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
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.
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 Since the old Tomorrowland theme had quickly become outdated, the new theme was designed to last for years to come.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
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.
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 The Skyway was outdated and required extensive maintenance.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 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.
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.
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.