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The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland Park

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

We recently shared that some exciting new magic is coming next month to Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland park. In anticipation, I’d like to go a different direction with this installment of “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” and tell you the story behind the inspiration for this classic attraction.

DGH Expansion

The Matterhorn Bobsleds were inspired by the 1959 live action Disney feature film, “Third Man on the Mountain,” which tells the story of a young man who strives to scale the Matterhorn (called “the Citadel” in the film). During filming in Zermatt, Switzerland, Walt Disney became fascinated with the Matterhorn, and his thoughts turned to how he could incorporate this inspiration at Disneyland.

He asked his designers to think about transforming Holiday Hill (a small mound of dirt between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) into Snow Hill, which would feature real snow. Time passed and ideas evolved, and the project grew in scope. Snow Hill became Snow Mountain, and by the time “Third Man on the Mountain” wrapped in 1958 the project had developed into Matterhorn Mountain.

The real Matterhorn in Switzerland stands 14,700 feet, while the 100th-scale replica at Disneyland reaches nearly 147 feet. Can you think of other mountains or natural wonders that have inspired attractions at Disney Parks around the world?

For more from “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series, visit the stories below:


  • And don’t forget Mount Gushmore at Blizzard Beach and Mount Mayday at Typhoon Lagoon at WDW! Both are woven into the stories of these awesome theme parks (that just happen to be waterparks, too)! They are amazing: no wonder they’re the two most visited waterparks in the world!

  • Honestly, Disney mountains just keep getting better.

    The Matterhorn was the first attempt, and an impressive one at that. But then came Big Thunder Mountain (based on Zion National Park in Disneyland and Monument Valley in WDW, Tokyo DL, and DL Paris) which is more realistic, then Expedition Everest which is even more so, etc.

    Disney rock work has gotten so amazing, I’m always excited to see new stuff in this regard. Looking forward to the new rock work (even though it’s a relatively small amount) in Grizzly Peak Airfield!

  • Thanks for this post Erin. I really like how the parks blog highlights the back-stories/inspirations for attractions

    Aimee– It was confirmed quite some time ago that the enhancements to the Matterhorn will not be related to Frozen. You should take a look at the link that Erin provided at the beginning of this post.

  • Hi,
    The first time I visited DL I said who put that mountain so close to the castle? My friend said, “Walt did.”

  • I can’t believe nobody mentioned Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom yet! Also, the Big Thunder Mountains are based on real geological regions, if not actual mountains.

    As to the Matterhorn, for many of us going way back when, it was the very first part of Disneyland we saw as the family car exited I-5 onto Harbor Blvd. on our way to a day at the Magic Kingdom! Needless to say, the car could hardly contain all the excitement!

  • I’m really, really hoping that the news about the Matterhorn doesn’t have anything to do with Frozen…

  • Other natural wonders? Well, there’s that old faithful geyser at Wilderness Lodge, for one.

  • I love this photo it looks like 3d backdrop . I can’t wait to ride the new hatterhorn . Will there be a more info on the hatbox ghost?

    • Stay tuned, Brett … I’ve got something planned.

  • Excellent post Erin! I always enjoy your Magic of Storytelling series posts. As for your question, I’d imagine that Mount Prometheus in Tokyo Disneyland is inspired by Japan’s Mount Fuji. Then of course the red desert mountains of the Midwest helped inspire Big Thunder.

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

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