Making of: Expedition Everest

By Keith Mahne

Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is a steel roller coaster built by Vekoma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The attraction is themed around the Yeti hiding in Mount Everest. It is listed in the 2011 book of Guinness World Records as the most expensive roller coaster in the world. Including sets and extras, its total cost was reported to be US $100 million, following 6 years of planning and construction. It is the tallest of the artificial mountains at Walt Disney World. Join us today as we take a look at the Making of Disney’s 18th mountain-themed attraction, Expedition Everest …

The attraction first was announced publicly on April 22, 2003, during an event to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It took three years and more than 38 miles of rebar, 5,000 tons of structural steel, and 10,000 tons of concrete to build the mountain.
Bob Iger at the opening ceremonies of Expedition Everest
Expedition Everest first opened for previews on January 26, 2006, and had its grand opening on April 7, 2006, in ceremonies led by Disney CEO Bob Iger and, then Chairman of Parks and Resorts, Jay Rasulo.

The attraction features a stand-by and a single rider line. The queue starts at the office of the fictional “Himalayan Escapes” travel agency, progressing to a replica temple with little holy figures. Visitors next enter a tea garden, followed by a room with equipment from a successful expedition, and then the “Yeti Museum”, which contains information on the Yeti and a molding of a Yeti footprint. There are also about 8,000 artifacts brought from the Nepal trip in the museum. The single rider line skips all of these exhibits.

Concept Art

The riders board the roller coaster in the model village of Serka Zong, to begin a speedy route through the Himalayas to the base of Mount Everest. The train departs the station to the right and climbs a small lift leading to a short drop, then circles around to a 112ft lift hill carrying guests into the 200ft mountain.

Concept Art

On the way up, guests pass through a ransacked temple with murals of the yeti, warning the riders that the mountain is his territory. At the top of the mountain the train curves around the main peak and goes through a cave. When it emerges, the ride draws to a halt in front of track that has been torn apart, presumably by the yeti.

Before the train begins to roll backwards, a series of rubber tires and an automatic switch rotates the piece of track directly behind the train.

The train then rolls backwards along a new route that spirals down through the mountain, coming to a halt in a large cave, where riders see the yeti’s shadow on the wall as he tears up more track.

This effect distracts riders from noticing another automatic track switch being thrown in front of them. As the shadow moves away, the train rolls forward out of the mountain and down the main 80ft drop. It enters a 360° helix and speeds back up through another cave in the mountain, where the roars of the yeti are heard once more. The train exits from the rear of the mountain and enters a large helix before being lifted back into the mountain a final time. The train drops through a cave, where “originally” a large yeti would reach down towards you.

Shortly after opening, the yeti was shut off and a strobe light placed in the scene to give riders the illusion that it was moving. Sources have said that the yeti’s enormous size and weight was actually compromising the foundation of the attraction…more on that later. Upon reaching the bottom of this drop, riders return to the unloading dock and depart into a gift shop. One ride takes about 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

Expedition Everest advertisement

Concept Art

Expedition Everest has six steam-like trains, each with six cars that together provide 17 rows seating two together, for a total of 34 riders per train. The trains are themed as the “Anandapur Rail Service” and are made to look old and rusty. Riders must be at least 44 inches tall and are secured by a lap bar. Up to five trains usually operate at once, but fewer can be used if guest demand is low. To create the illusion of a “steam powered” train, Imagineers placed vents under the station. When a train comes into the station, steam comes up through the vents and enters the loading platform.



The steel track is 4,424 feet long and the lift is approximately 112 feet high. Expedition Everest is the first ride to use Vekoma’s newest track system, in which the rails are on the outside of the ties rather than on the inside. This was the first large-scale installation of such a system.

Although moderate in height and length by contemporary standards, Expedition Everest was the first ride for Disney to have its trains travel both forward and backward. This is accomplished through two sets of track switches, one before the rear segment and one after. This was the second Disney roller coaster to run backwards, the first being Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril: Backwards! at Disneyland Resort Paris (2000–2004). Expedition Everest, however, was the first Disney roller coaster to switch between forward and backward sections during a single ride.

The mountain façade, the Yeti audio-animatronic, and the roller coaster are three independent structures. Each structure reaches the ground-level and does not touch the other two structures. This was achieved via 4-D scheduling software that told builders how to construct the attraction.

Expedition Everest is often compared to the 1959 Matterhorn Bobsleds roller coaster at Disneyland, which also features a snowy mountain setting and an “abominable snowman” figure throughout the ride. Expedition Everest’s mountain is made from 1,800 tons of steel and painted with 2,000 gallons of paint. It is the tallest artificial mountain in Florida, but not, as occasionally cited, the tallest point in Florida. It is Disney’s 18th mountain-themed attraction. As of 2015, there are 21 mountain-themed attractions.

The artificial mountain is a model, not of Mount Everest, but of the fictional “forbidden mountain” guarded by the yeti in the story created by Walt Disney Imagineering for the attraction. Everest is represented by the barren background peak on the far right, which is made to seem far in the distance (an example of forced perspective).

The yeti is the largest and most complex audio-animatronic figure ever built by Walt Disney Imagineering. It is 25 feet tall. Its “skin” measures 1,000 square feet, and is held in place by 1,000 snaps and 250 zippers. Its movement is controlled by 19 actuators. It can move 5 feet horizontally and 18 inches vertically when functioning in properly.

Yeti Concept Art

The yeti has not been in full operational mode since a few months after the ride’s opening, when its framing split, causing significant risk of catastrophic malfunction if it were operated. It currently only operates in a alternative mode, which is limited to a strobe-light effect designed to give the appearance of movement, earning it the nickname “Disco Yeti”.

The problem was caused by damage to the yeti’s concrete base structure, which is unlikely to be repaired until a major refurbishment in the distant future, because the design limits access to the yeti without major disassembly of the superstructure. The problem with the concrete is rumored to have occurred due to a glitch in the 4-D scheduling software that prevented adequate curing of a portion of the Yeti’s foundation prior to the overlapping fabrication of mountain elements and roller coaster track.

Yeti Concept Art by Joe Rohde

Joe Rohde, the Imagineer in charge of building the attraction and Animal Kingdom, was asked at the 2013 D23 Expo about the disco yeti. His response was “You have to understand, it’s a giant complicated machine sitting on top of, like, a 46 foot tall tower in the middle of a finished building. So, it’s really hard to fix, but we are working on it. And we continue to work on it. We have tried several “things”, none of them quite get to the key, turning of the 40 foot tower inside of a finished building, but we are working on it….. I will fix the Yeti someday, I swear.”

Yeti Concept Art by Joe Rohde

Expedition Everest won the 2006 Theme Park Insider Award for the “World’s Best New Theme Park Attraction”. It has also been ranked in the Golden Ticket Awards and the Best Roller Coaster Poll. It was ranked 2nd for “Best New Ride For 2006” in the Golden Ticket Awards. It continues to be Animal Kingdom’s top attraction and fits right at home with Disney’s other spectacular, magic mountains.


In 2005, Disney, Discovery Networks and Conservation International conducted expeditions to Nepal as part of the promotion for Expedition Everest. The purpose was to conduct scientific and cultural research in remote areas of the Himalayas, the location of the yeti legend. Participants included Imagineer Joe Rohde and scientists from Conservation International and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And so, for the grand finale, here now is Building A Thrill Ride: Expedition Everest, that aired on April 10, 2005 and detailed the planning and construction of the attraction, along with some of the ideas that made it possible:


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Making of: Splash Mountain

By Keith Mahne

Believe it or not the Los Angeles freeway, George Lucas, and a children’s book about a squirrel all had a lot to do with the creation of America’s favorite flume ride. It was the summer of 1983, when a variety of projects were circulating through Imagineer Tony Baxter’s mind. “I can’t say I actually thought of Splash Mountain on the freeway,” says Baxter, “but I did ponder it on more than a couple of rides to and from work. I would say that I definitely had time to think about it while sitting in traffic.” Dick Nunis, President of Walt Disney Attractions at this time, was very instrumental in getting a flume type ride in the parks. Nunis wanted something similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, but more exciting. This all lead to one of my favorite Disney attractions, Splash Mountain. Let’s take a look at the Making of this park favorite in today’s featured article…

Mickey and Dick Nunis

Tony Baxter and his fellow Imagineers were in the Blue Sky stage of development when the idea came to Baxter. “I thought about it a long time, but the idea really came to fruition when we were discussing ideas for Tomorrowland with George Lucas. One of our concepts called for tearing down America Sings, but I kept thinking, ‘What a terrible waste of all those Audio-Animatronics characters. Isn’t there something we can do with them?’” Finally, one morning after going over ideas for days and many traffic jams later, Tony Baxter had the perfect formula. Splash Mountain show producer Bruce Gordon explains, “Tony came in and told us what he wanted to do. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea!’ So I got together with John Stone, the project designer, and a bunch of other guys and we took all the scenes from “Song of the South” and began visualizing how we could turn them into a ride.”

Concept Art

Concept Art

When Baxter was four he owned a book about a squirrel and he vaguely remembered being very impressed by the illustrations. As he got older his parents gave the book to Goodwill and Baxter had no idea if the book existed anymore. This didn’t stop Bruce Gordon, who began searching high and low for this children’s book. Gordon finally found it at the Library of Congress. Fortunately, the pictures in the book did look as good as Tony Baxter remembered and, in fact, the pictures looked so good that Stone used them as inspiration for the interior show scenes for the ride.

Bruce Gordon

While work began to progress on the project, everyone knew it would be a hit. Shortly after Baxter and the others built a 1/20th scale model, several people in the WDI building would stop by and say how great it looked. The project came together flawlessly and within four weeks the Imagineers had the storyboard and model done. It’s a great sign while designing an attraction when everything falls into place. The result of that design was a flume ride based on “Song of the South” that featured not just Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear, but also over 100 characters that once performed in America Sings.

The creation of Splash Mountain caused for several changes to occur inside Disneyland. One such change was to what was known as Bear Country, now called Critter Country; the Imagineers wanting something to draw guests back into Bear Country. It was becoming a much underutilized area and there was a perceived need for a new Disney attraction. During this time the Imagineers created and completed Captain EO and Star Tours, which are great attractions, but it had been awhile since they did a ride based on classic Disney characters from the films and Splash Mountain gave them that chance.


Even though everything fell into place in the development stages of the ride, it still took five years for the attraction to be built. This was due to the fact that Disney had a flood, or traffic jam, of other projects in the works and Splash Mountain had to wait its turn in line. In 1986 the ride was finally given the go-ahead and everyone involved was extremely excited by the idea of building a really thrilling and unique attraction based on classic Disney characters.

Splash Mountain is a 10 minute ride that is half a mile long that features five drops, including a astonishing final drop that plunges over 52 feet at a 45-degree angle. Ride vehicles made to look like logs reach top speeds of 40 mph while going down the final drop, making the ride one of the fastest at Disneyland, WDW and Tokyo Disneyland.


One of the best parts of Pirates of the Caribbean, besides the drops, is the Blue Bayou section in the beginning of the ride because it gives the rider a chance to get in the mood before the ride actually starts. The Imagineers used the same tactics here by allowing riders that round Chick-a-Pin Hill to see other logs hurtling down the final drop. This gets the juices flowing as the rider keeps in mind throughout the ride that they will eventually be going down that huge drop. In theory, the first part of the ride is suppose to be relaxing, then, slowly but surely, starts to build up some anxiety of what’s to come. After the first drop, guest suddenly fined themselves in the fascinating world of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear. One unique thing about the ride is that absolutely no walls are used to divide show scenes. Instead, the ride is separated by set pieces so guests may look all the way to the other end of the bayou without giving away the story. Also, unlike Pirates of the Caribbean, where most of the action is far away from the rider, Splash Mountain is right on top of you. Imagineers wanted the riders to feel as if they are part of the attraction and very much a part of what’s happening.

Close to the end of the ride, when the rider goes down the final drop, all you can see at the bottom is a spiky, thorny Briar Patch coming at you. Once you reach the bottom a series of 12 water cannons spray water. As the log ride vehicle goes by, it seems like it goes under water but there is actually bubblers out in the middle of the lagoon that continues that effect. While building the ride and using characters from America Sings throughout, Baxter and Gordon had a bunch of Audio-Animatronics characters left over. They eventually came up with the idea to place all the left over characters on an old Mississippi Paddle-Wheeler that rocks back and forth for the grand finale. So as guests bank out they head to this extravagant scene with all the characters singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.”   

Tony Baxter, John Stone and Bruce Gordon

And now for the Grand Opening of Splash Mountain:

Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Making of: Main Street Electrical Parade

By Keith Mahne

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Disney Avenue proudly presents the making of the spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds—The Main Street Electrical Parade! In today’s article, we take a look into the making of this beautiful parade featuring history, music and even a wonderful video. Continue after the page break as we return to Disney Avenue’s popular Making of series featuring Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade…

The Main Street Electrical Parade is a regularly scheduled parade, created by Bob Jani and project director Ron Miziker, famous for its long run at Disneyland at the Disneyland Resort most summers between 1972–1974, 1977–1982, and 1985-1996. It features floats and live performers covered in thousands of electronically controlled lights and a synchronized soundtrack triggered by radio control along key areas of the parade route. The parade has also spun off many other versions that ran or continue to run at Disney parks around the world.

Currently, the original parade runs at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World as Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade. In honor of the MSEP, the new Paint the Night parade now runs at Tokyo Disneyland in place of the former Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights. The parade is notable for its use of the vocoder voice effect, saying these lines just before the parade begins: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Disneyland proudly presents our spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds. The Main Street Electrical Parade!” Near the end, it repeats, “Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade!”

The predecessor to the 1972 Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade is the Electrical Water Pageant, a show made up of fourteen 25-foot tall screens with electrical lights placed on them. The screens are placed on a string of seven barges that travel around the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, beginning at 9 p.m. at Disney’s Polynesian Resort or immediately after the fireworks if they are scheduled for 9 p.m.

The Electrical Water Pageant still shows today and has done so since October 26, 1971, just weeks after the Walt Disney World Resort opened. In 1972, when the Main Street Electrical Parade debuted, some of the floats were flat screens on rolling platforms similar to the Electrical Water Pageant. The engineers who helped create the parade also created the first show-control program in existence. This allowed the 2,000-foot long parade route to contain multiple radio-activated “trigger zones.”

A promo picture of parade 1972

Using radio-activated triggers as each float entered a zone, the audience would hear float-specific music through the park’s audio system. Each zone was between 70 and 100 feet long, and the zoned system meant that every person watching the parade would experience the same show, no matter where they stood along the parade route. Until 1977, some of the floats like the elephant train and the American flag finale were 2D and had to be pulled or pushed along the parade route. The Blue Fairy float was a 3D float, and ran until closing. The Big Bass Drum pulled by the Casey Jr. Engine, the Cinderella float and canopy, a Chinese dragon (later replaced by Pete’s Dragon) and the circus calliope were all 3D.

The original 1972 Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade was designed by Hub Braden, an NBC Burbank Television art director, who had designed projects for Bob Jani, Disneyland Entertainment Division. The original parade units were built by a Chicago, Illinois, display company. The Main Street Electrical Parade had counterparts of the same name and layout at the Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World Resort, which ran from 1977 to 1991. It was replaced by a similar parade called SpectroMagic, which ran from 1991 to 1999 and then reopened in 2001 and ended on June 4, 2010. In 1992, the electrical parade from the Magic Kingdom went to Parc Disneyland at Disneyland Paris and ran there until 2003.

Original Wonderland float 1972

It was then replaced by Fantillusion, a nighttime parade from Tokyo Disneyland that had earlier replaced the Tokyo version of the Main Street Electrical Parade, which ran from 1985-1995. Tokyo Disneyland’s current night parade, Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights began in 2001 and it was a return to the style of the original with updated new music and floats.

Original Blue Fairy 1972

The Main Street Electrical Parade closed at Disneyland in 1996 after a 24-year run. Light bulbs certified as having been part of the show were sold to collectors. The replacement show, Light Magic, opened in 1997 and was an immediate failure. Disney quickly cancelled Light Magic but held off in bringing back the popular Main Street Electrical Parade. However, the parade was refurbished and appeared at the Magic Kingdom in May 1999 for a limited engagement, just in time for Walt Disney World’s Millennium Celebration. The parade ended its run at the Magic Kingdom on April 1, 2001 and SpectroMagic was brought back the following day.

The Main Street Electrical Parade floats were then sent back to California for the parade’s return to Disneyland. These plans changed after Team Disney Anaheim saw the poor attendance figures for the spring break season at Disney’s California Adventure and feared that the park would fail to attract large crowds during the crucial summer season, unless they had a big draw. So, on April 25, 2001, Disney announced that the popular Main Street Electrical Parade would be coming to Disney California Adventure Park on July 2, 2001 in honor of the first summer of the park.

Mickey’s 50th Birthday float 1978

The name of the show was changed from the Main Street Electrical Parade to Disney’s Electrical Parade. Most of the 1996 parade floats returned, except for the Pinocchio Pleasure Island section and Snow White diamond mine float, which were sent to Parc Disneyland at Disneyland Paris in 1997. The parade has been offered during summer periods and selected weekends. It finished a nine-month hiatus during the 2005 off-season at the Disneyland Resort, which allowed replacement of lights on all of the floats and alteration of wording on the drum to “Disney’s Electrical Parade, Presented by Sylvania.”

On the 2008 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade special, Disney announced that a Tinker Bell float would be added to Disney’s Electrical Parade, which would make it the first new float to be added to the classic parade in 20 years, since the temporary Mickey Mouse’s 60th Birthday float in 1988. It was announced at a press conference on April 24, 2009, that the Snow White and Pinocchio units would be returning as well. Disney started testing updated and new units in late May 2009. Most of the major floats have had new LED pixie dust effects added to them. This parade, with the new Tinker Bell float replacing the Blue Fairy, made its formal premiere on June 12, 2009. California’s caterpillar received a new digital face in December 2009. One of the original turtle floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade was on display at the “technology section” of the D23 Expo.
Disney’s Electrical Parade at California Adventure ended its run on April 18, 2010 and is currently running at the Magic Kingdom as “The Main Street Electrical Parade.”

Check out this old video when The Disney Channel actually featured park related specials not seen since the days of MGM Studios. In my opinion, park fans are yearning for more of these type of specials (minus the mustaches and mullets that is):

This next video is great too! In May of 1999, a few weeks before the Main Street Electrical Parade started making nightly appearances in Florida, hundreds of cars lined the interstate to watch many of the parade vehicles and cars driven by Walt Disney World cast members as they formed a ceremonial caravan toward the park. It was quite a sight. See for yourself:

The Music:

The Main Street Electrical Parade’s underlying theme song is entitled “Baroque Hoedown.” The original version was created in 1967 by early synthesizer pioneers Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley. Originally, the parade’s soundtrack had the same themes as the current recording, but was a different arrangement by Jim Christensen and Paul Beaver. In 1977, it was updated and arranged by electronic music artist Don Dorsey and Jack Wagner at Jack Wagner Studio, which was used until January 2009 in Disney’s Electrical Parade.

The various float-specific counter-music heard throughout the parade quotes other songs. For example, the music for the Pinocchio units uses the melody from the song “I’ve Got No Strings” from Disney’s Pinocchio film, while the music for the To Honor America units quotes several American patriotic songs.

When the parade returned to Disney’s California Adventure in June 2009, it began using the updated, orchestrated DreamLights soundtrack from Tokyo, but with changes made as certain floats in the California parade are not included in the Tokyo parade. The soundtrack for the current version, the 2009 version of Disney’s Electrical Parade, The Main Street Electrical Parade (currently running at the Magic Kingdom), as well as Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade DreamLights version were arranged, programmed and performed by Gregory Smith. Mr. Smith also arranged the music for Disneyland’s Remember… Dreams Come True show (which also contains a snippet of the original Don Dorsey arrangement, which then concludes in a grand orchestral finale arranged by Mr. Smith) as well as Magical: Disney’s New Nighttime Spectacular of Magical Celebrations fireworks shows.

The soundtrack to the parade has been released numerous times, here are a few releases that contain the multiple versions of the parade:

  • Main Street Electrical Parade (1973 soundtrack) (Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort)
  • Main Street Electrical Parade (1977 soundtrack) (Disneyland & Magic Kingdom)
  • Fantasmic! Good Clashes with Evil in a Nighttime Spectacular (1992) (Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort) – contains Return To Oz & Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary floats, no character voices
  • The Main Street Electrical Parade (1999 CD) (Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World)- parade soundtrack only, without character voices
  • Les Parades En Musique (2000 CD) (Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort Paris)- Show edit version
  • Disney’s Electrical Parade (2001 CD) (Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland Resort) – full parade soundtrack, character voices included
  • Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights (2001 CD) – features two tracks, the first one is Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights, with Character voices and Sound effects and the second track is Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade, as well as character voices and sound effects
  • Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights- Show Mix Edition (2001) – features two tracks, the first features character voices, sound effects, and the parade underliner and second one is just the orchestra soundtrack without character voices, sound effects, and the parade Underliner.
  • Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights ~Christmas~- During the Christmas season at Tokyo Disneyland, the Electrical Parade gets a new soundtrack, it is mostly the same soundtrack with added Christmas songs, mixed in with the theme music. Features full parade with Character voices and sound effects.
  • Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights (2011 Renewal Version)- features the revised 2011 version, includes the new Aladdin, Tinkerbell, and Toy Story Units, and a tweaked Pete’s Dragon Loop. also includes Character voices and Sound Effects, and No Underliner.
  • A Musical History of Disneyland (Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort) – show edit version, character voices included

Don Dorsey used the following synthesizers to create the soundtrack: Moog Model III, Mini-Moog, Steiner-Parker Synthacon, Oberheim 8-voice, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Fender Rhodes Piano, New England Digital Synclavier II, Bode 7702 Vocoder, Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter, Yamaha DX7 and Yamaha TX7.

Jack Wagner provides the synthesized vocoder voice for the intro and outro to the parade. Don Dorsey took over after Wagner died in 1995 by adding the word “Disney” to the introduction and outro of Disney’s Electrical Parade in Disney California Adventure Park. When the parade visited The Magic Kingdom in 1999, Bill Rodgers provided the synthesized vocoder announcement.

While the original soundtrack is played solely on synthesizers, the Tokyo Disneyland version utilizes a full orchestra with adult, teenage and children choirs in addition to harmonies and synthesizers. This version also includes Character voices in both English and Japanese. This version was also orchestrated, programmed, conducted, and performed by Gregory Smith. During the Christmas season at Tokyo Disneyland, the Electrical Parade gets a new soundtrack, it is mostly the same soundtrack with added Christmas songs, mixed in with the theme music.

The version of Disney’s Electrical Parade at Disney California Adventure Park and current Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom utilizes much of the soundtrack created for DreamLights, with new loops created for the Cinderella, Pinocchio, and To Honor America units. However, the new soundtrack retains a more electronic sound than that of Tokyo’s in that many of the orchestral parts of the DreamLights soundtrack have been replaced by synthesizers in this version.A new loop was created for the Dumbo sequence, however, this sequence was cut from the parade.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith’s articles here.

Making of: Animal Kingdom’s DINOSAUR

By Keith Mahne

DINOSAUR has always been one of Animal Kingdom’s top attractions. Keep in mind that the park’s offerings on opening day were extremely lackluster with only 3 main attractions and also the Festival of the Lion King show. If you think about it, DINOSAUR is really a next generation, classic Disney dark ride which is a big reason why it quickly rose to the park’s top “must ride” attraction, particularly before the addition of Expedition Everest in 2006. Join us as we take a look at the creation of DINOSAUR in this Disney Avenue Making of segment…

Concept Art

In the attraction, guests board vehicles called Time Rovers and are taken on a turbulent journey through the Cretaceous period, featuring prehistoric scenes populated with audio-animatronic dinosaurs.

The Time Rover design, which received U.S. Patent # 5,623,878, includes elements of a motion simulator like you would find in the Star Tours attraction integrated onto a moving base. This allows the creation of enhanced feelings of speed, drops, and overcoming obstacles without subjecting the riders to the safety hazards previously required to generate that kind of effect by actually travelling that fast.

Originally named Countdown to Extinction, the ride’s name was later changed to DINOSAUR to promote the film of the same name, even though the attraction has never contained any explicit references to the film. However, the two dinosaurs most prominently featured in the ride have always been an Iguanodon and Carnotaurus, which were both featured prominently in the film. Scenes from the movie also appear in the pre-show, to help the guests identify the Iguanodon as the film’s protagonist, Aladar.

Guests enter via the Dino Institute, featuring a skull of a Anchiceratops and Albertosaurus in the front of the window, which, as the back story goes, is a once secret research facility. Next is the queue area that features a real fossil of a Carnotaurus Skeleton and other real dinosaur remains.

There is also a background narration by Bill Nye the Science Guy. Next, guests move to a room where they watch a pre-show video. The ride’s pre-show film director is Jerry Rees, best known for his animated film The Brave Little Toaster. It was written by Steve Spiegel, with Reed Smoot as Director of Photography.

Notice the entrance façade, now look right above that round-dome part…see those trees, they are in fact planted on the roof of the building to make it look as though the building ends there.

In the video, Dr. Marsh (played by Phylicia Rashād) announces that the guests are about to board Time Rovers that will take them on peaceful tours of the early Cretaceous period. As she finishes, however, Dr. Seeker (played by Wallace Langham) cuts off Marsh with a toy rubber Dinosaur hand puppet and, from his laboratory, informs the guests that he plans to send them to a time towards the end of the late Cretaceous period so that they can rescue Aladar, whom he has previously tagged, from extinction on an ‘unauthorized field trip’. Dr. Marsh overhears Dr. Seeker and enters his lab, arguing that the mission is too dangerous, as the time the guests would be sent to is extremely close to the time when the meteor that killed the dinosaurs hits. After Dr. Marsh has left, Dr. Seeker says that he has hacked the time travel systems so that the guests can go to rescue Aladar, and reassures the guests they’ll be out before the meteor breaks the atmosphere.

Guests proceed to the loading area to board the 12-seat Time Rovers and begin their exciting time travel journey to the past. This moving simulator ride bounces, bumps and careens its way through a primeval forest where you’ll encounter a number of amazing Audio-animatronic dinosaur specimens and some terrific special effects designed to stimulate all of your senses.

There are 10 different types of dinosaurs that have been created for DINOSAUR. While the story has you looking for the gentle Iguanodon, you will encounter the not so gentle Pterodactyl and Carnotaurus. The Carnotaurus is an advanced A-100 series audio-animatronic figure making the fierce looking creature appear life-like.

When riding DINOSAUR you don’t think about the technology that went into the attraction, you spend your time hoping that you won’t be attacked by the carnivorous dinosaurs that you encounter along the way. The ride is dark, thrilling, and action packed. The advanced technology allows you to believe for those brief minutes that you really are dodging dinosaurs and trying to find your way back before the meteor hits earth.

Here are a few behind-the-scene photos:

Now, who better to tell you about the attraction than Joe Rohde and the other Imagineers that designed it:

(Please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of this page prior to starting the video below if you are on a desktop computer.)

Animal Kingdom’s DINOSAUR is another amazing creation by Disney Imagineers who continue to be amazing innovators. These “makers of the magic” consistently astound us by using wonderful storytelling technics and the latest technology to create thrilling attractions that keeps us coming back for more!

For more information on how Disney Imagineers make dreams come true or transform a fantasy into a colorful, exciting world that visitors can move through, touch, and enjoy, I highly recommend you grab a copy of Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. In this book, the Imagineers tell their own stories, as well as how they got there, what they do on a daily basis, what they show their friends in the parks, and how you can learn what it takes to become an Imagineer yourself. Grab a copy now in the Amazon link below:



Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith’s articles here.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Making of: Tower of Terror

By Keith Mahne

Welcome back to our popular Making of segment. I don’t know about you but I love videos on how Disney attractions are made. I came across this one recently on the making of Disneyland Paris Tower of Terror. It’s crazy to think how much Disney spends on their rides and also how much work and engineering and art goes into creating them. Have a look at the creation of one of Disney’s top attrations after the page break…


(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

Making of: The Great Movie Ride

By Keith Mahne

The Great Movie Ride is a classic Disney attraction in every sense of the word. Located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, it takes guests through scenes from famous films throughout motion picture history. The ride is located inside a recreation of the Chinese Theatre, a famous Hollywood landmark. Join us today as we return to our famous Making of segment and take a look at the creation of one of the most beloved attractions to come out of Walt Disney Imagineering…

The Great Movie Ride directly inspired the creation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The attraction was actually going to be the main attraction in a show business themed pavilion at EPCOT, which was to be called Great Moments at the Movies. In the early 1980s, Disney was considering ideas for new pavilions at EPCOT Center. Imagineering President Marty Sklar and Randy Bright were assigned with the task of creating two new pavilions and they came up with the Wonder of Life pavilion and the Great Moments at the Movies pavilion.

Great Moments at the Movies Concept Art

The Great Moments at the Movies pavilion was to be placed between The Land pavilion and the Journey into Imagination pavilion. Its design was supposed to look like a movie set backdrop, with a soundstage backdrop and a small ticket booth entrance. The backdrop was intentionally made to look fake because it was a commentary on Hollywood and how movies are made. The ride itself would give Walt Disney World guests an insider’s look into movie making magic with a focus on films from the 1920s to the modern era.

Concept Art

The Great Moments at the Movies pavilion caught the attention of Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, who felt the pavilion had more potential than just a pavilion at EPCOT Center. Instead, Eisner envisioned building a brand new theme park around the concept, which could compete against then-recently announced Universal Studios theme park that was slated to open in Orlando. The idea for the ride was expanded, and the Disney-MGM Studios went into official development.

Concept Art

Since its inception, The Great Movie Ride has had some modifications worth noting. The first sequence of the ride, Footlight Parade, was plagued with engineering and technical problems from the beginning. When the ride was newly opened, the Footlight Parade segment was different than it is today. The entire portion following the neon lighted entrance was fleshed out. All the walls leading up to, around, and beyond the “cake” were painted in art deco style patterns as seen in “By A Waterfall.” Approximately three “diving boards” with three mannequin “dancers” wearing capes were perched on the right hand side of the wall as you enter the ride segment. The five-tiered “cake” was prominently displayed at a left hand turn. It was in the open air illuminated with an array of animated lights. During this pass through the Footlight Parade segment, riders would hear a “loop” of “By A Waterfall” (a song featured in Footlight Parade) lasting approximately 40 seconds as bubbles fall from the ceiling.

For approximately the first year, the “cake” actually rotated and was adorned with water jets as seen in the film. Allegedly, the rotating “cake” mechanism was constantly breaking down, causing frequent repairs and downtime. In addition, the water pumps would constantly fail, flooding the ride path. Park operations believed it was much cheaper and less problematic to leave the “cake” in place with lighting effects used to provide what Imagineers term as “kinetics” to the segment. This is what guests see today.

Today, this segment is still the “opening act” of The Great Movie Ride, but significantly toned down. The guests now enter a segment with its lighting significantly diminished. The outer walls are dark with practically no art deco recreations from the film set. The “diving boards” have been replaced with art deco style wall sconces. Instead, guests pass through a deco inspired archway to find themselves facing a large scrim-lined proscenium decorated with grey/blue clouds and remnants of the art deco set designs. Throughout the segment, three large rotating projections of Busby Berkeley-style kaleidoscope dance sequences appear on the scrim (from By A Waterfall, Dames, and Shadow Waltz). These disappear to expose the “cake,” which is behind the scrim, and is simultaneously illuminated with washes of light and reflective water effects. The caped dancers on diving boards are now located to the far left of the “cake” behind the scrim. The art deco style wall panels still reside behind the “cake.” The looping song segment and bubbles remain.

Sarcos-equipped audio-animatronics of the Wicked Witch

The Wizard of Oz scene did not have major structural changes, but Walt Disney Imagineering replaced the Wicked Witch audio-animatronic character with a newer-design figure utilizing Sarcos technology. The Sarcos-equipped audio-animatronics are capable of a great deal more movement possibilities than the original “limited animation” figure designs, and can move much more quickly. As a result they can be made much more lifelike. The new witch was reprogrammed to take advantage of the underlying robot, and as a result is one of, if not the, most lifelike audio-animatronic characters in the attraction.

The ride is located inside a recreation of the famous Hollywood landmark TCL Chinese Theatre. At the time the attraction opened, the actual theater’s name was “Mann’s Chinese Theater” and later “Grauman’s Chinese Theatre”, however, because The Walt Disney Company was denied permission to use either official name, the park’s proper name for the building is simply “The Chinese Theatre.” The theatre façade became obscured from view (when looking from the park’s entrance) in 2001, when a giant replica of The Sorcerer’s Hat was built directly in front of the attraction. Since then, the hat has served as the park icon and will do so until it’s removal in 2015.

The Sorcerer’s Hat under construction

The queue winds through a recreation of the Chinese Theatre lobby past glass display cases containing actual costumes, props, and set pieces from various films. The queue then takes guests into a small pre-show theatre where guests view a series of condensed film trailers for the various films that are featured on the ride. The queue line ends at a pair of automatic doors at the front of the theatre that lead into a 1930s era Hollywood soundstage where guests are loaded onto waiting ride vehicles.

As guests reach the end of the queue, they enter a 1930s-era Hollywood sound stage where they are loaded by cast members into one of two sets of open, theatre-style seating ride vehicles. The vehicles utilize a “traveling theatre”-style ride system similar to the Universe of Energy attraction at Epcot. However, here the ride vehicles are much smaller in size, are grouped together in pairs of two, and feature an open cab in the first row of the front vehicle for a live tour guide to stand, provide narration, and operate the ride vehicle. Both pairs of vehicles are used every day, but as the day goes on the front vehicles begin to be pulled, leaving only the back vehicles.

The film set within the soundstage features a large neon theatre marquee and a cyclorama of the 1930s-era Hollywood Hills complete with the original Hollywoodland Sign. As the ride begins, “Hooray for Hollywood” plays overhead as the tour guide on the ride vehicle welcomes guests and informs them that they will be taking them through scenes from different classic films throughout history.

Concept art for the audio-animatronic of Gene Kelly

The first genre of films introduced are musicals, which begins with a cake of starlets in a scene from Busby Berkeley’s Footlight Parade. The next musical scenes include audio-animatronics of Gene Kelly swinging from a lamp post from the film Singin’ in the Rain, followed by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke singing on the rooftops of London in Mary Poppins.

The next scene is a tribute to gangster films. The ride vehicle passes through the dark and seedy backstreets of 1930s Chicago and past an audio-animatronic James Cagney in a scene from The Public Enemy. When both pairs of ride vehicles are in use, the first continues on to the next show scene while the second is stopped by a red light at the entrance to a tunnel. Here, the tour guide stops the ride vehicle and waits for a green light.

Concept Art for the gangster scene shoot-out

While stopped, a live gangster named Mugsy (male) or Mugsi (female) and their audio-animatronic companions Squid and Beans show up and get involved in a shoot-out with rival mobsters (Brains, Legs, and Weasel) in a car on the opposite side of the street where the ride vehicle is stopped. During the shoot out, the live gangster then chases away the tour guide and hijacks the ride vehicle. When the gangster notices the red light above the tunnel entrance, they shoot it out and make their getaway aboard the ride vehicle, leaving Squid and Beans behind to “give [the gangster’s] regards to the warden.”

Concept Art of a audio-animatronic John Wayne sitting atop his horse

Next is a tribute to the Western film genre. Here, guests encounter audio-animatronics of Clint Eastwood standing outside of a saloon and John Wayne sitting atop his horse. The second vehicle (which is already being driven by the gangster) continues past a shoot-out between the town sheriff and an audio-animatronic bank robber named Snake. However, the first ride vehicle (which is still being driven by the tour guide) stops in front of the town bank while a robbery is in progress. Suddenly, a live bank robber named Kate Durango (female) or Kid Carson (male) appears from inside the bank. After getting into a shoot-out with the town sheriff and chasing the tour guide into the bank, the bandit blows up the town bank along with the Tour Guide inside it with dynamite and hijacks the ride vehicle. Following this scene, the remainder of the attraction is the same for both ride vehicles.

As the ride vehicle continues into a seemingly abandoned spaceship, a narrator’s voice states that this is the Nostromo, the doomed ship from the film Alien. The narrator then informs guests of a dangerous creature lurking within the ship that is waiting to claim its next victim. The tram passes an audio-animatronic Sigourney Weaver holding a flamethrower as she prepares to confront the creature. Guests can also hear the Nostromo’s “Mother” computer warning of an imminent ship self-destruction countdown. Hearing this, the hijacker becomes nervous and speeds the ride vehicle through the ship, but not before the Alien appears and attacks the guests, popping out from both the ceiling and the wall.



The ride vehicle next enters a scene set in an ancient Egyptian temple filled with snakes. The narrator informs guests that they are in a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark as audio-animatronic figures of Harrison Ford and John Rhys-Davies struggle to lift the Ark of the Covenant. A second room within the temple (though not from the film) features a large altar in the form of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis. Near the top of the altar, a large jewel is being watched over by a cloaked temple priest.


The hijacker sees the jewel, stops the ride vehicle, and disembarks to retrieve it. Before touching the jewel, the temple guard gives a warning that those who disturb the jewel must pay with their life. Ignoring the warning, the hijacker reaches to grab the jewel. Suddenly, a plume of fiery smoke shoots from the ground. When it disperses, the hijacker is now nothing more than a skeleton (still reaching for the jewel) and the temple priest is revealed to be the original live tour guide, who re-boards the vehicle and continues the ride.

The next film genre introduced are horror films as the ride vehicle travels through an ancient burial chamber full of mummies, some of which have come to life. The ride vehicle soon leaves the tomb and enters a jungle, which is home to Tarzan the Ape Man. Here, audio-animatronic figures of Tarzan swinging on a vine, Jane sitting atop Timba the elephant, and Cheeta the chimpanzee can be seen. The ride vehicle then moves past the final scene from Casablanca featuring audio-animatronics of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as they stand in front of a waiting airplane. Next, the ride vehicle passes a film projection of Mickey Mouse in his role as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from the classic Disney animated film Fantasia.

Concept art for the scene from The Wizard of Oz

Construction of the original Wicked Witch audio-animatronic

The ride vehicle then enters into the Munchkinland scene from The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy’s house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. When both pairs of ride vehicles are in use, they meet up here and come to a stop in the middle of the scene. Audio-Animatronic Munchkins begin to appear from various places and sing as they welcome guests to their home. However, a plume of smoke suddenly rises from the ground as an audio-animatronic Wicked Witch of the West appears and asks who is responsible for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. The tour guide aboard the first ride vehicle interacts with her before she disappears in another puff of smoke. The Munchkins reappear from their hiding places and begin to sing again as both ride vehicles follow the Yellow Brick Road out of Munchkinland past audio-animatronic figures of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man , Cowardly Lion and Toto standing in front of the Emerald City, and onto the ride’s Grand Finale.

For the grand finale, both ride vehicles enter a large, dark theatre where they line up side-by-side and come to a stop in front of a large movie screen. There, a fast-paced three-minute film montage of classic film moments is shown. At the conclusion of the film, both ride vehicles exit the theatre, line up single-file again and return to the 1930s soundstage where the ride concludes and before guests disembark the vehicles and exit the attraction, the tour guide wants them to do one more “scene” by applauding.

Unlike many Disney dark rides that feature separate embarkation and debarkation areas, The Great Movie Ride has only a single combined unloading and loading area. The last people to exit the vehicles often pass the next group of guests waiting to board the vehicles. At the time the ride was designed (the mid to late 1980s), it was common throughout the theme park industry to have all major rides exit into a store selling merchandise associated with the attraction. The Great Movie Ride, however, does not exit directly into a store.

Concept Art for the Disney-MGM Studio Backlot Project for California

Three separate attempts were made by Walt Disney Imagineering to bring The Great Movie Ride to California. First were plans to incorporate the attraction into the proposed “Disney-MGM Studio Backlot” project, a 40-acre (160,000 m2) film studio themed retail and entertainment district that was planned (but ultimately never built) for downtown Burbank, California during the late 1980s. Several years later, plans called for the ride to serve as the centerpiece of the proposed Hollywoodland at Disneyland, which would have been added to the park during the planned Disney Decade in 1990s. Due to budget cuts, however, Hollywoodland was canceled. Later, plans called for the ride to be built as part of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of the Disney California Adventure Park theme park. But budget cuts in the park’s original development planning forced the ride’s projected cost to be spent on smaller, original and less expensive attractions.

Muppet Movie Ride Concept Art

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Disney came very close to buying Jim Henson’s Muppets. Walt Disney Imagineering developed a Muppet-themed land for Disney-MGM Studios called Muppet Movieland. The land was to feature two main attractions; one was Muppet*Vision 3D and the other was The Great Muppet Movie Ride, a parody of The Great Movie Ride featuring Muppet characters such as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo re-enacting scenes from famous films such as Frankenstien and Peter Pan. However, after Jim Henson died, the deal fell apart and Disney cut back on the Muppet-themed area to just Muppet*Vision 3D.

On the park’s opening day and over the years, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Roger Rabbit, Kermit the frog, and other Disney characters and famous actors placed their signatures, footprints, and handprints in front of the façade of the Great Movie Ride.

The ending of The Great Movie Ride was originally going to have more of a foundation in The Wizard of Oz with the Fantasia scene being the Cyclone, and also adding a divider down the middle of the theatre separating the A and B vehicles in the final (film clip) scene. Where the screen is now was where the Wizard would have appeared surrounded by flames. The Wizard would say his famous line, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” and the show would be “interrupted” as the curtains to the left or right of the screen would open to reveal either your live bandit (on the A vehicle side) or gangster (on the B vehicle side). Along the outer walls of the theatre (to the left of the A vehicle or to the right of the B vehicle), is currently large empty carpeted areas. Here was supposed to be large platforms where models of all of the audio-animatronic characters seen earlier in the ride would be standing and would take a bow.

In 2014, as part of an exclusive programming deal with Disney, Turner Classic Movies agreed to become the sponsor of the attraction. The attraction will undergo a refurbishment in 2015, with a new pre-show and post-show hosted by Robert Osborne.

And now, for the grand finale of this Making of article, we present The Great Movie Ride on opening day May 1, 1989:


(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Making of: The Jungle Cruise

By Keith Mahne

In a Disneyland full of Splash Mountains, Space Mountains and Big Thunder Mountains, sometimes the older, so called “classic” attractions go overlooked. One such attraction is the Jungle Cruise. By far the most campy yet humorous attraction in the parks, depending on your guide that is, the Jungle Cruise has gone through a number of enhancements and refurbishments over its history and yet still remains one of the most beloved experiences of the parks. Today, Disney Avenue has another fantastic and picture-packed Making of article all about the incredible Jungle Cruise. Continue after the page break and join us for the Making of: The Jungle Cruise

The inspiration for the Jungle Cruise came from a number of sources, the first being Walt’s interest in wildlife, demonstrated by his True-Life Adventures film series. Early Disneyland concepts were centered around a tribute to Americana and the original River of Romance had guests gliding through the Everglades and down the Suwanee.

By 1953, the river ride design had become a jungle boat excursion. There was talk of using live animals for the attraction, but Imagineers quickly realized that there would be little show value in animals sleeping and hiding in dens along the river.


Art director Harper Goff is often credited with convincing Walt that the experience of the ride could be much like the movie The African Queen.

“We learned and made the decisions as we went along,” Harper explains, “Walt wanted to use the squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in some sort of boat ride, but it was in bad condition and the wires that pulled the tentacles would have been hard to hide. But we had both seen The African Queen and we began to think of hippos and other animals which could be operated without wires and still have animated elements. We brought in Bob Matte, who later created the shark for Jaws, to engineer the original animals. The first ones that we tried were alligators and hippos which worked on simple animation – no kicking or swimming.”

Landscape architect Bill Evans was responsible for creating a jungle in sandy soil that was once home to acres and acres of orange groves.

“A long-time friend of mine was the head of the Caltrans landscape architecture division,” Bill remembers. “He told me one day that they were planning to extend the Santa Ana Freeway, meaning that a lot of trees would have to be removed. Normally, he told me, they just bulldoze them out, crush them up and burn them. But he kept me advised as to when the trees were scheduled to go under the axe. We were able to get quite a few trees  that way – including a lot of palm trees. The major palm trees that went into Disneyland’s jungle came from the Santa Ana Freeway.”

Aside from importing many actual tropical plants, Evans made wide use of “character plants” which, while not necessarily exotic, could give the appearance of exoticism in context. In a particularly well-known trick, he uprooted local orange trees and “replanted” them upside-down, growing vines on the exposed roots. Disney controls the clarity of the water (known as “turbidity”) in order to obscure from guests’ view the boat’s guidance system and undesirable items like perches and mechanized platforms of the bathing elephants and hippos. Initially, the clean water was dyed brown but after a few years the colorant was changed to a green hue and in recent years a bluish-green has been used. The water of the Jungle Cruise is approximately 5 feet deep and is part of the Park’s ‘dark’ water system which circulates southward from the northern end of Frontierland’s Rivers of America, through Fantasyland and creates the moat of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The water’s journey continues flowing past Frontierland’s entrance and into Adventureland where it meanders alongside the Tiki Room before entering the Jungle Cruise beside the ride’s exit. The water returns to the south end of the Rivers of America via a 37″ diameter underground pipe near Tarzan’s Treehouse. Originally, the Jungle Cruise waterway was 1,920 feet in length before being slightly shortened and re-routed in 1994.

Bill Evans with hat

Although Goff and Evans can be credited with the creation and initial design of the ride, Marc Davis,

recognized for his work on venerable attractions such as the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, added his own style to the ride in later versions and Disneyland updates. The “Indian Elephant Bathing Pool” and “Rhinoceros Chasing Explorers up a Pole” were among his contributions.

Over the years, the Jungle Cruise has seen great development, alterations, and growth. Because the jungle has just been planted in 1955, a vine-covered steel structure originally made up the rain forest.

In the mid-1980s, the steel structure was removed to reveal the real jungle that had grown above it over a thirty-year period. At the same time, real orchids were reintroduced to the attraction as at some point, they had become plastic.

Back in 1955, three crocodiles would pop up out of the water just around the first bend in the river. They were located at the entrance to a tributary that actually connected the Jungle Rivers with the Rivers of America. Frontierland guests used to cross a wooden footbridge to reach the Frontierland Railroad Station. The tributary disappeared in 1962 when the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse grew in its place, but the rivers remain connected by an underground pipe as mentioned earlier.

At the Cambodian Ruins along the banks of the Mekong River, small monkeys originally hung from tree branches surrounding the temple. The giant monkey idol replaced a Buddha statue. In the early days, Old Smiley, the crocodile, sat on the right bank of the river, but has since moved several times.
At the end of the ruins was a giant python hanging over the river on a tree branch. The ruins were updated in 1962 and again in 1976 when the Bengal tiger was added.

The current home of the sacred elephant bathing pool installed in 1962 was originally the home of three swimming crocodiles. The elephant pool was the first of several humorous scenes created by veteran Disney animator Marc Davis for the Jungle Cruise. Marc’s scenes, which were added to the attraction during the ’60s and 70s, appropriately added touches of whimsy to what had been a straightforward nature tour in the ’50s.

There was once a section of the attraction where the boat would have startled two baby rhinos, protected by their mother. That scene was replaced in 1976 with gorillas monkeying around a safari camp. Just before reaching Schweitzer Falls, we see a bull elephant on each side of the river. After the Falls, on the left of the bank we discover a pride of lions feasting on a zebra. Then the boat turns onto the Congo River where we spot two giraffes peering down from above the treetops. This is home of the African Veldt, which  was added in 1964 and expanded in 1976. Actually, the setting for the veldt was built at the same time as the elephant pool, but Imagineers were too busy with the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair to build the animals at that time.

 Immediately next door is a trapped safari seen clinging to a pole with a rhino about to “make his point” to the unlucky soul at the bottom. This gag, one of Marc Davis’s creations, was originally intended to be visible only to guests riding on the Disneyland Railroad.

“Walt just loved that thing,” Marc recalls. “He said, ‘Marc, that’s too good to use out there. Let’s put that in the ride.’ So that’s how the whole area…the African Veldt…evolved.”



Next is the hippo pool, which has remained in its original location since opening. After this the boat passes a few natives on the right bank. The dancing natives and village were added in 1957. Passing under Schweitzer Falls, we face the challenge of the rapids of Kilimanjaro.
The spine-tingling climax to the ride used to be a wayward crocodile, but was replaced by two gorillas in 1957. The gorillas went ape in 1976 to make way for a python attacking a water buffalo.
After passing Trader Sam who has been peddling his wares since 1957, we once again reach the most dangerous part of the journey, the return to civilization and those inevitably tacky tourists. Now for a few more pictures of Walt enjoying himself:

Have a look at this wonderful little video of the Jungle Cruise as it existed in 1956. A very different attraction that was not yet centered around comedy though not totally humorless either:

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Making of: Adventures Thru Inner Space

By Keith Mahne

It was in 1965 that Walt Disney approached the Monsanto Company with his idea of building a new and expanded Tomorrowland. The original Tomorrowland had, within a decade, become more of a Todayland and it was time to think about updating the entire land, including replacing the Hall of Chemistry attraction, presented by Monsanto, with something that reflected the excitement of the present and future. Out of this partnership came the attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space.

Hall of Chemistry attraction

Today we’ll have a look at the making of that attraction as we return to our popular Making of series…

Adventures in Science concept drawing
More Adventures in Science concept drawings

The earliest concept for a ride into the world of the microscope appeared in 1957 as part of a proposed Tomorrowland attraction called Adventures in Science. When the idea resurfaced in the 1960s for New Tomorrowland, Journey into the Microscope, as it was originally titled, was to take guests into the microscopic realm of a drop of water. The attraction was intended to share with an exhibit to be presented by the Ford Motor Company.

Claude Coats with attraction model

The Ford attraction never materialized and the design for Adventure Thru Inner Space, as it was renamed, was expanded to encompass the entire building. It was also decided that a snowflake would make a more exciting destination than a drop of water.

Adventure Thru Inner Space opened as a free attraction with Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland in June 1967. One of the highlights of the attraction was the mighty microscope, a 37 foot long, 12 foot high microscope that appeared to miniaturize guests. Those waiting to board the Omnimover chain of “Atomobiles,” which would carry them into the microscope, could see inner space travelers apparently shrinking as they moved through a translucent section of the microscope.

The attraction was based on an idea by Monsanto President Dr. Charles Allen Thomas, and designed by Imagineer Claude Coats, with the illusions done by Yale Gracey. X. Atencio’s script was narrated by Paul Frees, with musical effects by Buddy Baker. The theme song, Miracles from Molecules, was composed by the Sherman Brothers naturally. Adventure Thru Inner Space represented the first use of the Omnimover ride system in a Disney attraction.

The slow paced journey through the attraction’s dark passages quickly became a hit with teenagers. Because it was a free attraction, young couples would board the ride continuously, “taking advantage” of the two seat, three sided Omnimover vehicles. To discourage the couples from doing just whatever it was they were doing in there, Disneyland began including a ticket in each of the park’s ticket books, good for one complimentary ride through Adventure Thru Inner Space. Guests would have to purchase another book of tickets if they wished to ride the attraction again. When this strategy didn’t seem to work, Disneyland Operations sped up the attraction, hoping to shorten the ride time. However, this only led to the attraction’s slow, deep narration sounding helium induced in certain zones where the soundtrack attempted to keep up with the ride speed.

Adventure Thru Inner Space went from being a free attraction to a C-ticket one in 1972. In 1977, Monsanto’s participant contract expired. The display area at the end of the attraction became a shop.

Over the next eight years, Adventure Thru Inner Space became more and more dated. Although it had been state of the art when it opened in 1967, the technology of television, video, lasers and other modern special effects quickly eclipsed the attraction’s uniqueness and the queue lines grew shorter and shorter. In fall 1985, after 18 years of “piercing the wall of the oxygen atom,” Adventure Thru Inner Space shut its doors forever to become Star Tours. To ensure that the campiness that was Adventure Thru Inner Space was never forgotten, Imagineers paid homage to the attraction in a few places throughout Star Tours.

And so, whatever became of those Disney icons that were once a part of Adventure Thru Inner Space? Those museum quality set pieces that will forever be cherished in the hearts and minds of all who have visited Walt’s Magic Kingdom? Except for a few items, it seems that everything was destroyed. The giant eyeball that stared guests down as they returned from their adventure, the one that was always a target for long distance spitters, is supposedly inside one of Imagineering’s storage facilities. Most of the miniature pods from the queue area dioramas went to the Disney Archives when the attraction was dismantled. Wherever the remains may be, Adventure Thru Inner Space will always remain a fond memory of Tomorrowland history. Let’s do some reminiscing and check out the video below:



(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’); Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

Making of: Disney’s Contemporary Resort

By Keith Mahne

Disney’s Contemporary Resort, often referred to as The Contemporary and originally to be called Tempo Bay Hotel, is a deluxe resort at the Walt Disney World Resort. It opened on October 1, 1971 and is fully owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney’s Contemporary Resort is located in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area, adjacent to the Magic Kingdom and Bay Lake. Although it is one of the oldest and originals in the park, it continues to dazel park guests to this day. Continue after the page break for the Making of: Disney’s Contemporary Resort

The Contemporary Resort was one of the two resorts located on property when Walt Disney World first opened in 1971. The Contemporary Tower, the most prominent of the resort’s four stand-alone buildings, was built as an A-frame with outer walls which slope inwards around an inner atrium. This design was a collaboration by Disney, the United States Steel Corporation, and Los Angeles architect Welton Becket. To construct the building, steel frames were erected on site and modular pre-constructed rooms, designed by California architect Donald Wexler, were lifted into place by crane. Most of Disney’s Polynesian Resort was also built this way. Before the construction of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Contemporary Resort was considered Disney’s flagship resort. On November 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon delivered his famous “I am not a crook” speech in a ballroom at the Contemporary in front of reporters from the Associated Press.

Richard Nixon giving his famous “I am not a crook” speech at the Contemporary Resort

Originally there were five hotels planned to surround the lake and face the park. Each hotel would be specifically themed and would complement the view of the theme park.  The flagship hotel would be the most futuristic or contemporary in design – based on Walt’s vision for the high-rise multi-use structure he envisioned for the center of EPCOT. The original structure was to be a “city” with an open-atrium building complete with shops, restaurants and a monorail running straight through the building.  Because of this hotel’s futuristic elements, it would be positioned in line sight of Tomorrowland.

One of US Steel’s subsidiaries, American Bridge, had been experimenting with modular construction. They had been promoting constructing, assembling, and furnishing rooms off-site and then stacking them next to the skeleton of the building and then slot each room into the frame of the building.  One “fact” that is very prevalent out there is that not only were the rooms made to be easily removed, refurbished, and slotted back in, but also that they (the rooms) had settled into the structure and they became stuck thereby unable to be removed. This is a myth. The rooms were never intended to be removed. When the building was constructed and the rooms were slid into place, the frame was simply steel. After the rooms were in place, the concrete was framed and poured for the thirteen 150-foot tall A-frames.

Disney’s original agreement was that they would retain the land these hotels were built on, but would allow US Steel to build and own the hotels. Disney would then lease and run the hotels. There were concerns over the financing for the Florida project so mergers were BRIEFLY considered. One of the first considered was General Electric – which happened before Walt died. According to Bob Thomas “Roy faced the formidable task of financing… Bankers and financiers told Roy that such an investment was too great, a cool $100 million, for a company the size of Walt Disney Productions. He was advised to seek a large corporation as a partner. GE was approached…” The negotiations ended shortly after Walt realized the merger would put GE execs in charge and that Walt would become an employee and could be fired at anytime. Other mergers were contemplated, including Westinghouse, but ultimately Roy found a way to go it alone.  Roy was “besieged by suitors” after Walt’s death. But one thing he and Walt had learned early in their career was to share ownership with no one.

There were a number of obstacles that Disney had to overcome in constructing the A-frame hotel. One obstacle was that they realized that they couldn’t just quickly slide the rooms because if all the rooms were slotted in one side of the hotel first it would not only compromise the integrity of the structure, but it would also throw the hotel frame off balance.  So they had to set up two cranes on either side of the A-frame and alternately slot in the rooms. Another problem was the monorail. Originally plans called for the monorail to run straight through the middle of the hotel, however the vibration from the monorail cause the hotel shake. The contractors said it would be impossible to run the monorail through the hotel. Walt’s planners argued that without the monorail the hotel would resemble, “a place where the Goodyear blimp comes to mate.” Roy realized that without the monorail the Contemporary would be no different than any of the Hyatt style atrium hotels. All Roy said was “build it.”  After reengineering the hotel multiple times, engineers decided to move the monorail to one side of the hotel and anchor the track to the ground and not the building.

Another misconception – that has become fact – was that construction on most of the resort was running on or close to on time, however the Contemporary was a different story.  In fact, construction was a challenge in and out of the entire park. For example, in the fall of 1970, only about 1 year from scheduled opening, the main contractor hired to oversee construction announced that the timeline was unrealistic and suggested that Disney change the planned opening date. Within days of that announcement, the 2 Joe’s – Joe Fowler & Joe Potter – filed the necessary paperwork to create Buena Vista Construction.  In the spring of ’71 after a visit east to check on the state of the construction, Dick Nunis was asked if he honestly believed that we would open on time. His response was “only if we put the entire force of the Disney company behind the effort. The following week he was asked if he would relocate to Florida to ensure the park opened on time. He moved to Florida on the reassurance that if he needed ANYTHING from another department, he would get it. Over the next few months, he & his team became known as “the Nunis Raiders”.


The hotel was plagued with various setbacks and difficulties, both great and small. Everything from workers sleeping on the job and creating phantom employees to cash additional checks to stealing. The park opened on time, but it took a few more months to finally complete the Contemporary Resort Hotel tower and garden wings.

According to Charles Ridgway’s biography, Spinning Disney’s World, the Thursday before opening there were still giant construction cranes towering over the Contemporary…, which would go against all what Disney stands for as well as spoiling the view for the first guests. So the cranes were dismantled, laid down and promptly covered with grass for the rest of the weekend. They went back up that Monday and stayed looming and working over the hotel until the day before the Grand Opening.  In the end, the hotel was completely finished in the New Year, but enough of the rooms were completed to accommodate the Grand Opening day guests and various activities. During this whole process the Disney-US Steel relationship grew more and more strained.  So much so that it was a constant bother to Roy Disney.  Smart to the very end, a few weeks before Roy’s death, he negotiated a deal with US Steel to not only buy their interest in the hotel, but also assume all remaining construction costs. 

When the hotel finally did open to guests – those lucky enough to stay there were paying the exorbitant room rates ranging from $28 to $44 per night. The original dining outlets included: Grand Canyon Terrace Cafe, Grand Canyon Terrace, Top of the World, Gulf Coast Room, El Pueblo, The Dock Inn, Monorail Club Car, The Sand Bar, and the Mesa Grande Lounge.  As for shopping: The Contemporary Man, The Contemporary Woman, Plaza Gifts & Sundries, Kingdom Jewels Ltd., The Fantasia Shop, The Spirit World, The Captain’s Chair, The American Beauty Shoppe, Bay n’ Beach, and The Olympiad spa and gym.

The Contemporary Resort Hotel is known for a number of things.  In addition to the A-frame structure, slotted rooms, and monorail, the resort is also known for its soaring 90-foot mural. Given Walt Disney’s fascination with the Grand Canyon, it’s no surprise that many aspects of the Grand Canyon pop up throughout the cavernous Contemporary. The mural was designed by Mary Blair.  Mary was an animator and an Imagineer, as well as a Disney Legend.  She worked on many Disney projects from “Three Caballeros” to “Song of the South” to “Cinderella.” Because of her use of color and the child-like way she approached her work, Walt had asked her to work on a new project he was working on for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair – it’s A Small World. What Mary created for the Contemporary Resort was the world’s largest handmade mosaic featuring a modern southwest theme in the classic Mary Blair style.

The mural, which took more than a year and a half to design, produce and install on the six, ninety-foot walls, consists of more than 18,000 hand-painted tiles. Not only were her designs used in the mural, but also her Southwest Indian children, which also included stylized birds, animals, flowers, and trees, were originally used throughout the resort, in the lobbies, and as framed prints in each of the hotel’s rooms. The giant mural, which also conceals the hotel’s elevator shafts, shows Native American Indian Children standing along the slopes of the Grand Canyon. The mural that faces the monorail has a goat with five legs, up near the top.  Blair did that to honor the culture of the Grand Canyon Indian tribes who felt that artwork could not be “perfect.” Her inspiration for the mural came from a broad spectrum of resources, including prehistoric petroglyphs, Pueblo murals, and Navajo ceremonial art, such as sand paintings. The mural and concourse colors reflect earth and sky tones found in and at the Grand Canyon, as well as in Indian art. Each of the more than 18,000 individually hand painted and fire-glazed ceramic tiles were shipped from California to Florida on special air-suspension trucks. The glazes used on the ceramics are both mineral and chemically based – the color pink, for example, is made from gold.

When the park opened, people flocked to the resort and clamored to stay at one of the only two hotels right at the Magic Kingdom.  The 1000+ rooms were full all the time and since the average stay was 2 – 2.5 days, the room turnover was tremendous.  Not only was turnover tremendous, but the wear-and-tear on the rooms was magnified. As such, room refurbishment began almost immediately. In the fall of 1972, Disney started a continuous rehab of eight rooms at a time and by 1975, every room at the Contemporary Resort Hotel had been completely overhauled from top to bottom…only to start again. 

New carpeting, drapes and color schemes were done to each room, large maps of the Magic Kingdom hung in each room, and the wallpaper was replaced with vinyl wallpaper to make for easier cleaning.  To reduce “souvenir seekers” from acquiring items not sold at the resort… that is everything that originally had the Walt Disney World logo – from dishes to towels to trash cans and virtually anything that wasn’t nailed down – was removed from those items and replaced with more generic ones.

The name of the hotel even has a story. In David Koenig’s book, Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World, the working title everyone referred to the hotel as was the Contemporary Hotel.  Marty Sklar always had reservations about using that name as it might “stick.”  In early 1971 they came up with the permanent name, the Tempo Bay Hotel. Roy Disney had also known the hotel as the Contemporary Hotel and when he saw the plans for a Tempo Bay Hotel he wanted to know what that hotel was. When he learned the Contemporary was only the working title, he said, “I just don’t like it.  I like Contemporary. I like names that are simple and say what they are. The other name is phony and plastic.”  Shortly after that everything was changed and now bore its new name – the Contemporary Resort Hotel. The Contemporary Resort Hotel is an ever-changing resort. No matter how many times you visit the Magic Kingdom, there are certain sights that immediately transport you back to your very first visit. The monorail gliding through the Contemporary brings you back every time. Let’s take a trip back to when Bob Hope opened the brand new Contemporary Resort Hotel:


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.