More than two months before its scheduled opening, Walt Disney World pulled back the curtain Tuesday on its latest thrill ride, Expedition Everest, to allow members of the media to ride the reportedly $100 million attraction.
Beth Stevens, the Disney vice president who runs the Animal Kingdom theme park where the ride is located, noted the addition is the latest evolution in the 8-year-old park's lineup of attractions, as well as the last major event in Disney's five-month-long celebration of Disneyland's 50th anniversary.
Disney will not put a price tag on the new high-speed adventure, which officially opens April 7, a ride it disdains from describing as a roller coaster.
"The train that takes guests on their trip through the Himalayas is only a part of the experience," says Walt Disney Imagineering senior show producer Kathy Rogers, a 22-year Disney veteran who was part of the core team that spent the last three years creating Expedition Everest. "The special effects, the village where the adventure begins, the details we've added, all of them make up the experience."
The structure that houses nearly a mile of track for the 34-seat simulated train stands nearly 200 feet tall. The track takes an 80-foot drop at one point as well as pausing before rolling backward in the dark and switching directions again -- hitting 50 miles per hour at its top speed.
The finale involves an oversized replica of a yeti that threatens the riders, a figure Disney describes as the most extensively engineered it has every produced. The yeti -- or Abominable Snowman -- is a mythical creature that is the centerpiece of the ride's thrills.
The faux mountain, a copy of the 22,000-foot-tall original Mount Everest, is surrounded by more than 900 bamboo plants, 10 species of trees and 110 species of bushes. The Central Florida version uses forced perspective and 2,000 gallons of stain and paint, plus colorized cement slabs to create the illusion of the depth and height of the mountain range. In its center are 1,800 tons of structural steel.
The mythical village of Serka Zong, where the journey begins, is filled with prayer stones and flags, totems and carved heads. It leads into a series of displays where its likely visitors will while away an hour or more while waiting to board the four-minute-long ride.