After years of planning and a myriad of ride designs, WED Enterprises decided to add the Space Mountain coaster to the Magic Kingdom as part of the first Tomorrowland expansion that began in 1974. The indoor coaster opened to the public in January 1975. Though Space Mountain still exists today, it has seen numerous changes over its lifetime.
The original attraction was sponsored by RCA in a big way. Not only were guests greeted by a space traveling Nipper (RCA’s Mascot) at the entrance but the attraction featured a distinctly RCA theme song, “Here’s To The Future and You”. After passing Nipper in his flying saucer, guests descended into what was known as the “Star Corridor” where they were first introduced to RCA’s theme song. Moving through this corridor, guests viewed a series of space-themed displays that were placed behind windows. Because of their convex design, as guests moved past each display, they appeared to move. Further into the queue, these displays featured a myriad of RCA products that were updated throughout their sponsorship.
Beyond the heavily sponsored Star corridor, guests entered an area with more space-themed displays and ambient music/effects. Some of the displays were animated (instead of static as were found in the Star Corridor) and featured narration.
Before entering the larger load area, guests came to the end of the tunnel and a warning video regarding the experience of the coaster. The original version of this video featured astronaut Gordon Cooper as he entered the ride’s exit area.
The load area separated guests into two segments, then referred to as “Alpha” and “Omega”. Though each track was identical, guests often had fun debating which side was faster or the better ride experience. As years went on, Cast Members often used these debates to have fun with guests as they decided which way to go. The truth was, however, to allow the tracks to cross each other, the Alpha track is roughly 10 feet longer than Omega.
After the ride, guests were treated to RCA’s Home of Future Living. Guests boarded a moving walkway from which they were able to view each room of the “home” and the many products of the future. Unlike many of the attractions, exhibits, and shows that portrayed the future, RCA’s post-show actually featured some things that have become commonplace today (i.e. laptops, flat screen televisions mounted on the wall, etc.).
In 1989, Space Mountain underwent a short refurbishment. The entrance was repainted with a different color scheme and some minor cosmetic changes were made. Though still sponsored by RCA, the logo atop the tower outside the entrance was removed and a model of the new 3-seat ride vehicle replaced the old 4-seat version.
In 1992, the exit was re-routed through a gift shop and arcade located next to the attraction as part of the never completed plan to add a train station to Tomorrowland.
In 1994, FedEx took up sponsorship of the attraction and another refurbishment was planned. The entrance signage was modified and new warning signage was added. A new tower was built outside and the warning film was redone. The entrance lobby was repainted and a new mural of the Milky Way was added. The post-show “RYCA-1” that had been added in the 80’s was modified slightly to show packages being sent across space.
In 1998 another refurbishment replaced the original flooring in favor of a staircase in the left queue and a ramp in the right queue, making it wheelchair accessible. Additionally, Fast Pass machines were added and the right queue became used for Fast Pass entry only.
In 2004, FedEx discontinued its sponsorship of the attraction and it has remained in operation without a sponsor since. The majority of FedEx logos and themes were removed in 2005 but some remained in place until the next major refurbishment.
In April of 2009, Space Mountain closed for what was being dubbed a “lengthy renovation project”. Because of recent changes made to Disneyland’s Space Mountain, guests speculated similar changes were coming to the Magic Kingdom attraction (i.e. new ride vehicles, a ride soundtrack, a rebuilt track, etc.). Though the refurb did include repairs to the track, due to its structure, a complete rebuild would’ve required years. Instead, the over $12 million refurb resulted in major changes to the ride queue (though the tunnel is still very much the same), new 6-person ride vehicles (sans soundtrack speakers), new signage (including those seen from the TTA), new loading gates and many new effects throughout the ride experience. Additionally, a ride photo camera was added at the end of the star tunnel and new views of the attraction became available to riders of the TTA.
The 2009 post-show modifications included references to both Horizons and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.