The topic of rock work for theme park construction has been covered before and likely better than I’m about to do. So, if you desire a technical document, your search will deliver better results. What this article is going to deal with is one specific example of rock work desire and production, and the object of my attention is ‘Big Grizzly Mountain’. BGM is a roller coaster themed as a gold mine that a family of grizzly bears have picked to live. The ride is considered as Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of Thunder Mountain, one that is found in many of the other Disney parks.
Hong Kong Disneyland when it opened featured a collection of known rides, land, and environments common to other Disney parks, and that was a problem, but also an opportunity for the designers at WDI to create a modern version of a mine type coaster located in the ‘Old West’.
Image of Vasquez Rocks located in Aqua Dulce, California.
Big Grizzly Mountain took its inspiration from Vasquez Rocks, which is a natural out cropping located in the town that is today named Aqua Dulce, or ‘sweet water’ in Spanish. Vasquez Rocks have zero connection with gold mining however they do have their own story of wealth because in 1874, Tiburcio Vasquez, who was one of California’s most notorious Mexican bandidos, used the rocks as a hide out to elude capture by law enforcement. The Vasquez formation is a collection of alluvial sediments and reside in a sharply-folder syncline in unique set of forms, and so it was perfect as the choice for Big Grizzly Mountain.
The design process was to study and document the rock formation and with that knowledge merge the roller coaster track design with rock formation elements that would best support the story of the ride.
Image of rock work sample typical of the process.
Rock work models were followed by rock work samples, produced to ensure that form, color and design intent could be successfully achieved by workers during the construction phase.
Final stage of construction as the mine trains are operational.
Moving onto the next phase the mountain was built and color was applied.
The town of Grizzly Gulch was built in a new old west style. Not as old looking as Thunder Mesa looks but more of a movie set appearance which I believe the local guest would have found more acceptable.
Finally, after much effort and work Big Grizzly Mountain was finished and ready for its first riders. The ride is one of a kind and likely never to be copied in another Disney park.