At Disney World in Florida, with the opening of Disney’s Expedition Everest, get ready for a ride of your life, plus some surprising educational opportunities to learn more about the Yeti or Abominable Snowmen. Several cryptozoologically-inclined people have contributed to the information behind this ride’s entryway and "museum," including me. It is located in the Animal Kingdom, and the waiting time is being filled with educational data about the Yeti.
Joe Rohde, executive designer at Walt Disney Imagineering and lead designer of the park, has noted, "It’s a thrilling adventure themed to the tradition of the mysterious Yeti."
Disney has now released their exact storyline for Everest Expedition:
The story begins when guests are transported to a distant world of exploration and the mythical village of Serka Zong. A canopy of prayer flags, an ornamental monastery, intricately carved totems, and a garden of stone carvings of the Yeti clutching the mountain immerse guests in a far-off realm. The Yeti’s role as protector of the sacred mountain is reinforced in this detailed environment rich in culture and tradition.
"The Himalayan culture is full of ritualized architecture encouraging great harmony and structure," Rohde said. "The colors of the village, the carved animal heads on the doors, the totems — it’s all very symbolic and authentic."
Despite forewarnings, the proprietors of Himalayan Escapes tour company entice explorers to embark on a rugged train journey to the mystical Everest. First stop is Norbu and Bob’s booking office to obtain permits, and then it’s off to Tashi’s General Store and Bar for needed supplies for the journey.
Next, explorers pass through an old tea warehouse that houses an elaborate museum run by Professor Pumba Dorjay, a conservation biologist who believes the Yeti’s existence is grounded in fact. The richly designed Yeti museum showcases artifacts reflecting Nepalese culture, plus a history of the Himalayas and tales of the Yeti. Photos show sherpas and others who have conquered the summit.
Now equipped to conquer the mountain, trekkers board the Anandapur Rail Service. This aging 34-passenger industrial railway, which was once used to transport tea, is now destined for the foot of Mount Everest.
As the steam train rolls through thick bamboo forests and fern groves up the first hill through a fortress, ritualized music signals riders to dangers ahead. En route a cluster of sacred Yeti totems and a massive yeti mural crafted on the rockwork gives further warning to turn back.
The train continues across a teetering bridge into the mountain, dives into shimmering glacier valleys and then climbs up through the snow-capped peaks.
Skulking silhouettes and shadows of the lurking Yeti, coupled with startling special effects and climate variations, enhance the attraction as the steam train darts in and out of the picturesque mountain range.
But suddenly the train screeches to a halt near a gnarled mass of twisted metal. In a fit of rage, the Yeti has torn apart the track. The thrills intensify as the runaway train moves both forward and backward through darkened mountain caverns and icy canyons and guests head for an inevitable face-to-muzzle showdown with the towering Yeti — known to some as the Abominable Snowman.
The train accelerates at speeds up to 50 mph into a fog of spiral curves taking mountaineers down a 112-foot plummet to escape the wrath of the powerful Yeti.
"Seeing the Yeti will really startle the guests because it is so real, so convincing," said Rohde. "It is the most mammoth and sophisticated Audio-Animatronics figure ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering."
Well, of course, they had to make the Yeti exciting, and a bit beyond the reality of the reports perhaps, in this popular culture context. That’s the fun of Disney at work, needless to say, for it is an amusement park. It opens in May 2006. I can’t wait to see the actual museum design and Disney’s new Yeti.