Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spotlight: The Old Disneyland Matterhorn

In addition to being a general purpose nerd, I'm a big time Disney nerd as well. When I was a kid, we didn't have much money, but my maternal grandfather had some business contacts with one of the companies that sponsored an attraction at Disneyland (OK, "attraction" is a little strong, it was the storage lockers on Main Street). As a result, in the old days of ticket books, we used to get free ones and only had to pay the pretty cheap park admission. My obsession with all things in the theme parks began as did my fascination with the engineering behind it all.

It was only 2 weeks ago that I posted an article on how the stretching room effect at The Haunted Mansion was a result of working around a restriction that couldn't be changed and how it was a good example of how limitations breed creativity, so it would ordinarily be too early to issue another Disney-related entry. However, a favorite Disneyland site of mine is Yesterland, which details now defunct Disneyland attractions and a new article was recently published there on the Matterhorn that is worth reading:

Opened in 1959, the Matterhorn broke a lot of new ground. Most notably, it was the worlds first tubular steel roller coaster and led the way for the multi-looping thrill rides that are standard at every regional theme park in the world today.

The Yesterland article discusses how the Matterhorn has evolved over the years. A big issue with theme park rides is hourly capacity. The more people you can pump through a ride per hour, the more people get to ride it and the happier park guests are in general. In 1978, the capacity of the Matterhorn was doubled and Abominable Snowman effects were added. More recently, the Skyway attraction that used to run through the middle of the Matterhorn was closed and a series of pictures featured in the Yesterland article shows how Imagineers retrofitted the mountains exterior to hide the gaping holes that "the bucket ride" used to move through.

Lots of interesting stuff there and examples of break through engineering as well as altering an existing product over time to improve its utility. Good lessons to be learned!


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 7:47 PM   0 comments

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