approach the asteroid field. You miss the first one by doing a loop that takes you through the Blue Moon Company machine seen earlier.
No time to breathe, this disturbance makes you hit MOM, the Mother of Meteroites, but nothing will prevent you from reaching your objective
You then plunge back between the asteroids, the Moon is now very close. Time to go through a spin and there it is, welcoming you with a smile. It could not be otherwise, it is the Moon as the filmmaker George Méliès had portrayed it.
But your cart slows down too much.
The time to understand that you will never reach it until your cart is back on track for your return trip. The speed becomes astronomical, the tight turns follow one another until the last inversion that brings you close to several asteroids.
Surrounded by rays of bright light, you enter the Earth’s atmosphere at full speed. Does a catastrophe await you at the end of the road?
Your cart suddenly slows down in a loud crash, almost coming to a complete stop. You have just entered the Electro Velocitor.
And it is accompanied by a joyful melody celebrating your return that you slowly get back to your starting point. You have survived the greatest adventure in the galaxy, from the Earth to the Moon!