Monday, 16th October 2006

Big Thunder’s big re-opening

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.

Photos by DLRP Today, Photos Magiques, and Scrooge (Disney Magic Interactive forum).

Wednesday, 30th August 2006

The big Big Thunder project begins

The first portion of the ride to be enclosed in scaffolding was the water splash drop, with scaffolding appearing on the first day of closure and growing to a full covering five days later. Work here seems to currently be focused on the iconic “Big Thunder Mining Company” hut, whilst a large floating raft with work equipment has been moored at several locations around the island to clean and repair rockwork lower down.

The section of elevated track before the water splash has also been covered in scaffolding, as has the mountain entrance just before the third lift hill. The walkways around the loading station have become home to all manner of work equipment, paints cleaning items, the major problem for those working on this epic project of course being how to transport these efficiently across the Rivers of the Far West to the island itself. Big Thunder Mountain in Paris is, of course, the only one of Disney’s four to be located on an island completely cut-off from mainland by water.

Further progress was reported by two days ago, when most of the huge loading station was also covered in scaffolding. It’s unsure what the scale of the work going on here will be, but the tired queue of the attraction has long been a point of disappointment for many guests. One change, however, is known. DLRP Today contributor Kristof (aka Raptor1982 at Photos Magiques) reports from a reliable source at the attraction that new air gates will be installed at the attraction’s two boarding stations. These loading gates will be similar to those installed last year at Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Peter Pan’s Flight, to stop guests stepping onto the track if a train isn’t in the station.

To warn guests of the closure, the park has not only posted notices outside the park gates and on each entry turnstile under Disneyland Hotel, but on the construction walls around the attraction has also added a superbly themed closure sign, complete with pickaxes and a goldpanning dish.

Featured photos by:,, Photos Magiques.

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