Thursday, February 24, 2011

Space Mountain

In this week’s case study we take a look at the typography of Tomorrowland's Space Mountain. Space Mountain is the brainchild of WDI legend, John Hench, who began designing the attraction in the early 60's for a revamp of Disneyland's Tomorrowland. With the desire to appeal to an older demographic, Walt Disney World management felt the Resort needed a high-speed "thrill" ride similar to Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Space Mountain was their answer.  After many revisions, the attraction officially opened at the Walt Disney Resort in 1975. Many of Hench's early concept sketches differ dramatically from what was finally built — here is just one example of what could have been: WYW Model.

Space Mountain became an instant classic, and Disneyland soon followed suit with the construction of its own version. Today, Space Mountain appears in every Disney theme park across the globe with a few subtle theme variations.

The typography of Space Mountain, which has evolved over the years due to various refurbishments, falls into three main classifications: Sans Serifs, Art Deco and Retro. We could even go as far as describing the themes, such as techno, LCD, comic, etc.

As discussed in my earlier case study on the Wedway Peoplemover, Sans Serif fonts are the fonts of the future: they’re progressive, sleek, and in some cases, futuristic. Various weights and treatments are present within the font palette of Space Mountain.  In the 90's, designers began to incorporate Art Deco fonts with their elongated x-heights, sharp serifs and terminals which convey both the old (one foot in the past) and the new (one foot in the present). More recently, designers have begun to add retro-themed fonts to help support the comic book/Buck Rogers feel of Tomorrowland. Most of the retro fonts are script-based fonts derived from the Atomic Age of the 1950s and 60s.

The fonts and type used for Space Mountain provides viewers with a glimpse into the unknown that speaks of classic science fiction; a sort of H.G. Wells meets Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. The steel structure looms in the distance, beckoning guests to Tomorrowland where Mission Control prepares their voyage into the true final frontier.

Well that about does it for this week. Tune in next week for a new Retro 71 shirt concept and case study. Thanks for coming by.