Sunday, June 14, 2009
Believe it or not, but today is Disneyland's Matterhorn 50th birthday! No kidding. And i think that this Disneyland beloved attraction deserves a tribute with some historical pictures!
Walt Disney conceived the idea for the attraction when visiting Switzerland during filming of his film, Third Man on the Mountain. He was impressed by the beauty of the real Matterhorn, and had the thought of a bobsled ride. Here is a picture of Walt at WEd with the Matterhorn model.
Originally intended as a decorative overlay for the central pylon of the Disneyland Skyway, the concept for the Matterhorn later evolved into a full-blown, separate attraction. The attraction opened on June 14, 1959, as one of three new major attractions for Tomorrowland that year. Built by coaster builder Arrow Development and WED Imagineering, it was the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. It consisted of a wood and steel infrastructure surrounded by manmade rock. Trees could be seen on its sides; by making the trees at higher altitudes smaller, the Imagineers used forced perspective to augment the mountain's height. Waterfalls cascaded down its sides and frequently sprayed riders. Inside was a large, open space through which the bobsleds traveled. Unlike the real Matterhorn, this peak had numerous holes in its shell through which the riders sometimes exited and re-entered. The space within was not elaborately themed, with the infrastructure being only minimally disguised as rock.
The Matterhorn was part of the famous 1959 inauguration and here is Walt Disney and Vice-president Richard Nixon and his family during this inauguration...
...where guests could enjoyed a Swiss ballet during the Matterhorn's grand opening!
LIFE photographer Ralph Crane was there when the Matterhorn opened and shoot from the top these great pictures. Note: the first picture below was reversed - you could see it when you looked at the Alice in Wonderland ride who was on the right side instead to be on the left. The picture is now turned the right way!
Here is a great video of Walt, Lilian Disney and the Shah of Iran with his wife Farah, all together in a Matterhorn bobsled!
In 1978, the imagineers worked on a refurbishment of the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn was coming down to be reinforced with steel, as it was a wood framed structure since the beginning. The new Bobsleds were being added along with new track, and better brakes too for the splash down. It was also decided to put some show in the interior mostly for the Skyway buckets that passed through the Matterhorn more slowly. The Bobsleds of course at speed could see the new icy interiors and crystals as well as what is now a very famous Disneyland figure: the abominable snowman.
Steve Kirk who will be later the show producer in chief for Tokyo Disney Sea worked on the design of it - i should say them as there is three "abominable snowmen" in the ride. The design of these Snow Men was based on Steve's artwork - the one above - which was a composite of several different contemporary depictions and his own warped imagination.
Sculptor Blaine Gibson will then sculpt the snowman mask, and the imagineers team with Legend and Matterhorn creator Fred Joerger added the interior with the new Ice Crystals. Some of the abominable snowmen AA are in fact old Jungle Cruise audio-animatronic gorillas with a new suit, now living a second life in the role of the Matterhorn's abominable snowmen!
Since then, Disneyland's Matterhorn is always one of DL guests favorite ride, and i'm ready to bet that the Matterhorn will still be there in 50 years from now, to celebrate its 100th anniversary! In the meantime, let's end with a great night picture of the Matterhorn Lagoon showing DL submarines, the monorail, and, of course, the Matterhorn.
Pictures: copyright Disney and Time-Life
Steve Kirk's artwork and abominable snowman pictures: copyright Disney.
Part of the text: copyright Wikipedia