Reopening day itself, Saturday 14th October, was reportedly an eventful one. Scrooge at Disney Magic Interactive forum reported that just seconds after opening the whole of Frontierland was closed, before reopening a few minutes later. Big Thunder Mountain itself didn’t open until after midday, and suffered several technical problems throughout the day.
As for the refurbishment, which began on 21st August, whilst Big Thunder itself was cleaned and repainted in sections before the closure and during its early stages, impressive changes have taken place at the attraction’s loading station recently. The most noticable of these to mine train riders is the addition of new safety gates on each platform, similar to those installed in 2005 at Space Mountain: Mission 2. Unlike the gates at other attractions, though, these have been themed to fit perfectly with the attraction, with the seams of the metal bars made clearly visable to give an old-fashioned, Western style.
Outside of the station building itself, the difference between old and new is remarkable. The classic red tint on the wood has been restored to its full glory after becoming practically invisible due to years of weathering and neglect.
The ochre rockwork around the station has been cleaned just as spectacularly as the mountain itself, and the Southern sides of the queue building have had their vibrant yellow tint restored, completing the ride’s iconic Western colour scheme of brown, red, yellow and green (the wagons). Meanwhile, a new height indicator is just one of the many minor tweaks and modifications to the attraction.
The only way to truly experience the superb changes here, though, is to take a ride on “the wildest ride in the wilderness” itself. Whilst every turn presents new areas of rockwork painstakingly cleaned and repainted, one of the key scenes with a lot of new vibrancy is just after the first lift hill, where all manner of spiky cacti grow in the middle of a u-turn in the track, seen below. Finally, the moss and dirt have been removed to return the arid, desert feel to this incredible landscape.
Adjustments have, of course, been made to the more major elements of the ride, such as the roller coaster’s track (in particular the first lift hill), animatronics and special effects. Whilst some effects were reportedly not functioning this weekend, it is expected they will all return eventually.