Thunder Mesa rumbles back to life (sort of)

It’s 8:20am on Saturday 17th 2016 and like many people, I am waiting at the entrance to Frontierland. Excitement is building, it’s a big day; after 13 months of absence, Big Thunder Mountain is back!

The reality, however, is that Big Thunder Mountain has been back for a few days through soft openings. In fact, I rode it on the Friday although some of the new effects were not working. But today was different, it was actually opening and all the effects had to work or else it would be categorised as a failure.

Big Thunder Mountain from the Molly Brown
Big Thunder Mountain from the Molly Brown

The Opening Ceremony

At 8:35 we were lead slowly through to Thunder Mesa where we waited until 8:45 for the opening ceremony.

The ceremony was a very basic occasion but to fans, such as myself, was an invaluable moment filled with poignancy and delight. Daniel Delcourt, Chief Operating Officer of Disneyland Paris, who delivered a short speech about how important the attraction is to Disneyland Paris and how wonderful it was to have an integral part of Thunder Mesa returned. He also paid tribute to all the cast members who work on the attraction and the imagineers who have worked on the attraction over the past 13 months. Finally, Mickey and Minnie came out to cut the rope and that was that.

Then we waited for 9am and the opening spiel and to be allowed onto the ride.

9am, The return of Big Thunder

The spiel ended, the rope removed. Some guests opted to run. But I went for a nice walk past all the clapping cast members who were waving souvenir newspapers in the air. And then I joined the queue.

Big Thunder Mountain queue line

I say joined the queue, I walked all the way through it and straight onto the ride. The queue line sparkles and shines as if new, however the interactive elements have not made the jump from our American cousins meaning the queue remains one of the least inspiring in Disneyland Paris as you simply zig zag through to the trains.

The Ride

The ride itself is looking beautiful, the newly refreshed colours make the ride seem as new and all the effects are working as they should.

My big surprise on the first ride on this special day was to come off the first lift hill and to turn the corner and see the geysers working! But the gifts kept giving, the splashdown effect was simply wonderful and then turning the corner to see smoke coming from the buildings on the lift hill.

The new explosive finale is a delight. As you enter the final lift hill there are warning signs plastered across the entrance, then as you continue up the hill the projection mapped fuses lead up to the top of the hill before a giant explosion and smoke filling the hill. The new scene is short, but thrilling and worth the 13 month wait.

The final delightful surprise were the bats on the final lift hill which have been newly repainted and look more 3D than previously and is a fitting end to a wonderful ride experience.

As I disembarked the ride, I was handed a souvenir newspaper. A unique souvenir which is to be framed and placed on my wall as one of my most prized Disneyland Paris possessions.

The newspaper handed out to the first to ride Big Thunder Mountain
The newspaper handed out to the first to ride Big Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing

I then rushed immediately to Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing and was joined by a few Disneyland Paris fan sites to enjoy the newly refurbished rivers of the far west. The effects across the trip were amazing to see. A highlight was Smugglers Cove which has plenty of echo and sound effects which took me by total surprise.

Smugglers cove from the Molly Brown at Disneyland Paris
Smugglers cove from the Molly Brown

As the final section of the crossing arrived, the geysers were in full force showing their might and beauty. I remember, as a child, running away from the geysers as I thought they would get me wet (and as a child, this was an odd fear of mine). Seeing them alive again brought life to this area of Frontierland and are absolutely mesmerising.


And then it broke…

And then Big Thunder Mountain broke. The ride was down the whole day Sunday 18th December and then the majority of the following days. But now it is back in its full majestic might and delighting fans once again.

Welcome back Big Thunder!

In conclusion, Big Thunder Mountain is back with a vengeance and looks and rides fantastic.

Project Sparkle is the best refurbishment schedule we have ever seen in Disneyland Paris and will make the park look at its 1992 levels and will ensure that 2017 is the year to visit Disneyland Paris!