During the early days of Animal Kingdom’s existence there was always a feeling that the park
needed more thrills. During an event to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of Animal Kingdom the 18th Disney Mountain was announced to add thrill to the young park. The 18th mountain would be Expedition Everest, a journey through the Forbidden Mountain where you encounter the mythical yeti much like the Matterhorn Bobsleds in Disneyland but on a MUCH grander scale. It would take another 3 years to actually build the ride and the 3 years prior to the announcement were spent researching and designing the 4th highest Summit in Florida and the tallest of the Disney Mountains.
Expedition Everest took 6+ years to put together because Disney Imagineers were constantly
traveling to Nepal to insure that the ride was authentic. In Nepal they studied everything from artifacts in the mountain, the villages at the foot of the Himalayas, all the way to learning the stories of the yeti. After the After the announcement in 2003 construction began on the Forbidden Mountain and it would become the single most expensive roller coaster ever constructed at $100,000,000. It took 38 miles of rebar, 20 million pounds of concrete, and 10 million pounds of structural steel to build the Forbidden Mountain. This goes along with over 8,000 authentic props for the ride and its queue purchased by Imagineers almost exclusively in Nepal to boost the authenticity of the ride.
Before opening the ride Disney launched several advertising
campaigns. The most exciting being “Everest in the City” in Times Square. A facade of a mountain was placed over nearby buildings and acrobats and climbers performed stunts in midair dangling from ropes over the city. There was also many billboards with a giant Yeti and spectators could text 4YETI to make his eyes light up red. Disney also launched several shows on multiple channels that focused on the mysterious yeti and/or the making of the ride and showing how monstrous of a task it was to make Expedition Everest come to life.
On April 7th, 2006 Expedition Everest opened with rave reviews and almost all agreed that it was exactly what the park was missing. Leading up to the mountain guests go through the mountain village of Serka Zong and many of the buildings in the village were once run by the Royal Anandapur Tea Company. Once you get to the entrance of the ride you see that Norbu and Bob have refurbished an old steam train and they have cut a short cut through the Forbidden Mountain to get you to the base camp of Everest called Himalayan Escapes. As you work your way through the one of the best queues in all of Disney
World you pass through supply rooms for your trek and get a taste of what trekkers have encountered before you and you learn about the yeti, could he really be real?! Make sure you go through the stand-by queue at least once when doing this attraction, it really is part of the attraction as a whole and one of the most well done in any park in the world.
As you board the train and pull down the lap bar you take off through the peaceful meadows at the bottom of the mountain and realize just how smooth this coaster is. Then you begin the long ascent up the mountain, where you go right through the center of a shrine to the yeti and catch some amazing views of not only Animal Kingdom but the entire resort (if you look directly behind you and to the left you can even see Magic Kingdom). Once you make it up the mountain you begin cutting your way through and making your way to Everest but then the track just stops and is torn to shreds and your adventure begins. One of the most amazing features of this ride is that it goes forwards, then backwards, and forwards again.
Expedition Everest was the first coaster in the world to use a track switch system that would allow
this to be possible (Imagineers had to design this specifically for this ride). Going backwards through the mountain is an exhilarating experience and when you finally come to a stop you have yet another close encounter with the yeti before plummeting 80 ft. Your train begins to run away from the yeti and make it back to camp but before you do you have one last jaw dropping face to face encounter with the yeti.
The yeti animatronic is the largest and most complex ever built by Disney. He is 25 feet tall, has 1000 sq feet of skin, is extremely lifelike, and can move 5 feet vertically as well as 18 inches horizontally. Unfortunately the Yeti is so heavy that he cracked the structure that he is a vital piece of and now operates in “B-Mode”
where he does not move but rather a strobe light is flashed on him earning him the nickname “Disco Yeti”. After this encounter you make it back to your original camp in one piece and you more than likely hop right back in line to do it again.
Expedition Everest Facts
-Is listed in the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records for most expensive Roller Coaster at 100 million dollars
-Won 2006 Theme Park Insider’s “Worlds Best New Attraction” Award
-The Ride covers over 6 acres of land
-Indiana Jones at le Temple du Peril was Disney first coaster to go backwards but did not switch between the two.
-Expedition Everest was the first in the world to use Vekoma’s newest track design where rails would be outside of the ties
-Steel track is 4,424 feet long and the lift is 112 feet high
-Expedition Everest measures in at 199.5 feet tall making it the largest artificial Disney Mountain in the world
Thank you for reading and please share some of your favorite memories of Expedition Everest and how much you were anticipating the attraction.
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