The detailed backstory, while present in park literature and training materials, is not communicated to park guests directly. The station buildings on all four versions of the ride are themed to appearance of a mining company office from the mid to late 19th century. In the Disneyland park, there is music and laughing in one of the saloons of Rainbow Ridge, and a typewriter is heard from a newspaper office. The mountains themselves are themed to the red rock formations of the American Southwest. The rock work designs in the Disneyland version are based on the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. In the Florida, Tokyo and Paris versions of the ride, the rockwork designs are based on the rising buttes that are located in Arizona and at Monument Valley in Utah. Walt Disney Imagineering took special care to make it appear that the rocks were there originally, and the track was built around the rocks, unlike a number of earlier mine rides, which were built the other way around (by sculpting the rocks around the tracks). There is also a dinosaur skeleton that the train passes by in all versions of the ride except the Paris version. A cracked eggshell is nearby, and there is a pleasant lake with water that is shot up while the train passes on the warmer days. Sound effects of a typical locomotive operation are piped into the surrounding scenery to add realism to guests viewing the ride from observation platforms, including the steam whistle sounding, even though there is no whistle displayed on the locomotives.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and ride design engineer Bill Watkins. The concept came from Baxter's work on fellow Imagineer Marc Davis's concept for the Western River Expedition, a western-themed pavilion at the Magic Kingdom, designed to look like an enormous plateau and contain many rides, including a runaway mine train roller coaster. However, because the pavilion as a whole was deemed too expensive in light of the construction and 1973 opening of Pirates of the Caribbean, Baxter proposed severing the mine train and building it as a separate attraction.
The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad project was put on hold again in 1974 as resources and personnel were being diverted to work on constructing Space Mountain in Tomorrowland, but this delay may have ultimately produced a smoother ride as the use of computers in attraction design was just beginning when the project was resumed. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was one of the first Disney rides to utilize computer-aided design. Four of Disney's parks feature the attraction. It first opened at Disneyland in 1979, and then a larger version debuted at Magic Kingdom in Florida in 1980. Tokyo Disneyland's version opened in 1987. Disneyland Paris opened with its version in 1992, of which its layout and structure is primarily based on the Florida version of the ride. The Disneyland Paris installation is also the only Big Thunder Mountain to have been an opening-day attraction at its park.
At Disneyland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was built on the land the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland used to occupy. Several tributes to the former attraction are present in the Disneyland version. A scaled-down Western town sits adjacent to the queuing lines and tracks near the station. A Western saloon, hotel, assayer's office and mercantile appear among the buildings. This is the village of Rainbow Ridge, which used to overlook the loading platform of the sedate Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland. Many of the animal animatronics throughout the attraction are animatronic animals from the previous attraction. Other allusions to the Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland include the Rainbow Caverns (glowing pools of water by the first lift hill) and precariously balanced rocks in the third lift hill tunnel.The name of the ride itself, "Big Thunder", was originally the name of a large waterfall the old mine train passed on its tour. "Little Thunder" was located nearby.
At the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland, the ride is known by its full name of "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad". The Tokyo and Paris versions would drop the word "Railroad" in favor of the name "Big Thunder Mountain", though the full name is still present on the trains. Tokyo Disneyland's Big Thunder, which is almost identical to the Magic Kingdom's, opened in 1987, five years after the park opened. At Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, the name of the ride is sometimes shortened to "Big Thunder Mountain", "Big Thunder", "Thunder Mountain Railroad" or "Thunder Mountain".
The Florida version was allocated more space in the park, and so the Monument Valley-inspired ride structure assumes 2.5 acres, 25 percent larger than the Disneyland version. Due to the ride being surrounded by the Rivers of America on the east and Walt Disney World Railroad on the west, the maintenance facility for the trains is on the opposite side of the Railroad's track from the ride, with a swing bridge being used where the transfer track crosses the Railroad, just past the Frontierland station.
Based on Steve Purcell's unconventional cult comic books, Sam & Max will take you on an irreverent road trip adventure that will put hair on your back. Collide with tacky tourist traps and intimidate their bizarre denizens. 2b1af7f3a8