May 31, 2019

When Reality is Better Than Imagineering Art: Disneyland's Revamped Rivers of America

As all the excitement continues around Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and its only opening day attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, I thought it was time to take a look at the transformation of the Rivers of America
Disneyland fans were highly concerned when it was announced that  the Rivers of America was going under the knife in order to make room for Star Wars. The project was already hotly debated due to its location in "Walt's park" versus the catch all that has become Disney California Adventure. Concerns were valid. The end result was, quite fortunately, one of the most lovingly executed projects of Disneyland's recent years.

My photography skills do not do the transformation justice! As I rode both the Mark Twain Steamboat and then the Disneyland Railroad, I was impressed with what I found. It was even impressive from Tom Sawyer Island and even from the walking path that meanders around the river from Frontierland to New Orleans Square to Critter Country. From every angle, this project is a winner.

Boarding the Mark Twain Riverboat brings some of the best views possible. What used to be a long stretch of nothing much to see just around the river bend has become an area of interest. Newly discovered waterfalls crash just behind the elevated railroad track, and the long present Indian village seems to have come alive. You know that Galaxy's Edge is just beyond the additions, and yet it all flows together so seamlessly making that fact easy to forget. 

Naturally, with about 1/3 of the river shortened than it was at park opening in 1955, I expected the water journey to feel shortchanged. It was not a lesser experience in any way. The craft certainly moved not quite as fast as before, and the overall journey felt just right.

What has yet to be seen is how the voyage feels in the evening when the Galaxy outpost is lit up. How will a ride on the rails feel as it passes by the otherworldly glow? Should the Mark Twain ever make evening cruises again, will this ruin the mood?

I'm not a fan of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge going into Disneyland. That and Marvel should have been the basis of a 3rd park in Anaheim. But it's done. At least the transformation of the Rivers of America was lovingly accomplished- in my mind adding and not subtracting from a beautiful part of the Land.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photographs by Mark Taft.)

May 29, 2019

Preview of Galaxy's Edge Preview

From an on line search- Here's a first hand preview look at the Star Wars scene before Disneyland finally premiers its Galaxy's Edge addition. I must admit the area looks incredibly rich and detailed with surprisingly moderate and manageable sized crowds. For now. Found by user SMLR on the WDWMagic boards.

May 28, 2019

A Sparkling Cinderella

Many of us who enjoy and even study the Disney theme parks can sometimes forget that Imagineer Marc Davis was also an animator! His beautiful take on the heroine Cinderella is seen here on this cel. The film is one of my favorite old school Disney classics. It's charming, sweet, and well done. With one of the best villains ever and free of social commentary and a political agenda. Something you cannot always say these days. I found it on the site of animator  Andreas Deja's blog Deja View

May 24, 2019

Super Hero Physical Exam

How do these Super Heroes do what they do? Brains? Brawn? Have best friends who are also super heroes? Special weapons? Perhaps all of the above! Captain America once went against Iron Man in Civil War, and now they all work together for the Endgame. The whole thing is...

Complex. The entire thing is complex. Being a real super hero in a world that wants to drag us down takes more than just brains, brawn, best friends, and the latest weapons of warfare. 

Ask yourself, "What is my endgame? Where do I want to end up?"

Let's do a Super Hero physical exam and find out where we are at. Are we good enough from Marvel's team of Avengers- or even something bigger? What about in God's Kingdom?

Heart Exam- Be a man that chases after what is important to God. Take the time to stop and look deeply at your life and compare it to Jesus. After all, He is not only God in the flesh, he is the standard of what a man should be. Pure, holy, and powerful. 100% sold out to complete the work the Father had given him. And you we glad He did? King David was called a man after God's own heart. Not because he was perfect- he wasn't- but because he kept going back to God again and again. 

Loins- Do you use your body for sex in a way that pleases God? Don't be a Deadpool kind of guy, jumping on anyone who makes your pulse race. Life is so much more than fulfilling your lusts. Drop the porn and the cheap sex to move on. (No, I haven't intentionally seen the movie. I did, unfortunately sit a few rows over from a guy on a plane who was watching what looked like hard core porn graphically simulating anal sex. Then I realized the actor was Ryan Reynolds. What a major disappointment to see him doing this!) 

Examine your Head-  Are you thinking Biblically? Do you think like those in the world or are you being transformed by an ongoing diet of God's Word and applying it? Don't be deceived by the world's way of thinking: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." Colossians 2:8.

Neck- Are you easily turned to the right or left when God speaks? Or do you live intentionally and with purpose to please God and make him known? What is the depth of integrity in your life? Be the same person everywhere you go.

Hands- Keeping your hand to the plow takes effort. Constantly. Giving up is just so easy at times. Look what Jesus himself says to someone who wants to follow him in the book of Luke Chapter 9- "Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Stay at it!

Knees- Be a man of prayer! It's easy to try to do what we think is right and miss the mark. It's much more difficult to move in a wrong way if you are constantly before God in prayer, speaking to Him and seeking to listen to him. He wants to speak to you!

Feet- Walk where God tells you. Does the road look long or hard or one where you'll travel seemingly on your own? Doesn't matter!  Do what He says. Obedience is the issue. Does your road lead to death? It should at least lead to "death to self."

Mouth-  Speak well of others and of our God. Harder than you'd think! In fact, the book of James in the New Testament tells us that even large ships are directed by a small rudder. Our tongue can get us into trouble too many times. Use it wisely.

Weapon Check- Are you prepared? God doesn't call us out to Spiritual Warfare without giving us what we need! The Armor of God gives us the list of weapons: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - The Word of God. Our Creator also gives us the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: everything from Miracles and Discernment to Leadership, Mercy, Administration and more. (Twenty-five or so to be exact.) Don't forget- spiritual war is fought with spiritual weapons. You can't do this in your own strength. Like the fictional Steve Rogers, we must be worthy. Ready to be self-sacrificing for things eternal. But it is not our worthiness I'm talking about, because in that case, we all fall short. It is only through the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all sin and brokenness that makes us worthy. He paid the price on our behalf. That is where our true value comes from.

So, how did you do on our Super Hero Physical Exam? Not perfect? Me, neither! But let's agree to keep working on it. We need each other to succeed. Just like real life, a life of faith requires partnership with others. We can't do this alone.

(Images copyright Marvel and DC Comics.)

May 23, 2019

Farrah Fawcett Makes Another Splash

One of the major television and film stars of the 1970's has her time in the spotlight once more tonight on ABC.

Farrah Fawcett started with shampoo and shaving cream television ads but soon moved on to international fame due to a popular show called Charlie's Angels, with Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson. With a little red bathing suit, a dazzling smile, and a mane of beautiful blonde hair, Farrah instantly became a pin up girl for the generation with one single poster.

Later in life, she was unfortunately more known for making the newspaper tabloids due to her relationship with Ryan O'Neal. But she continued to make a splash everywhere she went. 

Want to know more about this life cut short? Make sure to watch ABC's “This is Farrah Fawcett” tonight from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET. I'm sure it will be fascinating.

May 22, 2019

Rare California Adventure and Grand Californian Concept Art

Imagineering's R. Tom Gilleon created a beautiful slice of concept art for the ill-conceived and executed California Adventure theme park. Here's the view from the winery portion looking at Grizzly Peak and the Grand Californian Resort- probably the most successful piece of the expansion from a design point. 

Back when it all was made public in 2001, let's just agree that the public was not impressed. Thankfully, many years later, Robert Iger admitted it was a mistake -a brand withdrawal- and committed the funds and talent to make the renewed park something closer to what it should have been at opening.

The new shiny Cars Land and Buena Vista Street were unparalleled successes for the little park, but the suits later under much of what was gained by changing Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. Things only went from bad to worse when the already awful Paradise Pier took another downgrade and became Pixar Pier. Talk about a brand withdrawal!

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 21, 2019

Will Remy's Ratatouille Adventure Look Like This?

Look at these straight on images of the models once prepared for EPCOT Center's World Showcase, particularly the France pavilion. Notice how the backdrop "wall" looks three dimensional but in reality is only a flat wall rising above the main building? 

It may seem like a small question or even one that doesn't make sense. Yet, when you look at the back of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland, Cars Land at California Adventure, or Expedition: Everest from behind at Disney's Animal Kingdom, it's obvious there is a newer philosophy behind these major buildouts versus the standard of Imagineers and company suits of old.

Back of Cars Land from Laughing Place.

Back of Expedition: Everest from Theme Park Guy.

Sure, guests forget all about the backsides once they are inside the respective parks. But it's not like in the old days under Walt. And I'm glad early post-Walt leadership held onto his values or the iconic Space Mountain would look like something you'd find in one of those Chinese Disney rip off theme parks!

(Top Photographs and Models copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 20, 2019

Venezia: From the Canals to the Skies

From the waterside views to scenes admired from the tops of campanile of Saint Marks', Venice is a sight to behold, and it's this day's getaway location. 

Known the world over as a place of beauty, romance, mystery, and incredible food and music, Venezia is a place to slowly take in. You can't rush through it. Take time to explore the nooks and crannies and side streets. Ride on the subtle waves of the water by cruising on different types of transportation. Enjoy dusk... and dawn. Pistachio brittle and mint flavored soda makes a fine sweet snack as you walk along the streets and explore quaint shops and overpriced but charming restaurants. Take time to search other travel posts on this blog, and you'll find there's no place like this on Earth!

(Top photo The Local Italy. Video from National Geographic.)

May 18, 2019

A Beautiful New Disneyland Castle

There's been much talk about the repainting / Re-Imagineering of Disneyland's iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. Some hate it, thinking it is too saturated. I am not of that opinion. 

I think it looks absolutely stunning. Do you agree?

(Photo by Rob Sparacio, Disneyland.)

May 17, 2019

Disney Springs and Pleasure Island

Highly successful, Disney's Springs is continuing to lead the transformation of the entire area around it. Change is constant. Bongo's Cuban restaurant is one of the last pieces of what was The West Side. Back in the day, it was Pleasure Island and the Disney Village. Both were both smartly done and hit two very different audiences.

No, it wasn't just the theme parks that were given the Imagineers touch. Bringing some nightlife to Walt Disney World was also one of their tasks. Just think about the amazing, excellent Adventurer's Club! That's got their hand all over it. (Boy, I miss it!)

Do you want to see more Pleasure Island in its heyday? Go to this post for some great vintage photos taken right after the grand opening- including my favorite, a larger than life, leg swinging Jessica Rabbit

Look for more Pleasure Island posts on the blog. You'll be surprised what you find around here...
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 16, 2019

Gaylord Rockies Worth the Visit

The Gaylord Rockies, a swank, amenity filled resort, is just the place for a few days of rest and relaxation- especially if you don't leave the grounds. 

The approach to the resort is dull. and the main building itself seems rather plain with just a small dusting of detail. This is particularly true if you are used to the great pioneer themed landmarks of the West of if you are familiar with Disney's incredible Wilderness Lodge in Florida.

Ah, but once inside, the real magic begins!

The indoor waterfall found just past the lobby speaks to the designers intent to get guests to sit and relax. Or eat and relax. Or drink and relax. It's all about soaking in the details and enjoying the experience. 

The indoor water area is especially nice when there's snow outside.

Just on the right side of the bridge is a locomotive!

A gigantic fireplace hearth sets the mood.

Our dining options were surprisingly varied and each excellent. The Mont Jade Japanese / Asian restaurant presented a lovely array of choices, each delicately prepared and varied in flavor. We chose to dine much like we would at a tapas restaurant, choosing many items to share off the menu. Each one was worth every penny, but the shishito peppers were  my favorite. 

The surroundings were as of high quality as the meal! We would eat there again in an instant if it were not so far away.

The view of the Rockies is wisely front and center.

Our room was brand new, so of course, it was nice. That's expected. One thing I did not expect was how large of a resort it was and how big the convention wing. That said, we had plenty to explore and spent our afternoon and into the next day staying inside, enjoying fine meals, good drinks, and a pleasant atmosphere. 

Would we stay over night again? I'm not sure. The price point is high for us, but with the one time Colorado resident special, we couldn't pass the chance to do so.

Regardless of lodging, the Gaylord Rockies is a great place for a drink, a meal, and an evening out!

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

May 15, 2019

A Grandmother's Love

Is this not just the sweetest of photographs? This just touches my heart. Two little kids with their grandma in the hammock. Time is precious and goes by so so quickly.

(Photograph copyright Lauren Knuth.)

May 10, 2019

Space Mountain: The Impact, History, and Art of a Classic

Editors note: My original plan for today's post was to feature a piece of rarely seen concept art for Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the attractions most written about on this blog. As I began to write, I realized I never have taken a deeper look at its extensive history in each park. Instead of a short article, it is becoming its own mega-post. In its place, I present a newly updated and expanded version of my much loved article on the history and impact of Space Mountain. Tons more concept art and history on this great attraction. Enjoy!

Long before Star Tours, this single space themed adventure was one of the big motivations for visiting a Disney theme park. Upon opening, this roller coaster in the dark was groundbreaking with immediate impact. As a cultural reference in U.S. television shows, the sheer mention of Space Mountain brings instant memories and elicits screams of excitement from fans all over. 

Whether the building guests see is the classic, iconic structure found in Florida, California, and Tokyo, a similar but slightly different one placed in a cartoonish Tomorrowland that feels kid drawn in Hong Kong, or the best one of all- a stunning, elegant Jules Verne styled masterpiece in Paris (which looks spectacular at night with all its neon), the sheer sight of the attraction makes park guests run to it immediately at park opening as well as queue up all through the day and night. 

For this generation, blasting off through the universe has become a right of passage into the teenage years, but for the very earliest Disney fans, this wasn't always the case. As with most things worth the result, the road to success was very long.

Clem Hall's watercolor version of what would become 
Disneyland's mountain classic.

Concept art with an inside view.

This piece alone sold me on a ride!

A new view planned with Disneyland's new Tomorrowland 98.

It had been almost a decade since Walt Disney had passed away when Space Mountain debuted at Florida’s Magic Kingdom in 1975- even though he had planned it for Disneyland many years prior. Imagineers such as John Hench drew some of the earliest plans for a Disneyland space station and its fast moving rocket adventure. They knew it would happen eventually...

At the opening of the Walt Disney World resort four years earlier, the new park's Tomorrowland section was fairly empty, certainly incomplete. Smaller attractions were quickly added to the section making it a bit more well rounded, but the best was yet to come.
Certainly, guests found If You Had Wings charming, the Skyway and the Grand Prix Raceway fun, Circle-Vision 360 enjoyable, and Flight to the Moon (later Mission to Mars) provided minor thrills, but the land still lacked that special "E Ticket" calling card. This did not go without notice, but the Imagineers were already quickly working to enhance the area by adding a major blockbuster.

Space Mountain was the centerpiece of a slate of these much needed additions. Like most all of the early classic attractions, its roots came from Walt himself for Anaheim, but the technology wasn't there yet to make it happen. The ultimate space adventure would eventually make it to its originally intended destination a couple of years later in a much smaller, single track configuration than what would first be built in the East.

A larger closer view!
This was used to promote California's version as well.

A nice pencil sketch.

This design is more squashed-
sort of like the mountain found at Hong Kong Disneyland.

In 1969 with American astronaut Neil Armstrong's steps on the moon, America’s refreshed obsession with space travel provided the perfect timing for this major thrill ride to come into existence. The technology needed was coming into its own. Finally.

The future had always fascinated Walt, and this love was reflected in his films, the television series, and at Disneyland. He loved science, space exploration, and new technologies. When the Magic Kingdom was designed, it was only natural that a futuristic themed land would also be in the plans. His team had been working on a New Tomorrowland (1967) for Disneyland, and it would make its debut after Walt's unfortunate passing. Even so, the groundwork was being laid for Florida.

New Tomorrowland for the Magic Kingdom.
Carousel of Progress and the Peoplemover join the line up.

As discussions continued with his team about bringing an outer space rocket adventure to the Anaheim park, concept art for Walt’s Space Port began to emerge. As you can tell from all the concept art in this article alone, the Disney Imagineers created many different looks which were considered before settling on its initial timeless exterior. Variations included multi-level walkways, exterior coaster track as well as interior, smooth round roofs, roofs with spires of various sizes, access directly into the mountain, acmes via a covered pathway, etc. Nothing was tossed out, and as we know, no idea was wasted.

Imagineers Herb Ryman and John Hench each came up with their own designs but they would be slightly blended for the final result, leaving earlier designs by Clem Hall to be left to Disney art books for coffee tables throughout America. 


Once the mountain's unique design was settled upon, a detailed model was built, giving the Imagineers a chance to view how the attraction would fit into the Magic Kingdom. the decision was made to take guests under the railroad tracks and into the mountain. This trick was used to good effect at Disneyland with the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Guests were slowly taken out of the ordinary and into another world. In this case to a space port somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.

One of the major benefits of this particular configuration came from the attraction's placement just outside the park perimeter. Guests from the Magic Kingdom parking lot, the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Village Resort could view the gleaming white spires of the mountain from the other side of the Seven Seas Lagoon with little clutter of other attractions vying for attention. It was the perfect siren call for a new and innovative attraction.

(Current changes to the World's transportation systems have made the impact less powerful. Arriving at the Magic Kingdom via bus so close to Space Mountain lessons the wow factor to a large degree. What hasn't changed is the visual impact from viewing it high atop the Contemporary Resort from its California Grill restaurant deck.)

A model for the Magic Kingdom version.

Notice the rockets outside the structure?

With much fanfare after a couple of years of construction, Space Mountain opened, becoming an instant theme park icon and the new "must do" attraction. Imagineering and the money men knew they had a hit on their hands, so they took advantage of "The blessing of size” as Walt said, and enabled the Imagineers to build a full dual tracked thrill ride for the Magic Kingdom. The new coaster was a serious bid for the teen market who found much of the Magic Kingdom and its emphasis on slow moving attractions and shows not of interest. 

Audio-Animatronic musicals like Tropical Serenade (Enchanted Tiki Room), Country Bear Jamboree, and The Mickey Mouse Revue, were still popular with young families and older guests, but it was time to round out the attraction roster and add to their reputation. Mission accomplished!

Great view of the Mountain from Florida's Peoplemover.
One reason their Tomorrowland is better than Disneyland's-
for the time being.

The most recent attraction poster for the Florida mountain.
New poster for a new century.

Some art from the old official Disney blog.

The popular attraction has seen very few changes over the years, save the removal of the sponsorship from the company that helped fund it, RCA. Park leadership spent years relying on it to keep the crowds coming as they neglected to make significant investments into the Magic Kingdom. Beyond opening Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in 1980, funds were only made available for changing out smaller rides until finally a New Fantasyland made its appearance in 2012. That's 30 years of neglecting its flagship theme park in Florida.

A few years ago, a quick refurbishing to Space Mountain meant a change in the music, new stereo sound, and a sparkling new attraction poster. Nothing else. The ride itself remains very rough. Much like Disneyland's classic Matterhorn Bobsleds, an entirely new track is needed. Long time Disney park fans know that maintenance is not a strong suit at Walt Disney World.  Perhaps when Tron Light Cycle Run opens in 2021 for the park's 50th Anniversary, the suits will decide its time to close Space Mountain for some much needed enhancements and revisions. If nothing else, it needs to be done for guest safety.

Back to our story. At Disneyland in Anaheim, California, the astounding success of the attraction in Florida meant one just had to be built in Anaheim. It only made sense as Walt first intended the space adventure for this park. 

With land being more limited, the mountain was squeezed into a Tomorrowland that had a slice of room for growth. The smaller ride footprint demanded a similar but much smaller mountain, so there would not be the visual wow factor upon approaching the building. As Disneyland designers tend to do, they made good use of the problem and added a stage, a restaurant, and even a game arcade to round out the expansion. For the attraction itself, paring down was necessary. This also meant only single track and less ride capacity, a queue with a different loading zone, and a much tighter flight route. In spite of the changes, the public's response was no less incredible.

I love attraction posters!

Prior to the opening of California Adventure, it was possible to enter the Disneyland parking lot area right next to Space Mountain. Since I lived nearby, I took advantage of the opportunity to drive by regularly, collecting Disneyland guidebooks and memorabilia. And I was always watching projects under construction.

When the attraction finally opened in 1977, I was among the first to ride. And what an enormous line it was! (Years later, I was also at the opening of the Indiana Jones Adventure as well.) At one point, the queue snaked all the way down Main Street. Hours passed as flights were on then off again during its test period. The initial flight experience was quite the rush at opening. The atmosphere was much darker, and the rockets much faster.

One of the earliest renderings of the attraction- for Disneyland.
Another Clem Hall creation.

The 1967 version of Tomorrowland was epic, but by the end of the 20th Century, the Imagineers were tasked with enhancing the land. Imagineer Tony Baxter was given the difficult task but with a very limited budget. A newly bronzed Space Mountain appeared after the transition alongside the most recent addition, the now defunct Rocket Rods. A couple of cheaply built cloned attractions from Florida completed the project. The revised land was not well received, and the epic mountain soon painted back to its original white scheme. 

Copper mountain from Disneyland's Tomorrowland '98.

New art for a revised Tomorrowland. 

With someone else's cash to burn and carte blanche access to the plans from Imagineering, Disney worked alongside the Japanese investors handpicking attractions from two differently designed Disney kingdoms. Tokyo Disneyland was an instant hit. Even with access to the larger Florida version, the Japanese executives chose California’s much smaller attraction as the one to be duplicated. When the park opened in 1983, visitors found this space journey to have an entirely different feel, a blending of both American parks and few unique elements at opening. 

With Disney, it's usually better in Japan!

Tokyo's mountain and the proposed remodel that never happened.

In a strange twist, Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland remained relatively untouched but in contrast to Florida, its attractions were kept in top shape. Parkwide. What a show of respect for its guests and for the Imagineers who work so hard to bring a premium experience.

With the building of the amazing Tokyo Disneysea taking priority, its Magic Kingdom styled park retained its 1970s-ish take on the future. Plans for a revision - including a new exterior treatment for Space Mountain- were scrapped. This may have worked to its advantage. 

How do you build a Disneyland in one of the most magical cities on earth? This was the challenge handed to Tony Baxter, and he and his team succeeded beyond belief. In the world's most beautiful city, Paris, the most beautiful of Disney kingdoms makes is home.

For years, European fans had to travel to the Sunshine or Golden State for a Disney vacation experience. Later, they could go to Japan. Once Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, it was a different story. Discoveryland, the Parisian version of Tomorrowland, dazzled guests with its Jules Verne inspired roster of attractions. 

Discovery Mountain was on the agenda but not there on opening day.  Debuting in 1995, the iconic white mountain was swapped out for a steampunk inspired adventure but with the iconic attraction name. In contrast to previous versions, this one began outdoors next to a shimmering lagoon with its own Nautilus submarine.

My photo of the best Space Mountain yet!

The attraction inside was as different from its cousins as was its exterior: the open air loading station sends its rockets into a smoke-spewing cannon as guests are launched upwards into the mountain. The views over Discoveryland are amazing, but they are nothing compared to the thrills found inside!

Photographer/artist unknown-
but what an image of Paris' version!

The track layout included multiple inversions- the first for a Disney park anywhere- and the addition of a majestic musical score to accompany the journey. This new twist on an old favorite brought in the crowds. Some could even debate Space Mountain saved the resort. It certainly did bring in the crowds.

Although the exterior building concepts remained largely the same, the Imagineers presented several different ideas for what was to be built inside the mountain. In addition to Space Mountain, ideas ranged from a Nautilus adventure including a restaurant inside the submarine, to a unique use of the technology that makes The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror so popular for an additional attraction themed to a different Jules Verne novel. All would be found inside the mountain.

An appropriate poster for a Jules Verne themed mountain!

(For more information and concept art, track down the wonderful book Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality by Alain Littaye and Didier Ghez.)

Yes, these images are of what was planned to be found
inside the mountain!

Dining with Nemo? 
Yes, not with the fish, but with the Captain.
Upon our first visit to Disneyland Paris in 1998, Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune, and Phantom Manor were at the very top of my must-do list. I must say, I did not expect every corner of the park to be as beautiful as it was. Every aspect has been brought to its fullest potential. It is a work of art from every view, every angle, every aspect. No other Magic Kingdom comes close. Well done, Tony and team! Well done.

Once I finally entered the Space Mountain queue and hopped aboard the rocket, the ride was as scenic and incredible as I had imagined it would be! The Jules Verne man in the moon smiled as we zoomed by, bringing a smile to my face. I couldn’t wait to ride it again and again! I promptly returned to the queue for another trip. 

Viewing the mountain and watching the Columbiad cannon send explorers on their journey was every bit as compelling as seeing the beautiful Eiffel Tower. I couldn’t take my eyes off the attraction. Original music by John Debney is the perfect icing on the proverbial cake, or should I say butter on the croissant. 

Discoveryland and its mountain are beautiful during the day but absolutely spectacular at night. With its magnificent lighting, this Space Mountain was the ultimate execution of the trendsetting concept. Period. Until a "reintroduction" of the attraction and a new theme.

When we visited the park once more in 2007, we were shocked to find that the original story had given way for "Mission 2". It was a poor design and marketing choice, as much of the stunning set pieces and effects had disappeared as well as the original majestic theme music. Perhaps it will return one day.

The opening of the first Disneyland in China, Hong Kong Disneyland (2005), provided an opportunity for building yet another version of the Magic Kingdom classic. It would be the first kingdom to open with this attraction, but the park debuted to a collective thud of a response. 

Due to budget adjustments and misguided opinions of what makes a Disney park, it remains short on attractions. Newer additions of  Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Manor and even a bigger castle will bring a more complete experience, but the park still lacking.  

The attraction poster for Hong Kong Disneyland's Space Mountain.

The setting of this Chinese Tomorrowland is more akin to a Saturday morning cartoon than previous versions of the future. The mountain adventure itself is a near duplicate of California's, albeit in a more compact form. In a brand new take on the mountain's use and design, it also houses a show based on the main character from Lilo and Stitch. The mountain may be the only original Hong Kong Tomorrowland attraction to be spared by the relatively new Marvel takeover. 

Is this a good look for Tomorrowland?

Where will the next other worldly mountain show up? It wasn't in the city Shanghai as the newest Disney Magic Kingdom, as the centerpiece Tomorrowland attraction is instead based on Tron: Legacy and its Light Cycles. For all the questions we may have, one thing is certain. Space Mountain will continue to draw and thrill millions of visitors all over their world in their quest to explore the universe!

(All concept art and Tokyo Disneyland photos copyright The Walt Disney Company; all other photos by Mark Taft)