Friday, May 19, 2023

The "New Matterhorn" at Disneyland - 45th Anniversary

In September of 1977, Disneyland's then 17 year-old Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction closed down, for a major refurbishment.

I didn't know about the refurbishment at that time, but I was often writing to the Public Relations Dept. at Disneyland, and asking them about "future attractions" at the park.  One of their responses included this Walt Disney Productions Annual Report, for 1977.

Each year, these reports would include info about Disneyland's newest attractions, but they would often include information about things that were in the planning stages, or currently under construction at the park.  This report had information about the new additions to the Matterhorn, as well as info about the future "Big Thunder Railway" attraction.

Blaine Gibson is pictured below, sculpting the face of the Matterhorn's new "Abominable Snowman."

The Abominable Snowman animatronics were actually being adapted from the gorilla figures, originally featured in the park's Jungle Cruise attraction.  These were removed in 1976, when the Jungle Cruise received a major refurbishment, which included the addition of many new scenes.  Incidentally, I have seen statements in two different places on the internet, saying that these gorillas were removed in 1968, but that has to be wrong, because I definitely remember seeing them in person, in the mid-1970s.

In January of 1978, I wrote to Disneyland's Public Relations Dept., again, hoping to get some more detailed info about the park's "future attractions," including the new additions to the Matterhorn, along with a possible opening date.  I also asked specifically about "Discovery Bay," and "Circusland," which were rumored to be the next big construction projects, following the completion of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  I received this letter, dated February 2, 1978, with a tentative date of May 27th given for the reopening of the Matterhorn.  For some reason, there was no response in regards to my asking about "Discovery Bay."

The PR department's stationary was always very nice.  The Castle and Space Mountain logos were embossed, and coated with a shiny gold foil type of material.

In late February of that year, my grandparents took my brother and me to Disneyland, for "YMCA Days."  We weren't YMCA members, but somehow we obtained an order form, and sent away for the specially-priced tickets, which had to be purchased in advance.  My grandparents had taken us to Disneyland the previous Summer, to see the brand new "Space Mountain."  But I could never really get enough of Disneyland (and my family knew that), so it was nice to be going again, just seven months later.

During this visit, construction on the Matterhorn was visible.  There was a construction wall around the loading and unloading areas, and scaffolding could be seen way up high on the mountain.  The picture below was taken from the PeopleMover, and shows the "enclosing" of the opening that used to be at the top of the lift hill, for the "Tomorrowland side" track.

This next photo was taken from the Skyway, and shows scaffolding on the Fantasyland side of the mountain.  Again, this was for the enclosing of the opening that used to be at the top of the lift hill, but for the "Fantasyland side" track.

I've circled the area with the scaffolding, since it might be a little difficult to see in the photo, above.  (The sun wasn't out for the first half of our day.)  Also note, the plain gray color of the new plaster/concrete, in the areas with the scaffolding.  White paint ("snow") had not been added yet.

Here's a photo from Gorillas Don't Blog (used here with permission....thanks, Major!), showing the same area, before it was enclosed.

By Spring, I was getting really excited about the upcoming reopening of the Matterhorn.  I was in 8th grade, and our class would be going to Disneyland in June, for our "8th grade graduation trip."  Also around this time, the Spring issues of Disney News and Vacationland magazines had a brief mention about the Matterhorn's new "chills and thrills."  This just lead to even more excitement on my part.

Meanwhile, I had made a new friend at school.  He was one grade behind me, and he happened to be just as big of a Disneyland fan as I was.  However, he had "one up on me".....his father worked for Disney.  I never did know exactly what his father's position was, but at that moment in time, he was working on the construction of Big Thunder Mountain, and he had an office in one of the trailers located on the construction site.
One day, my friend showed up at school with this "special edition" of The Disneyland Line, which was (and still is) a publication for employees.  He said that they had more than one copy of this at home, so he gave me his copy!  I was absolutely over the moon!  I have scanned the whole thing, and I am including it at the end of this post.

Okay, so receiving this eleven-page booklet filled with "behind the scenes" information, was definitely helping to satisfy my need for more info on the Matterhorn's refurbishment.  As the reopening date got closer and closer, other "signs" of the reopening started to appear...literally.   During a trip to our local Alpha Beta grocery store, I spotted this sign for Coca-Cola's "Matterhorn Sweepstakes."  This was also the first time I had seen the promotional slogan, "What's Gotten Into The Matterhorn at Disneyland?", which would be used that summer on billboards, literature, television commercials, etc.

The sweepstakes form:

First prize was a two nights stay "near" Disneyland, tickets for one day at Disneyland, a first-class Western Airlines flight to.....Portland, Oregon, a four nights stay at......the Portland Hilton, a rental car for five days in.....Portland, a one day guided tour "near or about" Hood River (yep, in Oregon), and $500 cash.  I wonder why Portland, Oregon was featured so prominently in the Grand Prize?

The price for a six pack of Coke was written on the sign with a black marker, and that 1978 price was only $1.29!  Oh, and I didn't steal the sign!  There were multiple signs out on the display in the Coke section, and I took one that didn't have anymore order forms attached, and asked a checker if I could have it.

At least one can in each six pack of Coke, had this sticker affixed to it.

Once the May 27th grand reopening date arrived, advertisements started to appear in the Los Angeles Times.

This next ad was dated May 28th, the day after the grand reopening.  If I am remembering correctly, this was the first time I had seen the use of color ink, in a newspaper advertisement.  Of course, it was used in the printing of the Sunday Comics section of the paper, but it wasn't common to see it used elsewhere in the paper.  I wonder how much extra Disney had to pay, to run this ad with the red-colored eyes?

After the official reopening, I was told by my friend's father that they were having problems with the "New Matterhorn."  I can't remember if I was ever told exactly what the problems were, but the ride did close down shortly after reopening.  This worried me, because my 8th grade graduation trip was just 13 days after that reopening date.  Would it open again in time for my trip?  The answer was no.   I posted about this disappointment back in 2011, in one of my "Vintage Disneyland Trip Reports" about that graduation trip.  I also told about how we came close, or at least we thought we were coming close, to being able to ride it on that day.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.  For anyone who's interested, that post can be seen here:  Eighth Grade Disneyland Trip - 1978.

Here is my ticket from that day (June 9, 1978).  Notice how it has "Grad Party" on it, rather than "Grad Nite."  The 8th grade graduation trip was a daytime event, and not an all-night party like the graduating high school students attended.

I had included this photo from that day, in my older post.  This was taken in the afternoon, from the PeopleMover, and it was the first bobsled that we had seen running all day.  When we saw people riding in the vehicles, we got very excited and assumed that the Matterhorn had reopened.  Never assume!  The rest of that story is in my older post.

We also rode the Skyway that day, several times.  We were surprised on our first pass-through of the Matterhorn, because we didn't know that we would be able to see the Abominable Snowman.  I tried multiple times to get a pic of him.  In fact, over the years, I tried and tried to get a decent picture of him.  I never did.  There is also more to the story about my photographic attempts that day, in my older post.

Even though I obviously did not attend "Grad Nite" for the seniors, I later managed to get the Grad Nite flyer for that year.

I love the graphics on this flyer.  This one is dated June 14th.  I wonder if the grads attending this particular night, were able to "Experience the chilling new Matterhorn"?

As eighth grade students, we were not given one of these "We're Really Sorry" return tickets.  But they were obviously giving them out to some guests.  Maybe it was only if you went into City Hall and said, "We drove three thousand miles to get here, just to ride the New Matterhorn, and you have completely ruined our day, our week, and our month, by not having it be open for us!"  (This ticket is from the blog, "Vintage Disneyland Tickets.")

So, at some point after my "Grad" trip, the Matterhorn did reopen, even though I don't have an exact date.  And shortly after it reopened, my friend's father took us to "work" with him, and turned us loose in the park for the day.  I was kicking myself, because I did not take my camera with me on that trip.  I believe it was a short-notice kind of thing.  It was also my first time going with this friend, to his father's "place of work".....Disneyland!  I did not realize until we were there, that we would be driving onto the property through the back gate, passing by random ride vehicles just lying around on the ground, and getting to walk around behind the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad construction site.  Fortunately, I was asked to do this again, and that time I did take my camera, and A LOT of film.  I will post those pictures, including the ones taken backstage, in a future post.  But for now, I will include just the ones which relate to the still fairly new "New Matterhorn." 

First though, we have the Summer 1978 Entertainment Guide (July 30th - August 5th) from that visit.  I made sure that I got one from a ticket booth inside the park, since we did not enter through the Main Gate that day.

And, the free guide for the Summer of '78:

Among the new additions to the Matterhorn, were two castings of the Abominable Snowman's "footprint."  These both had (and still have, today) a date of May 27, 1978, engraved on their plaques.  Again, this had been the official grand opening date for the "New Matterhorn."  The plaque on this one states that it was a footprint found on the "north slope" of the Matterhorn.

This second footprint used to be located on the northern edge of the former Alpine Gardens (Pixie Hollow, today).  The plaque on this one states that the footprint was found on the "south slope" of the Matterhorn.

At some point, this casting was moved just across the walkway, and placed behind the tall fencing that goes around the Matterhorn.  The photo below, is from 2011.

Here's a closer look (from the blog, "Vintage Disneyland Tickets"):

During the many Disneyland visits of my youth....and maybe even a little beyond that, I attempted to capture things on film, which were either very difficult to photograph, or not intended to be photographed.  Just go along with me on this.....either that, or else LOOK AWAY as you scroll quickly past the photos.  I was going to include this photo in  my "What Is It & Where Is It?" post from last year, but I thought that it might be too obvious.

Over the years, I made several attempts to capture the newly added "ice crystals."  Notice how there is no fog present in this scene.....more on that, later.

Another change in 1978, was the replacement of the original vehicles from 1959, with newly designed "tandem" bobsleds.

Here's a better view from 2011, shortly before the 1978 bobsleds were permanently retired.

Of course, we always had to ride the Skyway, to get a glimpse of the Abominable Snowman.......

......and try to get a decent photo of him!  Well, at least this one turned out a little better than my previous attempt, but not by much.

Out we go, through the other side of the Matterhorn, on our way to Tomorrowland....

So after finally getting to ride the "New Matterhorn," I was surprised not to see any "fog" in the attraction.  All of the advance descriptions of the ride had mentioned "fog."  The commercial on television showed fog.  Where was the fog?  I ended up visiting the park a couple more times over the next 12 months, and still no fog.  I decided to write a letter to Disneyland's Public Relations Dept., and ask them, "Hey, what gives?!?!"  My letter ended up being forwarded to WED Enterprises in Glendale, California.

This was their response, dated June 15, 1979.  Apparently, the fog effect hadn't been working right.  Or maybe it didn't look right. Or something.  I guess I could have asked my friend to ask his father, but I don't know if he would have known the answer.

This was the "souvenir booklet" that was mentioned in the letter.  And yes, I did "enjoy" it very much.....thank you, Mr. Fitzgerald!

I don't remember when they finally added fog back to the Matterhorn, but here are a couple photos that I took at a much later date (1995), showing some of the fog effects.

Sometimes the fog was not as "thick" as it was at other times.

It doesn't look like there was any fog, in this pic from 2005.  And now that I think of it, I can't remember if the current version of the attraction has the fog effect or not.  Does anyone know?

Here are a few souvenirs from that time period, which included updated images of the Matterhorn.

This updated postcard featured the new bobsleds.

That postcard "replaced" this older one:

There was also a new set of Pana-Vue slides, featuring updated views of the Matterhorn.  Someone must have taken this photo of "Harold," through cheesecloth.  Either that, or they smeared Vaseline on the lens!

I have always loved aerial photos of Disneyland, taken from the vantage point of the park's mountain climbers.  The new footprint casting from the "north slope" can also be seen here, in the planter out in front of the "Swiss Chalet."

Here's the older Pana-Vue slide, showing the same view:

I purchased this "Super 8" film of the attraction, at a time when Disney was marking down and clearing out all of their souvenir films.  I saw the older style bobsled in the photo, and was hoping that the film would be all "vintage" footage of the ride.  I was a little disappointed (at the time) that the footage had been updated to the new version of the ride.  But now it's pretty cool, because it does include footage of things that were removed in the Matterhorn's 2012 and 2015 refurbishments.  I will try to get the film digitally converted at some point, and share it.

I have to say that back in the day, there weren't too many photos released of the Abominable Snowman.  There was that one Pana-Vue Slide, but you had to have a slide projector to get a really good look at it (no digital scanners back then).  And there was this teeny tiny photo, which was included in the updated version of Disneyland's "Pictorial Souvenir" books.

"Harold" (I wonder who first gave him that name?) also appeared on the Fall/Winter 1978-79 Disneyland Guide.

During the Matterhorn's 2015 refurbishment, "Harold" and his two identical cousins were removed from the attraction, and replaced with updated animatronics.

Also at this time, the "ice crystals" scene was removed, and replaced with.......junk.  The trashed items include; partial Skyway buckets (1956 & 1965 versions), bobsled vehicles (painted to look like 1959 versions), a crate marked "Wells Expedition" (which is a tribute to former Walt Disney Co. president, Frank Wells), pieces of old Skyway cable, an alpenhorn, lanterns, skis, and other miscellaneous debris.  I think this was kind of a neat idea in theory, but you ride past it all too quickly to really be able to make out what it is.

When the "Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission:  Breakout!" opened in Disney's second park in Anaheim, one of the original Abominable Snowman figures was placed inside the attraction's queue, as part of the "Collector's" personal collection of artifacts and creatures.  Coincidentally, this attraction opened on May 27, 2017, exactly 39 years to the day, of the New Matterhorn's debut.

I hope everyone enjoyed this vintage trip down the icy slopes of the Matterhron!

****Bonus****  Here is that special edition of The Disneyland Line, in it's entirety:





I have NEVER seen the Matterhorn Sweepstakes stuff before!! There is a new Matterhorn press preview invite card that features a diecut of the Matterhorn and monster shadow … I think Major may have shown a sample on Gorillas Don’t Blog…

It’s funny regarding the letters to publicity and WED. I have a letter from Tom Fitzgerald about 1983 regarding a “New Tomorrowland” in development for Disneyland … including a new circle vision film AMERICAN SPIRIT….the return of the carousel of progress to Disneyland called THE CENTURY OF PROGRESS … a “Magic 3-D Film” ( I’m assuming magic journeys ) a new “simulator journey” ( evolved to Star Tours ) and a new space restaurant “THE OBSERVATORY” ….. I was so excited about this letter when I received it I couldn’t eat dinner that nite because my stomach hurt ( with excitement ) and couldn’t focus on my homework! In the mid 90’s when I was in the Imagineering Apprentice Program I met Tom Fitzgerald on a project and showed him the letter … I grilled him about the New Tomorrowland he described in the letter … ( it was a casualty of Eisner’s arrival) but it was unofficially called EPCOT TOMORROWLAND by designers because it would have brought lots of show elements and technology used at the then new Epcot center . Tom actually wrote the script to CENTURY OF PROGRESS ( I posted many of the show script pages on TOMORROWLOUNGE at onetime) but the show was going to feature a all new theme song “HERE COMES TOMORROW ( there goes the past) “

I also have some letters that omitted any response to Discovery Bay.. looking back I think it was a touchy subject as it had originally been greenlighted then shelved/postponed …. Also by Eisner .. but I have another letter saying they hope to have more information to announce soon on The Discovery Bay project …. Another letter that gave me excited Knots in my stomach !! I was soooi excited about Discovery Bay ( and Dumbo circus) I did a presentation in 6th grade … I had a single crappy photo of the discovery bay preview center model and I drew my own images and projected them on a overhead projector. My teacher liked the presentation I got to do it for some other classes. At some point my teacher had gone to Disneyland with some relatives from back east and she excitedly told me that “all of fantasyland” was closed off for construction … I was seriously so exited and remember yelling “it’s discovery bay!! It’s discovery bay ! …. They are starting to build Discovery Bay!!!!” …. I wasn’t aware at that point about a new fantasyland as it hadn’t been mentioned yet in Disney News … even when I was in highschool students who remembered my 6th grade presentation would ask me “ when are they building that discovery bay thing ??” (:\

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, it's sounds like we had the same kind of enthusiasm about potentially "future attractions" for Disneyland. I don't know if I ever got a stomach ache from it, but I did get very excited. And like you have mentioned in the past, I also loved going into the "Previews of Coming Attractions" exhibit on Main St. I remember seeing info there about Space Mountain and Big Thunder, long before they ever opened. I also remember things being announced like "The Hall of Presidents" for DL and the Pinocchio dark ride, years before they were ever talking about a "New Fantasyland."

I remember a friend of mine wrote to the DL PR department and received the company's annual report for 1976. That one had pics of the model for Discovery Bay and Circusland. Seeing that was very exciting. And even though there wasn't a lot of info about the rides themselves, the models were beautiful and really got the imagination going on what kind of things might be included in these two new "lands."

I was going to DL a lot in the early eighties, and I remember many of the Tomorrowland employees told us that their land was the next one to get redone, right after the completion of the "New Fantasyland." And some of those employees also told us that the Carousel of Progress was rumored to be coming back to Disneyland. MAN, I wish that had happened! Eisner really ruined everything, didn't he! :-(

Major Pepperidge said...

WOW, another wonderful and thorough blog post! I remember being excited when I heard that they were going to add the abominable snowman to the Matterhorn. It seemed so perfect! And hey, who doesn’t like a little scary thrill (even if it’s on an attraction that is already a thrill ride)?

Love that 1977 annual report, I don’t think I have any that old. Those things are always fascinating to look at, especially for the park stuff, but also for the movies (many practically forgotten today!) and other Disney projects.

I’ve always wondered how much modification they had to do on the old Jungle Cruise gorillas - or did they just “reskin” them and put the arms up? If I recall, the gorillas bobbed up and down, which the snowmen do not.

Interesting about that enclosed side, did that have to do with the abominable snowman addition? “Abominable” is hard for me to type, ha ha.

Gosh, I must have that Disney News magazine, the illustration with Donald and his nephews looks very familiar. I think there is a Grad Nite brochure that has a cover illustration that is clearly done by the same artist as the “New Chills, New Thrills” article.

I am always astonished at all the cool stuff that you saved from those years - as if you knew that someday you’d want it for a blog. I was never so organized, even though I considered myself a fan. But you were MUCH more of a fan!

Bummer that you didn’t get to ride the Matterhorn for your 8th grade graduation. I didn’t even know that Disneyland did things for 8th grade graduations!

As for good pictures of Harold, I just received some slides from a faithful reader, and there are two fantastic, clear photos of the abdominal snowman (yes I misspelled that on purpose). You’ll see those someday!

Well I was typing this as I was reading the article, and there’s the very Grad Nite illustration I was thinking of, “Experience the chilling new Matterhorn”. Neat!

I have a bunch of those “Today at Disneyland” flyers, I’m trying to get as many different dates as possible. I think I have about a dozen so far! I’d check, but am experiencing “computer issues” at the moment.

The footprint always reminds me of a book that my grandparents gave me, all about Bigfoot and the Yeti, there were photos of a footprint in the snow with an ice axe next to it. Of course that one doesn’t have huge scary claws. I don’t think I knew that there were TWO footprint plaques!

I love the photo of the “eyes”, just two shapes stuck to the wall. Simple yet effective.

I wonder if the ice crystals were added because somebody had seen old ads touting the “Ice Caverns” of the Matterhorn? Maybe they felt that whatever was there was not very impressive.

Look at you, with your letter (and booklet) from Tom Fitzgerald!!

I rode the Matterhorn for the first time in many years just months ago, and guess what? The AA figure of “Harold” was not there. I was really disappointed!

The pile of junk is sort of a fun idea, but it does look kind of ugly. It’s interesting, I’d heard so many wonderful things about Frank Wells, and then a person (who shall go unnamed) who actually met him told me what an unpleasant person he was. No surprise I guess.

Sorry my comment was so darn long!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I was pretty excited about the new Abominable Snowman, too. I guess that is why I kept trying to get a decent photo of him (from the Skyway), even before actually being able to go on the ride.

This is the oldest WDP Annual Report that I have. I wish I had the 1976 one, with the photos of the Circusland and Discovery Bay model. The only problem with the Annual Reports is, as the years went on, I think they revealed less and less about "future" least ones that which hadn't been given the green light yet. They probably got tired of everyone asking, "Whatever happened to that Circusland and Discovery Bay, which you said was going to be to be built?" By the way, I think I have another letter somewhere, giving a projected opening year for those lands. Or maybe that date was given in that 1976 Annual Report.

I've also wondered how much of the gorilla framework was in the Abominable Snowman. Also, how many gorillas were there. I only remember on on either side of the river, for a total of two. That doesn't mean that there weren't more, but as for the Abominable Snowman, there were three of him in the Matterhorn.

Speaking of "Harold," I wonder why he was missing when you rode him? And since there are three, were they all missing? Both tracks see the same "Harold" for the first viewing, which you can see in that photo of mine from 1995. Both tracks approach him, and then veer off in different directions. But the second "Harold" that is seen on each track, is unique to each of those tracks.....equaling a total of three A.A.s

Interesting about that enclosed side, did that have to do with the abominable snowman addition?

As for the enclosing at the top of the chain lift, they enclosed both sides. That's why the scaffolding was there on both sides of the Mountain, in my February 1978 trip to the park. I only included a "before" pic (from you) for the Fantasyland side. I supposed I should have looked for a good "before" photo showing the opening on the Tomorrowland side. Each side was enclosed. In the old version, when the bobsleds got to the top of their respective lift hills, they veered off in different directions, (one to the left, and one to the right), but since it was open up there, there was a good view of Tomorrowland for the one track, and a good view over towards Main St. for the other track. Once the tracks were enclosed up there, this is where it was dark and where "Harold's" eyes would light up as he roared. Then both tracks go through the room with the ice crystals/Harold's junk, before going "outside" into the daylight for the first time. There were other parts of the ride that were also enclosed in '78. Remember how open the interior used to be? Oh, and of course, the lift hill was enclosed, too. You used to be able to look up and see the Skyway passing overhead!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, this is only the second time I've gotten a notice saying that my comment was "too long." The first time was just recently, on Andrew's last blog post. So, is part 2 of my response to your comment:

That's a good theory about the addition of the ice crystals. In that special addition, they mention about how "they were just finishing" what Walt had wanted all along. Of course they ALWAYS say that to justify any changes they are making, but in this case, I think it was Fred Joerger who was saying it, so maybe he could be trusted. Unless of course, Marty Skliar got to him first, and FORCED him to tell the "Walt story." By they way, did you know that Walt had always wanted the French Market restaurant in NOS to be themed to Tiana? It just wasn't in the budget, back in 1966. They are finally fulfilling Walt's dream!

I think you should write to Tom Fitzgerald, and ask him why Harold was missing the last time you visited the park! ;-) And you also could ask him why the steam and the heat were turned down (off?) in the final scene of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. And why that little waterfall in Storybook Land has been turned off for decades (you know, the one that still bothers your friend.....and me!). And ask him why they felt the need to put an American room inside It's A Small World? Oh, wait....I forgot. That was just them "fulfilling Walt's original plans for the attraction."

Sorry my comment was so darn long!

Major, there is no such thing as a comment that is too long! Seriously. Well, maybe "Blogger" would disagree with me. :-)

Major Pepperidge said...

TM!, I did not see ANY abominable snowmen on my ride in January. So I guess they were all out for repairs. Based on videos, I think there’s even a projection (or video) effect where guests see him behind “ice”? If so, that wasn’t working either. Maybe they figured that if they didn’t have the AA figures, they might as well turn off the other effects as well.

Thank you for the info about the enclosed areas. I only have vague memories of the old open interior of the Matterhorn, of course I wish I remembered it better, but as a kid I was just taking in the thrills and was not being observant. Arg.

Is Tom Fitzgerald still with Disney? I used to follow that sort of thing, but no longer.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, oh yeah! I forgot about the projection of the Abominable Snowman behind the "wall of ice." That is where they used to have a projection of "falling snow," which I think was always pretty lame. Before the New Matterhorn opened, that was one of the effects that they hyped...."falling snow." I pictured something like Universal Studios "Falling Snow Set." But instead, we got a very faint projection on the lift hill. Yawn! I'm not even sure if that effect survived up until the 2015 redo of the Matterhorn. They always over-hype everything in advance, so then when a new attraction finally debuts, it can't live up to that pre-opening hype.

I do have a pretty clear memory of what it looked like while riding up the chain lift in the old Matterhorn, and being able to look around and see all the track everywhere, the wooden beams and rails, and the Skyway overhead. But I don't have a clear memory of reaching the top of the lift hill and the view from up there, however it was shown in multiple vintage Disney specials or episodes, through onboard footage and from the perspective of the riders. It showed that there was a really good view of the park below, as the bobsleds came off of the lift hill. I think at least one picture that you posted in the past, taken from the Hub area, shows a bobsled up there on that ledge, after coming off of the chain lift. I should go searching for that......

So there were NO "Harolds" in the ride, when you last rode it! Wow! Now I'm wondering if they turned off his "roar" or if it could still be heard throughout the ride. I'm surprised that they went to the trouble of actually removing him. If he wasn't working properly that day, why didn't they just throw a giant burlap sack over him, like they do with Kylo Ren in that Wookie World ride, whenever he isn't working properly?

I looked up Tom Fitzgerald. It looks like he was with Disney up until 2020. I hope he didn't leave over the proposed Lake Nona/Imagineer relocation project, which was ultimately canceled. Or maybe he finally got tired of people writing to him asking about broken or discontinued effects or features in the park, and being forced to respond by saying, "We're working on it!"

Major Pepperidge said...

I think that they did play the Harold roar.

K. Martinez said...

I love this article. So much to look at.

The 1978 version of the Matterhorn including the tandem bobsleds with pink and orange stripes, Blaine Gibson sculpted "Harold" and The Skyway traveling through is my favorite version of this attraction.

The only drawback was that they covered the top of the lift hill turn arounds. I loved the quick view above Disneyland before taking off on the descent down the Matterhorn. I miss that.

I have that "Experience the chilling new Matterhorn!" artwork on thick paper stock. One of my favorite pieces. I love just about everything that has "Walt Disney Productions" stamped on it.

I did like the original "Frank Wells Expedition" tribute before that pile of junk was added. That was the one new addition that I actually liked because Frank Wells was a good guy and a mountain climber.

Yes, Eisner nixed a lot of great projects, but Breck put him on the right path and chose Splash Mountain. Yes, let's rip off Knott's Berry Farm and build an attraction based on a problematic film.

Again, love this article TM! Thanks! Both Jungle Cruise and Matterhorn Bobsleds were a part of my early childhood.


The Abominable Snowman’s “roar” is credited to Jack Wagoner …. And he did do the low growls and rumbles used in the 1978 soundtrack material. But the LOUD ROAR once heard echoing through the park was recorded by another imagineer. I’m traveling so I don’t have access to his name right now. However WED held a contest and a “growl” off and he won and was recorded doing the load scary roar used in the attraction . The imagineer passed away and WED honored him on an attraction poster : he’s the ROARING pirate in the center of the 1982 Pirates of the Caribbean attraction poster ( in fact all the characters on that poster are WED imagineers !) the poster designers had the pirate look like the imagineer looked when he was recording his Matterhorn snowman scream.

Also once used was Audio called “ lost bobsled” … it featured a group of screaming bobsleders whose screams echo -fade off. This was suppose to sound like the opposite bobsled had careened into a deep ice cave in the dark. Variations were done so as each bobsled reached the top of the lift .. it sounded like the other bobsled fell down an ice cliff cavern . Icy wind , misty fog banks were other effects turned off over time. Jack wagoner recorded the screaming “lost bobsleders” at his home studio using his wife , son, and his girlfriend and some neighbors.

TOKYO : the projected “snow fall” seen on the two lifts also featured the silhouette of a Swiss mountain village . It was difficult to see because it appeared at the beginning of the snowfall projection and most of the time guests eyes were still adjusting to the dark … and if it was dark outside most guests eye focus was facing foward … and they missed the village .

The trash pile in the current Matterhorn is suppose to be a nest of carnage collected by the monster’s attacks. The idea was inspired from sone 1978 concepts of having “wrecked” bobsled vignette in the attraction. Another unused 1978 concept was two mountain climbers embedded in clear-bluish ice. A but morbid … but they were going for thrill in 1978.

A new 1978 Matterhorn attraction poster with the snowman was design by jim Michaelson but didn’t go into production because of other poster projects underway that could be used at both parks. If the new Matterhorn had a sponsor the new poster probably would have been completed.

TokyoMagic! said...

"I think that they did play the Harold roar."

Major, that reminds me of going on POTC multiple times, when the donkey that appears alongside the three "minstrels" was missing (he was missing for a very long time), but they didn't turn off his audio. So, the three men were playing their instruments and singing, and a donkey could clearly be heard hee-hawing/braying from some unknown location. Bad show! Or maybe it was supposed to be an invisible donkey?

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I was reading somewhere online, that when the Matterhorn reopened after it's 2015 redo, the "Wells Expedition" crate was missing. Supposedly, they added it to the "junk pile" when people complained. I did see before and after pics, and the crate was missing at one point. I also think it's a nice tribute.

As for Splash Mountain, I also viewed it as "Well, I guess Disney is going to copy Knott's and put in a "log ride through a mountain." At that point, they had already been copying Knott's for a while. Videopolis in 1985, is the one that comes to mind right now. Knott's had opened their very successful outdoor nightclub, "Studio K," one year earlier. Anyway, I thought Splash Mountain was an okay attraction. I didn't really have any criticism about it, EXCEPT for where they chose to build it....practically on top of the Haunted Mansion! It ruined the sightlines of the HM, from many different angles. That was just another situation that made me realize that they don't care about things like sightlines anymore.

I'm glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks for commenting!

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, thank you so much for that additional info. I do actually remember the recorded "screams." But I guess I didn't realize that it was supposed to be the screams of other bobsledders, "crashing to their deaths." And I love the idea of mountain climber figures, "entombed" in ice. Yes, it's morbid, but I'd rather see that than have Stitch burp his chili dog breath in my face, or have camels spit on me.

And I also remember seeing the snow falling, and that there was at least one mountain peak in that little vignette. I was 13 when the New Matterhorn opened, but even at that young age, I thought that effect was pretty "weak." Maybe I would not have thought that, if it was just there and I didn't know in advance that it was going to be there. But again, when they keep hyping something like that in advance, and say that riders will experience "falling snow" and that turns out to be the falling snow that they kept talking about, it kind of misses the mark.

I wonder if they have ever actively tried to get a sponsor for the Matterhorn? Swiss Miss Cocoa would be a good one. Or Ivory Snow! And if they wanted an obscure reference, they could go with "Wells" Fargo or "Skyway" Luggage.


Well…. TOBLERONE candy just recently had to remove the Matterhorn from their packaging because it was no longer 100% Swiss Chocolate …. So they are not a very good match. My friends and I used to do the R I C O L A …. Call when we’d enter the first tunnel enroute to the lift. It’s funny in Tokyo Disneyland EVERYTHING has a sponsor …. While at Disneyland not many things do. I know at one point there was a requirement that the sponsor relate to the attraction … but then there’s examples that do not. Like DEL MONTE & AMERICA SINGS …. Or Dr. Sholl’s and The Plaza Inn.
I haven’t any real memories of the pre 1978 Matterhorn. Except I have a memory of going up the lift and seeing a blue skyway bucket seem to be almost inches away from our heads … I was 10 years, 2 months old when the new Matterhorn opened … prior to that I was very much afraid of being even near the attraction for fear that we’d have to ride it. I was afraid of pirates of the Caribbean as a kid because of the drops … and I was afraid of it’s A Small World because it’s boats looked like the Pirate’s boats so i feared it had drops too!!

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, does/did Dr. Scholl's really sponsor the Plaza Inn? Gee, that's what I really want to be thinking about when I am eating food....a foot pad!

I do have a pretty clear memory of what the central "core" of the Matterhorn looked like, pre-1978, both while riding the Matterhorn, and while going through it on the Skyway. It's just that view from the top of the lift hill that I can't really picture, for some reason.....other than the image I have from watching Disney's own footage of the view from up there. By the way, I had a friend in elementary school who got "spat" on while riding up the chain lift, by someone who was riding overhead in a Skyway bucket!


Lol…. No I was kidding about Dr. scholls.. it was actually TUCKS.

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, thank goodness! I would much rather think about TUCKS pads, instead of foot pads, while eating my meal! ;-)

Major Pepperidge said...

Last January I was stuck on "Pirates" for about 15 minutes - the boat didn't move! I was right next to the area where those two cats ("Here, kitty kitty...") are yowling. The cats were gone, but the sound effect still played! It repeated every five or six seconds.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, more "hidden" animals! Or "invisible" ones!

Gee, I guess Disney just doesn't care anymore. I wonder when that started? I'm kind of surprised that they didn't just grab a plush "Figaro," "Lucifer," or "Marie" from one of the shops, and stick it in the scene. (I actually have seen a plush "Lucifer" for sale at the park, by the way.)

"Lou and Sue" said...

TM, though I still have a LOT more to read, of your post, I thought I'd make a couple comments now - and come back, later, when I have more time...

Your 3rd image, a page from the 1977 Annual Report, states [in part] that, "Big Thunder Railway will transport guests...with...earthquakes and avalanches." Did I miss something?? I don't recall either, though I may have only ridden on WDW's BTMRR.

The "Official Entry Blank for the Abominable Snowman Sweepstakes," that you show, states you need six branded plastic cap liners from bottles. I totally forgot about those. Remember using a little hand-held can opener to pry those things out?? And you had to be careful or you'd tear them.

I'll be back, as I've only just begun reading everything in your fun post...

TokyoMagic! said...

"Big Thunder Railway will transport guests...with...earthquakes and avalanches." Did I miss something??

Sue, prior to the construction of Big Thunder, the concept art that was on display in the Main St. "Preview Center" (formerly the old Wurlitzer shop, and currently the Disney Showcase shop), showed incredible scenes of rocks falling onto the tracks, and blocked tunnels. What was actually built was rock walls that shifted slightly towards the trains, and a fake piece of track overhead, with prop "boulders" being lowered onto it in "slow motion." This all occurred while going up that third and final chain lift. Back in 2013/2014, when they replaced all of the track on Big Thunder, they changed that scene and removed the "earthquake" and "avalanche" effects, and replaced them with a "dynamite explosion," which is basically what Knott's has had at the end of their Calico Mine Ride, for the past 60+ years. As for WDW, I know that they had the same "earthquake" and "avalanche" effects, but I don't know if they have updated their version with the "dynamite" effect.

I do remember those bottle cap liners on soda pop bottles! In fact, there was a Disneyland contest in the early 1970s, where the cap liners had different DL attractions on them. You picked up a free map of DL from the grocery store display, and had to affix the various cap liners/attractions, to the appropriate places on the map. I believe a copy of that map was posted on the blog, "Stuff From The Park." I'll have to see if I can locate that. I can't remember if the post included the plastic bottle cap liners or not.

TokyoMagic! said...

Sue, I found the images of the DL Map and bottle cap liners. It was on the blog, "Filmic Light Snow White Archive." And the cap liners not only had attractions on them, but also some Disney characters. Here is the link:

And someone on ebay is selling the map with all of the cap liners, for $470!!!


Yeah the whole current Big Thunder “explosion” effect is somewhat a good example of dreadful imagineering. Big thunder is suppose to an abandoned mine ….. set dynamite charges wouldn’t be in an abandoned mine . The story goes that Big thunder was a sacred Indian mountain … and when miners began to dig its mass gold deposits , earthquakes and other disasters began to occurr .. believed to possibly be from a Indian curse done to protect the mountain . eventually a massive earthquake entombed many miners in the accident and also blocked of the giant mother vien of gold. Now after many years something is stoking the steam engine boilers of the abandon mine … the people still living in the ghost town of thunder ridge speculate it good be angry Indian spirits …. Or the spirts of the lost miners from the giant earthquake that closed the mine down many years ago.

The last “final” tunnel was once another giant earthquake … the effects included fiberglass bolders that moved as “rockers” , “shakers” and the “fallers” … there was also an effect above to appear the tracks ahead had been blocked off by falling debris and rocks …. Also a lighting effect with a scrim and large gold glitter moved with the add of a fan blower that gave the effect of gold nuggets or flakes pouring from the shattering rocks … ( that you had found the lost mother load)

For the early 1980’s these effects were quite good …. But over time certain effects were not functioning correctly or not at all. After a 1990’s rehab mist of the annimated prop boulders that fell to block the old tunnel exit … were replaced with digital projects and a new gold vein “reveal” …

After the death in Disneyland’s big thunder in 2003 the attraction was completely shut down for evaluation . Thus resulted in the removal of the rear set of drive wheels on all the locomotives ( they are not really powered are on there for authenticity only) this was followed by all other parks with Big Thunder Mountain attraction. The investigation of the death at Disneyland found that the second set of drive wheels and come loose and prevented the train from connecting to a train lift , causing the fake locomotive to roll back down and over the people in the first ore car killing one and injuring many … the employee were aware the entire ride had emergency stopped but were unaware why. Then bloody injured guests because to climb and come over the rock-work into the que , screaming that people had been hurt really bad … and they need help . Shortly after the attraction closed for almost two years while the entire track was replaced with an all new computer control system replacing the original 1979 one.

In the most recent major rehab of big thunder the earthquake scene was replaced to the exploding tunnel and the entire mining town of Thunder Ridge was demolished and completely rebuilt new and reopened as “Rainbow Ridge” the mine town name before Big Thunder opened. It ironic in 1979 the town was renamed THUNDER RIDGE …. But featured original buildings re-decorated from the actual RAINBOW RIDGE …. Now there are no original vintage rainbow ridge structures but the town THUNDER RIDGE was renamed RAINBOW RIDGE. Oh well .

As Tokyo mentioned the current exploding tunnel at big thunder is really Rip- off of the king famous ending to the CALICO MINE at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Current WDI never like to let another company’s ideas go to waste at Disney!

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, as always, thank you for all of the additional information! I had forgotten about the "falling gold dust" effect. I also remember in the pre-opening description of the ride, the mention of a "wildly swinging ore bucket overhead." Once the ride opened, it took me quite a while to finally notice it, since it was pretty much hidden, and really only visible for a second if you happened to look straight up at the ceiling (who does that?) when entering the tunnel for that final lift hill.

I had also forgotten about the replacement of the physical "boulders" with projections. Even now, it's kind of hard for me to picture it. I only have a clear memory of the slow moving boulders "falling."

That 2003 death on the ride was tragic. And avoidable. I have the L.A. Times article and will probably post it in September. I think it mentions that guests were trying to tell the cast members about a horrible noise they could hear, while riding in that particular train. But I guess they kept running it and finally decided to pull it offline, but only after they let it run through the ride "just once more time." Sad.

Speaking of "ripping-off".....not only did Disney copy Knott's with that "dynamite explosion" finale on Big Thunder, but Knott's copied themselves in 2013, when they added another dynamite explosion to the finale of their Calico Log Ride. Wasn't it enough that they had that at the end of their Calico Mine Ride? Maybe when Montezooma's Revenge finally reopens, it will have a "dynamite explosion" finale. Heck, maybe when "Tiana Mountain" opens at Disneyland, it will have a "dynamite explosion" finale! Let's just stick that at the end of every ride and attraction!

Anonymous said...

...a dynamite explosion like they had for the LHOTP finale. ;o)


TokyoMagic! said...

Sue, I was trying to figure out what LHOTP meant and was trying to make something up that fit, just as a joke. instead of House of the Future, I came up with Little House of The Past, then immediately realized it's "Little House On The Prairie"! Right? That darn Nellie Oleson blew up the entire town in the series finale, didn't she. She was incorrigible! ;-)


The sets were required in the filming contract for BIG SKY RANCH to be completely removed from the property when the show was no longer in production. Also michael Landon the show’s producer didn’t want the famous structures to be reused in dog food commercials and truck ads so he wanted the sets destroyed before removal. So a script was created that had a railroad company coming thru and was going to oust the townspeople so they decided they could have the land … but not their town and homes.

The church /school was saved and also the exterior set of the little house itself. The Garvey’s house was also saved as it was used to store supplies for cows that were used to graze and weed control the property when filming of other movies and shows was being done.

One of the two indoor soundstage ingals homes was later moved to the site where the outdoor sets were used. Several years ago during the big California wild fires the entire area and any surviving landmarks burned away .

The church set and exterior Ingall’s house was disassembled and placed in storage at the movie ranch Old Tucson Arizona - where several episodes of little house was filmed. A little house on the PRARIE museum was being planned with props , sets and costumes from the show … also an archives of the show’s scripts and production documentation. Sadly all of Old Tucson burned to the ground and all the little house stuff was lost to that fire. Old Tucson is being rebuilt … but nothing if the western Town, forts , mission, dnd assorted western building used in hundreds of movies and tv shows survived.

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, I had heard that about Michael Landon not wanting anyone else to use the sets afterwards. But I don't remember anything about the buying up of the land by the railroad. I only remember Nellie blackmailing Shannen Doherty, Jason Bateman, and Hester Sue into blowing up the town and then framing Half-pint for it. ;-)


James (Jason Bateman) had long since been removed off the show after several years before , Charles Ingals had let James join him in a frieght trip to Mankato or SleepyEye and James was hit by a bullet from
A bank robbery making him parylized . There were several episodes regarding James departure … Mr. Ingall’s was going to take James somewhere to die. Nellie was only in a few episodes as a guest … she lived in Minneapolis with her two children and husband Percival. Hester Sue and Jenny were both in the final scene and all the original towns people cried and helped push down the dynamite plunger destroying Walnut grove forever . It would have been NANCY … Nellie’s adopted younger sister. Nancy made Nellie look like an angel!! Once Nancy fell down a well being dug and Figment ( I can’t think of the actor’s name) was lowered down to help rescue her….. this after mrs Oleson had him lose his job at the bank. ( did walnut grove have enough commerce to sustain a bank??)

Anonymous said...

...or enough people to keep a restaurant in business??


TokyoMagic! said...

Mike and Sue, I didn't realize/remember that they killed off Jason Bateman's character. I do remember how bad that Nancy character was! I also don't remember a bank in Walnut Grove, but I remember Nellie's restaurant......and yeah, how did they stay in business?

That railroad story now seems like a cop-out. The houses in Walnut Grove were all spaced really far apart. Why would a railroad need that much land for a right-of-way? They should have ended the series with a tornado touching down and wiping the town off the map, along with all of the residents.....except for Hester Sue. She could have been the soul survivor. And then they could have given her a spin-off series of her own.

"Lou and Sue" said...

TM! I finally finished reading your entire post. I LOVE all the info and pictures - AND humor!

Now I want a small stuffed "Harold." Did they ever make one?

On my last trip to Disneyland, I fell in love with the Matterhorn Macaroons from the Jolly Holiday Bakery. I think they need to add a tiny chocolate Harold to the inside of the macaroon.

Regarding the "Abominable Snowman Sweepstakes Grand Prize" (list you posted):
I find it rather states, in part, "hotel accommodations near Disneyland" - but the Portland Hilton is NOT "near Disneyland." It's a good thing the rental car has unlimited miles.

Thank you, as always, for a FUN mega-post!

TokyoMagic! said...

Sue, I was thinking that I had seen a stuffed "Harold," but then thought that I might just be thinking about the little one that turns the crank in the popcorn wagon, near the Matterhorn. So, I looked on ebay. Sure enough, they did make a few plush versions of "Harold," in addition to a plush version of the abominable snowman from "Monsters Inc.", and the yeti from WDW's Expedition Everest attraction. Here is one of the plush "Harolds":

I have seen the coconut macaroons in the shape of the Matterhorn, but I've never tried one. That is a very good idea to have a little chocolate "Harold" inside of them. Or they could stick one on top of the macaroon. They could even charge extra for the ones with the chocolate "Harold" $50 extra! ;-)

Ha, ha! Yes, unlimited miles so you can drive back and forth repeatedly, from Portland to Anaheim! I'm still a little puzzled as to why the grand prize had so much to do with Portland, Oregon. Nothing against Portland, but it just seems odd for a Disneyland contest to include only one night "near" Disneyland, but four nights in Portland. And just how near is "near," anyway? If you live in New York, and you won the contest, Death Valley could be considered "near" Disneyland, in the big scheme of things!

Stu29573 said...

I always love your posts, but by the time it comes to comment everybody else has hogged the good ones!
Whenever I see the Matterhorn, I think of when my grandmother rode it, and them immediately took a "nerve pill" when she got off. That was in 1973, though.
Wonderful post as always!

TokyoMagic! said...

Stu, awwwwww.....thanks! My grandmother was visiting from Maryland during the summer of '73, and she wanted to ride the Matterhorn, but nobody would go on it with her! I was 8 at the time, and I didn't get up enough nerve to ride the Matterhorn for another 2 years. Now that I think of it, I remember my grandmother going on the Sky Jump (Parachute Drop) at Knott's. I guess my grandmother was pretty daring! Thank you for commenting, Stu!