Home » 5 Amazing Ways Tomorrowland has Changed at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

    5 Amazing Ways Tomorrowland has Changed at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

    Original entrance to Tomorrowland with waterfalls.

    The Magic Kingdom’s original version of Tomorrowland opened in 1971. Because the concept for the land revolves around the idea of innovation and technology for the future, Disney World struggles to keep the area up-to-date and fresh, which means the area’s attractions and features have been updated over the past few decades. While some updates are so small that guests won’t even notice, others are definitely worth mentioning. Here are some of the biggest changes that Tomorrowland visitors experienced over the years.

    1. The design and color scheme

    Original entrance to Tomorrowland with waterfalls.

    The original design was quite different than how it looks today. It was a rather stark setting, not unlike many of the designs still featured at Epcot. Colors were rather subdued, with mostly whites, creams, and soft blues spattering the landscape. Signs were rather basic, featuring understated text and minimal graphics. 

    Oversized waterfalls once decorated the entrance to the area, but they were eventually removed. Tomorrowland is a somewhat crowded area, and Orlando’s winds were causing the water to splash guests who walked past.

    Present day entrance to Tomorrowland.

    In 1994, Disney developers gave Tomorrowland a complete design overhaul. Since the old Tomorrowland theme had quickly become outdated, the new theme was designed to last for years to come.

    Designers were inspired by science fiction comics from the early 1900s, and the new Tomorrowland reflects that. The muted whites and pastels were replaced with stronger primary colors. The elaborate waterfall structures were torn down, and a large archway was erected instead. The center of this archway holds a sculpture with a sign announcing you’ve entered Tomorrowland.

    2. The removal of the Skyway

    Disneyland Skyway

     One of the few attractions featured in Tomorrowland on its opening day of October 1, 1971, was the Skyway. This ride carried guests from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland via buckets suspended from cables that spanned the two areas.

    Old Skyway station in Fantasyland

    The Skyway was removed from the Magic Kingdom in 1999. Though rumor spread that an employee’s unfortunate death was the cause for their removal, the actual reason was purely financial. The Skyway was outdated and required extensive maintenance.

     Disney decided to remove it, and the Tomorrowland entrance was left unused for the next several years. Eventually, however, it was turned into a restroom facility.

    3. If You Had Wings/Delta Dreamflight/Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

    If You Had Wings

    If You Had Wings was a sponsored attraction once featured where Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin stands today. The ride started with guests entering a space that looked like an airport. They proceeded to board an imaginary flight, complete with views of fake exotic locations. Eastern Air Lines sponsored the attraction, but they started facing significant financial trouble. In 1987, the ride became unsponsored, and Disney quickly changed the name to If You Could Fly and removed all traces of Eastern Air Lines references from the ride, though the mechanics mostly stayed the same.

    Delta Dream Flight

    By 1989, Disney found another ride sponsor in Delta Air Lines. They overhauled the old If You Had Wings ride and replaced it with a completely new attraction called Delta Dreamflight. This new ride told a history of flight, complete with pop-up style sets and a movie scene featuring aerial stunts performed by jets and airplanes. Guests were then introduced to an enactment of first class treatment before they experienced a flight simulation, complete with scenes of Tokyo and Paris. In 1996, Delta’s sponsorship of the ride was discontinued, and Disney changed the name of the attraction to Take Flight, though not much else about the ride was changed. 

    Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

    In 1998, Disney decided to take advantage of the popularity of the new Toy Story movie. The new ride, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, features oversized props and a life-size Buzz Lightyear, who implores young space rangers to help him stop Zurg and his evil antics. Guests are then loaded into a slow-moving dark ride, where they engage in a video game-style battle with Emperor Zurg. The goal of the game is to hit as many Zurg badges as possible with a laser gun, earning points as you do so. The highest score possible is 999,999, and achieving this score will earn you a Galactic Super Hero badge at the desk outside the ride.

    4. Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars/ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter/Stitch’s Great Escape

    Mission to Mars interior

    Stitch’s Great Escape now stands where two other similar attractions once were. Flight to the Moon opened in 1971. Upon entering the attraction, guests were greeted by Mr. Morrow, who explained some questions about their upcoming flight and gave them a tour. Guests then entered a circular room where they were seated for a flight to the moon. Once the moon was in view, an astronaut engaged the audience for a bit. On the way home, guests experienced a bit of an exciting event when meteroids supposedly struck the ship.

    Mission to Mars

    By 1975, a trip to the moon was old news, since humans had accomplished this feat several times already. So, Disney changed the name of the attraction to Mission to Mars, but they left most of the ride elements the same. One notable exception was the addition of a “hyperspace jump” scenario in the journey, which was not part of the original ride.

    The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

    When Michael Eisner decided to revamp parts of Disney World so it would appeal to older children, Mission to Mars was one of the first attractions to go. He replaced it with ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, which was definitely not a show for young children. On this adventure, guests were kept mostly in the dark, where a terrifying alien prowls around the room, generally scaring everyone to death. Young children were especially frightened by this event, and parents complained to Disney. Signs were installed to warn guests of the scariness of the attraction, and children under the age of seven were eventually barred from entrance. But the backlash was too great, and Disney had no choice but to discontinue the ride and make it something a bit more family friendly.

    Stitch's Great Escape

     In 2004, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was changed to Stitch’s Great Escape. Because the original attraction was so expensive to build, most of the ride elements were reused, though the overall feel of the attraction is much more lighthearted. Instead of a terrifying alien, the new creature is Stitch from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch movie. Many people don’t see the new attraction as successful, however. For one, it’s generally not a crowd favorite. Also, children are often still scared of the show, since most of the action takes place in the dark. In fact, it may not be long before a new attraction is featured in this spot.

    5. Star Jets/Astro Orbiter

    Sky Jets

     The Star Jets attraction was added to Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland in 1974. The ride was installed on top of the PeopleMover platform and was used as the focal point for all of Tomorrowland. The center of the ride featured a Saturn V rocket, and individual ride cars rotated around this rocket on spokes. The cars were shaped like hovercraft, and each one had a joystick so guests could control the up and down movement of their car.

    Astro Orbiter


    When Tomorrowland underwent its massive overhaul in 1994, designers changed the Star Jets concept to reflect the new theme they had chosen for the area. The name was changed to Astro Orbiter, and the cars were changed to retro-looking rockets. The center of the ride is now shaped like a transmission tower, and colorful planets were added all around the ride to give guests a feeling of being in space.

    In 2014, the ride was given another overhaul. The entire ride was repainted with a new color scheme, though all of the ride mechanics remained the same. It was reopened to the public at the end of September 2014.