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D-Tales #3: Space Mountain is filled with hidden Disney history from Walt Disney World and beyond

in D-Tales, Disney, Magic Kingdom, Park Secrets, Walt Disney World

Who knew that a ride taking place in almost total darkness is home to so many secrets and insider jokes? Space Mountain has some of the best hidden history in the Magic Kingdom, but you have to know where to look.

The fun begins just inside the queue, where a large illuminated display dominates one wall.


Video: D-Tales #3: Space Mountain hidden Disney history


The giant logo of the attraction is labeled “Starport Seventy-Five,” a sly reference to 1975, the year when Space Mountain opened.

Look to the smaller signs just to the right of this large mural. Most of the panels use real names of star systems and people like scientists and astronauts, but the second category (“Active Earth Stations”) is chock full of tributes.

  • Tomorrowland Station MK-1
  • TL Space Station 77
  • Discovery Landing Station – Paris
  • Ashita Base – Tokyo
  • HK Spaceport E-TKT

As you might guess, these refer to different versions of Space Mountain around the globe. The Magic Kingdom comes first, followed by Anaheim’s version, which opened in 1977. The Paris version is called Discovery Mountain. In Japanese, “ashita” means “tomorrow”–fitting since the Tokyo version of Space Mountain is located in Tomorrowland as well. And Hong Kong’s version is truly an E-Ticket ride.

Later in the queue, look for the various (real) star names to be plastered across illuminated murals as if destinations for intergalactic flights. One of them should catch your eye: Disney’s Hyperion Resort pays tribute to Hyperion Street, the address for the first Disney Brothers studio!

When the ride is done, look to the futuristic luggage to find stickers related to Space Station X-1, an early Disneyland attraction in Tomorrowland in the 1950s, and Mesa Verde, a fictional destination in Horizons at Epcot.

Where the moving sidewalk commences at the exit, look to your left to see a console with several hidden features in it. The far left panel mentions “closed sectors” (in other words, rides that have been removed) and includes acronym references such as:

  • Fantasyland: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Fantasyland: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Tomorrowland: Skyway to Fantasyland
  • Main Street USA: Swan Boats
  • Fantasyland: Mickey Mouse Revue
  • Tomorrowland: Mission to Mars

Just above that are the “open sectors” (in other words, the rides that have been added more recently), including:
  • Fantasyland: Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Adventureland: Aladdin’s Flying Carpets
  • Fantasyland: Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Frontierland: Splash Mountain
  • Tomorrowland: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Tomorrowland: Monsters Inc. “Laft” (meant to be a [botched] acronym for “laughed”)

In the center panel, watch for the “traffic codes” that pay tribute to real roads in Central Florida:

  • A1A is a road that runs along the coast
  • I-4 refers to Interstate Four, which often does feature construction
  • 192 means US-192, the main road of Kissimmee along the “bottom” border of WDW
  • C50 (C58?) could refer to Colonial, State Road 50 that cuts through Orlando
  • Intl is a reference to International Drive
  • VSTA is for Buena Vista (which translates to something like “visibility high”) – thanks to reader Alex for this correction!

The Imagineers are not above a little pun. This particular robot is “Okie Dokie” I guess.

The robot dog in the exit show scenes dates all the way back to the ride’s origins. Back when it opened, it was sponsored by RCA, so the RCA dog, Nipper, was depicted listening to a record player to provide a link to the well-known corporate logo. With RCA long gone as sponsor (Fed-Ex was sponsor in between), the same animatronic animal is now just there to provide atmosphere.
Disney wouldn’t be Disney without the occasional pun and reference to its own properties; in this case, to the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
If we hitch a ride aboard the PeopleMover, we’ll find the logo visible from the tunnel. Why is Starport accompanied by “Seventy-Five”? Because Space Mountain opened in 1975.
Finally, when you’re on the ride and cresting the lift-hill, pause to look at the spaceship in the middle of the room. You’ll find letters there spelling out “H-NCH (SM1975)”, in reference to John Hench, the senior Imagineer in charge of the Space Port (later renamed Space Mountain) project, and a further reference to the opening year of 1975.

About Kevin Yee

After working for 15 years at Disneyland, Kevin moved to the East Coast, where he has been a weekly visitor of Walt Disney World since 2004. Kevin is the author of the second edition of Walt Disney World Hidden History (2014). This softcover book tracks Disney “hidden history” — remnants of former attractions and tributes to Imagineers as well as other Disney officials — hiding in plain sight in the parks. The second edition of the book has 164 new entries, almost doubling the amount of remnants and tributes discussed in the first edition.

Whether tribute or remnant, each item discussed starts with something visible in today’s parks; the idea is that this is something you could visit and see with your own eyes, and then appreciate the historical thinking behind it. For the first time, this edition now includes a photo of every item discussed so you’ll know what to look for.

The Kindle version costs $6.99. (You can also read a Kindle book on PC or Mac even without a Kindle device – the software itself is free.)

10 Comments

  1. Chris Wallace

    Also, each one of the scenes in the post show corresponds to a scene in Epcot’s Horizons. Desert: Mesa verde, under sea: sea castle, futuristic city scene: grandfather/grabdmother’s city apartment. (With a robot butler thrown in from the Art Deco scene!)

  2. Reesie

    Wait, do you mean that this exact AA figure was Nipper? It looks too new and “show-y.”

  3. Chris

    Just a heads up – Space Mountain in Paris is called ‘Space Mountain’. It is in ‘Discoveryland’, and was originally planned to be called ‘Discovery Mountain’, but they changed the name late into development. So much so that some of the fences and signs have ‘DM’ emblazoned on them!

    Other than my nitpicking loving these videos, it’s amazing how many references they cram in but we still manage to miss!

  4. Alex Anderson

    I think the INTL traffic code may be a reference to international drive. Not sure about USTA though.

    1. Alex Anderson

      Oh I figured it out. The last one isn’t USTA. Its VSTA. Or vista. And it says high visibility which is funny because Buena vista means good view.

      1. Alex, you are absolutely correct – I’ll correct the article version and credit your catch 🙂

  5. Dave

    I’m guessing “aFt” was added because “MILF” isn’t exactly a family-friendly acronym.

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