The Matterhorn Bobsleds
Images from Tours Departing Daily
Text from The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland
Imagineers are often asked how we make decisions as to what to add to our parks. Usually the answer is not a simple one. Matterhorn Bobsleds is a great example of how Disneyland can evolve- often very rapidly- based on a variety of factors. Challenges and opportunities present themselves all the time, and the key to the Imagineering mentality is to always look for ways to turn those things into positive changes for the Park. The Matterhorn story illustrates how that sort of thinking creates landmarks of Disneyland magic.
At its opening, the Park featured a twenty-foot high mound of dirt formed by the digging of the castle moat during Park construction. The pile had been dressed up with a bit of landscaping and some benches, and over the years had taken on the name Holidy Hill after an abandoned concept for the area. This hill was also the home to a rather unattractive steel tower for the Skyway buckets that made their way across the Park at that time. Additionally, Walt was still in search of a thrill attraction for Disneyland after the re-focusing of the Casey, Jr. Circus Train away from being a true roller coaster.
So, with all of this rattling around in the back of his mind, Walt found himself during a European vacation on the set of the 1959 film, Third Man on the Mountain, filmed atop the legendary Matterhorn in Switzerland. Around this time, an executive in Disneyland sent him a magazine article about wild-mouse-style roller coasters, and Walt’s grand scheme was hatched. The skyline of the Park was forever changed, and our pattern for plussing the park by identifying all of our best “opportunities” was set in place.
The Abominable Snowman found within the Matterhorn offers a view into the evolution of our Audio-Animatronics figues- a lineage that leads eventually to the massive beast found inside Expedition: Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World. The Abominable Snowman was added to Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1978 in keeping with WDI’s desire to incorporate story elements into our thrill attractions, such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. In Everest, the relative scale, menacing movements, and the ferocity of the modern figure show how far we have advanced the technology in the intervening years. However, the use of the element of surprise ensures that the original beast still packs a wallop!
- Matterhorn Bobsleds was the first tube steel-track roller coaster in the world when it premiered in 1959.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds was originally part of Tomorrowland, but made its way into Fantasyland in the early 1970s without moving an inch.
- The Disneyland Matterhorn is 147 feet tall, exactly 1/100 the size of the actual mountain.