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Disneyland Monorail

In days gone by, attractions that attempted to predict the future were a major fixture at Disney's theme parks. Walt Disney himself championed the creation of Tomorrowland, one of Disneyland's original themed areas, which featured a host of futuristic rides, shows and exhibits. And EPCOT Center, which opened in 1982, devoted half of its space to Future World, which similary dealt with what was to come. Of course, rides that predict the future become outdated very quickly. Tomorrowland has been overhauled numerous times, and most of EPCOT Center's opening day attractions have either gone or been revised. Nowadays, Disney focuses on building attractions based around movies, rather than cutting-edge technologies that don't yet exist. The days of Disney attractions that show us what is to come may be fading, but we can still look back and see just how accurate some of those forecasts turned out to be. Let's take a look at 10 such attractions and see whether their predictions panned out...

10. Monsanto House of the Future (Disneyland)

Monsanto House of the Future

Image © Corbis

The attraction: The Monsanto House of the Future, sponsored by the Monsanto Chemical Company's Plastics Division, concentrated on plastic as the building material of the future. It was installed in 1957, and was designed to show what life would be like in 1986. The predictions:

  • Houses will be built of near-indestructible plastic, from the walls to the floors to the ceiling and beyond (FALSE - plastic has all kinds of uses, but building residential homes with the material is not a widespread practice).
  • By 1986, we'll all be using time-saving appliances such as compact microwave ovens and ultrasonic dishwashers (TRUE - microwaves and dishwashers did become commonplace by the mid-1980s)
  • In the 1980s and beyond, we'll watch shows on wall-mounted televisions, which we'll interact with via a remote control (TRUE - although it wasn't really until the 2000s that flat-panel, wall-mounted TVs took off).
  • 1980s fashion will be dominated by polyester clothing (TRUE - there was polyester aplenty in the 80s).

9. Monorail (Disneyland)

MonorailThe attraction: The first major expansion of Disneyland was completed in 1959, and included the Monorail. Walt had seen a monorail system in action during a trip to Europe in 1958, and immediately put his Imagineers to work on a version of the German Alweg-style monorail on his return. The prediction:

  • Monorail systems will solve the growing transit problems in the world's cities, providing a clean and efficient way of transporting large groups of people across long distances (FALSE - there are some urban monorail systems, such as the one in Las Vegas that uses second-hand Disney trains - but mass adoption never came, despite Walt Disney's efforts).

8. WEDWay PeopleMover (Disneyland)

PeopleMoverThe attraction: Walt Disney longed for an overhead transportation system that could offer people a rapid overview of an area in a city. In 1964, he set Imagineer Bob Gurr to work on creating one. The result was the WEDWay, also known as the "PeopleMover", which opened in 1967. The chief innovation of the WEDWay was that the vehicles never stopped moving. Instead, guests boarded via a circular moving walkway, which dramatically improved the loading speed when compared to a linear walkway. This was coupled with a set of small trains that were pushed along by rotating tires that were embedded in the track every nine feet, each with its own electric motor. The cars themselves did not have motors, and the breakdown of any of the spinning tires would not cause the entire system to break down. The prediction:

  • Like monorails, WEDWay systems will play a vital role in future cities. Residents will commute to work via WEDWay trams, with automobiles and trucks being restricted to underground tunnels - enabling cities to become more-or-less car-free zones (FALSE - without Walt Disney to drive their adoption after his death in 1966, WEDWays never caught on in a big way. The only example outside a Disney theme park is at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas).

7. Autopia (Disneyland)

Autopia

Image via Solid Smack

The attraction: Autopia opened with the rest of Disneyland in July 1955. It allowed young riders to board real, gasoline-fueled cars and take them for a controlled spin around a "highway". The prediction:

  • America will be criss-crossed by multi-lane, limited-access highways (TRUE - Autopia opened before President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway legislation, and proved to be a very accurate simulation of what was to come).

6. Rocket to the Moon (Disneyland)

Rocket to the Moon

The attraction: The TWA Moonliner was a futuristic exhibit located in Tomorrowland, and stood at some 76 feet tall. Adjoining the rocket was Rocket to the Moon, which took guests on a simulated flight to the moon. It opened in 1955. The prediction:

  • Man will be able to fly to the moon in a spaceship, propelled there by an enormous rocket (TRUE - in fact, man would go even further and land on the moon within 14 years of the ride opening).
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