Behind the Magic: 12 Thunder Mountain Fun Facts

Another train crossing on top of our ride...will we end up in collision?
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Another train crossing on top of our ride…will we end up in collision?

My husband and I ride Thunder Mountain every time we go to Disney World, so we have ridden this runaway train many times. We were curious about all of the Thunder Mountain Fun Facts since we love this iconic Disney mountain.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad originated in Disneyland and took a rollicking adventure to Magic Kingdom in 1980. Since its opening, folks have loved buckling in for this bumpy roller coaster.

They say gold was first discovered on this mountain in the 1850s, but did they unearth all the secrets? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a popular mine train roller coaster located in several Disney parks around the world. The parks include Disneyland in California, Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Park in Paris. 

Each version of the ride offers its own unique features and backstory. They share a common theme of the Wild West and a gold-mining operation in the rugged, late 1800s American Southwest.

Here Are 12 Fun Facts About Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!

Get ready for the Wildest Ride in the Wilderness!

  1. Inspired by Real Locations:
    • The design and landscape of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are inspired by various real-life locations in the United States.
    • This includes the Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border.
  2. First Opened in 1979:
    • The first Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened at Disneyland in California in 1979. It was then introduced to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1980, Tokyo Disneyland in 1987, and finally, Disneyland Paris in 1992.
    • The Paris version of the ride, located in Frontierland, is part of a larger story that ties it to the Phantom Manor. This offers a deeper narrative experience.
    • While each of the four versions of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has unique elements, they all share a similar track layout. The Disneyland Paris version is considered by many to be the most impressive.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom
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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom
  1. Mining Town Names:
    • Each park’s version of the ride is set in a mining town. Tumbleweed in Magic Kingdom, Rainbow Ridge in Disneyland, and Thunder Mesa in Disneyland Paris.
    • There is a nameless town simply referred to as Big Thunder Mountain in Tokyo Disneyland.
  2. Dynamic Effects:
    • The rides incorporate dynamic effects such as earthquakes, floods, and explosions. This is to simulate the dangers of mining in the Old West.
  3. Innovative Audio-Animatronics:
    • The Disneyland version was one of the first attractions to use fully electronic Audio-Animatronics figures. They were more flexible and durable than their predecessors.
How Scary is Big Thunder Mountain?
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How Scary is Big Thunder Mountain?
  1. Health Benefits?:
    • A study published in 2016 by the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association suggested that riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad could help pass small kidney stones. Though this is not an officially recommended treatment.
    • This ride is for those in good health. Expectant Mothers, guests with high blood pressure, and neck problems shouldn’t ride.
    • There are dark tunnels on this rail system and it may not be the best for those with motion sickness.
    • There is a height requirement for this ride.
  2. Hidden Mickey:
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad features “Hidden Mickeys” throughout the ride. The shape of Mickey Mouse’s head is subtly incorporated into the scenery.
    • No Walt Disney World attraction would be complete without a Hidden Mickey!
    • The main Hidden Mickey is a set of gears in the shape of Mickey, which is near the end of the attraction past the dinosaur bones.
  3. Interactive Queue at Magic Kingdom:
    • The Magic Kingdom version features an interactive queue where guests can engage with various elements related to the mining company’s backstory.
    • According to the ride’s backstory, the mining equipment operates on its own due to a curse, adding a supernatural element to the thrill ride.
    • Imagineers can’t resist the chance to make Disney attractions as authentic as possible. This is why you see real mining equipment on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. While they could have settled for replicas, Imagineers went further by acquiring pick-axes, stamp mills, cogwheels, ore carts, and more!
    • The certification that proves these pieces of mining equipment are authentic artifacts on Walt Disney World property can be found in City Hall on Main Street.
    • Here’s a bonus fact: the rock formations stretching tall heights on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were actually inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona! The Walt Disney Imagineering on this ride is truly amazing!
Riding in the third car on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has a few twists, but not huge drops.
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Riding in the third car on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has a few twists, but not huge drops.
  1. Tony Baxter:
    • The ride was designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter. Baxter was also behind other iconic Disney attractions such as Splash Mountain and the Indiana Jones Adventure.
    • The imagineers had a great sense of humor when designing this ride. Because Guests are loaded onto the attraction so quickly, they may not notice that each train has a unique name.
    • They’re called I.M Brave, U.B. Bold, u.r. courageous, U.R. Daring, I.M. Fearless, and I.B. Hearty.
    • If you didn’t already know what to expect from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, these titles will certainly give you an idea of the wild journey ahead. 
  2. Largest Audio-Animatronics Figure:
    • The Disneyland Paris version includes the largest Audio-Animatronics figure in the form of a dynamite-wielding goat.
  3. There Is an Enchanted Tiki Room Easter Egg: 
    • If you can remember The Enchanted Tiki RoomShow, José, the colorful lead Tiki Bird, asks where Rosita is. Perhaps she took a trip to the mines in Frontierland!
    • One of the ventilation cages found in the interactive queue has Rosita’s name on it! In fact, canaries were actually used to detect toxic gases in mines and alert miners. So, there’s another bonus history fact for you!
    • We don’t imagine that’s quite a pleasant spot for Rosita to rest, though.
Check out this Attractions 360 youtube video of the Disneyland Paris version of Big Thunder Mountain.
  1. Refurbishments for Safety:
    • Over the years, the rides have undergone several refurbishments to improve safety. They also updated effects to enhance the overall guest experience. This ensures that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad remains a beloved attraction for visitors of all ages. 
    • Enchanted Tiki Room isn’t the only Easter Egg on this mining expedition. There are plenty of nods to old attractions and lands that never were.
    • When Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in Disneyland, it took the spot of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, which was an extension of an attraction formerly Rainbow Caverns Mine Train.
    • To tribute the demolished train ride through the woods and desert, Imagineers introduce Guests to rainbow-colored caverns at the beginning of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
    • Since Disney World’s version is almost a replica of Disneyland’s, the rainbow caverns are in Magic Kingdom as well. Mineshaft #71 also nods to the opening year of Magic Kingdom: 1971.
    • Not many Guests know that Frontierland’s original plans for extension after Magic Kingdom’s opening did not include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
    • Imagineers originally envisioned a boat-style ride called Western River Expedition to be the main attraction for the extension. However, when Guests expressed interest for a ride similar to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, the idea was canned.
    • However, “Western River Explosives” can be found on the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. 
12 Interesting Fun Facts about Big Thunder Mountain
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These facts highlight the creativity, innovation, and attention to detail that have made Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a timeless favorite among Disney park-goers worldwide. Next time you are in Walt Disney World, you will know some fun facts to share with your family about this ride. Ask a cast member if they have any more to add!

Big Thunder Mountain is one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World including Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Which Magic Kingdom mountain is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Read Also: Disney’s Haunted Mansion: 13 Facts Behind the Frights

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