How Moana is resurrecting a long forgotten Disney ride idea

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios

New rumors (that aren’t all that new, it would seem) are circulating about a fourth “mountain” being added to Magic Kingdom. In a way, the mountains will soon resemble the four elements: water, earth, fire, air (PS: if you didn’t read that in the voice of Katara listing the elements in the opening of “Avatar: the Last Airbender,” we’re not friends anymore). Water is Splash Mountain. Earth is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Air is Space Mountain. So what’s fire? Well, this one is more literal. Disney may be gearing up to make a Fire Mountain. Here’s how Moana may be making the ride a reality.

Anyone who has seen “Moana” understands that fire, in a way, plays a big part, or rather lava does. In Polynesian culture, fire plays as big a role as water. In the final battle scene of “Moana,” lava plays a central role. Te Ka is lava and rock, until her heart is returned to her and she becomes Te Fiti again.

The Pacific Islands have several volcanoes and, long ago, they were just volcanoes. The chain of volcanic islands created the islands we know today.

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Lava from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo courtesy of {sara-ann} on Flickr.

When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea closed down in the 1990s, it left a gap in Adventureland, which the Imagineers quickly tried to fill. Initially the plan was for not one, but two mountains to fill it’s place. The first was Bald Mountain, a replacement for some of the ideas I’ve discussed in “A brief look some of Disney’s scrapped ideas.” Bald Mountain references the final segment of “Fantasia,” where the god of evil, Chernabog, awakens and summons his minions to rise. Clearly, it was a dark ride but it was also a log flume, where guests would ride in boats similar to the ones in “Hercules” where souls are ferried through the river Styx. Guests would accidentally come across a meeting of the Disney villains and they would then be attacked. Disney scrapped this idea when they decided that they might want a villains themed park and didn’t want a villains themed ride in a park that was separate from the villains’ park. Of course, as we know, that never came to fruition either.

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Chernabog and his mountain in Disneyland Paris. Photo courtesy of Victor R. Ruiz on Flickr.

The other mountain was Fire Mountain, which was to be a roller coaster. Guests would fly through the mountain, with lava surrounding them. The guests were meant to feel like birds, going through the volcano, dodging the lava. This one came much closer to being finished. Disney even floated a balloon to the supposed height of the new mountain to see where it would be visible. But the expense of the ride appeared to be too much and Disney scrapped it.

At least until now. With the popularity of Moana, which has a “villain” literally made of lava and fire. Another height balloon test was conducted in April from Adventureland, around where the original Fire Mountain was being tested. As of right now it remains a rumor, but all signs point to a revival of Magic Kingdom’s fourth mountain, and we may have our new friend Moana to thank.

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