Expedition Everest Building a Thrill Ride Disney’s Animal Kingdom

updated: 05-2021

Building A Thrill Ride: Expedition Everest aired in 2006 on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. It detailed the planning and construction of the ride, along with some of the ideas that made it possible. This documentary also featured survival tips from Les Stroud.

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is a steel roller coaster built by Vekoma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The ride is themed around the Yeti protecting the Forbidden Mountain next to Mount Everest. It is the fastest roller coaster at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the tallest roller coaster at any Disney theme park. The 2011 edition of Guinness World Records lists Expedition Everest as the most expensive roller coaster in the world. Including sets and extras, its total cost was reported to be US$100 million for six years of planning and construction. It held this record up until 2019 when the $300M Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It is the tallest artificial mountain in all of the Walt Disney Parks, and Disney’s 18th mountain-themed attraction.

The train departs the station to the right and climbs a small lift leading to a short drop, then circles around to the 118-foot (36 m) lift hill, carrying the riders into the mountain. On the way up it passes through a ransacked temple with murals of the yeti, warning the riders that the mountain is his territory. At the top of the mountain, the train curves around the main peak and goes through a cave. When it emerges, it draws to a halt in front of track that has been torn apart, presumably by the yeti. The train itself is held in place by a series of rubber tires while an automatic switch rotates the piece of track directly behind the train. The train then rolls backward along a new route that spirals down through the mountain. It eventually comes to a halt in a large cave, where riders see the yeti’s shadow on the wall as he tears up more track. This effect distracts riders from noticing another automatic track switch in front of them. As the shadow moves away, the train rolls forward out of the mountain and down the main 80-foot (24 m) drop. It enters a 250° turn and speeds back up through another cave in the mountain, where the roars of the yeti are heard once more. The train exits from the rear of the mountain and enters a large helix before being lifted back into the mountain a final time. The train drops through a cave, where the yeti is reaching down toward it. On reaching the bottom of this drop, riders return to the unloading dock and depart into a gift shop. The ride lasts 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

Expedition Everest has six steam-like trains, each with six cars. Each train has 17 rows seating two abreast, for a total of 34 riders per train. The trains are themed as the “Anandapur Rail Service” and are made to look old and rusty. Riders must be at least 44 inches (110 cm) tall and are secured by a lap bar. The “locomotive” itself is designed to resemble a vertical boiler configuration and is placed at the rear of the train rather than the front, so not to obstruct the riders’ view. Up to five trains usually operate at once, but fewer can be used if guest demand is low. To create the illusion of a “steam-powered” train, engineers placed vents under the station. When a train comes into the station, steam comes up through the vents and enters the loading platform.

The steel track is 4,424 feet (1,348 m) long and the lift is about 118 feet (36 m) high. Expedition Everest is the first ride to use Vekoma’s newest track system, which places the rails on the outside of the ties rather than on the inside. This was the first large-scale installation of such a system.

The yeti is the largest and most complex audio-animatronic figure ever built by Walt Disney Imagineering. It is 25 feet (7.6 m) tall. Its “skin” measures 1,000 square feet (93 m2), and is held in place by 1,000 snaps and 250 zippers.

© 2006 Discovery Communications, Inc.
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Spoken in the video
Joe Rohde – Executive Creative Designer
Todd Camill – Mechanical Engineer
Stefan Hellwig – Senior Concept Designer
Ken Gomes – Principal Set Decorator
Mark Mesko – Technical Director of Show Ride Engineering
Stuart Sumida – Biologist
Randy Hill – Principal Electronic Engineer
Ethan Reed – Senior Show Animator
John Van Oort – Principal Mechanical Engineer
Sarah Skinner – Costume Consultant
Mike Pechin – Senior Effects Designer
Johnny Panzarella – Narrator