Friday 24 January 2014

Space Mountain vs. Space Mountain

There are now five Disneyland resorts across the globe, beginning with Disneyland in 1955. Out of all these parks, one ride has been a standard issue - Space Mountain. An indoor steel rollercoaster based on an outer space quest, the ride first opened at Florida's Magic Kingdom in 1975; it then arrived at California in 1977, Tokyo in 1983, Paris in 1995 and Hong Kong in 2005. The tradition is sadly set to be broken in 2015 when Shanghai Disney Resort opens without this ride, but perhaps they'll see sense and adopt it in the future.

The ride's imposing white structure remains an iconic part of any Disneyland site, though the Paris version of the ride went for a much different approach. Theming and titling is its only similarities - the steampunk aesthetic, the use of inversions, and the opting of a launch hill over a lift hill makes it vastly different to its brothers as a ride experience. I myself have been on two versions of the ride: Paris and California. As they are often compared to see which is the best, I decided to have a go at my own outlook on the rides and see which one is truly the better experience.

Space Mountain: Mission 2 features trains with traditional over shoulder harnesses - the nature of the ride demands such restraints. On the flipside, Space Mountain features much shorter trains with lap bars. A lack of inversions on this ride makes bulky overhead harnesses unnecessary. The track in each version is designed to provide a different experience; Mission 2 features a launch hill which, after a traditional countdown, thrusts you upward, where you peak at the top of the mountain and enter the darkness of deep space within. From there, you zoom around in the dark, surrounded by special effects which simulate stars, planets and asteroids hurtling past you on you journey. The ride is completely dark aside from this, meaning you feel very disorientated as if flying through deep space without a planned route. The ride features 3 inversions: a sidewinder, corkscrew and cutback. It's the only version of Space Mountain to go upside down in any manner.

Space Mountain at Disneyland cruises down a small tunnel as it begins, lights whizzing past you as you move along. You then climb a traditional lift hill and upon reaching the top, the calm, evocative music playing on the ride becomes fast paced and thrilling. The ride zooms around the track at high speed, going through sudden drops, sudden turns and sudden stops. The train reaches a maximum speed of around 35mph on its journey - it feels faster than it looks, but still cannot Mission 2, which reaches a top speed of 45mph whilst thundering along its track. Still, Disneyland's version of the ride is much faster than Florida's, which only manages a maximum speed of 27mph - making it the slowest version of the ride ever built.

The exterior of each ride is suitably different. Space Mountain's traditional structure is a white dome, with thick white stripes, and spikes at the top which resemble antennas, perhaps referring to satellite communication. The structure stands about 26 meters tall, with force perspective making it look significantly larger. Mission 2 is the only iteration of the ride to not adopt this aesthetic - the exterior is a little taller, standing at 32 meters, and is bronze with turquoise plating and significantly more detail. The cannon where riders are launched into the mountain leans on the mountain's side, near the outdoor queueing area, and the loading station sits just behind it.

Both rides feature on board soundtracks composed by Michael Giacchino. The Paris version of the ride originally had a much more gentle, adventurous theme by Steven Bramson, but this was changed to something faster and more aggressive when the ride was rethemed in 2005. California's Space Mountain had music composed by Dick Dale from 1996 until 2003. The ride was closed for two years and reopened in 2005 after extensive refurbishments - one of these refurbishments was the new soundtrack composed by Giacchino, which is synced perfectly to the nature of ride. In my recent experience on the Paris ride, good as it is, the music is slightly but irritatingly out of sync - this may not sound like much, but it can detract from the experience when blistering music is playing before the ride even begins to go fast.

So which is the better ride? It's very dependant on personal preference as they offer very different experiences. Both are satisfyingly fast, beautifully designed and accompanied by kickass background music. The Disneyland ride's lack of inversions and its slower speed don't make it weaker in comparison as it's still a thrilling and exciting coaster in its own right, and perhaps appeals more to the younger crowd as well as adults. I think I'd have to say Mission 2 is my favourite of the two, but still, anyone who visits these theme parks must make these rides a priority. If the ride is shut, murder all the staff. It's that important.

Thanks for reading!