LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (April 7, 2006) -- Ancient legend holds that high in the Himalayan Mountains lives an enormous creature that fiercely guards the route to Mount Everest.
In Florida, the legend of the ferocious yeti dramatically roared to life today at Walt Disney World Resort with the official opening of Expedition Everest, a runaway train adventure that combines coaster-like thrills with the excitement of a close encounter of the hairy kind.
"Expedition Everest is a shining example of what we do best at Disney -- create unique, high-quality and innovative experiences to delight our guests from around the world," said Bob Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, who presided at the opening. "Though our mountain may be slightly smaller in scale to the one you find in Asia, it is remarkable in its authenticity.
"The same is true of our base camp's attention to detail," he continued. "These elements are all part of the magic of our storytelling so our guests feel literally and figuratively transported to another world -- a world where fantasy is real and the reality is fantastic."
The screams of six youthful stars from the smash-hit Disney Channel original movie "High School Musical" attested to just how fantastic. They were part of the first train out of the station to officially launch the attraction following a ceremonial garland cutting by Winter Olympics snowboard halfpipe gold medalist Hannah Teter.
Following the dedication of Expedition Everest, Disney officials provided an update on what's next for the vacation kingdom--including a new attraction coming to Epcot in fall 2006 and a new stage spectacular coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom in late 2006.
But for now, the new fun involves out-of-control railcars that race forward and backward, sending Disney's Animal Kingdom guests swooping into the unknown to brave twists, turns and drops inside and outside a mighty mountain. It all leads to an unforgettable encounter with the yeti.
Expedition Everest's trains depart from the mythical village of Serka Zong -- like the mountain a marvel of authentic detail. The village consists of several buildings, including a hotel, Internet café and trekking supply store, all reflective of today's Nepalese architecture. A canopy of prayer flags, an ornamental monastery, intricately carved totems, and a garden of stone carvings of the yeti clutching the mountain immerse guests in a far-off realm.
The yeti's role as protector of the sacred mountain is reinforced in this detail-rich environment as a result of extensive research that included an expedition to the region.
"This extraordinary expedition is another example of the lengths to which Walt Disney Imagineering will go to research subject matter in developing our story lines," said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo. "Our passion for bringing great stories to life has taken Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to amazing places over the past 50 years. Over the next 50 years, we will continue to scale new heights in our ongoing quest to create great experiences for our guests."
The opening of Expedition Everest is part of the "Happiest Celebration on Earth" honoring 50 years of Disney theme parks and commemorating the 1955 opening of Disneyland. The celebration began in May 2005 with the launch of new shows and attractions at Disney parks around the world.
Towering nearly 200 feet high and occupying a 6.2-acre site, Expedition Everest is located in the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park. It is one of 18 mountain attractions created by Walt Disney Imagineering at Disney theme parks worldwide.
The creation of Expedition Everest is among the topics explored through Discovery Networks original programming that takes viewers behind the scenes and above the clouds to explore the majesty and mystery of Mount Everest and the exhaustive Disney Imagineering efforts to achieve authenticity. Here's what's debuting in April:
Expedition Everest: Journey to Sacred Lands -- April 9 at 8 p.m. ET (Travel Channel)
Building a Thrill Ride: Expedition Everest -- April 10 at 9 p.m. ET (The Science Channel) and April 12 at 8 p.m. ET (Discovery Channel)
Corwin's Quest: Realm of the Yeti -- April 15 at 8 p.m. ET (Animal Planet)