Disneyland 60th Part III: The Rides

Harold the Abominable Snowman
Harold the Abominable Snowman


This is the third and final installment in the Disneyland 60th anniversary trilogy of articles, run in CVWeekly over the past two weeks. Part I delved into the new nighttime spectaculars at Disneyland park – Disneyland Forever fireworks spectacular and Paint the Night electrical parade. The sequel article – Part II, which ran last week – gave a look at the new World of Color: Celebrate! show over at Disney California Adventure park, as well as the re-theming of Condor Flats to Grizzly Peak Airfield. Now it has come full circle, back to Disneyland park, because this week we see a couple of new attractions and take a look into the future to see what else is coming this summer to enhance the magic.

This 60th anniversary celebration is all about looking back where Disneyland came from. The undertones in the campaign, as well as in the new nighttime spectaculars, are done with one eye towards the past as we move into the future. It is really nice to see the nostalgia brought to vivid life with the new technologies available to us. And the rides are no exception.

Indiana Jones Adventure- Chamber of Earthly Riches
Indiana Jones Adventure-
Chamber of Earthly Riches

For the 60th anniversary, some of the most beloved rides are getting updates – not necessarily changes, just updates. Changes have already come to some attractions, like Alice in Wonderland and Big Thunder Mountain. Alice received projection effects to give new life to the once aged attraction, and Big Thunder got a real facelift in its final scene, the cave-in sequence, with the sometimes rocking boulders replaced by lit fuses travelling down the shaft and plumes of smoke shooting at the train as the TNT goes off. These changes are incredible and really surprising if you’re familiar with how the rides used to be.

Now changes have come to Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn and the Haunted Mansion.

Indiana Jones is one of the coolest rides at the park and it pushes through thousands of guests a day. But because of its popularity and the desire to avoid downtime, it rarely gets fixed when things break. Case in point: the three doors.

The mechanism is supposed to move and the doors open to show which of the three gifts your car will receive – eternal youth, earthly riches or visions of the future. But when the doors break and you go through the eternal youth door to find earthly riches, the effect is lost. Now thanks to projection effects and fewer moving parts, the door lights up and dematerializes to open into the next show scene, which is also enhanced by projected effects. Sounds simple, but the effect is really astounding.

Hatbox Ghost
Hatbox Ghost

The Matterhorn gets touched up with a new coat of paint, new set pieces and a new Abominable Snowman. Since 1978, the Abominable Snowman, named Harold, has been scaring off wayward bobsled riders, protecting his peak and the crystals that lie within. Harold is now 37 and, although he still looked great, it was time for some work to be done. He has stood stagnant in his spot since 1978, growling and waving at guests as they pass. Now Harold follows guests up the main chain lift hill, peering through thin ice walls, then at the first split in the track, in full Audio-Animatronic motion, he raises up out of his icy cavern, growling and leaning over towards the passing bobsled trains. In addition, the icy crystal cavern has now become a scene tied-in with the theme and Disney history. The bobsled trains and the old Sky Buckets ride vehicles lay crashed and slashed by Harold, suggesting that the Sky Buckets closed due to Abominable activity. Really cool to be part of this new iteration and better suited to the overall theme than the crystals were.

Finally, The Haunted Mansion got its 999th happy haunt back. They opened with 999 originally, but after a few months of a lackluster effect, the Hatbox Ghost was removed from the attic. His head was supposed to disappear and reappear in the hatbox he was holding, but due to ambient light in the attic, his head never really disappeared fully. He was taken out and over the years became an urban legend for many Disney fans. After much public outcry and a Haunted Mansion movie on the way from director Guillermo del Toro and star Ryan Gosling, it is time to bring the Hatbox Ghost back. This effect is great, utilizing the same projection technology as the other rides.

As the summer stretches on, be on the lookout for more little updates here and there, as well as a major update to the Peter Pan ride, which is getting an all new nursery scene and some new projection tech as Fantasyland dark rides are brought into the 21st century.
Scan the QR code attached to this story to see the new effects at Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion and Matterhorn, as well as an interview with one of the Imagineers who brought these attractions to life, Jeff Shaver-Moskowitz.