BACKSTORY (June 14, 1959—Present): In 1977/1978, the Matterhorn received a major refurbishment: Audio-Animatronic Yeti (or Abominable Snowmen, which have been nicknamed Harold); an ice crystal cavern at the top of the lift hill; an icy, crystal blue look given to the caves at the beginning of the downhill run; a complete change of the bobsleds (instead of being 1 car, 2 cars were now joined, which basically doubled the attraction's capacity).
From the December 29, 1977 Disneyland Line internal newsletter:
Since 1959, the craggy, snow-covered profile of the Matterhorn has loomed not only over the Swiss Alps, but over Anaheim, California.
As the new home of the Abominable Snowman, however, the mystery of the Alps will extend into the mountain's interior. Darkness and obscurity of the track's path will heighten the excitement of our long popular Disneyland attraction. As John Hench, WED's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, puts it, "It will be going the same speed it always has, but it will seem faster."
The main lift will be entirely enclosed, and it will be chilly. Windows in the tunnel will seem to look out on falling snow. As the bobsled approaches the top, a bank of fog will make it difficult to see where the sled is heading. This is the first time guests will sense the presence of the Snowman.
From here, lighted ice formations illumine the crystal cavern--to the sound of icy wind chimes. Next, fog and howling wind seem to signal a reappearance of the Snowman and his eerie scream reverberates.
The steel structure of the mountain's interior will no longer be visible at any point, enhancing the alpine theming and feeling of speed. new bobsled bodies are being cast and painted at MAPO, the fabrication division of WED, and they will be wider and more comfortable. They will be tandem, that is two cars joined together by a steel bar, and this formation will increase the attraction's capacity by 70%.
A computerized ride control system similar to Space Mountain's will be installed to monitor all aspects of the attraction. The bobsled storage area will be exttended and large service pits for the sleds installed. All brakes and sensors will be replaced due to the increased load.
Opening of the new Matterhorn is scheduled for next summer.
With the closure of the Skyway in 1994, the holes through which the Skyway buckets would travel were filled in. In addition to general maintenance, it was to replace the old wooden frame of the mountain with a steel frame. The Wells Expedition Camp was added inside the attraction as well; it is a tribute to Frank Wells, Walt Disney Company President, who climbed the highest peaks on six out of seven continents before he died in a 1994 helicopter crash.
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Meet the Mountain Folks. For the past seven months, WED Imagineers have met continually with Area Productions People and the Maintenance Division to iron out problems on the mountain, Working Leaders and Trainers prepared well in advance for the testing of the new bobsleds and the orientation of the new attractions' Hosts and Hostesses.
Disneyland's third mountain is about to be completed. First, there was the 1959 Matterhorn, then Space Mountain in 1977, and now an all new adaption guaranteed to scare your leiderhosen off.
This technological and artistic creation is the result of the efforts of countless numbers of people. STEVE MILLER, WED Coordinator for the Matterhorn project, has spent hundreds of hours and an equal amount of memos keeping this diverse undertaking running smoothly. A photographer by trade, Steve began his Disney career in the WED warehouse, and has most recently found himself analyzing and coordinating the construction of the new Matterhorn. Steve has worked closely with Project Designer Glenn Durflinger, who coordinates all architectural and show drawings for release to construction, and Bill Dennis, Project Engineer, responsible for all engineering equipment, both in the Park and through outside consultants.
Another essential contributor to the reformation of the Matterhorn was its mechanical engineer, ED FEUER> Ed designed the Mechanical and Ride Control System for the attraction, one which could easily adapt to the new computer system put together by electrical engineer, RON BROWN.
Ed's feelings about the Matterhorn reflect a great respect for those with whom he collaborated, "Considering the problems presented by the record rain season, the project turned out pretty well. For quite a while we were walking around with wet blueprints in our hands, and coping with other construction problems produced by the rain. It's amazing that we're on schedule, and this can only be attributed to the combined talents and patience of everyone involved. Wayne Watson, the overall construction coordinator, was a key figure in assuring that deadlines were met and field changes made when needed."
Fred Joerger, the Matterhorn Show Designer, became the designer of the original mountain 18 years ago, when he was commissioned by Walt Disney to reproduce the Swiss Matterhorn at 1/100 scale. Fred created a mold from copies and photos, and came up with a "slight exaggeration" (according to Fred) of the Swiss version. Fred is the primary "rock" expert for the Disney Organization, and has had his hands full with supervising the formation of the ice caverns and crystals, snow effects and the refrigeration system.
The Productions representatives in charge of the Matterhorn project are Area Supervisors Mike King (Tomorrowland) and Greg Garza (Fantasyland). These two coordinators have worked closely together and with WED personnel and Disneyland Maintenance. Mike's role in the mountain's production was mainly that of advisor. He, and Adventure/Frontierland Area Manager Craig Smith were veterans of the Space Mountain Opening and were brought into the Matterhorn project to contribute their experience to Fantasyland Area Productions. Greg is Fantasyland's representative, and communicates Craig's and Mike's ideas, along with his own observations, to the appropriate WED and Maintenance people.
As Mike has observed, "Everyone on this project as well as every Disney project, has learned to work as a unified team. All aspects of the Matterhorn, whether technical, mechanical or show, requires the undivided attention of all concerned, and the ability work together."
The Matterhorn's full-time Working Leader since 1960 is Chuck Abbot, who also headed the Space Mountain Opening Crew. Chuck and his co-leaders, Bill Pontious and Paul Bielat, have been leading orientation tours of the structure since late January, and have spent the last month conducting on-the-job training sessions while testing the new computerized bobsleds. The recipient of the "Creative Idea of the Year" award in 1976, Chuck has been in close contact with the Tomorrowland/Fantasyland Productions Team as well as the WED Imagineers, and contributed his knowledge and expertise to the business of running a safe, enjoyable and memorable Alpine experience.
The success of the Matterhorn doesn't end with WED, or MAPO, or Disneyland Productions. An entire staff of marketing experts in the art, advertising, promotions and publicity fields has been devoting the last several months to the task of informing our world public of the new "chills" within the Matterhorn.
Steve, Fred, Ed, Chuck, Mike, Greg and the Marketing Division, are only a cross section of the hundreds of people involved in the evolution of the Matterhorn. From top level management at the Burbank Studio, to the Hosts and Hostesses on the attraction, the Matterhorn has received a good deal of special attention a kind of diversified unity which could "only happen at Disneyland."
Towering above...and standing alone...the Matterhorn is one of the most famous and beautiful of all the European peaks.For many years, the mystery and inaccessibility of this mountain have intrigued admirers from around the world.
Located in the Pennine Alps, southwest of Zermatt, on the Swiss-Italian border, the Matterhorn presents itself as a sharp, triangular crag...a monument to all mountains. The sculpting of the Matterhorn was an age old process, and for geological enthusiasts, serves as the perfect example of the "horn," a jagged spire produced by glacial weathering and wearing.
One of the most famous mountaineering adventures of all time occurred in 1865, when four climbers and three guides became the first group in history to reach the Matterhorn's summit. On the descent, four of the party slipped and fell thousands of feet to their deaths. In total, over 150 lives have been lost attempting the ascent of the Matterhorn, making this the most "accident prone" of all the Alpine mountains.
Today the climb is not considered difficult, mainly due to modern climbing equipment. Since that first treacherous climb in 1865, over 60,000 people have successfully enjoyed the "conquering" of the Matterhorn.
A Mountain of an Idea
For those fortunate enough to have experienced first hand the beauty and awe of Switzerland, it is easy to empathize with Walt Disney's love and fascination for this Alpine wonderland. In fact, it was this interest which inspired the creation of "Third Man on the Mountain," one of the most dramatic of all the Disney live action films.
During a trip to Switzerland in the 1950's, Walt became intrigued by the tales of the unconquerable Matterhorn and returned to the U.S. to commission the production of his "mountain" movie. The story was based on Thomas Mann's "Banner in the Sky," the true account of a famous mountain climber, a determined Swiss boy and an incredible lesson learned during the ascent of the mighty Matterhorn. Nothing was spared in the production of "Third Man..." as cast and crew were soon on the slopes of the Matterhorn itself, and one of the world's most famous mountain climbers, Gaston Rebuffat, was recruited for consultation and training.
After the film's release in 1959, Time Magazine predicted that it "may well become a children's classic of the screen, a sort of 'Tom Sawyer' of the Alps." Variety was another supporter of the movie as a critic noted, "It has the sort of high altitude thrills to send the viewer cowering deep in his seat and the sort of moving drama to put him on the edge of it."
Little did this movie reviewer know that he was describing Walt's next project...
After the completion of "Third Man on the Mountain," Walt Disney realized that only a relatively small percentage of the U.S. population would ever see the Matterhorn. So he commissioned his Imagineers to build a mountain, something which had never before been attempted.
These designers were faced with the challenges of building a structure that would not only accurately depict an authentic mountain, but a particular mountain. Blending these challenges, the Imagineers constructed the Matterhorn to a 1/100 scale of the original Swiss version.
Our Matterhorn was actually built from the top down, so that the characteristic "horn" could be simulated in accurate detail. A mold was created, and each rock and jutting point copied from photographs.
In its construction, the Matterhorn was built with various forms of material. An order for 2,175 pieces of steel specified in different lengths and weights was placed, and jolted the steel company's sales department for days after the order.
Erected to a height of 147 feet, the Matterhorn was opened with two bobsled runs, complete with cascading waterfalls and glacier grottos, and dedicated to the world in June of 1959 by the U.S. Vice President, Richard M. Nixon. Since that date, this Southern California landmark has attracted over 75 million guests from every corner of the globe.
-1978-A New Ice Age Cometh
It is a known geological fact that mountains eternally undergo change. Erosion by ice, wind, rain, fire and other elements contribute greatly to the molding of mountain ranges, not to mention the "re-arranging" due to earthquakes and tremors.
It is not wonder then that the Disneyland Matterhorn was due for some change...but our elements consisted of artists and designers, and the earth tremors were engineers. Ours was an unnatural phenomenon, considering the changes occurred "inside" the mountain.
Because of the Matterhorn's new "chills," the area surrounding the chain lift was insulated to keep the cold in, and the chain itself adapted for the added weight of the tandem sleds.
The Matterhorn closed its bobsled runs last September to allow its metamorphosis to a more exciting, more realistic experience. This was not a "new" brainstorm, but an old one, as explained by Fred Joerger, a WED designer who worked on the original attraction 18 years ago.
"The renovation of our Matterhorn is just the completion of Walt's original idea. Because of other pressing priorities at the time, many of the Matterhorn's original plans were postponed. Because of the popularity of the Matterhorn, it would have been difficult to close the attraction for re-construction before now. But with Space Mountain entertaining guests who need a thrill experience, we can finally finish most of Walt's original plan."
TALES OF A MOUNTAIN MAN
Our Show Designer...Fred Joerger
Making realistic rocks from synthetic materials is a rare and precise art. One of the foremost experts in this field is WED's Fred Joerger, the Show Designer for the new Matterhorn.
As well as designing the original Matterhorn in the 1950's and other Park projects, Fred has contributed his talents to Walt Disney World also. He described the rock making process in simple terms, although it is a complicated procedure.
"First, the cavern or cave is molded and shaped with steel rebar (3/8" steel wire). The rebar is then covered with a layer of metal lath, a mesh which will hold the plaster. Two layers of plaster are applied with a gun and then a third is troweled to capture the consistency of authentic rock. Ice is made in a similar fashion to rock, but smoothed much more and painted in tones of white and blue."
It requires and artist's eye to distinguish between "sedimentary" and cement, and Fred is one of those rare perfectionists.
Creating the Matterhorn Experience
SUMMER COLOR ON THE SLOPES
As the snow melts away from icy Swiss peaks there unfolds a pallet of nature's most vivid color. The Spring and Summer months are known to bear a spectrum of multi-hued flora, and our Disneyland Matterhorn provides a perfect sample of this variegated seasonal array.
During the Summer season, the mountain displays an assortment of typically European blossoms. Geraniums, marguerites, petunias, marigolds, begonia and vincas adorn the Matterhorn's slopes, and are changed periodically to create the splendor of new color throughout the year.
In the higher altitudes, Deodar Cedar, Chinese Tallow Trees, European White Birch, and Atlas Cedar thrive in plant "pockets," which are actually cement holes sculpted into the mountainside. These indentations retard the growth of the roots and subsequently, the size of the tree. Because 30 foot pines would look a little out of place on a 147 foot, 1/100 scale mountain, this miniaturization of the shrubbery is necessary to keep everything in perspective.
Watering the living scenery in these higher altitudes presents a bit of a challenge. The plant pockets require special treatment because their limited space calls for accurate and frequent watering. This is accomplished by lowering a landscaper by bucket...via crane...who waters each plant individually.
The shrubbery surrounding the glacier grottos represents another horticultural problem characteristic only of the Matterhorn. Because these plants receive a drenching about every 20 seconds from the splash-down of the arriving bobsleds, the greenery assigned to this spot must be of the water-loving variety.
It's doubtful that many of our guests visiting Disneyland are aware of, or even consider many of these behind-the-scene details. But the result evidenced within the final product, the beauty and variety of the Park's living scenery, is one which inspires those guests to return...again and again.
September 1977 through June 1978
Skilled craftsmen created the look of authentic rock while WED Imagineers met with Disneyland Productions and Maintenance people to combine ideas and experiences.
The Disneyland Maintenance Division, coordinated by Wayne Watson, played an important role in the development of the new Matterhorn, and worked closely with both WED and outside contractors. Since our Maintenance Team is the group responsible for tying together all electrical, plumbing and mechanical aspects of the attraction, it was essential that these craftsmen were involved in every stage of the Matterhorn's evolvement.
Matterhorn Hosts and Hostesses began their training sessions in late January, while within the depths of the Matterhorn, the construction people and the Disneyland Maintenance crew "sculpted" the icy caves.
...A New Ice Age Cometh
The first step in any disney undertaking is the utilization of the Story Board, a method of planning included in every project from movies to theme park attractions. "Preliminary" and "working" drawings are rendered and posted on the "Story Board" so that group discussions can be facilitated. From these initial sketches scale models are erected and blue prints drawn.
Meanwhile, WED engineers meet with the Disneyland Productions Staff to blend the "theory" with the "reality." In the case of the Matterhorn, the Productions division requested specific functional devices (i.e. the installation of control podiums in the "pit" areas) while the Maintenance team expressed their wish for efficient maintenance areas and repair facilities. Several such meetings were held before the designs were released for construction.
Once the "planners" (WED Imagineers) released the blueprints for the project, the "doers" (Disneyland Maintenance, Productions and outside contractors) set to work with the nearly impossible task of building from the inside out...and fitting a 1978 model into a 1959 body.
Because the Matterhorn sits in the center of the Magic Kingdom, caution had to be taken to prevent any unusual or distracting sights and sounds from penetrating the show area during Park operating hours.
All work materials were brought into the mountain during the early morning hours and on days when the Park was closed. If the supply of materials dwindled during the course of the work day, no more could be obtained until the following morning. The bigger construction jobs such as the cementing of the "Load" and "Unload" areas, were also performed during Park NON-operating hours.
Sometimes, rather cramped quarters resulted because of this necessity to hide the construction from the guests. For example, the metal lath which supports the plastered cave walls was lowered through the Skyway cavern by crane, and cut to size once inside. And often, those cramped quarters became cold, leaky and damp, as the record rain season delayed production deadlines and contributed to additional problems for the builders. In fact, one construction worker was heard saying that this was the "most challenging job" he had ever done.
In the construction process, the "Ride Control" specialists must work in close harmony with the "Show" specialists, so that mechanical equipment can be installed without disturbing the "artistry" of the rock or ice work. The list of diversified skills is almost endless, as WED designers and engineers teamed with Disneyland electricians, carpenters, plumbers, welders, plasterers and painters, and have once again combined their talents to create a superb Disney masterpiece.
Although Walt Disney won't be here for the premiere of the Matterhorn, one can't help but recall his feelings and amazing foresight concerning the changes he anticipated for the Park...
"Disneyland is something that will never be completed. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to. It will be a live, breathing thing that will need change. The things will get more beautiful each year...I can change the Park, because it's alive."
And this exciting, adventurous, changing Matterhorn is another example of Walt's endless plans for his Disneyland.
...Never to be completed.
A NEW COMPUTERIZED BOBSLED
A new bobsled run can't function efficiently without a new bobsled, so Imagineers at MAPO (WED's fabrication branch) created a vehicle which resembles a cross between a Walt Disney World Space Mountain rocket and an actual Swiss bobsled.
Fifty sleds have been assembled (some modified from the old model, some newly constructed) to fill the higher capacity capability of the new system, and then coupled in two's to create the world's first tandem bobsled.
Body restyling included the removal of sled number 1's rear bumper to allow adequate clearance between the coupled sleds. The nose of the second sled was also restyled and a new bumper design installed for guest safety.
Seating for eight rather than the previous four will greatly increase operating efficiency as well as boost guest capacity by 70 percent.
The track structure has been reinforced because of the doubled weight increase of the tandem sleds. Boosters, which are rotating wheels in the track's center, give these heavier sleds aid in the gaining of momentum.
Some visual changes in the track structure have been implemented, as the bobsled runs will now be enclosed in tunnels for the majority of the trip. No longer will passengers be able to look down to the mountain's floor and observe the other bobsledders. Aside from brief periods when the sled "peeks" outside the mountain, the track area will be completely enclosed.
Two PLC (Program Logic Control) computers oversee al operation of the sleds and emergency safety systems, while four control podiums stand within the "pit" areas for the use of the attraction's Hosts and Hostesses.
In the Control Tower, the location of all moving sleds in the mountain are monitored on a light panel, and two IBM printout machines record all functions and abnormalities.
A New Project for Our Marketing Team
This summer promises to be one of the most exciting and memorable of all our Disneyland seasons.
It is estimated that over 60 percent of our guests will be returning to again enjoy the thrill of Space Mountain, and to be entertained by the glittering Electrical Parade, the All-American College Band and Singers and the icy "new" Matterhorn.
Our Marketing Division has been at work developing marketing programs to inform our world audience of the new, and familiar summer experiences at Disneyland. The main focus of the advertising, promotional and publicity campaigns has been the metamorphosis of the Matterhorn; the presence of its mysterious snowman and the inclusion of its new "chills." A "teaser" campaign was implemented with slogans such as, "What's gotten into our Mountain?" and "There's more than chills in the Matterhorn."
As Bill Long, Marketing Director, explained, "The Matterhorn is just one element of our program this summer. It's our major thrust, but we still have other attractions to offer such as the Electrical Parade and our night-time entertainment.
"We think this season will be a challenging one...as we look forward to great attendance and the opportunity of marketing an exciting new summer."
And this summer promises to be just that.
Learning the Ropes
As any experienced mountain climber will attest, it takes a large amount of training, hard work and practice to become an adept mountaineer.
Our Matterhorn trainers and Working Leaders began their intensive orientation program as far back as January 31st, and by mid-April, most members of the Matterhorn Crew had been escorted over buckets, barrels, boards and barricades during their introductory tour. A great amount of imagination was often required to visualize the show effects as they would be, and to understand the complexity of the computer system...which, at the time, did not exist.
In these early stages, the "rope learning" consisted of familiarizing the trainees with the mountain's interior; locations of intercom phones and emergency exits, positions of brake zones, explanation of the new show additions, the computer system and operational duties. Actual "on the job" training began with the arrival of the new tandem style bobsleds in late April. The Matterhorn Hosts and Hostesses practiced running simulated breakdowns and coping with routine operational problems.
These practice sessions required long hours and steady patience while the still experimental system was tried and tested over and over. Disney teamwork was evidenced here as the crew of designers, engineers, computer technicians, Productions supervisors, Working Leaders and Attraction Hosts and Hostesses concentrated their expertise and experience to finally emerge with a smooth running and well-tested operation.
Matterhorn Trainers and Working Leaders began learning the "ropes" in late January, and continued their intensive orientation program until actual opening.
An All New "Show"
When the guests fasten their seatbelts for this bobsled ride, they had better be prepared for more than a leisurely trip through an Alpine mountain.
The initial ascent of the mountain's interior is encased in darkness, and the mountaineers will experience not only falling snow in the higher altitudes, but cold temperatures as well.
Once reaching the mountain's summit, the bobsled team passes through a blanket of fog...and for the first time senses the presence of a mysterious being.
The authenticity of this journey becomes more evident as the sled picks up momentum, and is engulfed by a cavern of glistening, colorful ice, howling wind, melting ice crystals...and the roars of an Abominable Snowman.
Faster and faster the snow vehicle pursues its course, encountering pockets of fog, wind, snow...and excitement.
There's More Than Snow Inside the Matterhorn
The Abominable Snowman is the name given to a legendary creature believed to roam the forested regions of the world's mountain rangers.
It is said he walks upright and has the fine hair and facial features of an ape.
Many of the stories and descriptions of the Snowman are based on the discoveries of large, unidentifiable footprints in the snow. The first and second toes of the creature are said to be large and widely opposed, while the third, fourth and fifth toes are small and close together.
Several expeditions have been undertaken to ascertain the truth behind the mysterious creature. But so far, there is no real evidence of the Snowman's existence...and most scientists don't take the matter too seriously.