Behind the Ride

How Disney Imagineers Deliver the Magic

by David Mumpower | Release Date: August 19, 2019 | Availability: Print, Kindle

Behind the Pixie Dust Curtain

Every Disney attraction comes with a story, and every story involves a few tricks of the trade that only Imagineers know. Here's your chance to peek behind the curtain and learn some of the secrets about thirty of the most popular Disney theme park rides.

David Mumpower takes you behind-the-scenes at Disneyland and Walt Disney World to reveal the inner workings of your favorite attractions. He’ll explain why Walt Disney chose many of these rides, and he’ll describe the challenges that Imagineers faced in doing the impossible by bringing them to life.

Mumpower begins with the story of how a Russian monarch’s love of sledding indirectly led to the invention of the modern roller coaster. Then, he details the physical and thematic obstacles that Imagineers overcame to build iconic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Of course, some of the best Disney rides are more recent. Mumpower also examines the difficulties in developing cutting-edge attractions like Avatar Flight of Passage, Radiator Springs Racers, and Slinky Dog Dash.

Mumpower covers opening day rides still in operation today as well as some of the most recent additions to the vaunted Disney theme park lineup. He discusses all of these ride experiences plus the tricks that make them possible—and magical.

If you've ever gotten off a Disney ride and wondered how they did it, or if you're the type of fan who'd rather examine an attraction than experience it, or maybe you'd like to be an Imagineer yourself someday, this is the book you've been waiting for.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Curious Origin of the Modern Roller Coaster

Chapter 2: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Chapter 3: Peter Pan’s Flight

Chapter 4: Matterhorn Bobsleds

Chapter 5: It’s a Small World

Chapter 6: Pirates of the Caribbean

Chapter 7: Haunted Mansion

Chapter 8: Space Mountain

Chapter 9: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Chapter 10: Spaceship Earth

Chapter 11: Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Chapter 12: Splash Mountain

Chapter 13: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Chapter 14: Indiana Jones Adventures

Chapter 15: Kilimanjaro Safaris

Chapter 16: DINOSAUR

Chapter 17: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Chapter 18: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Chapter 19: Test Track

Chapter 20: Expedition Everest

Chapter 21: Toy Story Mania!

Chapter 22: Radiator Springs Racers

Chapter 23: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Chapter 24: Soarin’ Around the World

Chapter 25: Frozen Ever After

Chapter 26: Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: BREAKOUT!

Chapter 27: Avatar Flight of Passage

Chapter 28: Na’Vi River Journey

Chapter 29: The Incredicoaster

Chapter 30: Slinky Dog Dash

From a young age, we fell in love with the idea of the ride. No matter which theme park or carnival that we visited, we knew that the mechanical wonders that we boarded were special treats, some of the best parts of childhood. Even something as simple as the rockin’ horsey at the grocery store that cost a quarter still provided a certain oomph that made us feel special.

For many of us, that sensation never diminished. We loved rides then, and we still love them today. Whenever a new one opens, we rush to experience it for the first time. Then, we circle back to our favorites and ride them again. Theme park fans are an eclectic bunch. We want the new hotness, but we adore the comforting embrace of the classics.

I’m just like you. I love these thrills and want as many of them as I can get. Some vacationers travel to exotic destinations, foreign countries where they can learn other cultures. Well, I’ve been to my share of international locales and hope to go back one day. When I plan my next trip, however, I still circle back to the wide world of Disney. I loved it as a kid, and I never outgrew it as an adult.

I’m also someone who wants to know how things tick. I’m not someone who can rebuild a car engine like my brother or maintain a nuclear power plant like my other brother, but I share their interest in the mechanics of moving parts. I want to know what’s under the hood.

Just as importantly, I want to position myself in the same spot as Imagineers back in the day when they planned the next great Disney ride. I seek to understand the challenges that they faced. It’s the best way to appreciate what these visionaries accomplished when they built the most iconic theme park attractions of all-time.

Walt Disney and his team don’t receive all of the credit, though. Humanity’s lust for thrill rides existed long before Disneyland opened its gates to the public. In fact, fans of Space Mountain owe a great deal of gratitude to Russian sledders. Their passion for quick, borderline suicidal trips down Russian mountains was an unlikely starting point for the modern roller coaster.

The first chapter of this book will recount the fittingly circuitous path that led to the great coaster wars of modern times. It’s an oddly nationalistic argument, too. From there, I’ll deconstruct the mechanics of nearly 30 of Disney’s most famous attractions. I’ll evaluate everything from engineering to manipulation of the senses. The goal is to demonstrate just how meticulously Imagineers plot ride immersion.

Disney wants you to believe in what’s happening. They seek to bring back some of that childish wonder that you lost along the way. They know that when they do their job right, they’ll deliver a ride experience that makes you feel like a kid again. Let’s go behind the ride to learn all of the tricks they’ve performed over the years to achieve this ambitious, noble goal.

David Mumpower

David is the co-founder of popular pop culture websites and David is blessed to work with some of the finest minds in the world through these two sites. He calls these friends, the site contributors, his Many Loves. To an individual, they’re not just brilliant but also at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. They are winning at life. David’s only half a human without the love and support of all these incredible individuals.

David first visited Walt Disney World back when Future World was new, and his love of the original vision for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow remains to this day. His favorite ride is Spaceship Earth, a marvelous combination of architectural triumph and historical recreation of the dawn of man through modern times.

Today, David uses virtually all of his vacation days in Orlando, Florida, where he spends his disposable income buying new Stitch merchandise for his wife. When he’s in Orlando, you’ll find him meticulously checking his Fitbit to figure out how many miles he’s walked that day at the parks. His current record is 14.6 miles. Obviously, he’s a Park Hopper…with sore feet.

The content in this book was collated from David’s writings at Theme Park Tourist. The very concept of Behind the Ride comes from the site’s founder, the late Nick Sim, a wonderful person and gifted writer. David also thanks Amanda Leanne for her editing insights and feedback over the years. And Kim Hollis deserves a great deal of credit for being not just a spectacular person but also a patient editor, sounding board, and an all-around perfect wife.

The author also wants to thank his mother who—and this is not a joke—reads all his work so that she can correct any mistakes in her son’s writing. His mother’s passion for excellence is the reason why he’s such a perfectionist in life.

This book is a loving tribute to the author’s father, who died after a 14-year battle with cancer in 2014. A lifelong employee of the Eastman/Kodak Company, Howell Everette Mumpower always admired the infrastructure that supported industry, and that’s why he lovingly introduced his children to EPCOT Center soon after its debut.

Had he chosen a different career path after he left the Navy, H.E. unquestionably would have become one of the finest writers in the world. These books are a son’s way of carrying on the legacy of the far-better man who raised him.

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