Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Space Mountain: Mission 2

On April 9th, 2005, Disneyland Paris decided it was time to "go further" by reinventing and reinvigorating its most popular attraction, Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon. After a full decade of shooting park guests to the moon from the Columbiad cannon, Space Mountain: Mission 2 promises to go beyond to the furthest reaches of the universe.

The original From the Earth to the Moon was a very conscientiously French affair, being inspired by the Jules Verne novel of the same name. From the outside, one can see the tremendous cannon which blasts the rocket cars into the space. In fact, from this outside vantage point, one can even see the cars being shot through, accompanied by a puff of gunpowder smoke!

The building itself is a marvellous take on the classic Space Mountain design, pioneered at the American Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Instead of a stark, antiseptic white carried over from the 1950's, the Disneyland Paris version retrofitted it into a very Victorian design, with rivets and plates and all sorts of aesthetically satisfying antennae, viewing scopes and the like. It is indeed part cannon and part mad Victorian astronomical laboratory.

Inside, the visitor passed through a series of rooms and hallways, the requisite waiting areas in which one spends a good portion of their time. As they passed through, they could see the effects of the Blue Moon Mining Company, owned by the Balitmore Gun Club president Col. Impey Barbicane. They could also catch their first glimpses of the Man in the Moon himself. Reaching the end of the cue, the visitor found themselves in a rather metro-like platform draped with red, white and blue flags. After being sorted into cars and departing, the rocket is loaded into the cannon, and then the ride begins.

Like the other Space Mountains, the Paris version is still essentially a giant roller-coaster in a dark building. But to distinguish it from its predecessors and to satisfy its Vernian theme, From the Earth to the Moon added quite a few things to the journey. Foremost amongst these were the asteroids being mined by the Blue Moon Mining Company. Zipping between and even through the celestial bodies of rock, those on the ride could spy the companies drilling machines and space-suited workers before taking off to the moon. After a high speed ascent to the moon, with the face of the Man in the Moon leering at you and occasionally winking, the rocket car would shoot back to earth through the dazzling Electro de Velocitor, after which the guests would depart at the loading platform.

Unfortunately, after being built in 1995, the ride was allowed to deteriorate significantly. The audio, the paint, the animatronics and effects... All were in a state of decay. Furthermore, the Disneyland Paris park as a whole had been suffering for many years, culminating in a $2.2 million bail-out from the Walt Disney parent company. Things were in need of a change and Space Mountain, already the most popular attraction despite its detractions, seemed the best target.

The premise of Mission 2 is that the Columbiad cannon has been well-tested over the past 10 years of sending visitors to the moon. Now it is time to go further, to the farthest reaches of the universe. Though retaining certain distinct Victorian flourishes, it attempts to fuse this Vernian aesthetic with the polished and chromed world of Gene Roddenberry, to mixed success. In fact, the design work on the poster and signage very strongly recalls that on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, while perhaps finding a more direct precedent in Disney's own Treasure Planet.

As the visitor waits in the cue, they will no longer gaze upon the quaint mechanics of the Blue Moon Mining Company. Instead, they will see viewscreens with stunning celestial photography. After being oriented by videos, guests enter the de-francophoned and more open-feeling loading platform. From there, it is once again off into space through the barrel of a gun.

Asteroids are still there to threaten the rockets as the pass "the gauntlet", but it certainly goes beyond the moon. After chasing a comet and passing a starfield, the cars swing around a star going supernova before returning to earth. Making use of up-to-date technology, many of these projections and other effects give one a greater feeling of careening through space than one may find in the darkened rooms of the other Space Mountains. Unfortunately, what it makes up for in being a souped-up version of those it loses in not being what it was before.

It is certainly unfortunate to see such a radical change in one of the major Scientific Romantic destinations on this sphere, but time will tell if Mission 2 can deliver a successful fusion of Vernian charm with futuristic style.


Thufer said...

my heart is somewhat torn with this news.
1- i have never been to dlParis so this is all comments from a far.
while (sad to me), that such a wonderful design will give way to yet another version. i know the arguments that walt himself made about dl (and the other parks) will never be finished, however, must we when something is so special and WORKS so well.
now, the confession which causes the tear in my purest heart. i am one that looks forward to an undated star tours. go figure?

Cory Gross said...

I don't know how much I can put Space Mountain "mission 1" in the classics category, since I never went on it. That's just what burns me: I finally got to Disneyland Paris and, oops, the Space Mountain I would have died to go on gave way to a fairly ho-hum version of the other Space Mountains. It's better as a version than the others, but now it's just a version.

I'm not too worried about Star Tours... In a way I kind of like the dated film insofar as it hearkens back to classic original films and not the godforsaken prequel trilogy. I'm not a Star Tours fan anyways, though, and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if it wasn't in the park at all.

George Taylor said...


The first shot of SM2 is fantastic! I haven't seen one from that angle before.

Cory Gross said...

Thank you very much! I'm surprised that no one has lit on it before... It's right along the path you have to take around the mountain to get out and back to Discoveryland.

I found the hardest and least satisfying picture to get was the most frequent one, with the Nautilus in the pool and Space Mountain as a backdrop. For some reason it never really worked for me.