Tomorrowland looks little like its original 1955 incarnation. Originally, it was futuristic, ala the 1950's version of the future. That included the great Moonliner rocket ship, with TWA emblazoned on its side (later Douglas), and helmeted space folk walking about for atmosphere. The original Tomorrowland was almost an art deco influenced design, looking much like the "Man in Space" short subjects Disney was producing for both the TV program and the theatres. In 1959, the monorail and submarine lagoon were added, and the autopia was re-designed, as necessitated by the sub lagoon. But by the mid 60's that view was paling. The next version looked more glossy, and white and silver, not unlike the sets and space vehicles in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1967 revamp introduced the Carousel of Progress and the PeopleMover, with Space Mountain coming along in the early 1970's. Part of the problem with Tomorrowland is that the future, which Tomorrowland is supposed to let us glimpse, is so unpredictable. Thus, what looked futuristic yesterday can look pretty mundane today, and downright cheesy tomorrow. That problem is addressed, perhaps for some time, by the New Tomorrowland. NT now has a "future that never was" theme, reminding us of the future as envisioned by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, rather than truly looking ahead at the future from the vantage point of the eve of the millennium.
From my personal archives, here's a couple of shots of Tomorrowland as it appeared in about 1960.
The New Tomorrowland made its debut in Disneyland on May 22, 1998.
There's so much to write about with Tomorrowland. For example, at left is a picture of the submarines as they appeared in 1959, and until the early 80's they sported a military gray paint job and had names like "Skipjack" and "George Washington," named after real U.S. Navy submarines. But such names were not politically correct.
A yellow and orange coat of paint was applied, and they became "research" subs, non-military,
and acquired new names (the "Nautilus" retained its name; not for the Navy
nuclear sub, but after Nemo's vessel, which was for research, not military use).
Soon, Nemo will surface again. But this time it won't be Captain Nemo from
"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" but Nemo the little clown fish. The Subs
will again come to life within the next two years in a new adventure where you
will sail in hopes of "Finding Nemo."
From the combined forces of Disney and George Lucas, StarTours arrived in Tomorrowland in 1987. Featuring the pre-show antics of droids C3PO and R2D2, the line queue takes you past a full-size StarSpeeder 3000, undergoing systems checks in the maintenance bay. Meanwhile, announcements worthy of any good spaceport occur at intervals, and commercials for StarTours travel to other destinations air on a giant screen overhead. Some of these feature attrocious puns, such as announcing that "Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow, your land speeder is parked in a no-hover zone." There's also a call for Mr. Egroeg Sacul (George Lucas backwards). In the Droid repair room, overhead baskets carry droid and robot parts. Each basket has a code number consisting of alpha and numeric characters. Most of these are initials and birthdates for the artists and designers of the attraction.
When you're actually on the ride, the inside jokes are everywhere. Rex, your "RX" pilot droid, is voiced by Paul Ruebens, better known as PeeWee Herman. He also supplied the voice for the alien craft in "Flight of the Navigator." Rex also has a large tag on his base, apparently attached to a key. It plainly says "Remove before flight." You'll see the giant "Mighty Microscope" of the "Adventure through Inner Space" which used to occupy the same physical space as this attraction in Tomorrowland. Finally, when your Starspeeder screeches to a halt at the very end, look at the man in the booth straight ahead who dives for cover. That's George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars world and thus, Star Tours.
StarTours was one of the first truly successful motion-simulator rides. It is essentially a flight simulator that seats about 35 people. It can move significantly through three axis and can also move laterally up and down. Combined with the video images, the sensation is incredible, particularly the jump to "light speed" and slamming on the brakes at the very end!
When Tomorrowland was "re-newed" (1971), this was the site of an open air stage for live performances. A few years later, it was enclosed and became the Magic Eye Theatre. Originally, Kodak sponsored this attraction, featuring a film that was really only meant to showcase 3-D. After a couple of years, the forces of George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppolla, and Michael Jackson combined to bring you, "Captain EO." The film also featured Angelica Houston as the evil leader (sort of a spider woman), and the late Dick Shawn ("The 2nd Funniest Comedian in the World") as Captain EO's commander. The story was thin, the 3D passable, the sound way too loud, but the music was pretty good. When Tomorrowland re-opened in the Spring of 1998, the theatre now features "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" from Disney World. This is a special effects tour de force, with much more than just 3-d and surround sound. This show features the cast from the Honey films, including Rick Moranis, and also features Eric Idle of Monty Python fame in a particularly good and ingratiating role. I won't spoil the premise for you, but it is one great experience! It now truly qualifies as a ride or attraction, rather than just a movie presentation.
Click this link if you miss Captain EO!
1977 brought the second "mountain" attraction to Disneyland with the opening of Space Mountain. It is nothing more, and nothing less than a pretty good roller coaster operating in the dark, while stars and asteroids are projected all around you. A recent renovation added speakers to each seat, with a good rock soundtrack well synchronized to the ride. The soundtrack is now available on the Disneyland 45th Anniversary CD, and it's great! Frankly, this is my favorite "thrill" ride at Disneyland. Being in the dark, the ride seems faster than I think it would with the lights on. I know someone who is pretty much of a roller coaster sissy, but she insists on riding on space mountain each time she goes. By the way, the soundtrack perfectly matches the action on Space Moutain, and is great music all by itself. If you visit the Disney Gallery at present, you'll see a model of the attraction, and see how the track is laid out and stacked. It might help you understand where you are at any given time in the Mountain. On my last trip, we had a glimpse of the inside with the work lights on, and it is amazing how many twists and turns are packed in a very tight space. Lately, Space Mountain has been undergoing another major renovation. Most noticeable is that the exterior has again been repainted, back to it's original shimmering white dome. Perhaps the new Tomorrowland didn't seem so new? Rumors circulated that the entire track layout would be changed to accommodate an overheard loop. Sorry, but the building isn't big enough for that. But the layout will be different, smoother, faster, and full of more special effects. Heck, I'd be happy if the soundtrack worked all the time. Look for the re-opening July 15, 2005, in time for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary. BTW, the picture above shows the paint job applied to Space Mountain during the 1998 remodel of Tomorrowland. It has since returned to its original all white paint, applied in the fall of 2004. After being down for more than two years, July 2005 saw the "re-launch" of Space Mountain with a new soundtrack, new queue areas, new loading system and new launch and end sequences. Check it out!
Riding beneath the Astro Orbiter, these are an update of the original rocket jets (which really is no different than Dumbo other than the size, shape and speed) and a way-cool redesign to fit the surrounding updated decor. The Astro Orbiter also features that beautiful clockwork/planetary moving sculpture so frequently shown in Tomorrowland. It is absolutely fascinating and beautiful. It dominates the entrance to Tomorrowland. By the way, note that the picture above shows the orbiter as it travels clockwise around the center. This is only interesting because most of the Disneyland guidebooks feature at least one picture of it traveling the other direction, because the picture in the guidebooks is reversed. I don't know about you, but putting the Astro Orbiter out in front of the entrance to Tomorrowland is just plain wrong. It's like it's part of the Hub now, instead of within the land, and the Hub was part of Main Street. It's like putting a space ship next to the Train Station. Just wrong. Oh and one more thing. The movement of the Astro-Orbitor's top section hasn't worked properly for years. Perhaps that could be fixed in time for Disneyland's 50th? I had so hoped, but as of 05-05-05, it still doesn't operate as it was originally intended.
Opened in 1959 with the first major addition to Tomorrowland, the Monorail was quickly extended to include a loop across the parking lot to the Disneyland Hotel. Now in its fourth incarnation, the current monorails (dubbed red, blue, purple and orange, according to their accent stripe) are beautiful indeed. Looking like public transportation ought to look in the 1990's, these sleek electric trains glide quietly along, about 14 feet above most of Tomorrowland and the parking lot. For a really full-service look at these wonderful vehicles, visit Dan Smith's Monorail Page.
In the photo above, a Rocket Rod streaks by the Monorail while waiting at the Monorail station in Tomorrowland.
Housed in the old Carousel of Progress/America Sings structure, this presentation of the Epcot attraction adds a pre-show area that takes advantage of the rotating structure to channel guests into the middle or hub display area. As in the original attraction, guests exit upstairs through a special after-show area. This attraction features Tom Morrow (tom morrow.....tomorrow.....get it?) as a robotic host (given voice by Nathan Lane, famous as the voice of Timon, and other great roles). It relies heavily on computer screens and interactive devices. Upstairs is a sort of industrial show, with exhibits by General Motors (featuring a really cool virtual reality experience), Sun Microsystems, and others. Frankly, (and maybe I'm jaded) this seemed like a new version of the old Hall of Chemistry. It's there to show off products, perhaps educate a little, and shortly be ignored by everyone, with one exception. The short little Virtual Reality (VR) exhibit sponsored by General Motors (upstairs) is really cool! Wait in line a little, and try it out! It's WAY better than the hour-plus wait for the disappointing Rocket Rods.
An automated two-story structure which performs intermittent shows like the Fountain of Nations at Epcot. This is located on the top deck of the loading platform for the Rocket Rods, and spins about raising its radar(?) dishes every 15 minutes (when operating properly!). The best thing about this is the music. It is gorgeous, and can be heard throughout the open areas of Tomorrowland. Also, when you see it, you probably won't notice that it is really the old Rocket Jet hydraulic system in recycled attire. Forget that though, and listen to the music as the Observatron spins and dances. Unfortunately, when it was originally designed, it was to have a light show accompany the movements, at least at night. All the original concept art shows light beams or lasers emitting from the various dishes and rays. These were never installed, thus all you get it a big spinning soup strainer. It's pretty, but when it stops you have to say to yourself, "That's it?" That's it. Recently, it seems no one has paid attention to the Observatron, and on my recent visits it did not function at all. Another great "new Tomorrowland" idea that apparently just didn't work.
The new Autopia opening this summer, designed in part by Bruce Gordon of WDI. It's a great rehab of what was a very mundane (and original) Disneyland attraction. Now you've got a longer track, wonderfully redesigned cars, and a good pre-show. It's more of a race-track feel and freeway feel. Remember, the original Autopia was designed when freeways were novel concepts and a cloverleaf was an innovation. How, we shudder to think of driving on such things, as many of us are required to do just to get to work. Autopia is now a fun little escapade, and the cars are also fun: nicely designed, comfortable for a large adult, and some are painted with a fantastic paint that actually changes colors in various lighting situations. This is classic Disney entertainment, and it features a FastPass! Ride it at least once on your next trip! (Okay, it's not Indiana Jones, but it is very innocent and fun!)
(Now Long Gone but returning on?)
Another addition from 1959, the Submarines were built in Long Beach, and trucked to their new home at Disneyland. Yes, they run on tracks, and no, they don't ever submerge deeper than you see them at dockside. But the bubble effect of diving and surfacing works for the true believers. Along the way, you'll see artificial fish, artificial kelp, artificial crustaceans, artificial mermaids, artificial ruins, artificial volcanos, artificial treasure, artificial ice caps, and an artificial sea serpent. But hey, the water is real. The subs sailed their last voyage (in their old incarnation) in September of 1998. They may return, or some similar attraction in an entirely new adventure (the lagoon is too big to just waste as an idle fishpond!). Time will tell. But for your information, a WDI insider recently revealed (recent as in January 16) that the subs were inspected by an engineering firm, and they have a very, very clean bill of health. In fact, the engineers estimated that the subs could remain in operation for at least an additional 30 years! How's that for well built? So there's hope that the subs may be back on line and operating at some time in the future. The original attraction poster is on the left, and the photo on the right shows the subs all at dock in January 1999.
Years ago real mermaids frolicked in the sun and water in the Submarine Lagoon. However, the high concentrations of chlorine in the water, necessary to keep real algae off the artificial contents proved too drying and damaging to the lovely ladies' skin and hair, so one day they simply disappeared. And alternative story was that they were too distracting to the divers who cleaned the lagoon, but that doesn't make sense. The divers worked at night, the mermaids were only there during the day!
Lately, some quiet tests have been going on in the lagoon. All of the mechanics of the sub ride are still in good shape and re-certified for another 50 years, and could be re-implemented any time (of course, a new queue would be needed since the Autopia souvenir shop now occupies what was the sub line area. The plan now is to remove the Autopia souvenir shop, put the queue back, and when the lagoon is refilled (it's empty as of 07-17-05) and the attraction reopened, it will be time to go on a quest in hopes of "Finding Nemo." Go on the search for the little clown fish sometime in 2007.
(Also Long Gone)
Cruising over the same basic layout as the old Peoplemover (thump--thump-thump--thump), this was a high-speed navigation of Tomorrowland. Loads of new technology made these 6 passenger open cockpit vehicles "fly" over the tracks, with lots of sweeping curves, and sudden curves. Rocket Rods failed to survive for more than a brief period of time. Why? There were several problems. First, the attraction was a low volume ride. A maximum of 5 could fit in any one car (compare that to 18 or more on Pirates, 12 on Indy, 16 or more on Big Thunder). Do the math: fewer riders, longer cues, fewer guests. Add to that a problem with engineering: the cars ate tires like there's no tomorrow(land). A set of rear tires disappeared every 16 days. That's hefty expense and maintenance. Finally, this was a cast-member intensive ride. It took at least six castmembers to operate the attraction (one or two at the head of the cue, one in the old circlevision area, three on the loading platform, sometimes more, and if you watched for more than 15 minutes, you'd see the ride stop and some maintenance person walking the track, looking for whatever shut it down all too frequently). Disneyland likes rides that run themselves, low maintenance, low castmember per guest ratios. This was not one of those attractions. Now it is gone, the marquee is gone, the rods are gone, and it joins the Phantom Boats and Monsanto House as a part of the Disneyland that once was but is no more.
The queue area for Rocket Rods is now part of the new Buzz Lightyear attraction in Tomorrowland, which opened int he Spring of 2005. Visit Buzz and help defeat the evil Zurg as you blast away with your laser weapon in Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters! It's cool! Rack up the points and you might become a Star commander or higher! As you journey through the attraction, there are multiple target to shoot, and every passenger has his or her own blaster. Your score is kept electronically and you can read your current score and you total right on the dash of your ride vehicle. Lots of fund and only the best can reach scores of up to 1,000,000 points or more! See for yourself next time you're in Tomorrowland.
Situated between StarTours and Space Mountain, this is another "mostly Disneyland" shop. Good news. I recently posted there that this was just another t-shirt and plush shop. No more. Someone was listening, as the Star Trader now has loads of Disneyland and Attraction specific merchandise, including t-shirts, sweat shirts, pins, buttons, toys, ceramics, and all manner of items. The new Tomorrowland had sparked and interest in attraction specific items, so you could buy an Astro Orbiter t-shirt or a Moonliner t-shirt (both were great colors and wonderful design) plus lots more. But alas, now all that you can get that is attraction specific is a few pins now and then. That's the biggest complaint I have about all of Disneyland's general merchandise: it's generic throughout the park. But you can get Star Wars action figures of the Star Tours droids at the Star Trader.
Located in the area where Mission To Mars and the Space Place were, this area is a themed-dining experience featuring lots of original Tomorrowland conceptual art, models and right in front, the return of the TWA Moonliner from 1955. Makes it hard to miss this dining location. The Pizza Port is more than just pizza. You can get salads, pasta, and an occasional special as well. The place is open and breezy, and the seating is ample. Finally, the line may be long, but moves quite quickly. Now a bad place for lunch or an early dinner.
Open air dining from a large fast-food service bay. Quick, reasonably priced, and unexciting. Breakfast is also served here, such as scrambled eggs, pancakes, and sausage in the mornings, with lunch and dinner fare consisting of hamburgers and hot dogs and the like, with the required Coca-Cola.
Tomorrowland Terrace is also the location for live musical entertainment on the rising stage, and dancing occurs during the evening hours of the summer, weekends and holiday periods.
Continue the Tour
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