On this page, we try to give informed answers to questions which repeatedly come up in discussions and e-mails. Where appropriate the answers are backed up with relevant quotes.
Q: Why is the wait always so long at Big Thunder Mountain?
A: For one, it’s a very popular attraction. By its very nature it appeals to a far bigger group of guests than more thrilling roller coasters such as Space Mountain. At four minutes, it is also the resort’s longest roller coaster in terms of ride duration which may slightly increase wait times.
To avoid long lines, be sure to get a FastPass early in the morning or consider riding just before the park closes, as wait times will generally wind down in the evening.
Q: Is it true that there were once animatronics figures of miners in several show scenes?
A: No, the only figures the attraction has ever had are of animals; coyotes, mules, a goat and bats. You can hear the voices of human characters in several spots, however.
Q: Several books mention a “Thunder Mesa Mining Company” while the company of Big Thunder Mountain is called the “Big Thunder Mining Company.” Is there a difference?
A: According to our research, the name “Thunder Mesa Mining Company” initially appeared as a mistake in internal story documents regarding Phantom Manor sometime in the late 1990s and has spread to various other sources from there. The correct term is and always has been “Big Thunder Mining Company,” as supported by graphics found in the park.
Imagineer Pat Burke, who was deeply involved in the naming and writing process, confirms:
“There was never any Thunder Mesa Mining Company. We had quite a few meetings on that and Executive Vice President Marty Sklar gave us the final approval at the time. It was always called Big Thunder Mining Company as it was founded by funds from the gold strikes at Big Thunder Mountain.”
Q: Why do the water effects not work all the time?
A: Due to the cold French climate, water effects which may get riders wet, such as the waterfall or the train splashing into the river, are turned on only during summer season.
Q: Big Thunder Mountain breaks down a lot. Is the ride getting old?
A: Actually, the attraction has always had a lot of down-times and despite what Cast Members are instructed to tell you, they’re not usually due to technical difficulties in the strictest sense.
There are five trains on the same track so if for any reason (usually slow-loading or “difficult” guests) one of them gets delayed for just a few seconds too long, all the others have to stop as well to ensure everyone’s safety. Following that, there’s a lengthy procedure (again for safety reasons) to start the ride up again.
Immature guests standing up during the ride will also cause breakdowns and (depending on where they force the trains to stop) might even cause an evacuation of the attraction.
So while the ride has had its share of actual technical problems over the years, they don’t really affect day-to-day operations. Most of the time it’s the human element.