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The PeopleMover

Imagine. Whisked into the sky via a futuristic speed ramp, you’re standing on the second level of Tomorrowland, watching the people meander below. Ahead of you, the line never seems to slow as the individual pods of the PeopleMover train pass from the station rhythmically, their canopies lowering in perfect tempo as they do.

Once on board, the door to your PeopleMover car slides closed, the train inching from the station as people board the segments behind you. Without warning, the car in front of you accelerates away, disappearing down the stretch of track. You happened to have been placed in the first car of a new train segment, watching the segment before gliding away – farther and farther down the path – you know you’re next. But still, you inch from the station, further and further. Then, it happens. Passing over an embedded tire, the train suddenly is propelled forward to a brisk 7 miles per hour, accelerating down the straightaway through the center of the land’s entry.

To your left and right are the two mirror show buildings housing Adventure Thru Inner Space and Circle-Vision 360, respectively. Their façades are adorned with two complimentary murals designed by Mary Blair, the legendary artist responsible for the signature style of “it’s a small world” and its pop-up exterior. While Blair’s style may seem inappropriate for Tomorrowland, the murals are perfect for the New Tomorrowland.

PeopleMover Mural

The north mural shows children from different nations dancing and singing, with textured ribbons overhead representing global communication hovering over a united world. Overhead, communication satellites orbit in the sky.

The south mural is focused not on communication, but energy – solar, wind, fire, and water-power are embedded into the international mural. Both murals together are entitled “The Spirit of Creative Energies Among Children,” and perfectly encapsulate the optimism of the future as envisioned by this World on the Move. Each of the murals is 54 feet long, and the second-story PeopleMover provides the best vantage point.

Into the future

As the PeopleMover presses past the show-buildings and reaches the edge of Tomorrowland, you’re provided a priceless view of Sleeping Beauty Castle and the park’s Hub. There, the track bends to the left and enters into the showbuilding belonging to another celebrated Lost Legend: Adventure Thru Inner Space, with a cutout in the wall looking down on guests queuing below. The graceful trains glide past the Mighty Microscope and the unusual Omnimover cars that pass continuously into it, reappearing at the microscopes other end mere inches tall! (By 1986, this view would be replaced with a look down into the queue of another Lost Legend: Star Tours, which re-used much of Inner Space’s infrastructure.)

Exiting from the Inner Space building, the PeopleMover would open into a view of the outdoor Tomorrowland Stage where live performances are presented. A decade after New Tomorrowland opened, this corner of the park became dominated by Space Mountain, which the PeopleMover was re-routed to pass through. As the trains glided gently through the stars, guests would provided with a unique view of Space Mountain – the perfect tease for youngsters or those who wouldn’t want to tackle the coaster’s thrills.

Now, the PeopleMover trains exit from Space Mountain, they pass into the Carousel of Progress. But rather than looking into the show, the train encircles the second story of the showbuilding, which is home to Walt Disney’s model for EPCOT – the city, not the park. The train passes around the circumference of the circular building providing exceptional views of the massive model, which is also available for foot traffic by those exiting the Carousel of Progress show.

From there, the ride arches over the Skyway buckets, speeds above the Autopia and presses forward to glide above the Submarine Lagoon. Here, subs dive beneath the waves as Monorails pass right alongside the PeopleMover track, the two futuristic mass transit systems coming within inches of each other. The train twists and turns over the lagoon and through the woods of the Autopia.

PeopleMover and submarines

Finally, the trains move through the Circle-Vision theater providing views of its colorful waiting area before re-emerging near the castle and sharply turning left, back to the central straightaway with the Rocket Jets looming overhead. The 16-minute PeopleMover is a breathtaking, gentle, sightseeing tour that’s built into the futuristic land and adds tremendous to the kinetic energy.

You can watch a leisurely video of the classic PeopleMover here:

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Comments

Being a season pass holder, I find myself drawn more to the California Adventure park now. The rides are fewer but more engaging. Also, the themed areas are still true to their vision. Not some piecemeal combination of stuff like Tomorrowland is. I don't think Tomorrowland will ever be a showcase of the future again. Instead it will be transformed into a branded land that will focus on merchandising whatever Disney owned property ends up being the star there.

GREAT read--I love this series.

One thing--no mention of Rocket to the Moon? Didn't it open in Disneyland's first year and surely it would be seen then as Tomorrowland's star attraction.

In reply to by Eric Henwood-Greer (not verified)

You're right, it would've been! Its most well-known and celebrated incarnation, though, was Flight to the Moon, which opened with New Tomorrowland (67) in a new and improved show building. But you're right, and it probably was the star of Tomorrowland in '55, matched with Autopia.

Wow. What a fantastic post. It was fascinating to read such a comprehensive history of this amazing attraction.

Like many, I've held out hope for a return of the People Mover, but you've explained very clearly why this can never be. And the fact we have to stare at its decaying bones makes the situation even sadder.

This was a great read. Thanks for putting it together!

Fantastic article; thanks so much for writing it. Fills in a lot of information about not just the PeopleMover but also Tomorrowland's evolution to its current disjointed state. I started visiting Disneyland in the late 1970's, and the PM was always one of my favorite rides. It was a tour combined with a mild thrill ride, the way the tracks wandered up and down through the land, the trees, and the other attractions made it a truly unique and fun experience that I never tired of and miss to this day. I do hope, in the process of a TL re-imagining, they can see fit to bring it back to life in a way that does the original justice. The Rocket Rods were an abomination and rightly went out of service quickly. The element of kinetic energy and fluidity of motion mentioned in the article and conspicuously missing today is a shame, and their absence casts a pall over the land. I'm cautiously optimistic that a renovation will recognize these missteps and endeavor to right them. Time will tell...

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