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Inside Disneyland Paris

This 45 minute report was broadcast in the US within the series "Travel Channel Secrets" on Travel Channel. A large part also dealt with Space Mountain and revealed some secrets. It was aired for the first time on 18. Mar 2001 and repeated on 19.5.2001, 8.6.2001 and 1.1.2002.
Transcript and screenshots by FeLIX

Download video: insidedlp.avi [DivX, 4:42, 2924kB]

Stepping into this part of Disneyland Paris takes you into the world of the future, only this is no techno zone - this is the future as imagined by great European writers and explorers more than a hundred years ago.

Among them a world famous French novelist who wrote one of the earliest space adventures. Jules Verne is considered the father of science fiction. And it was a story he wrote in the eighteenhundreds about being fired out of a cannon from the earth to the moon that inspired the most popular attraction in Discoveryland.

Space Mountain is the park's newest, biggest and most expensive roller coaster. But this is a ride with a twist, several of them. Plus a corkscrew and a total loop. All you wish to do in the dark, because this is a journey from earth into space.

We read the novel again and again, and so this wonderful story with a cannon, with a kaboom, we decided that we would create that cannon for Disneyland Paris, too.

The man who spent two years of his life making that human cannon a reality is Mike Kent.

MICHAEL KENT, Showride Engineer:
It was a challenge [laughs] It was a big challenge because there are lots of things on this attraction that were never really attempted before.

For a start, shooting people out of a cannon uphill, and then doing that every 30 seconds or so, that's unique. When you get fired to the moon on Space Mountain you go from zero to 60 in two and a half seconds.

But one of the secrets of the ride's success is in slowing people down.

At the top of the catapult there's a few seconds of weightlessness as you go over the top of the catapult which simulates the moon shot of the cannon. If you get the speed wrong at the top of the catapult you don't get that feeling of weightlessness.

Changing the speed of the cars and how far apart they are on the ride is a key to safety also. It's so complex, it's all controlled by computer, well, five computers in fact.

During the three seconds of launch there are five computers that run in synchronization to guarantee the safety of the launch. And I believe that's the same number that check the launch for a Space Shuttle. So for the three seconds that's the train is in flight on the catapult it's analogous to a Space Shuttle launch.

In a locked room is the roller coaster's nerve center which TV cameras have never been allowed into before now.

Michael Kent:
If you look at the size of the ??? room here you get an idea of how complex the whole thing really is.

Each of these wires is attached to a sensor on the track feeding back information to the computers which check and cross check for any glitches.

Another thing that visitors don't get to see is the music. It's like movie music. You don't notice it at first but you'd sure miss it if it wasn't there.

It was specially written for the ride by one of Steven Spielberg's favourite composers. And the way you get to hear it is totally unique.

Michael allowed us exclusive access to one of the maintenance rooms to explain how the onboard sound system works.

Each part of the ride has its own audio track, its own theme. The vehicle itself knows exactly where it is on the ride and it chooses the music to play for that portion of the ride. And all the musical elements are stored within this box here and are stored as a digital data on what's called a flash card. And the system as is moves through the ride steps from flash card to flash card playing the music.

And the way you get to hear it is a surprise, too.

There are six speakers delivering CD quality sound. Underneath the seats there is a bass band, you can here the whoompf from the music. Either side of you there are these mid range units, and then up in the head rest there are tweeters which give you the very high frequence buzz from the music. And this was the first time that anybody put this type of technology into a roller coaster. You know, the guys that did this actually wrote the book as we were doing it.

It's such a wow, even world famous astronauts have given it their thumbs up.

Buzz Aldrin was there to try the attraction and he said it was nearly as impressive as the first time for him, so, we knew we had been successful in creating this attraction, because even Buzz Aldrin told us that it was really very very good.

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