Space Mountain soft opening at Disneyland (spoilers!)

Saturday, July 2, 2005 2:55 AM
Well...it's here. Today after more then 2 years of being closed, Space Mountain finally soft opened to the public. The sign at the entrance listed the wait time as 70 minutes, but I waited under an hour both times. In fact my second ride was only about 30 minutes. (Fastpass was not in use though so this may have a lot of bearing on that)

What follows is my impressions with spoilers. So if you don't want to know, stop right here...there be spoilers ahead!!!!!


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Okay...now that we have that out of the way. Here's my thoughts. Summed up...A mixed bag. Some of the changes I feel were for the worse and some for the better. First the entrance...a vast improvement. They opened up the other side of the wall so that Fastpass will enter from one side and the regular line enters where it always has from the other side. With a castmember right in the middle. It looked very nice.

Unfortunately, turning the corner and proceeding down the hall turned up the change I hate the most...the queue line. The hallways are UGLY now. Not that they were great before, but now I think they are claustrophobic with their stainless steel walls and nightclub lighting. The two story section where you could see out into the ride has been all sealed up. So not only can you not see into the ride anymore, but you also can't even see the pathway above or below you as it winds around this part. It reminded me of a Halloween haunt maze without all the entertainment. Which is the next problem...nothing to look at. As if it wasn't bad enough that the queue line was sealed off from the ride, the monitors have all been removed as well. Other then the occasional recorded safety video, there truly is nothing to look at. Luckily the castmember at the entrance would hold people back and then let them breeze through most of this part. Since there was no Fastpass, I am wondering if that is the reason. Maybe they know their queue is boring?

Once you turn the corner and enter the loading area you immediately notice, it’s darker in here!!! Quite a bit so. It’s not a bad thing…it actually works pretty good here. The new video on the far wall looked real nice. The spaceship hanging in the middle of the room has undergone some changes and looks a little different in places. (Sadly the cheesey yellow lights on it that look like they belong at a carnival are still there though). The second thing you’ll notice is that there is a pulse of red neon around the launch area of the room that lights each time a rocket is dispatched. You’ll also notice some nice lighting on the air gates which looks really cool.

The trains have changed as well of course. No more glow in the dark strip. Since there are no more windows, I guess they don’t need them anymore. Cheesy, but I will miss them. The lap bars stay down as soon as you pull them down so no more panicked passengers thinking their bar is broke as they leave the platform with it unlocked. There is a new handicap load spur where rockets can be shunted off the track for guest that need more time. This is just in front of where you board. On one of my rides it seemed like a man in a train in front of ours was having trouble with his lap bar or something. The train got sent onto the maintenance spur like the old days so I am not sure if weight is still a factor even with the new track or they got sent this way because of the man with the lap bar issues.

The ride itself, is largely the same. Same track layout, same three lifts, same mechanics in the station propelling the trains making the same sound. The effect are different. The first lift sections walls have been pushed out and looks very different. The section after that was a big disappointment to me. They took out the cool meteor effects and sound and replaced them with cheesy fluorescent lights in the wall flashing in sequence a la Space Mountain Florida. This is a horrible change! And a step backwards as far as technical effects go. I am not sure why they did this. The old effect looked more state of the art then what they put in. Luckily the second lift hill makes up for it. The hyperspace effect is SO much better then the mist and nightclub lighting they used to have. It is one big projection all around you. First it fades on, then it locks on in 4 stages from far to near with matching sound effect…. BAM BAM BAM BAM. It’s my favorite new thing on the ride.

At the top of this hill is a spinning black hole instead of the famous (infamous?) chocolate chip cookie. The orange thing (planet?) is no longer there or at least no longer lit up if it is and the show building itself is quite a bit darker now. No nebula at the top, not much of anything really….just stars. The soundtrack has all been replaced and sounds like The Incredibles or Mission Impossible more then anything else. Nothing like the Dick Dale surf guitar. I know some thought that wasn’t a good fit but I always liked it. And the new music doesn’t really fit either and is not very notable or memorable as far as I am concerned. When the ride is over, there is a blinding flash of light as you return to earth and enter the new reentry scene, which has been completely redone and is much better then before. You are welcomed back in the audio track and you exit up double wide stairs which have replaced the narrow speedramp.

So, that’s basically it. And like I said, basically the same ride. Although the ride did feel more solid and smoother. You could not feel or hear the ride rumble from the queue line as you could before. But the reentry is so loud that you can feel that rumble now as you exit the ride whereas you couldn’t before. I’m happy with some of the changes and not happy with others. I think most people will feel the same and may even be a bit letdown that there aren’t more new things to see after 2 years of work. But the ride is still in soft openings so there could still be more. And we did see some arches and other items inside the ride that we suspect is in there for Rock it Mountain. What is Rock it Mountain you may ask? That is what Space Mountain will become after dark. With different visuals and different soundtrack from the daytime version. So guest will get two rides in one each day. But this won’t be turned on until NEXT summer so they have something new to promote next year. It will be interesting to see what that is like.

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Saturday, July 2, 2005 3:24 AM
I will go right after the fourth of July week. THANK YOU for the review! Very well done, with a good comparison to the original. :)
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Saturday, July 2, 2005 10:18 AM
I guess my question is...why did that take two years?
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Saturday, July 2, 2005 10:52 AM
In part, because they demolished and reinstalled the track (including lowering the floor for reasons I don't recall) WITHOUT tearing into the mountain in any guest-visible sections.

That said, Disney installations always seem to take longer than anyone else's. Then again, they always turn out with much better detail, too.


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Saturday, July 2, 2005 1:59 PM
I forgot to mention that the new trains also have storage pouches like Indy. So that was a real nice touch. And a first for a coaster at the Disneyland resort. I'm happy about that and hopefully they won't have as many lost items inside the ride to worry about later. Now if they would only put them on California Screamin. That's a ride that could really use them.
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Saturday, July 2, 2005 10:37 PM
rollergator's avatar Considering HOW squarely Brian hit it on the head about: Disney keeping the ENTIRE project invisible to patrons, their *abnormally extended construction timelines* ;) and their almost insane attention to detail in theming, etc., the real question is...how'd they get it done in ONLY two years... ;)

If it hadn't been the Anniversary celebration, probably woulda taken twice that long...the Expedition Everest thingy at *my* Disney has been FOREVER in coming...

Also, no Fastpass DOES make everyone else's wait shorter...well, everyone's... ;)

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Monday, July 4, 2005 12:08 PM
Soggy's avatar I have to think there are some other effects that may not be turned on because it's a soft opening. Although, I too was hoping for a more major difference, even if the ride itself remains largely the same.

Pass da' sizzrup, bro!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005 9:36 AM
Was expecting Disneyland to install their own version of Rock-n-Roller Coaster except with a Space Mountain theme. But instead it sounds like they played it safe, replaced the track so thier was not another Thunder Mountain mishap. Missed opportunity for Disney to create another incredible thrill ride. Top speed of this version 25 mph as well? Oh well, at least the effects are cool. Still looking forward to seeing it. *** Edited 7/5/2005 1:37:14 PM UTC by rc-madness***
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Tuesday, July 5, 2005 12:12 PM
ShiveringTim's avatar Why is everyone so surprised by the fact that Disney didn't change a thing when it came to the layout?? The word ever since it closed two years ago was that they'd keep the same layout, but only beef up the track and structure as well as update the theming.

Personally, I loved Space Mountain v1.0 and I can't wait to ride v2.0 in a few weeks.


Scott - Proud Member of The Out-Of-Town Coaster Weirdos
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Tuesday, July 5, 2005 12:23 PM
rc-madness, what's with the disappointed tone? You must understand that Disney isn't in the era of building just thrill rides. You may have noticed that many of the amusement parks in this country are suffering while intensely detailed theme parks are making a comeback as the leaders in expansions. Consumers are shifting their interests from the wait in boring line, get pushed around waiting for a certain seat, have 2 minutes of fun, and then walk the endless distance to work up for that next 2 minutes of fun. They are instead choosing the entire day of fun where the line can be fun (in this case it isn't I understand), the ride is fun, and the walk out into the midway with parades and cool shops and insanely friendly staff and characters greet them with smiles all while an inspirational soundtrack booms in the background...that is fun!

I have always defended Disney and I must say that with their age, a new charm comes with the rides...nostalgia. Adults who went to Disneyland as kids want to take their kids to Disneyland and take them on the same rides they once enjoyed. It is important to balance cutting edge rides with this ability to refresh pleasant memories, and I think Disney is immensely successful in doing that. Space Mountain is a classic and changing it so dramatically that the last generation could no longer recognize it would be a poor change in my opinion. *** Edited 7/5/2005 4:25:30 PM UTC by SFGAMDie HARD***


Mildly amused since 2003.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2005 12:23 AM
Awesome report Greg, thanks for the information. Now, when's a good weekend for me to come down so we can hang out at DL? :) Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear and those new fireworks are really starting to call out to me. ;)

Justin


If you jump off a cliff, you might as well learn to fly since you've got nothing to lose
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