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Ride / Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

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"If any of you folks is wearing hats and glasses, best remove them! 'Cuz this here's the wildest ride in the WILDERNESS!"

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a mine train roller coaster at the Disney Theme Parks. Located in the Frontierland part of the parks, the coaster is themed around a mine train ride through a cursed mountain.

The basic storyline of the coaster is that the mountain was once a huge source of gold during the Gold Rush, making many boom towns form up around it as a result, along with the creation of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The amount of gold in the mountain ended up being so huge that a mine train system was built through it to transport the miners' findings. Unknown to them, the mountain was actually a sacred ground used by several Indian tribes, where they worshiped a spirit that resides in the mountain. That very spirit was displeased with all of the people defiling the mountain, and thus sent down a natural disaster on the land that effectively ended the mining business and rendered the boom towns mostly abandoned. Along with that, the spirit also possessed the mine systems, giving all of the trains a mind of their own. From there, the story tends to vary as to what happens next.

The history of the coaster began in the late 1970s with Disneyland and Walt Disney World desperately trying to add in more roller coasters to their parks to attract in the thrill-seeker demographics, part of a building spree that also saw Space Mountains open at both parks. Famous Imagineer Tony Baxter proposed building a more simplified version of the mine train coaster that was to be built at the scrapped Western River Expedition attraction in Walt Disney World. The idea was swiftly decided upon, and on September 7, 1979, the first Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened to the public. 14 months later, on November 15, 1980, the Magic Kingdom opened a mirror image of the California ride. It would then go on to be cloned again to Tokyo Disneyland in 1987 and Disneyland Paris, opening with the park on April 12, 1992.

In 2015, Marvel Comics published a limited series based on the ride, as part of the Disney Kingdoms imprint, written by Dennis Hopeless.

If any of you folks are wearin' hats or glasses, best remove 'em, 'CAUSE THESE HERE'S THE WILDEST TROPES IN THE WILDERNESS!

  • Abandoned Mine: The mountain itself contains many abandoned mines, which the trains go right through.
  • Age Lift: While they're obviously brand-new and from the 1990s, the trains on the Paris version are painted to look old and weathered, like they've been around for over 140 years, compared to the American versions where the trains look mint clean.

  • Bat Scare: The first lift hill leads through a cavern full of screeching bats.
  • Book Ends: Paris's version starts and ends with riders traveling through a tunnel under the Rivers of the Far West, first to reach the island containing the ride, and then to return to the station on the mainland.
  • Broken Bridge: Each version of the ride has a literal example of a broken bridge at the start of the helix. Paris also has a washed out trestle right before the second lift hill.
  • Buried Alive: One version of the attraction's backstory has this happening to one of the most prominent miners, who gets forever buried deep in the mountain when an earthquake occurs.
  • Canon Welding: The Paris version features a backstory that directly connects the ride to Phantom Manor.
    • Barnabas T. Bullion, introduced in the American incarnations, serves as the attraction's main tie to the internationally shared Society of Explorers and Adventurers lore.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?:
    • In Disneyland's version, riders go right past several signs warning of explosives being near, starting with lots of dynamite crates at the top of the second lift hill, and ending with signs at the base of the third lift hill. The third lift hill is dynamited while trains travel up it.
    • In Disneyland Paris: coming off the second lift hill drop, the trains disregard a sign reading "BEWARE! BROKEN TRESTLE!" as they rise up into the helix and cross a broken trestle. The entrance to the third lift hill tunnel has signs warning of explosives, and that lift hill is dynamited as the train climbs up.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: During the warm months, there is typically a waterfall parting around the tracks as the train crests the first lift hill.
  • Character Blog: The dynamite chewing goat became the focus of an online ad campaign in 2013 where he asked for help on Social Media to be allowed to leave the Magic Kingdom attraction and visit the rest of the resort. A few years after the campaign ended, the goat has hosted a YouTube series where he talks to different park characters resort-wide.
  • Creator Cameo: The Magic Kingdom's version features a portrait of Barnabas T. Bullion, the owner of the Big Thunder Mining Company, whose likeness is based off of Tony Baxter's, one of the lead Imagineers behind the attraction.
  • Death Mountain: Due to it being cursed, Big Thunder Mountain is a center of chaos.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: In a shoutout to the original Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland that it replaced, the California version has rainbow colored pools of water in the cave on the first lift hill. The rainbow pools were also added to the Paris version during the 2016 refurbishment.
  • Expanded Universe: In 2015, the ride got its own comic book mini-series in the Disney Kingdoms line. Additionally, a television pilot for a show based on the attraction was produced, but was never greenlit.
  • Ghost Town: The towns surrounding the mountain were once booming due to the amount of gold that it contained, but upon the spirits causing a natural disaster, they were all abandoned. The name of the towns varies from each version of the attraction. At Disneyland, it's Rainbow Ridge, at Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland, it's Tumbleweed, and at Disneyland Paris, it's Thunder Mesa.
  • Haunted Technology: The mine trains of the mountain are possessed with the angry spirits of Native American settlers, which makes them operate on their own.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: At the Magic Kingdom version, the riders are at one point sent through a tunnel called "Davy Jones Mine", which looks just as threatening as it sounds. It's a very short tunnel right before the second lift hill.
  • Indian Burial Ground: Combined with Never Say "Die". There's a curse on the mountain due to it being a "sacred place" to the natives.
  • Ironic Name: One of the nearby towns in the Magic Kingdom's version is named "Dry Gulch", something that would prove to be very much untrue when it gets flooded.
  • Island of Mystery: The Paris version is situated on an island in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West. The ride is much longer because the station is still on the mainland. As a result, trains pass through underwater tunnels between the island and the mainland to begin and end the ride.
  • Kill It with Water: In the Florida version, the spirits of the mountain get revenge on Tumbleweed by flooding it.
  • Meaningful Name: The Ghost Town in Magic Kingdom's version is named "Tumbleweed", a name that's fitting considering the fact that it's mostly empty.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: With the exception of the Paris version, the full details on the backstory of this attraction have never been made clear and wildly vary. A painting at the Magic Kingdom version featuring all four versions seems to suggest however that they're all part of a range of mountains.
  • Mythology Gag: Much like other attractions pay tribute to rides they replaced, the Disneyland version pays tribute to the ride it replaced, the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland:
    • The first lift hill cave is made to resemble the Rainbow Caverns, even containing the various colored pools of water.
    • The buildings next to the final brake run are from the town of Rainbow Ridge.
    • Many of the animal animatronics throughout the attraction came from the Mine Train.
    • The name of the ride itself, "Big Thunder", was originally the name of a large waterfall that the Mine Train passed on its tour. "Little Thunder" was located nearby.
  • Once per Episode: Every version of the ride has three lift hills, one indoor and two outdoor. The layout from the bottom of the second lift hill to just past the drop off the third lift hill is identical across all four versions, too - drop down, cross under the second lift, a 540 degree helix, a straightaway with an airtime hill and a drop (and a slight turn in the American versions), a 180 degree turn, an indoor third lift hill, then a drop and straightaway alongside the river.
  • Plunger Detonator: The Magic Kingdom's queue line contains some plungers that guest can push down on to trigger small explosions in the mountain.
  • Population: X, and Counting: In front of Disneyland's version is a sign showing the population number of the nearby towns, which reveals that the number of people has gone from 2,015 to just 38.
  • Prospector: The Big Thunder Mining Company consists of some, one of which provides the boarding instructions for the ride as well as the page quote.
  • Ribcage Ridge: Both American versions of the ride, as well as the one in Tokyo, culminate with the train diving through the unearthed bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Rollercoaster Mine: Arguably one of the definitive examples, even though the mine train roller coaster design had been around well before this ride opened (like the Cedar Creek Mine Ride at Cedar Point).
  • Runaway Train: What the trains the guests ride in are, due to them being possessed.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: After a 2014 refurbishment, the Disneyland version has riders traveling through a tunnel being blasted as they climb the third lift hill. The Paris version has always had this, and in a 2016 refurbishment, also received the mapping effects used in California.
  • Track Trouble: All versions feature a broken trestle in the helix after the second lift hill. In the Paris version, the trestle before the second lift hill has partially collapsed, so trains fall into the water before making the turn onto the second lift hill.
  • Weather Manipulation: The guardian spirit in Big Thunder Mountain (identified as a Thunderbird in the Paris backstory) is able to do this, as in each version of the ride it causes some kind of horrible natural disaster that renders the western town abandoned.
  • The Wild West: Coming naturally with the ride being located in the Frontierland area of the park, it's specifically set during the Gold Rush era (or sometime after it).

Alternative Title(s): Big Thunder Mountain