Following months of refurbishment, and a great deal of intense on line speculation, Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has finally returned to full operations. With one vivid exception, the Frontierland classic appears pretty much as it always did.
The “new” Big Thunder does not feature a mysterious magnate who bears a striking resemblance to Imagineer Tony Baxter. There is no evidence of any planned overlay related to the Disney studio’s summer dud The Lone Ranger. The little town of Big Thunder (formerly Rainbow Ridge) has not been urban renewed out of existence. The track does seem remarkably smoother. And a certain “tricky” goat seems a bit more animated than before. And sure, the whole thing does sound better.
There is one striking change. Explosive, even. (Spoiler alert for those who don’t want to know in advance. And best skip the last couple of pages of photos, too.) The climactic “avalanche” scene that accompanied the final lift is no more. The unconvincing projections and “falling” rocks have been replaced with a new scene that finds the sturdy trains of the Big Thunder Mine narrowly avoiding a massive dynamite explosion. At least the new scene doesn’t feature any pesky mechanical effects.
Preview guests have been generally positive. The real test will come when the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad starts operating for the full public on March 17. Then everybody will once again be holding on to them hats and glasses.