The creation of Expedition Everest actually traces its roots back to the original design of Disney's Animal Kingdom. The initial plans for the park called for real animals, dinosaurs, and mythical animals to be featured . To this end, a section of the park, known as Beastly Kingdom was set aside as the location for the mythical animals to "live". However with Animal Kingdom already over budget, Disney decided to make Beastly Kingdom part of "phase II" of the park . A temporary land, Camp Minnie-Mickey was created on the land set aside for Beastly Kingdom, with the idea that the mythological animals would soon join the park.
Although Beastly Kingdom was never built for a variety of reasons, Disney knew that the park needed an "E ticket" attraction, to help boost its popularity. On April 22, 2003, and in celebration of Animal Kingdom's fifth anniversary, Disney announced that they would be building a new roller coaster, Expedition Everest, in the Asia portion of the park .
Taking some inspiration from the Matterhorn in Disneyland, Imagineers decided to set the new roller coaster in the Himalayan Mountains of Asia. Like the abominable snowman in the Matterhorn, this new attraction would feature the Yeti, who has long been rumored to live within the mountains. Since most people are most familiar with Mount Everest (the tallest peak in the world) Imagineers wanted to base the attraction on the famous summit. Due to Mount Everest’s lack of distinctive shape however, Imagineer Joe Rohde chose to create a mountain range with Everest in the background. The attraction itself would instead take place in the Forbidden Mountain.
In order to design an authentic attraction, Disney Imagineers flew to Nepal, Tibet, and China in order to get a feel for the culture and architecture of the area. A lot of research also went into the creation of the Yeti for the attraction. In order to create a plausible creature, Imagineers studied various primates, whose attributes and movements were combined to create the Yeti. When commenting on the creation of Expedition Everest, Imagineer Joe Rohde noted:
The construction of Expedition Everest was a laborious task for Disney. Imagineers went through twenty four different designs before finally settling on a model . After choosing the final design, Imagineers created a six foot model which was then uploaded to a computer. At this stage, Imagineers could tinker with the track design before construction on the track itself began. Expedition Everest is actually made up of three different foundations: the track, the mountain, and the yeti, which are supported separately. During the construction of the track, Disney used 25,000 pieces of steel, which together weighed 1,800 tons. To create the mountain itself, 18.7 million pounds of concrete and 2,000 gallons of paint were used. Expedition Everest- Legend of the Forbidden Mountain officially opened on April 7, 2006 (previews for the attraction had begun on January 26) . On hand for the festivities were Disney CEO Bob Iger and Jay Rasulo, the chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts .
Expedition Everest takes place inside the fictional Forbidden Mountain, one of the seven peaks of the Himalayas. At the foot of the mountain lies the village of Serka Zong. In previous times, the village's economy was supported by a local tea plantation. When guests see the village however, they will notice that the plantation has been boarded up, and the trains which once transported the tea have stopped running. Although the cause of the closures is not known, local villagers believe that the Yeti has stopped the trade, and they have built various monuments to the creature in an attempt to pacify it. Long after the tea trade had left the area, Norbu and Bob refurbished the buildings to fit their new business- Himalayan Escapes: Tours and Expeditions. The new company took guests into the Himalayan Mountains for adventure and thrills.
The queue for Expedition Everest begins in the Himalayan Escape's booking office. The structure that houses the office was formally the headquarters for the Royal Anadapur Tea Company. The office is littered with old furniture and appliances, as well as a board which shows the whereabouts of the current tours. After passing through the booking office, guests pass by a ravished courtyard before reaching the Yeti Mandir. The Mandir is small temple which has been dedicated to the yeti as a sign of respect. The structure is decorated with various carvings and bells. A plaque on the Mandir states:
The dead end on Expedition Everest. Photo by Jennifer Lynn
Following the Mandir, guess enter Tashi's Trek and Tongba Shop. This store proudly states, "We provide the finest in mountaineer equipment for all needs new and old”. Exiting the shop, guests reach the Yeti Museum, which contains artifacts that show both the "scientific" Yeti and the "mythical" Yeti. The structure that holds the museum was once a tea storage warehouse. A sign on the wall reads:
After passing through the museum, guests reach the train station. On the wall to their left, guests can see pictures of the various exploration employees, and what job title they hold. Guests then board the train and head off for the Himalayas.
Expedition Everest begins as the train pulls out of the station, and goes down a small drop. On route to the mountains, various birds can be heard in the distance. The train then goes down another drop as it passes a waterfall. After crossing flatlands, the train takes a sharp turn before starting up into the mountain. As guests go up the incline, they can see a ceremonial stairway which leads to an ancient temple that guests then pass under. From inside the temple, the sound of drums, gongs, and horns seem to indicate that some sort of ceremony is taking place. On the wall beneath the temple, guests can see mural of the mythical Yeti, which appears to tell that the temple itself is dedicated to the creature. After reaching the top of the incline (110 ft. in the air), guests travel across the mountain's crest before curving downhill into a cavern.
When guests pop out of the cavern, they begin climbing when the train stops suddenly. The tracks look as if they have been ripped apart, so the train cannot continue forward. As the train sits stationary, guests can see the footprints of a large creature in the nearby snow. While stopped, a large Audio Animatronic bird appears near the end of the tracks. Although still not moving, the train suddenly begins to shake and rattle. It seems that the pull of gravity is too much for the train's brakes, and the vehicle begins to fall back down into the ice cavern. After going back deep into the mountain, the train once again stops. At this stop, guests can see the shadow of the Yeti, as he rips up more train tracks. After getting a glimpse of the creature, the train begins to move, this time once again traveling forward. As it exits the cave, the train goes down an 80 foot drop, before traveling through a forest and back into another cave. After passing through this cave, guests emerge on the opposite side of the mountain. Here, the train goes through another forest before entering a dark cavern. On a perch above the track, guests finally come face to face with the Yeti, who reaches out to grab them. After barely making it out of the cave, the train arrives back at the station, ending the ride.
After unloading from the train, guests enter the Serka Zong Bazaar. This shop is themed to look like a tourist store. Guests can buy hand crafted items as well as Expedition Everest merchandise. Exiting the shops, guests can wander around a large courtyard which features Yeti shrines and even a dry riverbed.
Guests come face to face with a Yeti on Expedition Everest.
Although the focal point of the attraction, the Yeti in Expedition Everest has not operated in “A-Mode” since mid-2009  . While in “A-Mode” the Yeti’s arm lunges out at guests as their train speeds by. Due to a crack in the creatures support structure however, Disney has turned the movement effects of the Animatronic off . Instead, the Yeti currently runs in “B-Mode”. The “B-Mode” yeti does not move, however strobe light effects are used to give the illusion of movement . “B-Mode” yeti has been given the nickname “Disco Yeti” by many in the Disney community.
When Expedition Everest opened, a mist effect was used at the loading station. Due to problems cause by the precipitation however the effect is almost always turned off. As of 2015 however, the mist effect is seemingly operational once again .
900 bamboo plants, 10 different species of trees, and 110 species of shrubs were planted for Expedition Everest .
Expedition Everest is the tallest of all the mountains in Walt Disney World .
Imagineers used chainsaws, blowtorches and hammers to "age" the wood found throughout Expedition Everest .
Since Imagineer Joe Rohde spent so much time researching the Yeti for Expedition Everest, he became known as a “Yeti-ologist" .