Video: New music aboard Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain – Enhancement or poorly executed?

in Disney, Magic Kingdom, Music, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

On Monday, Disney debuted the addition of “Starry-O-Phonic” music and sound effects aboard Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom and initial reactions have been mixed.

Some Disney park guests have found the thumping dance/techno-style music to be a welcome accompaniment to the ride, while others see it as underwhelming.

Before I offer my thoughts, here’s a video I recorded of a ride aboard Space Mountain with the new music and sound effects. The audio was recorded using binaural microphones, meaning you should wear your headphones while watching this video for the most immersive experience:

(The final couple minutes of the video also includes a live recording of the new song now heard as you exit the attraction.)

I ended up riding through the newly-updated Space Mountain three times in a row to fully take in the experience as it now exists. After my first ride, I was unsure whether I liked the new music or not, as it greatly differs from the widely-popular Michael Giacchino-composed music added a few years ago to DIsneyland’s Space Mountain. After my second ride, I decided I do like the new song, though not as much as Giacchino’s, but was still unsure about the experience as a whole.

It was only after the third ride that I realized what I was puzzled about. The ride vehicles for Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain do not contain speakers to allow onboard music to pump directly into riders’ ears. Instead, Disney opted for an external solution, placing around 60 speakers throughout the roller coaster track, each looping a different portion of the new music and/or new sound effects. The result is an inconsistent experience in many ways.

The sound of the music fading in and out in the video above is not due to a poor recording. That is how it actually sounds as you ride through the updated Space Mountain. For a few seconds, you hear fast-paced, thumping dance music – and then back to silence. Then the music returns, or perhaps a “whooshing” sound effect – then back to silence. It repeats throughout the roughly 2-minute ride, culminating in a fun spiraling sound as you round the ride’s final turns.

While the added sound effects do seem to heighten the overall experience, adding an extra perceived force to your movements, the on-and-off music is leaving many riders (including myself) wanting more. In other versions of Space Mountain around the world (and likewise with the nearby Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), music fills out the experience, as it is present throughout the entire ride, timed with its movements. But when the music comes and goes so often, it almost feels like something is wrong – which is not the feeling Disney ever wants a guest to leave with.

From a technical standpoint, it seems like adding more speakers – perhaps two or three times as many – would complete the experience, allowing the music to stay continuous throughout the ride. But perhaps that would create too much audio bleeding from one section of the track to another, causing a cacophony of dance beats, which would be far worse than the sporadic absence of them. I had heard rumors of onboard audio being tested during last year’s Space Mountain refurbishment – and ultimately abandoned for reasons unknown (the notion of speakers weighing down the cars too much was sent my way but never substantiated). Perhaps the current solution was the next-best option Walt Disney Imagineering had available.

Now, the new music and sound effects do not ruin the Space Mountain experience by any means. Most guests will hardly notice they are there (part of the problem) and those that do will not likely think twice about their presence, no matter how prominent they are (or not). Space Mountain is still a classic roller coaster – the first dark, indoor ride of its kind – and will remain a Walt Disney World staple. The music (gaps and all) won’t stop me from frequenting this ride for decades to come.

What do you think about the new Space Mountain music and sound effects? Comment below!


  1. Alan

    It’s pretty funny. 16 years ago Disneyland Paris opened the first roller coaster in the World with an on-board sound system. That ride was not Space Mountain, it was a kiddy coaster called Casey Jr. Le Petit Train du Cirque.

    And now here we are in 2010. The Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in the entire World, and should have relatively limitless resources. Yet they can’t put a proper on-board audio system on their flagship ride. Instead they resort to a cheap off-board system that sounds like a broken merry-go-round.

    Talk about progress 🙂

  2. Alex

    I rode it on Monday and I like the sound. I don’t think it sounds cheap. It does have a “night club” feel. The Omega side was louder and better than the Alpha side. That is of course my opinion. I only had the opportunity to ride each side once. Overall it is a nice addition.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Good point. I only had a chance to ride one of the two available sides – as you approach from the queue, it was the left one (not sure if that is Alpha or Omega). I’ll have to try the other next time and see if it sounds any fuller. I like the music and the sound, just not the empty gaps between them.

  3. Alex

    The new music makes me so sad! I loved the old, weird discordant music!

    1. Lisa

      Ummmmmm, excuse me Alex…. There never was music in this ride before….hence the reason it is news!! I am not sure what you miss?? Honestly, I thought there was music before but I then realized Its all the screaming that I remember, yep, defiantly no music before! I just went on it today and I personally loved it!! So did my teenaged kids. I am hoping to get a cd with it or a download because it’s Disney…very happy mood making music! Certainly did NOT make me sass at all, I couldn’t get that upbeat song out of my head all day! I suggest before people knock it, try it!

      1. Spencer

        I think Alex is talking about the exit music not the music on the ride that he misses

  4. Alan

    Something I want to add, Ricky, your on-ride audio recording came out really well. Great job. Have you made some upgrades to your equipment, or is it just an experience with a lot of positional audio changes, that records well in binaural?

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Thanks. I rode through 3 times and selected the recording that came out best. I also used wind screens on the mics to ensure that the audio would come through. Other than that, no changes.

  5. Alan

    Are wind screens those little black foam buds that Paul Barrie always has in his ears? They definitely created a more professional sound to your recording. Even walking through the queue, it sounded more like a professional production and less like a typical vacation video. Have you used them before, or was this their inaugural trip?

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Yes, except mine are skin tone, not black. The color helps disguise them a bit more. 😉 I very rarely use them, as they do look a bit odd and I try not to attract any unneeded attention toward myself while recording in the parks. But if you noticed that much of an improvement, perhaps I should use them more often.

  6. Alan

    Thanks for the answer. Yes, you should definitely use them more often, because they really make a different to the sound quality. It would be interesting to hear some of the other fast rides (such as Expedition Everest and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster) recorded with them.

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