Disney Stuck on the Drawing Board: Fire Mountain and Bald Mountain
From past to present, and even moving into the future, the Walt Disney Company has always been making plans and changing plans. New ideas are shelved for a multitude of different reasons; either because technology is not available to make the plan work correctly, or maybe because popularity of the content material has waned–as was the case with Pixie Hollow in New Fantasyland. (The Imagineers were concerned that they could not necessarily pull off what they planned, and the lack of popularity in the Fairy films convinced Disney to walk away.) Sometimes it is a monetary issue, as with the Project Gemini plan in EPCOT. Sometimes it is just bad timing. This seems to be the reasoning behind many drawing board cases. Lets look at a drawing board case from Magic Kingdom, and no, it is not the elephant that is going to remain in the room. That might be a conversation for another day . . .
When we think about the Magic Kingdom landscape, we immediately think of the mountains: Splash, Space, and Big Thunder. The rising Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da from Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear, to the sound of a locomotive running wildly out of control, Frontierland bustles with traffic of guests to two of the three mountains. In Tomorrowland, the aura of white spires and a clean mountain draws guests into Starport 75. We can only imagine what MK’s mountain range could have been if Disney followed through with plans to add Fire Mountain and Bald Mountain in the mid 1990s.
When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was being closed and eventually removed, there were plans to add not one but two mountains as a way to ease guests disappointment over the closing of this famous E-ticket attraction. Both of these attractions were similar, but it is said that Michael Eisner loved the ideas so much he wanted both to be built within the MK walls. Each mountain was going to its own land: Fire Mountain to be placed in Adventureland, and Bald Mountain where the old Leagues attraction lay dormant. Sadly, neither of these mountains were ever built.
Fire Mountain was to be located either between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash, or directly on the other side of Pirates (though that would have taken some refurbishment of the Jungle Cruise to achieve) and would have been the so-called “weenie” that drew guests deeper into Adventureland. This attraction was rumored to be a combination of a standard roller coaster and a flying roller coaster, which meant at one point the ride would change from a track below guests to a track above, and the vehicles would have guests lying facedown in an attempt to mimic flying like a bird (or certain Marvel characters). The mountain would be a gigantic volcano, fitting right in with Adventureland’s story. Guests would fly and soar through and around the volcano with molten lava and dark and scary theme. There was an idea Fire Mountain would be the beginning of an expanded area of Adventureland. As costs soared, the decision was made to make it only a flying coaster– and then sadly, Fire Mountain was completely shelved.
Bald Mountain, from Fantasia fame, was to have been built near or on the exact spot as the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. To draw guests to this portion of the park, the attraction would house a log flume, or roller coaster (or a combination of both, which was never decided) themed on Disney villains. Also known as Villains Mountain, this attraction would take guests through a hair-raising experience of escaping from some of Disney’s most famous evil characters. As a log flume, guests would have boarded longboat-style rafts modeled after Hades’ boats in Hercules. Guests would have been taken through Chernabog’s mountain, where the villains were meeting to decide who was the most evil, and how to take over the Magic Kingdom. Suddenly, guests would be “attacked” by a combination of Disney villains, saved only by a slide deep down the plunge in the front of the mountain (the roller coaster theme never had a major story design, leading many to believe that a flume ride would have been the choice here). By combining the roller coaster idea with the log flume, Imagineers were possibly ready to attempt a difficult concept that took almost five more years to actually happen, albeit in another resort.
Why do we visit Magic Kingdom and not see either of these attractions? The answer is not so simple. Disney thought they had two can’t-miss attractions, and went as far as toying with the idea of making an expansion to Fantasyland based around villains. As this concept became a bigger, rumor of a fifth gate based on villains also began to be discussed and gained steam. This made the Bald Mountain concept too valuable to construct in Magic Kingdom, especially if it would be added to the rumored fifth gate. Alas, the villains park has yet to go anywhere, and with the Fantasyland expansion near completion, it is doubtful Magic Kingdom will ever see Bald Mountain. As for Fire Mountain, plans were set for construction, with Disney even floating a balloon high to the peak of where the mountain would be to test if it would be visible from Main Street USA (it was not, but it was clear as day to the Polynesian Resort.) It is believed that WDW management saw the huge expense of building a major roller coaster in a family-oriented park and decided against it. Will we one day see one of these attractions high above Magic Kingdom or another Disney park? It is possible. Let’s keep an eye out to the future and what may happen. You never know when old plans become new again!