Here’s everything you need to know about Expedition Everest before it opens again in April
There are so many options for Guests to choose from when visiting all the Disney Parks. Walt Disney World is home to four sprawling theme Parks, two water parks, and an enormous shopping center known as Disney Springs that Guests can enjoy and get immersed in. Disney World also features many thrilling attractions like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom, Soarin’ at EPCOT, and perhaps Disney’s most thrilling ride to date, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
While Animal Kingdom features a whole host of attractions like the relaxing Kilimanjaro Safaris, the terrifying DINOSAUR, and quirky It’s Tough To Be a Bug, few attractions across all of Walt Disney World or even Disneyland compare to Expedition Everest.
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is located in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and offers Guests a thrilling train ride through the infamous Himalayas. Along the way, Guests’ tenure whips and turns, ultimately coming face to face with the legendary “Yeti.”
The History of Expedition Everest
For those who may be unaware, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a motto or saying which goes like this: “Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient, and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs, and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony, and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama and learn.” Expedition Everest‘s history could be considered a long one, depending on if you include the failed Beastly Kingdom expansion part of Expedition Everest’s conception. That slogan includes the words “imagined” and “dragons” even though Animal Kingdom only has real animals. That’s because the Beastly Kingdom would’ve leaned into the “mythological” side of things very heavily.
This proposed expansion to Disney’s Animal Kingdom was an exciting and ambitious addition to the Walt Disney World Resort, adding mythological creatures and fantastical areas for Guests to enjoy. Unicorns, dragons, and knights in shining armor, this expansion had it all. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and never came to fruition, leaving Animal Kingdom without this third “imagined” element, until 2006, that is…
Expedition Everest was announced publicly on April 22, 2003, a little less than five years after Animal Kingdom opened. The construction of this new attraction began a month before it was announced and took three years to complete. Expedition Everest opened for previews on January 26, 2006, and had its grand opening on April 7, 2006, with the ceremony being led by then-Disney CEO Bob Iger. The ride stands tall at 199.5 feet and is currently the tallest attraction at the entire Walt Disney World Resort, just barely beating out The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by a mere 6 inches.
Guests may have noticed that now, Animal Kingdom is filled with imagined creatures thanks to Pandora – The World of Avatar. This expansion saw the addition of Satu’li Canteen, a fantastic quick-service restaurant, Na’vi River Journey, a relaxing boat ride, and Flight of Passage, an incredible state-of-the-art attraction that places Guests directly into the world of the Avatar films.
More on Pandora – The World of Avatar here.
Legendary Imagineer Joe Rhode was super influential in creating Expedition Everest as well as Animal Kingdom as a whole. His influence is felt throughout the Park and the entire Walt Disney World Resort. Disney actually made a documentary on the development and construction of the ride, which aired just before its official release on the Discovery Chanel. Here Guests can get a super in-depth sneak peek into the details of the ride as well as old footage of Joe Rohde when he was still working for the Walt Disney Company!. See the video below:
The Ride Experience
To say Expedition Everest is trilling would be an understatement. The ride whips Guests back and forth and plunges them up and down treacherous-looking train tracks. The ride starts simple enough at a station in a local town at the base of the Himalayas. As Guests enter the fake touring company “Himalayan Escapes,” they are engulfed by an incredible amount of authentic Asian props and artifacts, all solidifying the history of the mysterious Yeti. Once Guests board the steam train-themed coaster, they leave the station and head toward the mountain. It may be a surprise to you but Expedition Everest’s story doesn’t actually take place on Mount Everest, but on “the forbidden mountain”. If you look at the attraction from far enough away, you can see Mount Everest, which is colored and shaded differently toward the right side of the mountain. The actual peak of the mountain is part of this “forbidden mountain” that Disney created for the attraction’s story.
Guests weave and bob with the “natural” valleys and vegetation surrounding the bottom of Mount Everest until ultimately heading straight up toward it. Originally, there used to be sensors that would trigger fog and mist machines once Guests reached the top of the mountain, but unfortunately, these were turned off due to reasons Guests are unsure of (many cite corrosion or sensor failure). In possibly the most famous part of the ride, Guests who around a corner to be met with the track spit and ripped up in front of them. The train comes to a screeching halt while Guests are stuck, almost as if the train itself is deciding what to do.
Suddenly, the track behind Guests switches, and the train reverses. The train starts taking Guests backward for what feels like forever, winding upwards in complete darkness. Eventually, Guests come all the way back, and the track switches again in front of them. These two track switches weigh 200,000 pounds each and complete their rotations within four seconds, a true Disney Imagineering miracle. Once Guests witness a projection of the Yeti rip apart more track, Guests are plunged down a frightening 80-foot drop. Guests then go back inside the mountain and back out again until ultimately coming face to face with one of the largest and most impressive audio-animatronics ever created. This beast of an animatronic could fill its own section of the guide, which it will.
Disney Imagineering really outdid themselves when bringing this mythological creature to life. The Yeti stands at a whopping 25 feet tall, and its “skin” is composed of 1,000 square feet of fabric. Its range of movement is controlled by 19 different actuators, and its roars were acted by Fred Tatasciore who has done work as The Incredible Hulk as well as other animated films. The Yeti animatronic is truly terrifying, an incredible feat of not just Disney Imagineering but engineering in general.
Unfortunately, somewhere around a year after the ride opened, the Yeti was already causing serious problems for the attraction. While the exact cause of the issue is unconfirmed by Disney, basically what is assumed to have happened is that somewhere within the huge Yeti animatronic’s base a sort of structural issue took place, causing the structural integrity of the animatronic figure and ride itself to be at risk. Not only could further operation of the Yeti cause damage to the ride, but it could also be disastrous for Guests underneath the huge arm of the Yeti.
Eventually, the Yeti was moved from what Guests “lovingly” refer to as A-mode (full articulation and movement) to B-mode (stationary with a strobe light effect). The Yeti has remained in B-mode, also called “Disco Yeti” for nearly 16 years now with many Guests losing hope that the Yeti animatronic will one day be fixed.
Funnily enough, Expedition Everest isn’t the only Disney attraction to feature Yetis. The Matterhorn Bobsleds ride in Disneyland features many Yeti animatronics, although these are much smaller and a lot less scary. These were updated fairly recently and are really cool to see while riding the legendary Disney coaster. More on Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds below:
Conquer the Mountain – and a Mythic Monster
Climb into a 6-person bobsled and brace yourself against howling winds as you ascend 80 feet up into an icy cave. Take in the sweeping views at the summit and prepare for a thrilling, high-speed ride.
Swoop in and out of shadowy caves and along jagged rocky ledges. Throttle through snowy chutes and around frozen precipices. Fly across bridges and under waterfalls before splashing down into an alpine lake.
The real peril is not snow or sleet! Stories abound of a growling creature known as the Abominable Snowman—who will do anything and everything to protect his home.
Do you have what it takes to find out if the legends are true?
2 Different RoutesThere are 2 bobsled tracks: 1 on the Fantasyland side of the mountain and the other on the Tomorrowland side. During slower periods, only a single track may be in operation.
The Future of Expedition Everest
Sadly, as of the writing of this article, Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has closed for a lengthy refurbishment. This closure marks the first time the ride will be closed for a refurbishment in its entire history at the Parks, so many Guests are wondering what all could be changed. Most likely, this refurbishment will include new paint, updated safety systems as well as other system upgrades.
Personally, I am hoping for all of the hair bands at the top of the mountain to be cleaned up! Of course, the “Yeti” in the room is, well, the Yeti, and if Disney Imagineering will use this closure as an opportunity to finally fix the broken Yeti animatronic. This is very much a pipe dream within Genie’s wishing lamp, and Guests should set their expectations accordingly (getting Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Fast Passes might be easier than fixing the Yeti!). But looking at the circumstances now seems to be the opportune time to at least examine what needs to be done to fix the beast.
Expedition Everest is truly a ride that has stood the test of time at the Disney Parks and will continue to impress in the coming years. While Universal has a slew of new and impressive rides with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and VelociCoaster, it’s hard to compete with the originality and craftsmanship of Expedition Everest. More on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
Yeti or Not, Here He Comes!
Wander into a Tibetan village at the base of Mount Everest and board a train to the “top of the world.” Beware: Some say a legendary snow monster lives deep in the mountain.
After a steep ascent, your train picks up speed and races into the darkness. Without warning, a broken and twisted track appears in front of you. Brace yourself as you plummet backward into total darkness. Inside the cavern, the mythical tale comes true as you see the shadow of a massive, growling beast!
Race to escape the cursed mountain—before the Yeti claims another expedition.
A Word of Warning
Some parts of Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain may be scary for children. This attraction features loud noises, fast drops, high speeds, dark places and frightening creature effects.
Check out our guide on DINOSAUR, one of Animal Kingdom’s scariest attractions!
Do you enjoy Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? What do you like most about Expedition Everest? Let us know below!
Let the expert team at Academy Travel help you plan your next magical vacation to Disney World’s water parks, four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district!