Confirmed: Disney Axing Classic Space Mountain, Bold New IP Plan Announced

in Disney Parks, Entertainment

Space Mountain at sunset at Magic Kingdom

Credit: Disney

Space Mountain has been an integral part of Disney theme parks since its debut in 1975 at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

It quickly became a fan favorite, known for its futuristic aesthetic and exhilarating indoor roller coaster experience. The attraction’s popularity led to the introduction of versions in Disneyland Park (Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California), Tokyo Disneyland (which is set to close for a three-year period beginning this year), Disneyland Paris (now Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain), and Hong Kong Disneyland, cementing its status as a cornerstone of Disney’s theme park experience.

A vibrant night scene at Disney World featuring neon-lit buildings and reflective water in the foreground under a starry sky.
Credit: Disney Parks

Designed by Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers, Space Mountain was a groundbreaking achievement in theme park design. It was the first roller coaster to be completely enclosed, providing riders with a unique and immersive experience that simulates a journey through outer space. The ride’s innovative use of special effects, lighting, and sound has kept it a thrilling adventure for generations of park-goers.

Despite its enduring popularity, Space Mountain has remained one of the only major original Disney World classic attractions without a movie adaptation, with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as the other. This uniqueness presents an exciting opportunity for Disney to explore new creative avenues and storytelling possibilities, setting the stage for a fresh and innovative cinematic experience, but it also brings with it questions and hesitations from fans.

Why is Disney changing Space Mountain?

Disney’s decision to move forward with a Space Mountain movie aligns with its broader strategy of leveraging beloved theme park attractions to create blockbuster films, but these movies can also contribute to the attractions losing their “classic” nature.

A photo of Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom
Credit: Inside the Magic

According to The Hollywood Reporter, action scribes Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec are writing the live-action adaptation. This duo is known for their work on Amazon’s high-profile spy series Citadel and their role as showrunners on Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. Jonathan Eirich from Rideback, the production banner behind Netflix’s hit live-action series Avatar: The Last Airbender, is producing the feature.

Disney’s track record with theme park adaptations certainly makes things questionable for the Space Mountain film. The Pirates of the Caribbean series, starring Johnny Depp as the charismatic Captain Jack Sparrow, became a cultural phenomenon, spawning five films and grossing over $4.5 billion worldwide. The franchise’s success demonstrated that with the right mix of storytelling, star power, and visual spectacle, theme park rides could be transformed into enduring cinematic franchises.

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow
Credit: Disney

However, there have been questions about Disney park IPs turned into films elsewhere.

More recently, Jungle Cruise (2021), starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, brought the spirit of the beloved ride to life with a mix of action, adventure, and humor. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the film performed relatively well at the box office and was well-received by audiences, further cementing Disney’s formula for success. There have been rumors that a sequel will be produced, but Disney has remained quiet on those reports.

A vibrant image of the haunted mansion at Disney World, showing the eerie, gothic architecture of the building surrounded by lush green landscaping under a cloudy sky.
Credit: Becky Burkett

The Haunted Mansion has seen two adaptations: the 2003 version starring Eddie Murphy and a 2021 reboot featuring an ensemble cast. While the original film received mixed reviews, the reboot aimed to capture the eerie charm and humor of the ride, showcasing Disney’s willingness to revisit and refine its adaptations. However, it also fell victim to mixed reviews and a poor box-office showing, reportedly losing more than $117 million for The Walt Disney Company.

Tomorrowland (2015), inspired by the futuristic theme park land, explored a more original narrative, blending sci-fi elements with a hopeful vision of the future. It also didn’t achieve the same level of success as the Pirates franchise, reportedly losing Disney somewhere in the realm of $120-$150 million.

Adapting Space Mountain into a film presents both challenges and opportunities. One of the main challenges is creating a compelling narrative that does justice to the ride’s legacy while appealing to a broad audience. Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean or Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain lacks a clear storyline, relying instead on its thrilling experience and futuristic theme.

Crowds gather around Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland
Credit: ARICAD via Wikimedia Commons

This creative freedom, however, allows the filmmakers to craft an original story that can expand the Space Mountain universe. They can explore themes of space exploration, adventure, and the unknown, creating a narrative that resonates with contemporary audiences. The film could delve into the origins of the ride and the futuristic setting or even introduce entirely new characters and conflicts, providing a fresh take on a classic attraction.

Another opportunity lies in the visual spectacle that a Space Mountain film can offer. The ride’s design, with its iconic space-age aesthetic and immersive indoor environment, lends itself well to a cinematic adaptation. Advanced visual effects and state-of-the-art technology can bring the thrilling experience of the ride to the big screen, offering audiences a visually stunning and immersive adventure.

A man and a woman in a Disneyland ride vehicle - Space Mountain.
Credit: Disney

The major question, though, is how willing Disney will be to spend money on a project that could fail in epic proportions.

As we mentioned earlier, the only other major classic attraction inside Magic Kingdom not to have a movie based on it is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was reported back in 2022 that Disney is developing a movie based on the Frontierland roller coaster, as well, so it will be interesting to see how the company navigates these two films and what the audience reception is like when they are released.

At this time, no other information has been released on the two films and their development.

Do you think the Space Mountain movie has a chance for success? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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