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Foto Face-off Friday – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad v. Expedition Everest

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As you count down the hours until your weekend begins, here is a visual treat! In this week’s edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we will attempt to resolve one of Walt Disney World’s “biggest controversies,” Big Thunder Mountain Railroad v. Expedition Everest. Since pictures speak louder than words we’ve decided to seek definitive resolution photographically for this especially hotly contested Disney Debate!

I think this week was a tough one for a lot of people, although the Tweets didn’t really bear that out. Here are some select responses we received to the Disney Debate on Twitter:

@jbmaschke Big Thunder – best at night after a storm with lightning in distance

@DontBLUFFmeBRO big thunder mountain for me. Its a classic with a great soundtrack! I enjoy Everest a lot But think its not “Disney” IMO.

@LBWicket BTMR, only b/c I’m too scared to go on Everest. (but my 7-yr old wasn’t – how lame am I?)

@WedwayRadio Big Thunder > Everest : Baxter > Rodhe #disneydebate #justmyopinionnohatemailplease

@FluffedMojo DBTMR. It’s classic. Everest is cool, but it’s not the wildest ride in the wilderness. And the yeti’s broke.

@mommakacie Big Thunder – not a big fan of going backwards on roller coasters.

@FotoDave BTMRR. Why? Because I’ve had so many blows to the head, EE makes me very sick.

@deefordisney Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, because my stomach says no to Everest. EE for theming though.

Going just by the pointed Twitter responses, you might think the Flickr results would be pretty similar. However, the Flickrites seemed much more torn over the issue. Below are the top results from the Flickr entries; each Flickr poster’s personal thoughts on the Face-off are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

Expedition Everest

Forbidden Mountain
Big Thunder vs. Forbidden Mountain… photographically they’re both compelling, but I choose Forbidden Mountain. The area, and the queue in particular, have theme elements that are far more immersive than the Big Thunder area.

Have a wonderful trip
Although Big Thunder Mountain is a great ride, I am going with Everest. Not only does Everest have more details to photograph around the base camps surrounding it, It combines the outside portions of BTM with the indoor darkness of space mountain – only quicker and backwards!

The Forbidden Mountain
I had to think long and hard about this one from a thrill ride stand point it is definitely Everest but when trying to choose between which mountain is more photogenic (so to speak) that becomes much more complicated. In the end I just can’t get over the amount of detail that Expedition Everest provides. From the queue line to the actually ride there’s always something new or some different perspective to shoot Everest from.

Everest after dusk (by ddindy)
BTM or EE? It’s almost a draw. They’re both fun and they’re both better at night. BTM was the first coaster that I really liked, mainly because it doesn’t have the long, slow, “So this is it, we’re going to die” climb up the first big hill like traditional coasters. (EE has one, but it’s broken up nicely with the trip through the temple; plus (SPOILER!) the following drop isn’t that big.) BTM has excellent theming throughout the ride that makes you want to return over and over, while half of EE is in the dark. The EE queue has excellent theming throughout – you want the line to move slowly – while BTM has a boring maze through a hot building. I’ll give the narrow win to EE, but with marks off for the B-mode Yeti.

Expedition Everest 2009 - HDR Style
In all honesty, I believe Disney got the entire area/landscape right with Expedition Everest. Don’t get me wrong, Big Thunder Mountain is a great ride and has been for many years, but the Imagineers really did their homework with Expedition Everest. From across the lake, the view is just spectacular and I’m often finding myself standing on the bridge, just staring and marveling at everything this attraction has to offer!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

Big Thunder Mountain
I am going to vote for BTM for the simple fact that I can keep my eyes open and my mouth shut!

Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
As much as I enjoy EE, I took my all time favorite Disney photo on BTM so it will always win out for me against anything.

Magic Kingdom - And the winner is...
This was the hardest one yet, like I said, like choosing a favorite child. I really couldn’t make up my mind. So, I had a better shot of BTMRR, and it has seniority, so it wins for this week.

Thunder Mountain - Magic Kingdom
This was a hard one to decide for me. EE is themed great and provides ample opportunity for great shots. However if feel that BTMRR is equally well themed and I’ve always been able to get good shots both around and while riding BTMRR. One day hopefully I’ll be able to get a good EE riding shot but for now I have to go with BTMRR.

Finally, my entry and commentary:
Calling an Audible
This was the most difficult challenge for me to date.  I actually posted a shot of Everest last night on Flickr fully intending to use it for this challenge, but at the last minute, I changed my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, Everest is a great attraction.  I mean, the queue is probably the best at Walt Disney World, the ride itself is thrilling, offers a unique surprise for first-time riders, and is one of the few real offerings in a park that is, in my opinion, more style than substance. (I know I’ll probably catch some flak for this, but I think the park is heavily skewed towards the details, which while important, are not ample substitutes for unique attractions.) For all that’s great about Everest, ultimately its imperfections were its downfall for me: its big showstopper is broken, its backside is poorly themed, and other effects often don’t work.

These things may seem nitpicky, but when you’re going up against one of Tony Baxter and WED’s greatest accomplishments, any gaffe is fatal.  Big Thunder Mountain is a perfect example of how simple effects can trump engineering marvels, especially when that “better” technology is only displayed for 3 seconds, has a ridiculously high price tag (money that, perhaps, would have been better allocated elsewhere), and never works.

Big Thunder Mountain has charming area music outside the attraction and throughout the queue, a beautifully unique mountain design, and wonderful details throughout the attraction that give it excellent re-rideability.  The attraction is best experienced at night, when the lighting throughout the ride creates the perfect ambiance and Tumbleweed’s saloon comes alive, with dancers in the windows.  Its details like those dancers in the windows, the clever names of each train, the dwindling population of Tumbleweed, and the other numerous details scattered throughout pertaining to the attraction’s abandoned mining town backstory, which often go overlooked, that make Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a true gem. The one area in which Everest absolutely trounces Big Thunder Mountain is in the queue, but despite this, for all of the reasons stated above, I think Big Thunder Mountain reigns supreme.

Next week’s Disney Debate subject of the Foto Face-off Friday should prove difficult; its a challenge between two of Walt Disney World’s most ornately themed attractions, both of which share a delightful other-worldly aura. Yet, for all they have in common, they have just as many stark differences: one is a thrill ride, one is a classic dark ride; one is from WED’s golden era, the other from Eisner’s Disney Decade. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out alive in next week’s challenge between The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Haunted Mansion. Head over to Flickr and apply for vacancies in what should be one ‘lively’ challenge! As always please, help us settle the debate on Twitter by voicing your thoughts to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Twilight Zone Tower of Terror v. Haunted Mansion.” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in next week’s blog, so look alive!

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Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page ( and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (

One thought on “Foto Face-off Friday – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad v. Expedition Everest

  • I love twilight! I could sit and watch all day long if I did not have school..or life to stay me from doing it! lol Wonderful Just Amazing!


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