Space Mountain is easily one of the most venerable of modern coasters, a true legend in its own time and it has been hallowed since its inception, but does it deserve the hype?
Currently, the five Space Mountains in existence run trains in Disney Land, Disney World, Disney Paris, Hong Kong Disney, and Disney Tokyo. All five are tracked differently, but are very similar in themes and mechanics. The version I am reviewing, and the only installation I’ve ridden, is the Space Mountain at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Essentially a wild mouse coaster, Space Mountain ups the ante on the genre by taking place entirely indoors and entirely in the dark. Like all wild mouse coasters, Space Mountain makes its thrills by pushing two car trains, rather than single cars, through a twisted course of short surprising drops and hairpin turns. Because of the darkness, it is near to impossible to gauge exactly where the ride is going to go next, and because there are two separate tracks, it is not uncommon to catch sight of another train wheedling through the blackness of “space”.
Space Mountain, like nearly all Disney rides, attempts to tell a story for the particularly observant, although the devotion to exact nuances is unnecessary for enjoyment of the ride. To keep it short, Space Mountain is unsurprisingly about a mission into the cosmos. The long version is much more complicated. Suffice it to say, there is not time here for a detailed explanation of just how deep the theming goes on this ride, but if you have the time and inclination, such detailed info is obtainable. Right here would be a good spot to start.
Space Mountain, as I’m sure you’ve gathered already, is a fun ride that is not going to knock the socks off of any seasoned coaster enthusiast. It offers no drops any steeper than 39 degrees, and there is no point in the ride that would cause anything more than the most pedestrian of thrills for even a mild fan of coasters. That said, this ride is a classic, and though it certainly didn’t do as much to advance the evolution of the modern coaster as much as Disney’s Matterhorn, the world’s first steel coaster and also developed by Arrow, Space Mountain is still a classic in the coasting world, and is useful for helping us to enthuse younger coaster riders.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Space Mountain we ride today is quite a bit different from the first incarnation of the ride. What is now fairly benign, was once the recipient of numerous lawsuits due to injury. Not surprisingly, Disney settled on the reasonable ones, and added trims to slow the trains.
All things considered, today’s Space Mountain ranks no higher than a five out of ten on the scale created by The Coaster Critic, and that is a generous five, based on nostalgia and memories of being eight years old and terrified. The thirty year old version of me was significantly less impressed. Does this mean you should skip on this piece of Walt’s collection if you’re in the park? Absolutely not. Roller coasters are few and far between at all of the Disney owned theme parks, and the Disney World version is particularly enjoyable, thanks to its recent rehab last year. It earns its score because of a lack of thrills, not because of the kind of defects that normally can cast an otherwise excellent coaster aside. Final Rating – 5.0 (Average)
This coaster is not Intimidator 305, and it doesn’t need to be. What Disney wants out of all of its rides, even the more thrilling ones, is a high amount of guest satisfaction, quick rider turnover and high reliability. Judged on those criteria, Space Mountain grades much higher than my five out of ten, and seeing as Disney has seen fit to grace five separate parks with versions of this classic, it would appear that the Mouse and general public agree.
Space Mountain is rated ‘TR’ for Traditional. It’s a 2 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale.
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