Tonight I got to experience the new Expedition: EVEREST attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. I was chosen a few years back to be honored as a “Partner In Excellence”, one of the highest awards a Disney Cast Member can receive. The award comes with a lifetime of benefits, like getting special early sneak previews of attractions. This is one attraction I am extremely pleased to have gotten to get on before the crowds get large. And get large they will. And I’m talking Yeti-large!

Everest is, at it’s heart, an amazingly well-designed roller coaster. It sits somewhere between Big Thunder Mountain and Rocking Roller Coaster in terms of thrill level. What takes it beyond is how the thrill elements of the coaster are integrated with the storyline of an encounter with the Yeti, the protector of Everest’s highest peaks.

From the first roll out of the station to a thrilling encounter with the Yeti near the end, Everest’s action never fails to thrill. There are surprises all through the ride, and I don’t want to give away any here, but you will leave the ride breathless, amazed, and ready to ride again.

Once nice thing about the ride is the way the story kind of permeates it. There’s no place where the Imagineers hit you over the head with dialog or anything that says, “Oh my goodness! Look! A Yeti!” The stand by queue (which I recommend you hop on first — skip the FastPass to get the full experience) winds through a small Tibetan town filled with Yeti shrines. It then moves in through the office of one of the two Everest tour guides and ends up in a Yeti museum, a funky, colorful tourist trap which features examples of Yeti history and sightings. The ride itself builds slowly, playing with your emotions up front before diving straight into a wild, crashing ride through the frozen peaks.

One of the things I really like about this ride is, since there’s no cheesy voiceovers anywhere you can absorb as much of the story as you want and experience it in your own way, making it feel all the more real. Compare this to Mission:SPACE: although M:S is a great thrill ride, it annoys me that all the collateral material leading up to the ride bill it as a “simulation”, which just steals from the excitement of the ride to me. I think you want people to feel like they are really going on this adventure, not “really going on a simulation.” Expedition: EVEREST has that authentic feel, like you are stepping into an adventure.

I’m going to post some pictures tomorrow, but don’t wait for them! Get down here now! See the mountain, and the Yeti!

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