Matterhorn Disneyland

How Walt Disney fell in love with the Matterhorn

Story 59

Walt Disney visited Switzerland and fell in love with everything Swiss. His stays in the picturesque mountain paradise of Zermatt ultimately shaped his vision for the film “Third Man on the Mountain”. 

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Walt Disney who was obsessed with stories and fantasy. One day he went on a trip to Zermatt. Walt was fascinated by the beauty of the landscape, the snow-capped peaks and the steep slopes that seemed to touch the sky. It was as if the mountains were whispering their own stories. 

“Third Man on the Mountain’ 

Walt watched the brave climbers who faced the challenges of the steep rock faces and admired their unbridled courage. Inspired by their stories, Walt began to create a story of his own – a story that would capture the essence of this mountain adventure. One day, Walt came across the novel “Banner in the Sky” by James Ramsey Ullman. The book told the story of a young man who dreamed of climbing the most dangerous mountain in the Alps. It was in this story that Walt found the perfect basis for his own film. 

Walt Disney produced “Third Man on the Mountain,” which was released in 1959. As part of the film production, the actors and the film crew visited Zermatt and the Gornergrat several times. Numerous scenes were filmed there, showing the beauty of the mountains and the countryside. Walt also spent three weeks at the filming location: 

“At that time, Walt had a fondness for Switzerland and everything Swiss. He went there every year during the summer holidays and loved it. No effort was spared to make the story as entertaining as Walt’s holidays in Switzerland were for him,” recalls Ken Annakin, director of “Third Man on the Mountain”.  

The legacy 

Perhaps the film’s most enduring legacy is the Matterhorn in Disneyland Park because during the shooting Walt decided to bring the mountain into the resort. The Matterhorn bobsleigh run opened on 14 June 1959, five months before the film première, and the magnificent replica of the Matterhorn has been a wonder of the Disney world ever since. 

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