Dominating the skies in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® is Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain®. The attraction offers guests the opportunity to travel to the base camp of the beautiful Himalayan Mountains; however, a legendary beast lurks deep within the mountains, serving as their protector. Will you survive a face to face encounter with the Yeti?
When Disney’s Animal Kingdom® opened April 22, 1998 there was the conceptual idea for a land featuring mythical creatures to be known as the Beastly Kingdom. In fact, if you look at the entrance signs to the park, you can still spy the presence of a dragon symbolizing the opening day concept. Unfortunately, Beastly Kingdom did not come to be, but the idea of building a story and attraction around a mythical beast remained and inspired the April 7, 2006 grand opening of Expedition Everest. That mythical beast came in the form of the Yeti, a protector of the sacred forbidden mountains of the Himalayans. The legend of the Yeti originated in Nepal, Tibet, and India where he is considered a protector of the forest and mountains, and it is actually considered good luck to catch a glimpse of the beast. Disney’s version of the Yeti was inspired by the legends passed down for generations in Asia combined with aspects of primates. The result is a truly terrifying audio-animatronic- the largest Disney has ever created. His inner workings contain so much hydraulic fluid that it is enough to move a passenger jet.
While the Yeti is massive in his own right, the structure of Expedition Everest is equally as huge. Standing at 199 feet, it is the tallest attraction in Walt Disney World® and took 1800 tons of steel and 2000 gallons of paint to create. The building of the attraction was remarkable in itself as the building structure, ride system, and support system for the Yeti are all separate entities within the mountain structure. Unfortunately, soon after the attraction’s opening, the Yeti began experiencing some problems and began running with limited motion. Known as “B-Mode,” the Yeti no longer moves with the range he once was capable of, but is still portrayed in a terrifying light utilizing strobe lights to simulate more movement. This has earned the beast the nickname “Disco Yeti.” Since the structure of the mountain is so intricate, a major refurbishment including significant structural work to the mountain would need to be done in order to fully restore the Yeti to his former glory. Hopefully one day we shall see that happen, but for now the “Disco Yeti” is still terrifying guests in his own way.
Before even coming close to the Yeti, guests get to experience one of the most intricately detailed queues in all of Walt Disney World®. As you enter into the queue, take note of the best height requirement indicator at WDW which informs guests that they must be at least one Yeti high to ride (or 44 inches). Once guests pass through the entrance, they encounter stone structures featuring Tibetan prayer bells and statues. Over 900 bamboo plants, 100 different species of trees, and 110 different species of shrubs were planted to create the authentic landscape at the foot of the mountains. Further along in the queue you learn that you are signing up with the Himalayan Escapes – Tours and Expeditions to be guided to their base camp nestled in the mountains. This company took over the tea trains previously utilized by the Royal Anandapur Tea Company who previously shipped its products through the Forbidden Mountain pass but shut down after one too many encounters with the Yeti.
Throughout the queue, guests pass through rooms offering supplies for their journey (see if you can find some Ye-Tea!) as well as a museum dedicated to the Yeti. The museum displays a mixture of artifacts brought over from Nepal as well as an exhibit remembering an expedition which met a rather unfortunate end involving the Yeti. The final portion of the queue features portraits of the various guides and helpers you will encounter on your journey to the base camp. Look for the photo of a woman wearing a blue top listening to a radio- to her left is a Hidden Mickey depicting Sorcerer Mickey etched into the wall. While Expedition Everest’s queue is beautiful, there is also a Single Rider option for those days when the wait time is just a little too high for your liking.
After passing through the queue, guests finally arrive at the loading area where they are greeted by tea trains dubbed “Steam Donkeys” which expel real steam out of their engines. Each train holds thirty-four guests in seventeen rows of two. Once boarded, the train is off through various areas of growing tea leaves but soon begins descending the Forbidden Mountain. On the steep incline towards the base camp, be sure to look around, as behind you in the distance, is the Magic Kingdom® Park and to the left is Epcot® and Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. This is one of the greatest views on property and definitely worth checking out! Just as soon as you have time to appreciate the gorgeous view, something goes awry in the form of a mangled track. Suddenly the train lurches backwards and swallows guests into the darkness of the mountain. Along the way, there is an 80 foot drop and that terrifying encounter with the legendary Yeti.
If you make it back to the village of Serka Zong, be sure to say thanks to the Yeti for allowing you to make it through the Forbidden Mountain‘s pass. After riding, be sure to also check out the largest Hidden Mickey on property…which can’t actually be found while on property. Using Google Maps, focus in on Expedition Everest and you can find the classic Hidden Mickey with his two ears formed by the track itself.
Are you brave enough to face the Yeti and live to tell the tale? There are so many amazing details located throughout the queue and exciting portions of the ride itself. I would love to hear your thoughts!
(Photos are from the author’s personal collection)
What is your favorite part of Expedition Everest? Would you like to see the Disco Yeti returned to his former glory? Have a favorite detail from the queue? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.