(I just found this mini-essay in a notebook I took on my last trip to Florida, and figured it warranted sharing. It does make startlingly good points, despite almost doubtlessly being written to ease airplane boredom.)
I will say before I begin this tirade that Space Mountain is almost positively my favorite Disney roller coaster, and finally opening my eyes during the flashing light tunnel is an insignificant moment that I am still nonetheless proud of. It’s nice not having seizures and whatnot. But, well, there are design flaws.
For starters, none of this applies if you subscribe to the school of thought that Space Mountain represents a space station. The only observation I have in that case is that unless it is a space station in deep orbit or some such, they likely wouldn’t launch shuttles from it. Shuttles dock on larger ships, then are used by small factions of crew for short-range missions. Stations are where smaller ships dock, period. Not as small as a shuttle, especially if the shuttle doesn’t have a large trajectory. And since the announcers on Space Mountain do call the cars you ride in shuttles, this is completely relevant.
If you take Space Mountain to represent a spaceship in and of itself, it is of remarkably inefficient design, at least in Disneyland. Assuming that the queue line is the cargo bay of the ship (and it really wouldn’t be anything else), there is a great deal of wasted space, particularly under the line platforms themselves. Were these large cubbyholes filled with additional queue, great. Were they enclosed with doors, they could serve as effective cargo holds, but open as they are, objects could slide out and break, or – were these objects illicit – be discovered. Disney World’s layout is slightly more useful, but the long queue’s outward-pointing walls achieve little more than aesthetic value. Depending on the make and model of the ship, this could be intentional. If impressing those aboard was the goal, well, somewhat achieved. If a practical use of space was the goal? Could be improved upon.
It’s also sort of strange that the cockpit is in the ship’s center. Having it toward the ship’s front makes more sense, particularly since said cockpit’s windows only look out onto hallway and cargo areas. (This applies more to Disney World’s layout, I ought to clarify.) It’s important for a pilot to, you know, see where they’re going some, but maybe there’s vidscreens in the cockpit that just aren’t visible from the queue that serve the same purpose?
I will say that at least from a ride-designing standpoint having the queues wind and loop around as they do makes sense, but from a ship-designing standpoint less so. If the line was designed as leading through, say, corridors and such, then that would be better, but at least in Disneyland, it’s just a really big empty cargo bay. Well, empty save the queue. At least Disney World tries to keep up the pretense of the queues leading to and through the Alpha Lounge and Omega Lounge. I honestly have no idea the difference, as both times we were sent to the Alpha Lounge, but I imagine there isn’t much of one. (Dark rides are neat that way.)
And then there’s the problem of the so-called shuttles. They’re better designed in Disneyland, what with the two by two seats. The single-file line in Disney World perhaps enhances the last seat’s intensity, but that means three other seats don’t have anything special, and anyway, there’s not room for your legs no matter the position you ride in. Your knees are jammed up against the seat in front of you, and your only choices are to awkwardly feel crammed in to the point of not being able to lower your lap bar enough for comfort or to awkwardly wrap your legs around the person in front of you’s while still feeling jammed in. This makes very little sense; only a tiny person would be able to fit comfortably, yet tiny people aren’t permitted to ride. (True story, we saw a little girl get told she couldn’t ride because she was too short.) Disneyland at least has a tiny bit more room to fit your legs and your bags.
I will say, though, that at least Disney World’s queue, despite being slightly windy and not entirely efficient, does have the advantage of more informative surroundings. Disneyland’s queue offers very little in the way of, well, anything but structure, but Disney World’s provides not only a basic raygun shooter for those queues that don’t move for half an hour, but a collection of maps and diagrams of surrounding planets and systems. (Another true story, I couldn’t help but observe, much to my dorky delight, that one of the system maps indeed showed a planet called Miranda. Now, it’s quite possible, even likely, that the system was primarily called after Shakespeare characters. Another planet was Caliban, and another Cordelia [King Lear, though I still giggled over it for other reasons]. BUT I chose to believe that someone had ulterior motives, and that therefore that someone is epic. Either that or that’s why Miranda was called Miranda, literary allusion. It’s quite chicken-or-egg.)
Mind you, this says nothing of the ride itself. Once the shuttles launch, both rides are enjoyable and I get rather giddy on them. (Though I can’t help but force myself to pretend that there’s either an insular dome roof over our heads or that we’re wearing space suits of a kind, lest blood boil out of our ears out amongst the stars like that.) I just can’t help but noticing technical inadequacies that likely come from most people not caring as much for the context of a thing as I freakishly do.
–your fangirl heroine.