The Thunderbird, also known as Big Thunder or the Spirit of Big Thunder, is a mysterious, female spirit.
Believed by some to be the spirit of Big Thunder Mountain itself, the so-called Thunderbird is a mysterious and enormously powerful entity that dwells within the Mountain, usually manifesting as formless blue energy. Protective of the deeper reaches of the Mountain, the Thunderbird is also a force of justice, who gladly exacts vengeance upon those she deems wicked, as she did for George Willikers in 1878. The Thunderbird is also capable of bringing back the dead as ghosts loyal to her, as she did for Onawa after she was fatally shot by Willikers.
Some accounts paint the Thunderbird as a more amoral and vengeful force of nature, who deliberately caused the Tumbleweed drought as well as the 1860 earthquake in Thunder Mesa in revenge for Barnabas Bullion and Henry Ravenswood's respective mining operations digging too deep into the mountain and rousing her from her slumber. It is suggested that, acting through medium Madame Leota, the Thunderbird may have been the one to later drive Henry into murderous madness,[FANWORK] and it was even believed by some residents Thunder Mesa by 1885 that the Phantom was nothing short of the incarnation of the "old Indian curse" on Big Thunder Mountain.
Behind the scenes
The Thunderbird is a background presence in Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and its various worldwide adaptations, though it did not take a starring role until the 2015 comic story of the same name. The Spirit is only named "Thunderbird" in Disneyland Paris's version of the ride, otherwise remaining nameless.
The place of the Thunderbird in the backstory of Phantom Manor has long been a point of much contention; while not hinted at in the ride itself, the idea is well-ingrained that the haunting of Phantom Canyon and the earthquake of 1860 were the doing of the "Indian curse on Big Thunder", and it is echoed even to this day in such sources as The Mysterious Chronicle.
In 2020, comic artist Sara Bardi, author of the non-Disney-related comic Lovely Lovecraft, offered her take on the character of the Thunderbird, possibly the first full visual representation of the Thunderbird's full form. Bardi also speculated that the controversial figure of the “Glitter Phantom” from the pre-refurbishment Phantom Manor parade may actually have been an incarnation of the Thunderbird rather than the true Phantom (Henry Ravenswood). Despite Bardi's credibility as a professional comic artist, this information remains uncanonical on this Wiki, as it has never been featured in a completed story, let alone an official one.