Big Thunder Mountain was a mountain or mountains and cluster of rock formations located in Arizona. During primeval times Big Thunder was home to a large amount of dinosaurs, most notably Tyrannosaurus-Rex and Triceratops. Following the K-T extinction event, the fossilized skeletons of many of these animals would be littered across Big Thunder.
Billions of years later, Big Thunder Mountain was home for the indigenous American shoshone tribe who likely migrated to the region c. 1750 due to competition and pressures from Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes. The mountain would receive the name of Big Thunder from the indigenous tribes due to the loud sounds made by the mountains waterfalls during rainy seasons. The shoshone considered Big Thunder Mountain to be sacred and home to a powerful spirit known as the Spirit of Big Thunder or Thunderbird.
In 1849, a white man named Henry Ravenswood traveled to Big Thunder for unknown reasons and happened upon gold within the rock-work of the mountain. Ever the opportunist, Henry established the Big Thunder Mining Company and mining-town of Thunder Mesa which forced the shoshone off of their own land, keeping them out a fortress known as Fort Comstock on the town border.
For twenty-years Henry and his company exploited the land of Big Thunder for its gold. Due to having angered the spirit of Big Thunder by his greed and evil deeds, accidents and natural-disasters would become common-place in Thunder Mesa, many of which claimed the lives of miners and townsfolk. This climaxed in the year 1860 when a massive earthquake hit Thunder Mesa and collapsed a the south-west portion of the town into a canyon. Countless lives were claimed including those of Henry Ravenswood, his wife Martha, the town mayor and sheriff to name a few.
The canyon would be named Phantom Canyon by the townsfolk due to it being known to be a literal ghost-town, inhabited by the spirits and animate corpses of those who had died in the earthquake. Mining operations too would stop for a time with the mining-trains of the company running wild and out of control, apparently being possessed by spirits. This halting of operation would not be long-last however as in 1869, another mining town would be constructed on a different peak of the mountain by the name of Rainbow Ridge.
Rainbow Ridge could be accessed from Thunder Mesa by the Mark Twain Riverboat and furthered mining into the mountain. By 1880, another mining town would be built called Tumbleweed which was built by the Big Thunder Mining Company under the leadership of one Barnabas T. Bullion. The disasters and accidents which plagued Ravenswood would torment Bullion's company as-well with earthquakes, accidents, floods and extreme-draughts being common. Additionally, Barnabas' foreman G. Willikers was a cruel man who frequently cheated workers of their money for his own pockets.
To try and keep his business afloat, Barnabas came into contact with his old contemporary Jason Chandler. Chandler and Bullion were members of an organization known as the Society of Explorers and Adventurers with Chandler himself being club-president in addition to being a gifted inventor. Concerned for Bullion, Chandler came into contact with his ally Madame Zarkov of the Museum of the Weird and learned that the land itself was the cause of the problems, leading to him warning Bullion against continued mining. The end of Big Thunder's story is a mystery though apparently Barnabas would die prior to the year 1899.
Big Thunder Mountain has multiple peaks and faces as illustrated by a portrait in the queue for the Magic Kingdom's version of the attraction. There are also at-least two notable rivers within the Big Thunder Mountain Range with one surrounding the mountain-peak of Thunder Mesa while the other winds around Rainbow Ridge and Tumbleweed.
Thunder Mesa Region
Thunder Mesa: A mining-town established by white colonists in 1840.
Stillwater Junction: This is a colony mentioned in the Thunder Mesa Daily Messenger as being in the Big Thunder region along the Rivers of the Far West.
This has been theorized to be the setting of Tokyo Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad given the process of elimination with Tokyo having not named their town and how Tokyo's ride is the only to feature a, "Splashdown" hence the name Stillwater.
Big Thunder was largely inspired by plans for the plateau setting of the unbuilt Western River Expedition attraction. The locale takes its name from Big Thunder and Little Thunder Falls, two features in the attraction Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland which took up the space occupied by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disneyland. Despite having only been a Disneyland attraction, Nature's Wonderland is alluded to in most if-not all of the Big Thunder incarnations. The design of the mountain itself was largely inspired by the Monument Valley of Arizona.
The original plans for Big Thunder's story by imagineer Tony Baxter would have had Jason Chandler as a working-class inventor who c. 1860 was lost in a cavern collapse with many other miners after using his experimental drilling-machine. The runaway mine-trains would have here been identified as the ghosts of Chandler and his fellow miners. However this would have connected to the proposed Discovery Bay land where Chandler and the miners survived with gold intact and would go on to establish an experimental science colony outside of San Francisco, California.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain is the central location of this attraction with guests boarding the runaway mine-trains which travel through the mountain. Going through the mountain, guests can witness the natural wonders of the landscape but also how the spirit of Big Thunder terrorizes the colonists trying to mine it.
Big Thunder Mountain is visible in the horizon of the Phantom Canyon scene in this attraction where guests pass through the portion of Thunder Mesa sunken by the earthquake of 1860 and now inhabited by ghosts and zombies.
In this video-game, Big Thunder Mountain is the primary setting for levels based around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Here, the player is accompanied by the ghost of a civil-war era ghost with a cannon-ball in his chest as they try to calm down the runaway trains which themselves are possessed by spirits.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the primary setting of this Disney Kingdoms comic. The world and story presented is a melting-pot with the characters of Walt Disney World's Big Thunder, the setting of Disneyland's and story elements recycled from Disneyland Paris.