The Secrets of Big Thunder Mountain

Big Thunder Mountain Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a popular attraction at Walt Disney World, located in the Frontierland section of the Magic Kingdom. The ride is a thrilling roller coaster-style experience that takes Guests on a fast-paced journey through a western mining town, complete with twists, turns, and drops.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Credit: Disney

The ride’s history dates back to the mid-1970s when Walt Disney Imagineering began developing plans for a new attraction at Disneyland in California. Originally envisioned as a mine train ride, the project was put on hold after Walt Disney passed away in 1966. It wasn’t until 1972 that work on the ride resumed, with Imagineers refining the concept and adding new elements such as a runaway mine train theme.

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Credit: Disney Tips

But there are some unusual secrets about the attraction that not many people know about…

Big Thunder Mountain in Media

While not a movie solely about Big Thunder Mountain, the ride has made cameo appearances in several Disney films, including The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) and The Great Locomotive Chase (1956). In 2016, Disney announced plans to develop a television series called “Big Thunder Mountain” inspired by the ride. The show was intended to be a supernatural drama set in the Wild West, focusing on a mining town’s inhabitants dealing with mysterious happenings. However, the show never materialized. However, there are reports of Disney looking to make a new film based on the popular attraction.

big thunder mountain railroad

Credit: Disney

An Original Ride

Big Thunder Mountain’s track layout differs at each Disney Park where it’s located based upon the layout and park space available. In addition, the distinctive rock formations throughout the attraction were inspired by the landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park and the red rock formations in the American Southwest.

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Visual Secrets

To create the illusion of an old mining town, Imagineers used forced perspective techniques, making the buildings appear larger than they actually are (this is the same visual illusion used throughout the many theme parks). A hidden Mickey Mouse silhouette is formed by the rocks near the final lift hill and it can be seen on the left side as you ascend the lift hill. And at the highest point of the attraction, there is also a weather vane in the shape of a goat.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened at the Magic Kingdom in 1980, quickly becoming one of the Park’s most popular attractions, and remains so to this very day.


Credit: Disney

About Steven Wilk

Steven has a complicated relationship with Disney. As a child, he visited Walt Disney World every few years with his family. But he never understood why kids his age (and older) were so scared of Snow White or Alien Encounter. He is a former participant of the Disney College Program (left early…long story), and he also previously worked in Children’s publishing, where he adapted multiple Disney movies and TV shows. He has many controversial opinions about Disney…like having a positive view of Michael Eisner, believing Return of the Jedi is superior to The Empire Strikes Back, and that Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge should have never been built (at least not at Hollywood Studios). Every year for the past two decades, Steven has visited either Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or went on a Disney Cruise. He’s happy to share any and all knowledge of the Disney destinations (and he likes using parenthesis a lot…as well as ellipses…)