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Some attractions aren't meant to last. Some rides simply meet the end of their operational life thanks to improving technologies that make them obsolete. Sometimes, attractions lose favor as a new generation begins to visit the parks and loses touch with classic rides. Unfortunately, there are times that rides need to be removed to make way for something bigger, better, grander. Some attractions simply aren't made to withstand the test of time.

Make no mistake: none of that is true of the PeopleMover. Gentle, simple, and outstanding in concept and execution, the progressive PeopleMover at Disneyland was a prototype for the future – one of Walt's innovations aimed at making life better for everyone. The classic attraction was poised to glide into the 21st century as a fan favorite and a wonderful, high-capacity ride along the highways of Tomorrowland. But the PeopleMover never saw the new millennium. Today, we're going to find out why.

As the latest in our Lost Legends series, we're asking again for your help. So far, we've explored a few lost attractions that we simply can't let die – from Alien Encounter and TOMB RAIDER: The Ride to Horizons; from California Adventure's one Soarin' success to Journey into Imagination and Maelstrom, and dozens more. Our hope is that, through your comments and sharing, we can preserve these lost attractions for a new generation who might hear about rides like the PeopleMover, but wonder, "What was the big deal?" So together, let's glide into history and explore the life of this lost Tomorrowland wonder. 

Yesterdayland

When Disneyland opened in 1955, its Tomorrowland looked a world away from the land we recognize today. As the last of the park’s themed lands to be finished, Tomorrowland suffered the most from budget cuts and proprietary spending elsewhere. The first guests to visit would’ve recognized the land as a corporate showcase, with exhibits sponsored (and heavily branded) by Monsanto Company, American Motors, Dutch Boy Paint, and Richfield Oil to name just a few.

At the time, the land’s “starring’ attractions during its first year might’ve been the Kaiser Aluminum Hall of Fame, Crane Bathroom of Tomorrow, Circarama, and a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walkthrough utilizing remnants from the 1954 film. It wasn’t even until the year after the park’s opening that it finally hosted the Astro Jets – passenger-controlled rockets circling in Dumbo style – and the Skyway to Fantasyland.

If you asked Imagineers, this “Tomorrowland” was set in the then-distant 1986 – a year so incomprehensibly far away, it might as well have been the stuff of science fiction. Imagine, for example, if today’s version of Tomorrowland tried to accurately and scientifically predict the technologies and inventions of 2046. Surprisingly (or maybe not), Disney and his team actually did do an exceptional job of predicting the textures, style, and feeling of the Space Age.

Over its first decade, Tomorrowland prospered. 1957 saw the opening of the fabled Monsanto House of the Future, a dynamic cantilevered home that dreamed of picture phones, remote-controlled televisions, and the must-see microwave oven that stopped visitors dead in their tracks. (The countertop version wouldn’t be available for another ten years.)

1959 saw the largest expansion in Tomorrowland’s history, and certainly in the park’s to that point. Three major attractions opened, all earning a newly invented designation: the E-ticket. Requiring the most limited and expensive ticket (in a park still based on a pay-per-ride system), the three new attractions were showstoppers. They were the Disneyland Monorail (the world’s first daily operating monorail system), the Submarine Voyage (the world’s largest peacetime submarine fleet, as Walt boasted) and the Matterhorn (the world’s first tubular steel-tracked roller coaster).

The massive influx of resources and attention on a mostly-undeveloped corner of Tomorrowland was no accident. With 1960 on the horizon, Tomorrowland had become something of a project for Walt. While the rest of the park was growing, Walt had felt since opening day that Tomorrowland was “not quite finished.” At Imagineering, the 1960s would see tremendous innovation and change, and it would all come to a head in a New Tomorrowland...Next, we’ll explore the inventions and technologies that Disney pioneered in the 1960s, and step into New Tomorrowland.

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Comments

So to bring the PeopleMover back, Disney would have to:
1. Introduce a propulsion system like the one used at DisneyWorld.
2. Add wheelchair-accessible emergency exits both in the show buildings and on the outside portion above the Autopia/Submarines/Monorail area. Probably one exit every certain amount of feet, and a smooth ramp/walkway for wheelchairs to move on until you get to either the Monorail station, the Buzz Lightyear building, or the Innoventions building.
3. Repair the structural integrity of the elevated portions of the track (goes in hand with #1)
4. Record new narration/character lines that talk about Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the gift shop after it, maybe whatever's playing at the theater, a new "Tron" thing based on Tron: Legacy, whatever is in the carousel building, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Autopia, and the Monorail, and finally, new narration/character lines as we see people playing Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. I'm not sure, but I think the ride tracks go past what is now currently the room where you shoot at Zurg. (If anyone can confirm this, that'd be great.)

Anything I missed? Surely all of that would be less expensive than Pixar Pier or Star Wars Land.

Thanks for the great read!
In my eyes the biggest travesty of all was the demo/covering of the brilliant Mary Blair murals.
Truly Barbaric, Monsters!!
Please for the love of god, if there is anything left of them?! Salvage now!

These are interesting facts. One thing that I'm surprised wasn't mentioned in the article was the superspeed tunnel that was added to the attraction in May of 1977. It was located on the top floor and back side of the Carousel of Progress/America Sings building replacing the Progress City scene. Originally it was supposedly race cars and boats projected on the dark wrap around screen. Then in 1982 TRON footage replaced the race cars/boats. The projected images on the screen flashing by really fast gave the illusion of speed, so as to simulate speeding down various darkened corridors on light cycles. This made it seem as though the People Mover had suddenly become a thrill ride. After about a minute the ride would exit the tunnel on the north side of the building by the Skyway, and the Master computer would tell riders that they were lucky to have escaped the game grid this time, but the next time they might not be. I miss this ride. It brings back memories of Tomorrowland's glory days. If I can suggest anything I can say as soon as they're through with construction of Star Wars Land and Marvel Land, imagineers should work on restoring Tomorrowland, bringing back the People Mover including the return of the superspeed tunnel of some kind.

In reply to by Mike Ford (not verified)

I remember as a boy the speed tunnel was great!

if you had never been to tomorrowland pre 1995 then i could understand why this article makes no sense, but to me it makes complete sense.

first - the people mover was GREAT. It was a relaxing ride, and one of the only rides that had a continuous loading so there was rarely ever a wait. you got a 13 min break from walking/standing in line during the hot summer months. Also gave a cool (mild) behind the scenes overview of disneyland, and the Tron part was so exciting as a kid even though it was super short.

moving the rockets to the lower level in front was a mistake too. the elevated original spot was so much more fun and scary as a kid.

to me, once the sky ride left, and the people mover, rockets being lowered, the land lost its character. I remember riding the sky ride at night, coming thru the Matterhorn, music blasting from the stage where they now do jedi school, and seeing the people mover and all the other things going on below. Its just not the same anymore.

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