Disney had a very backwards way of building the Matterhorn. They built the mountain first, had the exterior completely planned out then Disney imagineering was given the quest to do the problem solving of building the roller coaster inside of the already existing footprint of the mountain. One would normally think you would build a roller coaster and then build a mountain around it. Since it had never been done before they did it the opposite way.
Disneyland's Matterhorn is 100th scale of Switzerland's Matterhorn which sits 14,700 feet in the air. Disney's Matterhorn is 147 feet and made up of over 2100 steel girders that make the frame and give mountain its strength. Nearly all 2100 were different sizes and lengths to create this jigsaw organic looking mountain.
The a very well hidden 15 story building's exterior was originally made out of plywood that was then painted and sculpted on the outside. That left for Aero development and Disney imagineers a very intricate puzzle of space to try to put in not just one, but two roller coaster tracks! Admiral Joe Fowler knew that this would be something that would be in high demand and he also knew that Disney could use a lot more capacity for guests at Disneyland. Putting in two tracks theoretically would mean twice as many guests could enjoy Matterhorn mountain.
This is something they've gotten away from in recent years with other roller coasters where they do a switch track. Instead of actually building two different tracks operating at the same time, Disney figured out that it's easier to make two different loading areas. Like what we see at Big Thunder Mountain or the Incredicoaster, by using one track and loading guests in two different locations. It's a lot more affordable than building the ride twice. And it gives you the capacity that you need because you're always loading a train or cart to get on that track.
More to come in part 5....
When Harriet Burns made the very first model of the Matterhorn, it was one foot high. She made it like a birthday cake where it was done in layers, so that if one layer didn't get approved, it could be removed, redone, re-sculpted and put back together. She would recreate this process over and over again until finally they would have an approved rough sketch of the Matterhorn built in this birthday cake style out of clay. The large model was then cast and that's what you see today replicated from a model that started out being made like a birthday cake.
If you look at the Matterhorn now, you can see that there are various different layers to it, then the top peak is made up of about three layers each layer gets incredibly smaller creating the force perspective making this feel a lot taller than what it is.
The height of the Matterhorn is pretty fascinating. There's a lot of steel buildings that are constructed in a way where all the steel beams are the exact same size because you're essentially erecting a grid up into the air, but with the Matterhorn all of the various still beams (and there were a lot of them) were various different sizes. This was like constructing a jigsaw. To think that this right here it's actually a building, a 15-story building, built in so many different jig Jags and seesaw pieces. But to our eye, it really does look like a snow-covered Mountain!
Part 4 coming soon!
Last week we discussed the design dilemma that accompanied Walt's dream project.
One of Walt's crazy ideas about replacing Holiday Hill was to just put some snow up
here and somehow turn this into like a toboggan ride or a sled ride. Admiral Joe Fowler pointed out that Anaheim is too hot for snow and it's going to melt and create flooding.
That didn't stop uncle Walt! He eventually figured out how to put snow in this location. A Disney cast member walked up and saw Walt sitting on a bench inside of Tomorrowland and he was staring up in an empty sky. The cast member asked Walt what he was staring at and Walt replied "my mountain".
Needless to say Walt had a vision and even though a thrill ride went against his early design principle: everything should be accessible to every guest.
Eventually Walt would find his vision of a mountain in 1958 when he visited the set of Third Man on the Mountain. As a result there is snow today inside of Anaheim every single day of the year and it's also one of the tallest structures inside of Anaheim. Matterhorn is one of the few attractions that's visible from outside the berm where guests going up and down Harbor and over on Highway 5 can catch a glimpse of the Matterhorn and its snowy peak as it rests above as the tallest lookout of Disneyland.
Walt Disney would be inspired by The Matterhorn over in Europe and both the monorail and the Matterhorn are two things that Walt Disney was inspired to create by traveling through Europe.
Walt sent a postcard of the Matterhorn from Europe and it read: build this. Admiral Joe Fowler said fine we'll build it but it has to do something to justify taking up both space and budget from Disneyland. So the idea was not just one roller coaster but to build two inside!
Stay close for part 3.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 70s/80s we visited Disneyland on a regular basis and often after school, before "Annual Passes".