Journal 1: Rides and Cultures at Disney


If you visited Disney as a child, think back to your family vacation to Disney. What was your favorite ride and why? Return to this ride today and answer the following questions: (a) Does this ride depict a certain culture or group of people? (b) Describe the nature of this depiction and contemplate the accuracy of this depiction. (c) Consider how and why this depiction may contribute to a feeling of happiness for the ride participant.


My favorite ride as a child was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I loved the high-speed chase through the cavernous rocks on the “wildest ride in the Wilderness.” I remember begging my parents anytime that we were remotely near the attraction to wait in line with me on this kid-friendly coaster. This ride depicts the Western American culture drawing its influence from the Garden of the Gods National Landmark in Colorado. Described as a run-away mine train, the ride’s story is that the riders, or miners, are venturing into mines and mine shafts during the Gold Rush (Disneyworld.disney.go). As shown by the pictures below, the architects and designers of the rides, Imageneers as Disney calls them, carefully recreated similar landscaping and rock formations found at the time of the Gold Rush. The train used for the ride vehicle looks similar to a train used during the Gold Rush, however was probably not identical to the time period. However, the storytelling that Disney is famous for does employ good values that children can take away. The reason that the ride moves so fast through the caverns and seems to dip and sway too much is that the cars are haunted and that the miners started to mine in a sacred area. While this story telling isnt’ immediately apparent to every ride participant, it does encourage children to look before they mine, or even more broader, to not claim land as their own. This value is accurate to the time period as many settlers to the area in search of Gold took land and people from the Indigenous people of the area. While the validity of this blog may be questionable, explains more about the settlers’ attitutde toward the Native Americans in California:

“By 1850 California, once a relative paradise, had become purgatory for many Indians. About 100,000 gold-seekers swarmed over every mountain range, stream and hill from Keysville to the Trinity Alps, Castillo said. ‘Most were unmarried men who may have started out with the best intentions but ended up being crazed vagabonds with no females. This is an absolute formula for disaster.’ (Magagnini)”

I do not think that many of the ride goers at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom understand the hidden implications and life lessons to be learned from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Saying this, I do believe that the popularity of the ride is due to the thrill seekers in the Parks and not those who enjoy learning about the Gold Rush period of American History. This ride does contribute to the happiness of the guests at Dinsey, but not in the deep values that Disney has weaved through the story line of this attraction. The happiness factor for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is instead in the sharp twists and turns and the stomach churning drops around every corner.

The Garden of the Gods:
Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad®. (n.d.). Retrieved January 4, 2016, from

Magagnini, S. (1998, January 18). Part Three — Indians’ misfortune was stamped in gold. Retrieved January 4, 2016, from