Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Big Thunder Mountain or simply Thunder Mountain for short) is a roller coaster attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, opened 1979; Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, opened 1980; Tokyo Disneyland in Uryasu, Chiba, Japan, opened 1987; and at Disneyland Resort Paris' Disneyland Park in Marne-la-Vallée, France, opened 1992 (the only park that opened together with the park). A similar attraction opened at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2012 in a land called Grizzly Gulch (which is part of the expansion).
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is set in the American Southwest and follows the same general runaway train experience, though with varying backstories and geological structure.
During the Gold Rush in the late 1800s, gold was discovered in Big Thunder Mountain and boomtowns sprung up nearby accordingly such as Rainbow Ridge (Disneyland), Tumbleweed and Dry Gulch (Magic Kingdom) and Thunder Mesa (Disneyland Paris). A Mine Train system was established to transport the ore, but what the settlers didn't count on was that Big Thunder was sacred ground for local Indian tribes. The spirit of Big Thunder was not pleased with the gold being removed from the mountain and the towns and mining company suffered accidents from flooding (Magic Kingdom) and earthquakes (Disneyland, Disneyland Paris). The trains themselves began operating on their own, possessed by mischievous spirits. Though the towns promptly became abandoned, adventurous visitors still arrived to ride the haunted trains.
The first version of the attraction opened in 1979 in Disneyland after Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland closed. It is widely believed the roller coaster trains were reused from Nature's Wonderland. It is also well known that the Western Town at the end of the ride and the animal Audio-Animatronics were recycled from Nature's Wonderland.
The second version opened in Walt Disney World in 1980. The WDW version is based around Red Rock Canyon and provides a less tame experience. This time, it centers around a haunted mine in Big Thunder Mountain.
Both the Euro Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland versions use the same Bryce Canyon setting as Disneyland but have different track layouts.
Tributes to Mine Train Through Nature's WonderlandEdit
At Disneyland, a scaled-down western town sits adjacent to the queuing lines and tracks returning to the station. A Western sallon, a hotel, the 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. Disneyland's version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was built on the land the Mine Train used to occupy. Many of the Animal Audio-Animatronics throughout the attraction are the Animal Audio-Animatronics 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. ◾Precariously balanced rocks on the third lift hill. ◾The Name of the ride itself - Big Thunder was originally the name of an enormous waterfall the train passed on the 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. Tokyo Disneyland's Big Thunder, which is almost identical to Magic Kingdom's, opened in 1987, five years after the park opening. Also at Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland, the name of the ride is sometimes shortened to Big Thunder Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, or even just Big Thunder or Thunder Mountain.
Imagineers rethought the attraction for Disneyland Paris, creating a layout mostly based on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but with several significant changes to both the layout and the accompanying structure.
The revised European ride, takes the form of a large island, similar to Tom Sawyer Island, in the center of the Rivers of the Far West, accessed from its riverside station by tunnels underneath the water. Just like Star Tours, Disneyland Paris is also the only Big Thunder Mountain to open together with the park.
Hong Kong Disneyland does not have a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction nor a western-themed land, for that matter. However, a land called Grizzly Gulch is currently under construction at Hong Kong Disneyland with a theme similar to Frontierland and Critter Country. The planned attraction Big Grizzly Mountain Coaster will carry a similar theme to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad's theme. The attraction and the themed land is set to open in Summer 2012.