Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Nip And Tuck (and some botox) For Space Mountain

Last night the crew at Around The Mouse had the opportunity to ride the refurbished Space Mountain for the first time since soft openings began last week.

Starport 75: One of the many great historical WDW
references made throughout the new Space Mountain.

We arrived at Magic Kingdom at about 5:30 and darted directly to Tomorrowland...only to find Space Mountain was down due to technical difficulties, and had been since 3 pm. Now, we basically made this trip specifically to try out the face lift on this classic attraction. So yeah, that was a bummer.

An army of Tomorrowland CMs were outside with their damage control hats on, trying to keep an excited crowd under control. As per usual when these things happen, they unfortunately didn't have any word on when, or if, the ride was going to come back online. So at about 5:50, we went and took a ride on the TTA.

Brian and Hope on The People Mover - biding our time
in the hope Space Mountain would open up soon.

As we rode the new TTA, we noticed almost immediately that all of a sudden, there was a LINE at Space Mountain - entering the attraction! We couldn't believe it - the ride must have opened up as we were literally loading onto The People Mover! It was torture seeing the line moving...then getting longer and longer...until it wasn't moving any more...all the while knowing we were RIGHT THERE, and if we stayed there, we would have been amongst the first in line. But by the time the ride around Tomorrowland ended, the wait was already 45 minutes, and this was the line:


OK, as for the actual attraction that is the new Space Mountain. Let me start by saying this: I wasn't expecting a Disneyland-ish renovation as they had done to their Space Mountain (down for 2 years to institute massive changes to the ride itself, infusing a music soundtrack into the cars, etc.) since the original here in The Mouse was down for only about seven months or so.

That being said, I was a bit underwhelmed. The changes were indeed very much positive, and they seem about what should be expected for the amount of time it was down (in comparison to Disneyland's refurb). But I was a little disappointed in what was done (or not done) to the actual ride experience though. They did seemingly make enhancements to the take-off tunnel (blue lights are very vibrant - possibly brighter than before?) especially at the end just as you veer off onto the track and begin the actual coaster portion. It's visually stimulating and the sound effects successfully get you excited for what's about to come around the corner.

The launch tunnel looks like something out of
Empire Strikes Back. Which, of course, is cool.

Two other areas during the ride were clearly better than before: the outer space ceiling graphics and the softness of the ride experience. The ceiling graphics are brighter, clearer and crisper; they are impressive and very much add to the aesthetic appeal of the theming. Also, the softness of the ride itself is much improved. Almost everyone knows what we're talking about when we reference the bumpiness of the pre-refurb Space Mountain - the quick turns and sharp dips throw you around the seat into the hard angles of the enclosed space. This could make for a relatively harsh ride and some nice bruises. For the refurb, they did soften things up - but I don't think they did anything to the track itself (if they did, it was minor). The customary bumpy dips and turns were still there, and it still throws you around...but due to the new cushioning along the bottom, back and sides of the seating area, it feels MUCH better going around those sharp corners and quick drops. This was a very welcome change, and probably a cheaper and quicker way to tackle the problem of the track harshness without totally disassembling the entire track to smooth it out.

Hope is in front of me as we descend into the eerie
"red" tunnel toward the end of the ride.

On the negative side, early reports and reviews are talking about how it's almost pitch black inside now. I didn't find that at all. I did find that I was able to basically see the track ahead, at least for a good portion of the ride. I was hoping that the supposed darkness would enhance the "thrill" of the ride by making a relatively small and slow coaster more thrilling because you literally couldn't see where you're going - and that just isn't the case here. It's still the great ride that we all know Space Mountain to be; it's just thrilling enough, and in conjunction with the theming, it's still the typical Disney World ride with its typical high standards of excellence. But I don't think it's what it could have been, considering the technology Disney has on its hands at this point in time.

Also, as has been reported, the major part of the refurb occurred in the queue line area. I was slightly underwhelmed here as well, but it is a definite improvement over the previous queue - which was unmanageably long during those busy days as you waited in line for 60+ minutes with nothing to do and not a whole lot to look at.

They improved the lighting, adding the blue and orange lights along the way to plus the atmosphere of the overall theme. The star maps may or may not be different - however, they looked extremely sharp and bright. They very well may be brand new.

Apparently, there's nowhere the DVC won't go these days.

What everyone has been talking about are the interactive games that begin about halfway up the queue line. These are a great addition, especially in comparison to what had been here before (which was nothing). They are quick, lasting only 60 seconds, and this seems to be a very appropriate time limit for each game. It's enough to play for a while, then move on as the line moves. The game itself was merely decent; entertaining enough to occupy your attention and take your mind off the tedium of the long wait (we were in line for about 50 minutes). I still think this is the next logical step in the new wave of integrating interactive experiences into attractions as a way to eliminate queue boredom (see our November 17 article for more details on this strategy) and further enhance the overall experience.

The interactive games aren't anything to write home about,
but they are a positive attempt at helping tolerate the long lines.

Also, all the changes to the theming of both the queue and ride positively bring the story of Space Mountain together as a complete experience. So while I might have been left wanting a little during the actual coaster portion of Space Mountain, the overall experience is definitely improved over its previous version - without sacrificing the classic feel of the original.

You can go 20,000 Light Years Under The Sea.

Overall, it's a solid upgrade, and it definitely kicks Space Mountain up a few notches in the hierarchy of WDW thrill rides.

It's back on the radar and relevant once again after a quick nip and tuck.

Chance gave it 5 Mouse Ears, but he admitted it gave him a bit of a scare. Which says something considering he's done Tower of Terror
and Expedition Everest a combined 200,000 times (it seems).

Brian: 4 Mouse Ears
Katie: 5 Mouse Ears
Chance: 5 Mouse Ears
Hope: TBD

1 comment:

  1. I was reading your article and wondered if you had considered creating an ebook on this subject. Your writing would sell it fast. You have a lot of writing talent. Botox Malaysia