With the reopening of the Matterhorn just four weeks away, this seems like a good day to share an interesting tidbit or two about the landmark (in more ways than one) attraction.
The Matterhorn Bobsleds opened on June 14, 1959, along with the Submarine Voyage, the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail, the Fantasyland Autopia, and more, all part of what many refer to as Disneyland’s Second Grand Opening. This day also marked the debut of the “E-Ticket”, with the Matterhorn and the Submarine Voyage being the very first E-Ticket attractions ever!
One of the more famous Walt Disney anecdotes centers on this very attraction. The mountain itself is designed after the real Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. While Third Man on the Mountain was filming in the Summer of 1958, Walt spent a week on location with the film crew. He already loved Switzerland’s beauty, but the Matterhorn really captured his imagination then. At some point during that week, Walt mailed a postcard with a picture of the Matterhorn on the front, and on the back, two words: “Build This!” And so they did. One year later (give or take a few weeks), the Matterhorn Bobsleds debuted.
There are three things that make this attraction fascinating to me:
- This is the only attraction that sits in multiple lands (though you could argue that The Disneyland Railroad does as well). Technically considered a Fantasyland attraction, the mountain itself is actually in both Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
- The Matterhorn was the very first tubular steel roller coaster ever created. They weren’t aiming for technical innovation, though. It was a matter of time. Arrow Development (the actual builders of the attraction) told Bob Gurr (the project’s lead designer) that there wasn’t time to build the coaster out of wood like all the other coasters were because there wasn’t enough time. The idea was proposed to use tubular steel because they had a machine that could bend and shape the steel, and that was a much faster process. In order to meet the deadline, that’s what they did. All of those giant steel coasters with their huge drops and loops can trace their heritage to this attraction!
- Bob Gurr, Disney Legend & Imagineer, designed the coaster track–even though he hates riding roller coasters and always has! He rode several–against his preferences–to get an idea of how they worked, and then used his geometry skills to design the track. Meanwhile, Fred Joerger, another Imagineer & Disney Legend, was constructing the models of the mountain (especially its interior passageways) at the very same time. They had to make changes to the model every time Bob changed the track layout!
|The new bobsleds, to debut when the ride re-opens June 15, 2012!|
There is much more to the story of the Matterhorn, the hill that previously sat in its location, and what almost took that place instead, but they will have to wait for another day.