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Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris

By Kevin Yee

See Space Mountain Homepage for the complete text, descriptions of the other Space Mountains and many pictures.


This Space Mountain, designed by Tim Delaney of Walt Disney Imagineering and built by Vekoma, was the first one to feature sound and the only one to include inversions. Virtually everyone who has ridden it declares that this one is superior to all other Space Mountains out there.


Space Mountain in Orlando and Anaheim proved so popular that it was a virtual no-brainer to include one when building the new Euro-Disneyland in Paris. However, the funds simply weren't there for Space Mountain at the beginning, and the park opened in 1992 without it. Almost immediately plans were laid to add the mountain, then titled Discovery Mountain (the Tomorrowland section of Euro-Disneyland is themed after Jules Verne's designs and is called Discoveryland). A few name changes took place before the ride actually opened though: Euro-Disneyland became "Disneyland Paris" and the new ride would simply be called "Space Mountain: de la Terre à la Lune" ("from the earth to the moon," named after a famous Verne story). The ride opened to extraordinarily positive reviews in 1995.

Jules Verne's story

"From the Earth to the Moon" was written by Jules Verne in 1865, the year that America's Civil war ended. Touched by the massive destruction he had read about, Verne began ta muse over the possibilities of using the destructive technology of cannons and explosives in a more peaceful, unifying endeavour -- a moon shot.

In post-bellum America, the Baltimore Gun Club, a group of irascible artillery enthusiasts and military men (many with injuries and missing limbs), gather to recall their military days. Their president, Impey Barbicane, suggests they try an altogether new use of the technology of gunpowder -- shooting a projectile to the moon ! The idea is greeted with enthusiasm, and the project rapidly gets under way.

When all plans are nearly complete, the Gun Club receives a telegram from Paris. An adventurer named Michel Ardan offers ta ride in the shell ail the way to the moon. He is soon joined in the adventure by President Barbicane and his arch rival in gunnery expertise Captain Nicholl (who volunteers to accompany them just to witness the fact that it won't work!). The shell is equipped with tufted watts and other touches of comfort, and the day is set.

The bock ends with the firing of the gun. Would the space travelers be heard from again? That question would be answered in the book's sequel -- "Around the Moon." Firing auxiliary rockets, the trio breaks out of orbit around the moon and floats back to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

Walk Through the Queue

The line for Space Mountain begins near the fantastic Nautilus, in on obscure crack in the otherwise impenetrable facade. You are greeted by a host/hostess of the ride, who is also there to verify that you are tall enough to ride. As you enter the building you turn almost immediately toward the right, the center of the building, and you enter a walkway covered by a half-hemisphere of grating at the top. It's quite see-through; the same sort of fence you might find on any given softball field. The fantastic thing is that above you the ride itself is roaring. In fact, at one point the coaster train screams toward the walkway and then dives UNDER it. It's called "La Voie Stellaire," or "Asteroid Walkway" in English. You can hear the music of the Rocketeer blaring in the queue, and this music is similar to the ride soundtrack you'll be treated to shortly.

Just as impressive are the props within the mountain. In general the mountain is dark, and not covered with moving spots of white light (stars) the way that other Space Mountains across the globe are. Instead, there are lighted props to look at as you dive through the mountain, many of which you can see from the queue walkway. The walkway itself is dimly lit by pale blue lighting: enough that you can see while walking, but not so much that it distracts you while riding the coaster itself.

You then walk along the conclusion of the ride - the brake run through a "Electro-de-Velocitor." It's a loud experience every time a train comes through, and one that startles many guests who don't expect it.

After heading up some stairs (and leaving the open-air walkway behind), you see the safety spiel video on a couple of monitors, featuring the 1996 Disneyland Paris Ambassador. The spiels are given in French and English (alternating), with constant English subtitles.

You briefly enter a small room themed with the "Columbiad," the giant cannon described by Verne in his story as the way to get propelled to the moon. The walls are covered by stylized blueprints of the Columbiad and a spacecraft necessary to travel to the moon. Here are some phrases you can see in that room written across the walls: "Ad Luna in flama Gloria" (Vers la Lune, dans un flamboiement de gloire). You can also spot some sentences exctracted from Verne's book: "Une détonation épouvantable, inouïe, surhumaine, dont rien ne saurait donner une idée, ni les éclats de la foudre, ni le fracas des éruptions, se produisit instantanément." And: "Une immense gerbe de feu jaillit des entrailles du sol comme un cratêre." And: "La terre se souleva, et c'est à peine si quelques personnes purent un instant entrevoir le projectile fendant victorieusment l'air au milieu de vapeurs flamboyantes."

Then, suddenly, you're outside again, maybe 40 feet away from the start point. You descend steps and enter the loading area - trains pull up to both sides in alternating fashion (think Big Thunder Railroad-style). If there are MANY guests, the queue line is extended before you actually board: you continue the queue line in a mezzanine (in this mezzanine, you go behind the tower, and you can see a rail switch). Watch for mention of Space Mountain's original name - Discovery Mountain - in the tower and in the station.

The journey to the station is a very good teaser, since you have to walk a long and very dark corridor through the entire building, and you may see some portions of the ride and sets through large openings in the walls. There is also a 'chicken' route which allows you to view the pre-show without actually going on the ride.

Mock Ride-Through

Once inside the station you board one of the trains (6 cars, 4 seats per car) themed like sci-fi vehicles designed in the 1900s, featuring over-the-shoulders restraints. Soon, the soundtrack begins the ride: "Voyageurs de la Terre à la Lune, bienvenue à bord. Veuillez baisser votre harnais de sécurité, et garder bras et mains à l'intérieur de la navette, pendant toute la durée du voyage. La mise à feu est imminente. Welcome on board space travellers, please lower your harness and keep your arms and hands inside the vehicle all time. Prepare for blast-off!" The background music begins and it will continue throughout the ride, timed to the drops and lifts and turns perfectly; it's a John Williams-ish type of classical, inspirational music. You depart the station fairly slowly, and after a long turnaround inside a tube, you reach a sudden drop that leads you to the bottom of the cannon. A hook attaches itself under the train and you are pulled into the enormous Columbiad Cannon.

A very loud detonation is heard, smoke fills the cannon and the train is catapulted into the circuit. A short drop is followed by a long downward helix in complete darkness. You dodge some little asteroids and then you plunge into the looping. Leaving the first inversion, the train rushes through a huge "space mining" machine - called the Blue Moon Mining Company - and a series of trim-brakes which lead you into the core of a melting asteroid (affectionately known to the CM's as MOM - "mother of meteorite"). Then comes another sudden drop into the corkscrew. After a 360 degree inversion, the train "hangs" briefly at a 90 degree angle before a fast section of track to the second lift. The train climbs the hill very quickly - a 'road sign' says "to the Moon: 50,000 km" - and you reach the Moon, which looks like the one in George Melies' 1902 film. Look for a hidden Mickey formed by three craters in the Moon's smile (the Moon's face changes to a smile as you get closer).

The train drops suddenly as you leave the satellite orbit and rushes through some other meteorites. The train negotiates a "horseshoe" (a flat standing upward turn) and gains speed as it reaches another downward helix with dark light effects simulating re-entry into the atmosphere. The train hits the brakes through a shower of sparks inside the "Electro de Velocitor" machine - a loud process that can heard clearly (sometimes startlingly) in the nearby queue - and then goes back gently back to the station.

Right after disembarking, you can buy the onboard picture taken of you sitting in the train; called Light Speed Photography. The picture had been taken just before the cannon blastoff.

Needless to say, this ride is excellent - the best at the park and the best steel roller coaster in France. Special effects and sets are superb. The soundtrack (a bit John Williams-ish) is magnificent, and the onboard audio system is CD quality.

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