Sunday, May 27, 2012

Big Thunder Mountain Post-Refurb Photo Tour

Big Thunder Mountain officially starts up operations again on Monday, but it was soft-opened for Guests yesterday afternoon. By sheer force of luck, I was there, and in fact I was on the first train (which was only half full). Many things look great on the mountain.

They've redone tracks, repainted, and reinstalled effects. They added safety lights everywhere for emergency (and routine end of day) operations; some of those stick out a bit.

The queue does not have a FastPass Plus RFID scanner, though there is a plate in the ground at the front to install one. The walkway up to the building takes you past the sluice, now roaring with a high volume of water (first time in years!)

The nearby new "oil rig" holds high-quality Martin LED lights--they are just there to provide extra illumination.

As we enter the building, which was rebuilt almost entirely for this rehab, we see that the FastPass and Standby sides have been flipped.

The new Standby side takes you through the "left" side of the building much more than previously, and there are new floors and new walls here. One wall is themed to look like a bank from both inside and outside views. There are strange lockable compartments here--for something yet to come with interactivity? There are also boxes scattered about, some jutting out into the queue. They are chest-high on an adult. Are they for sitting on?

In the further, "right" side of the building, there is now air-conditioning. Sort of. It doesn't work very well, and it can't keep up with May temperatures since the walls are open-air. August and other summer months will still feel sweltering.

In this room is a row of boxes that look for all world like FastPass machines. More elements for interactivity to come?

Many of the railings have a themed "corner" to them that juts out a bit. Children of the wrong height will likely bump their heads on this.

The station looks the same, though they added a gate to the wheelchair queue.

The ride is much like it always was. We noticed some light leakage on the left that looked unintentional (you can see backstage) and then some on the top/right that was likely intentional - shafts of sunlight as you burrow deeper into the first cave. Many of the bats didn't swing on our trips this day (three total), but that could be because the ride isn't fully open yet. Ditto the lack of any waterfall at the top of the lift hill. I hope something is intended to come back there.

The flooded town looks great. A friend wondered on our nighttime trip if the silhouettes of fighting people in the bar was new. It looks like an effect from Disneyland's Pinocchio ride (in Pleasure Island). Do they have this at Disneyland's Big Thunder? Was it always here at MK's Big Thunder? I was pretty sure at first that it was always here in Orlando, but after my friend asked his question, I started to doubt myself.

The earthquake scene looked patched up; I didn't see any ripped open holes in the wall or any tarps. But it also didn't have any theming to an earthquake any more. No rumbling, nothing moving, not even any special effects lights to imply things are falling. It's just a lift hill. The one remaining vestige is that the cars "lean" left and right as they go up (because the track leans), but now it has no explanation.

After the big finale with the dinosaur bones (is there supposed to be a splashdown of water here?) we pass by the big geysers, which are working! The geysers at the exit are half working. The one surrounded by walkways was silent, but the one facing the river would gush every so often--great to see that in operation.

There's a big section of iron balls buried in the ground right after that (iron balls are used in real life in grinding up ore to find gold). Don't miss the Hidden Mickey on the right side just before the car returns to the station.

Of course, the "ears" are wrong on this Hidden Mickey. It looks like a pig from Angry Birds to me!

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.