Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DisHippy's Tribute to The TTA

The WEDWay PeopleMover opened on July 1, 1975, based on the first prototype PeopleMover at Disneyland in California. Because it did not utilize the propulsion system of rotating Goodyear tires used in the original, (instead using linear synchronous motors), Goodyear opted not to sponsor the east coast version. The Edison Electric Institute was the original sponsor of the ride. The original narration track was provided by longtime Disney voice, Jack Wagner. In June 1985, his narration was replaced by the voice of ORAC One - "The Commuter Computer".

In the spring of 1994, Tomorrowland underwent a massive refurbishment to re-theme the area as a working city of the future. The WEDway PeopleMover received new physical theming as the track was updated from smooth Googie-esque white forms to boldly colored metallic structures. It was during this refurbishment that the attraction's name changed to "Tomorrowland Transit Authority". The current spiel (with only minor alteration since) was also added at this time, your tour now lead by Pete Renaday broadcasting from TTA Central. The two-way track section at entrance of Space Mountain. An induction motor is visible in front of the oncoming train.

The line is a one-way loop, with a brief stretch at the entrance to Space Mountain operating with two-way traffic. At this point, the trains pass so close to one another that it is possible to reach out and touch hands with people in the oncoming train, though a tongue-in-cheek safety spiel warns guests (specifically those from Galaxy M-31) from doing so. The only switches are at Space Mountain, where the main track passes through the attraction and storage tracks run around the perimeter. The design of the station platform has guests boarding and disembarking the cars onto a moving walkway. This allows the vehicles to remain in motion at all times.

Blue, Red, and Green Lines
- The TTA's backstory makes reference to the Transit Authority's three different "lines": the Blue Line, the Red Line, and the Green Line. The Blue Line, which constitutes the actual ride, is Tomorrowland's intra-city elevated train system. The Red Line takes riders 'off-planet' to other destinations in the galaxy, while the Green Line provides local transportation to Tomorrowland's "Hover-Burbs." There is a diorama of a hub station where all three lines intersect located on the second floor of the Convention Center. Other services provided by the Transit Authority (interstate highway maintenance and long distance space travel) are alluded to in the ride's narration. 1970s Attraction Poster for the WEDway Peoplemover.

Blue Line Stations - Though only one actually exists, other destinations are announced while riding:

* Rockettower Plaza (the only real station)

* Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center
* Mickey's Star Traders & Red Line/Green Line Transfer Station
* Space Mountain
* Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
* Star Command Headquarters
* Metropolis Science Centre

Other locations mentioned in passing, but not as stations on the line include:

* The Metro-Retro Historical Society Display
* The Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
* The League of Planets Astro Orbiter
* Perfect Park Acres
* The Interstellar Hair Salon

Onride Viewing Windows & Dioramas - After entering the Convention Center building, the Metroliners pass a large diorama containing a portion of the architectural model of EPCOT as envisioned by Walt Disney. Originally intended to be a working city instead of a theme park, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow never came to fruition. The model in its complete form was created by WED Enterprises as the city was being planned and displayed on the second floor of the Carousel of Progress when it was in Disneyland. Both the Carousel and the model moved to Walt Disney World in 1975. According to the ride narration, the display is sponsored by the Tomorrowland Metro-Retro Historical Society.

Space Mountain
- Since the roller coaster's addition in 1975, the TTA track has offered riders a restricted look down into the two largest of Space Mountain's post-show dioramas. Currently these feature the vignettes of an alien dig site, and radio beaming of packages back to the "home planet".

CircleVision Building Windows
- Originally the tunnel through the south show building (now home to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin) had three windows; one and two on the trains' right, three to the trains' left. This building first housed If You Had Wings, and the windows were carefully placed to look down into the Mexico, Jamaica and Trinidad show scenes in such a way as to hide all projectors, lights and other show support equipment.

When If You Had Wings (renamed If You Could Fly) was closed in January 1989 and remodeled into Delta Dreamflight, the windows no longer lined up correctly with show scenes. The first window was replaced with backlit panels depicting the ride's barnstormer scene. Window two looked into the Parisian Excursion scene, from a viewpoint which heavily distorted the tableau's forced perspective. The third window would have had riders looking directly into an extremely bright light and so was completely obscured with plywood and black fabric.

When the ride transitioned yet again into Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in 1998, the first window was fitted with the diorama of the hair salon, and the second left open to look into the new attraction, though concern was expressed over the fact that this view allows TTA riders to look directly into banks of high-powered blacklights.

Attraction Scenes

* Rockettower Plaza Station
* Rockettower Plaza
* Avenue of the Planets
* EPCOT model
* Transfer Station/Star Traders
* Indy Speedway Overpass
* Space Mountain
* Around the Arcade
* Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
* Buzz Lightyear's SRS show building
* Interstellar Salon
* Avenue of the Planets (again)
* Return to Rockettower Plaza

2009 Refurbishment
- The Tomorrowland Transit Authority closed on Sunday, April 19, 2009, in line with the refurbishment of Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom), and is scheduled to re-open on Monday, August 24, 2009. The closure is necessary due to the large portion of the attraction that travels through Space Mountain. There have been no official announcements regarding changes that the TTA may undergo, if any, during this time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DisHippy's Tribute to Space Mountain

Introduction - The Orlando Space Mountain was the first one to open, and for many fans it remains the standard. It is unique among the Space Mountains because of its twisting layout and its single-rider seating configuration.

History - Located in central Florida, Disney World receives too much annual rainfall to justify outdoor roller coasters. Thus, the Florida needed a rollercoaster which would have to be indoors and away from the weather, so designers melded the idea of Disneyland's Matterhorn with the "Spaceport" concept described below.

The Space Mountain concept actually dates back to Walt's time; in the mid 1960's the plan was to create a new corner of Tomorrowland at Disneyland, with a "SpacePort" theme. However, the plans never took hold at Disneyland, and the Space Mountain ride would first see its application in Florida (who needed an indoor ride). The Spaceport idea involved part of the ride outdoors atop the mountain, then diving into the blackness within. However, possibly due to the weather conditions in Orlando, this idea never materialized.

There are two sides to Space Mountain, of course. They are identical to each other, mirror images really, except that one side is 10 feet longer to allow it to cross over the other side.

Originally, Space Mountain was sponsored by RCA. When exiting, you walked past dioramas of "homes of tomorrow" in which people were using "advanced technology" such as videodisc players and videophones. It was a classic 70's version of "the future." Over time, RCA replaced the videodisc player with whatever they were trying to sell at the time. (Remember, when Disney World first opened, almost every ride had a commercial sponsor, with some type of advertising segment of the ride). Their show was called the Home of Future Living.

After Orlando's success, Disney obviously didn't want to tinker with a working concept so all other Space Mountains remained largely indoors. After 1995, Federal Express became the sponsor to Space Mountain, and they installed a lobby for use by Fed-Ex employees who were visitors to WDW -- you can come in here, relax, and jump to the head of the line if you work for Fed-Ex.

The Orlando Space Mountain was the world's first completely dark indoors coaster.

Walk Through the Queue - You enter the queue in a airy, roomy chamber that has spires in the middle, around which the line doubles back near the entrance to the room. On one side is a large wall art of space-type artwork, and on the floor are odd, futuristic-looking dark glass spheres. You pass from that room into the first passage, which is a long straight tunnel inclined downward and lit by red lights. After hitting the low point, the tunnel angles back upward, this time illuminated by blue lights. Finally, you turn a corner - after noticing the warning signs that this is a roller-coaster and thus not for everyone - and enter the zigzag section, where the corridor widens and zigs back and forth, amid colorful holograms inset into the walls of such things as stars and planets. As this sections ends, you can view an Omega-side rocket ready for launch on your right side, while on your left is the safety video. Finally, then, you enter the main ride building.

As you enter the building, the lights are dimmer because this is the actual giant room that also houses the ride overhead, and you can hear it. You head toward the control tower, which is directly in front of you and in the middle of the line so to speak, and then you choose which side of the ride you wish to ride on. To the left is the Alpha side, to the right is the Omega side, and they split right at the control tower, currently labeled "FX-1 Control Station." As you choose your side, you enter into the "outer space" area itself - the loading area is part of the black, starry region that cars pass. The queue in this area is fairly boring - the PeopleMover (Tomorrowland Transportation Authority) passes through overhead, and you can view the dreadful preshow video via several monitors.

This preshow, called the Space Mountain TV (SMTV), is an ostensible broadcast from the future, mainly a news program interspersed with comical commercials. Some of these commercials are for actual products, such as the space-themed Fed-Ex ones - they are the sponsor after all. Three notable things about the video: Charles Fleischer - the voice of Roger Rabbitt - is a used satellite dealer in one commercial (Crazy Larry); there is a hidden Mickey-shape in a different satellite commercial (mouse ears on satellite provide for communication with earth); and the liftoff sequence on one video is pulled directly from the liftoff video seen in the former Disney attraction "Mission to Mars." Watch also for the video scenes lifted from Disney's movie "The Black Hole" and from the movie "Tron."

Finally you reach the boarding zone, and you climb into rockets with 1-1-1 seating, with two rockets attached for a total of six riders at a time. It is no accident that the seating resembles Anaheim's Matterhorn bobsleds - remember this was to be Orlando's version of the Matterhorn!

Mock Ride-Through - As you know, there are two sides to Space Mountain. If you choose to go left at the fork in the queue, you'll ride the "Alpha" side. The "Omega" side - obviously the other one - is an identical but mirror image of the alpha side, with ten extra straight feet added at one point to make the layout work. You proceed to a couple of waiting areas once seated so they can check seatbelts, then you launch downward and into a long straight tunnel, where you accelerate. The tunnel pulses with strobe lights and rotating blue lights, simulating a launch into space, then you emerge and begin to climb the lifthill. You go up the same time as another rocket, and as you climb you pass underneath the giant rocket ship that is a sister to the one at the Anaheim loading dock. This one, however, was previously named XL-2000 and has been renamed FX-2000 to honor the sponsor FedEx. There are a couple of (nonmoving) astronauts in spacesuits walking along the underside of the ship, so they are upside down!

At the top of the lifthill, the rockets from either side make a sharp turn away from each other as the ride begins. The ride building here has more "Space Cookies" than the Anaheim version, simulating meteor showers, and there is no giant orange globe or orb at the top. In contrast with the Anaheim version, which is many turns and most of them right-hand turns, the Orlando version mixes up the direction of travel frequently. There are fewer turns, but they are sharp ones, and there are four or five drops of twenty feet, many of them rather steep. There are only a few sharp turns at the base of the ride, unlike Anaheim's.

The end of the ride is a letdown in my book. You go through a brief "explosion" tunnel, where you travel through a rotating barrel lit by pulsing red lights, and then inexplicably return out to the darkness of "space!" to slow down. You then enter the unload room, and after disembarking you return to the park via a moving sidewalk. During this standup "ride" you travel past several scenes. You go past scenes of robots delivering fanciful cargoes to other robots on exotic planets, all courtesy of the FedEx sponsor of course. The moving sidewalk ends after an uphill section, during which you can see yourself captured by wall-mounted cameras. Smile!

Fun Facts

- first roller-coaster ride to occur in perpetual darkness
- originally called SpacePort, going to be the anchor of 1967 Tomorrowland at Disneyland
- John Hench and resident Disney sculptor Mitsu came up with dramatic styling for SpacePort
- in June of 1966 became known as Space Mounntain, put on indefinite hold
- constructed 15 feet under ground
- 2 tracks of WDW reduced to one to conserve space in 200-foot wide building at Anaheim
- 31 Rocket Trains that run in Orlando 1-16 (no Train 13) that run on A side (That's to the left as you pass the tower) and 17-31 on B side. The drop on both sides is a 35 ft drop.