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Abandoned: Why One of Disney's Best Ever Attractions is Rotting in Plain Sight

The end

The outstanding and classic attraction was poised to glide into the twenty-first century as a crowd-pleasing, relaxing, magnificent reminder of Walt’s original plans for Tomorrowland, adaptable to any style that the land might evolve into. But it wouldn’t make it that long.

Today, the white spires, Googie architecture, and geometric patterns of the 1967 New Tomorrowland are a charming mid-century view of tomorrow that’s just retro enough to pass for cool. And if that Tomorrowland could’ve lasted till today, we’d probably celebrate it as a brilliantly designed and thoughtful throwback to Walt’s visionary plans.

But while the 60s Space Age style is “retro-cool” today, it was sincerely out of favor in the 1980s and 90s. Films and television in the 80s had begun to establish a new vision of the future: a grimy urban metropolis of industrial machines and thick smog. As if the architecture of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland wasn’t dated enough, the very concept of a bright, optimistic tomorrow was very out.

And think about it. In the mid 1990s, Tomorrowland was in bad shape. Thirty years out from New Tomorrowland, the contents of the land were practically embarrassing. The Carousel Theater (which had been built to house the Carousel of Progress) had been closed since 1988. Its most recent attraction, America Sings, had donated its cast of 100+ animatronics to the brand new Splash Mountain, leaving the rotating building empty. 

Nearby, Flight to the Moon had to become Mission to Mars (since trips to the moon had become the stuff of daily news, not of the future). Even then, the ride closed in 1992 with promises that it would become a West Coast version of the Lost Legend: The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter – the first step in an ambitious renovation of the land.

The Magic Eye Theater and its groundbreaking and mind-boggling 3D was becoming less impressive every year, especially with Captain EO still playing a decade after its debut to the resort’s repeat audiences.

Tomorrowland was again in danger of becoming Todayland.

A timeless future

1955 - 1966: Disneyland’s first Tomorrowland lasted barely over a decade.

1967 - 1997: New Tomorrowland fared better, but thirty years later, it too was on its last legs.

In Florida, Magic Kingdom had opened with its own, original Tomorrowland rooted in the styles of 1971, and that was aging, too.

Down the street, Epcot’s Future World was already falling behind.

One thing was clear to Disney executives and creatives: to actually keep up with the future would be a never-ending and perpetual process of continuous reinvestment, and that meant big money. If Tomorrowland (or Future World) was determined to showcase actual, groundbreaking technologies and cutting edge prototypes while also keeping up with the current trend in "futuristic" decor, money would sink into the land in perpetuity. Put simply, that could not be.

Luckily, Imagineers had Paris. Disneyland Paris had opened in 1992. The park was based very heavily on Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, but with a few differences. Most every land and attraction at the park was given a twist that made it distinctly appropriate for its European setting. Everything was more romanticized and idealized, with tremendous detail and unfathomable beauty. And in this European-based version of Disneyland, a gleaming white showcase of the technological future would not do.

Disneyland Paris doesn’t have a Tomorrowland at all. Instead, it features Discoveryland. Rather than the white Space Age ideals of American parks, Discoveryland recreates the future as envisioned by European thinkers – Jules Verne, Leonardo Da Vinci, H.G. Wells…

Discoveryland is a gold and bronze seaside port full of zeppelins and zephyrs, with bubbling pools, organic wind sail towers, and iron-rich red rocks that look as though they’ve erupted out from the ground… This golden fantasy future showcases a vision that’s one with nature, not opposed to it like the sterile Tomorrowland.

But best of all, Discoveryland could never become outdated. Instead of trying to imagine a future that might actually come to pass, Discoveryland is timeless – it’s a vision of the future rooted in the past that would never need updating! We know that Jules Verne’s steampunk ideas of the future didn’t happen, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling a concept.

Discovery spreads

At once, Imagineers got to work designing similarly timeless styles for America’s Tomorrowlands. In 1994, Magic Kingdom opened its version – a compelling and outstanding science-fiction alien spaceport of silver towers and landed spacecrafts modeled after the 50s ideals of Buck Rogers and other pulp fiction comic books. Rather than Paris’ fantasy future, this future was science fiction. But just as the creators of Star Trek would never worry that real life might resemble their show, Tomorrowland would never become “current” or outdated since it ignored actual science entirely.

Disneyland was poised for its own massive Tomorrowland renovation that earned its own, full feature – Possibilityland: Tomorrowland 2055. Then, Disneyland Paris collapsed. The park’s finances plunged and at once, Michael Eisner became wary of any large expenditure. Projects across the Parks division were slowed to a crawl or cancelled entirely. But with half of Tomorrowland closed and the other half outdated, Disneyland needed a New New Tomorrowland, and fast.

Time and money were short, so Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland would need to come online as soon as possible, and without the pomp and circumstance of Paris or Orlando’s. And in fact, New Tomorrowland would see the elimination of any traces of Walt’s DNA left in the land. The PeopleMover would not survive New Tomorrowland 1998. And what replaced it would be remembered as one of the most flubbed attractions ever built

A lost legacy

Welcome to New Tomorrowland. No, not that New Tomorrowland. This is a New New Tomorrowland, and unlike the old New Tomorrowland from the 1960s, this Tomorrowland dispenses with all of the wonders of the Space Age. From the concept art above, does Disneyland's New Tomorrowland look familiar? It should. With budgets and time running out, Imagineers borrowed from an unlikely source: the European future of Paris’ Discoveryland.

You might catch traces of the old Tomorrowland, but they’re few and far between. The truth is, there's nothing inherently wrong with the "Discoveryland" style. It's actually a brilliant way to solve "the Tomorrowland Problem" when you think about it, and it's an unexpected twist. How many people - when imagining the future - think of a golden, natural one? And yet, it's a valid impression, and a very interesting juxtaposition against the silver science fiction tomorrow of Magic Kingdom. Two very different (maybe even opposing) views of the future at the two U.S. resorts.

However, the problem with this New Tomorrowland comes in two parts: style and substance.

Style

Primarily, the look of the land. In Paris, Discoveryland was built into the park - a massive, beautiful land of lagoons and open plazas all constructed around the "steampunk" style of a Victorian view of the future. There are zephyrs, balloon hangars, rivets, cogs, rocks, astrological symbols, planted hillsides, and more, all reinforcing the European retro-future. At Disneyland, the importation of the Discoveryland style unfortunately amounted to little more than buckets and buckets of bronze and copper paint being applied to every surface.

What that did is to cover existing, Space Age style architecture in gold colors. At its heart, it felt disingenuous and cheap. And it was. Imagineers admit that the makeover was rushed and the budget was practically non-existant. The choice was to give the land a full aesthetic makeover but keep half the rides closed and the other half outdated, or to split funds between looks and rides. As it is, the land was simply cast in dingy, dark colors that felt dirty, not magnificent and glowing like the real Discoveryland.

Even the iconic white spires of Space Mountain were painted in copper and oxidized green. First of all, the dark colors weren't very pretty. But the second issue is this:

Substance

Here we mean the stuff that was inside the land.

Paris' Discoveryland (though it's changed radically since) opened with a sincere intent to bring European stories to life. A walkthrough attraction dedicated to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Hyperion airship from The Island at the Top of the World... Even their Space Mountain was subtitled De La Terre à la Lune - appropriate given that, there, the ride was entirely themed around the 1865 novel by Jules Verne.

And fittingly, Paris' Space Mountain: De La Terre à la Lune is a golden and copper mountain of bolts, rivets, metal crossbeams, and even a massive copper recreation of the Columbiad Cannon parked along its side, launching riders into the mountain's core. It's all part of the "steampunk" style decor that perfectly encapsulates the story. But to paint Disneyland's Space Age Googie Space Mountain in copper was downright silly. And the worst part is that as soon as you stepped inside of the bronze exterior, it was the same old 1970s science-filled trip to the stars, completely detatched from the exterior. Same with Star Tours (above) now entered via an organic, gold sail-like tower that reeked of Discoveryland, but had no connection whatsoever to the ride inside.

The land’s "new" attractions as part of the New Tomorrowland included a new 3D movie in Captain EO’s theater (“Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, based on the film from nine years earlier) and a version of Epcot’s Innoventions exhibit in the spinning Carousel Theater. The Mission to Mars theater that had been earmarked to become a version of Alien Encounter was instead transformed into a pizza restaurant, which could theoretically count as an addition to the land since the theater had been closed for years. And yet again, none of those attractions fit the Discoveryland style they were installed inside of.

Even the iconic Rocket Jets that had orbited the land via the third level of the central pedestal were closed. A brand new, gorgeous spinner was placed right at the land's entry - an identical clone of Paris' majestic Orbitron. Included with the package came duplicates of Paris' deep red rocks jutting up from the ground around the Astro Orbitor. Here, the style was actually quite beautiful. However, the move A) removed the beloved Rocket Jets from their overhead platform and B) added clutter to the already clogged paths of Disneyland, where infamously tight space leads to constant bottlenecks.

With neither style nor substance to back up the look, it floundered. People didn't get it, because there was nothing to get. It had no meaning – no story. But the worst thing about New Tomorrowland 1998 wasn't what the park got. It's what it lost

The Rocket Rods

Rocket Rods

Even cast in dreary paint with its infrastructure squandered by tight paths and mismatched rides, the real mortal sin of New Tomorrowland was the loss of the PeopleMover. The attraction closed forever on August 21, 1995 in anticipation of the land’s makeover. The PeopleMover was expected to become a high-speed thrill ride.

And it did!

The Rocket Rods opened May 22, 1998 with the rest of New Tomorrowland. In the land-wide concept art at the top of the page, you'll spot them on the PeopleMover tracks. The ride was cast as a “prototype” Rapid Transit System for the New Tomorrowland. Instead of the leisurely, slow-moving trains that had glided over Tomorrowland, the Rocket Rods would be a new ride for a new generation. Five passenger hot rods would launch along the straightaway at the center of the land, weaving in and out of the buildings of Tomorrowland up to 35 miles per hour using an early version of the Test Track technology.

The same track that had taken 16 minutes for the PeopleMover to traverse now took only 3 minutes for the Rocket Rods to travel. And while it probably didn’t live up to the hype it demanded as the only real attraction added in the much-touted New Tomorrowland, the Rocket Rods were a fun ride. However, they didn’t work.

Revving up at the “starting line,” a traffic light would count down from red to green just like a drag race. At once, the Rocket Rod would launch forward at top speed, performing a thrilling wheelie as they raced down the Tomorrowland straightaway toward the park’s hub. And once it reached that sharp left into the Star Tours building… it screeched to a halt. It had to. The flat, unbanked tracks of the PeopleMover required that the Rocket Rods slow to a crawl around every turn. As the track straightened, the cars sped up again, before slowing for each bend in the convoluted track. This constant start-stop wore out tires weekly and frazzled computer systems that emergency-stopped the ride multiple times each day.

Lines were often over an hour as the very, very low capacity ride struggled to handle even moderate crowds. Those who did ride the Rocket Rods had mixed responses anyway, probably thanks to the multi-hour waits and the short ride time.

Some say that the high speeds of the Rocket Rods even damaged the structural foundations of the PeopleMover track, which was never meant to support such heavy and forceful vehicles. You can watch the Rocket Rod's stop-and-go ride, crawling around each unbanked turn, in this video:

In any case, the ride closed in September 2000 – barely two years after it opened – with signs promising its grand return in Spring 2001. It never re-opened, and is still remembered as one of the biggest theme park failures in recent history. The Rocket Rods were such a catastrophe, they earned a not-so-coveted entry in our newest series, Disaster Files: Rocket Rods, which tells the complete story. Eventually its queue (which had previously been the Circle-Vision Theater) was finally re-used as Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in 2005. So what’s left of the PeopleMover, and what might the future hold? We’ll find out ahead.

What’s left

What’s left of the PeopleMover? Unfortunately, all of it. The tracks still twist above Tomorrowland and dart in and out of the land’s show buildings. Since its closure (and especially since the closure of the Rocket Rods in 2001), guests and fans have rallied endlessly for the return of the PeopleMover. Occasionally, Imagineers will cryptically state that they recognize fans’ fervor for the ride and mention, “We’re working on it” or "Be patient." But it doesn’t seem that the PeopleMover will ever be back.

Abandoned PeopleMover

The chief reason cited by insiders is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which requires accommodation for individuals with disabilities. In the case of the PeopleMover, ADA requirements would necessitate emergency exits placed along the ride’s circuit every so-many feet, with wheelchair accessibility at each. Even more, walkable pathways would need constructed along the length of the track to assist in emergency evacuations (see the work done on the Alice in Wonderland dark ride’s exterior as an example). As well, the clearances as the vehicles enter and exit show buildings would need re-examined. Previously, the attraction had been “grandfathered in,” protected from the need to upgrade due to being built before the regulations were put in place. In short, it would take a lot of work and a lot of money.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport

The Inter-Terminal Train at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Image: Alan Cordova

Walt hoped to bring representatives from cities and shopping malls to see the first WEDWay system once it opened as part of Disneyland's New Tomorrowland makeover in 1967. However, he died before he had the chance. Without Walt as a cheerleader, the system never caught on. However, the system is still in use at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas.

Right now, Disneyland's Tomorrowland is in a sad state yet again. Less than ten years after its last floor-to-ceiling renovation, Tomorrowland is a mish-mash. Half gold, half white. Some remnants of 1967 remain, now alongside odd pieces of the 1998 renovation. Red rocks and silver walls. Gold accents on white buildings. The oddly-out-of-place Astro Orbitor with astrological symbols around it, right next to Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear. Yet again, the Carousel Theater is closed and empty (albeit, with a museum exhibit supposedly on the way) and an odd mish-mash of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Star Wars, and Marvel. It's time for another renovation, but it's still doubtful the PeopleMover would return.

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority

Tomorrowland Transit Authority

If you’re a Walt Disney World fan, this whole feature might surprise you since you’ve got your own PeopleMover, still gliding along the second level of Tomorrowland. That ride – the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover – is integrated into the park’s science fiction spaceport story as the “real” mass transit system for the “real” city of Tomorrowland.

While the effect is much the same (a leisurely, second-story trip through the land and into the attraction show buildings), Magic Kingdom’s version of the attraction has little in common with Disneyland’s. In Florida, propulsion for the attraction is provided by linear induction motors (LIMs), which use electricity and magnetism (the same technology behind the dark ride scenes in Universal’s Revenge of the Mummy). As well, Magic Kingdom’s track is entirely flat with no elevation changes, and the track itself is covered instead of the trains.

Magic Kingdom's version even passes by a part of the EPCOT model, transported to Walt Disney World the same time that the Carousel of Progress was, in 1975. Because Florida's Carousel Theater doesn't have a second story, the EPCOT model is on view in a gallery above the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center (Stitch's Great Escape) visible only to riders on the PeopleMover.

Our hope is that your appreciation of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority might increase just a little knowing how Californians would kill for a ride resembling it.

What’s next?

Any change to the PeopleMover will likely coincide with a complete renovation of Tomorrowland, and truthfully, we can’t even imagine when that will happen.

For a time, it seemed assured. Once Disney acquired Marvel, insiders reported that the cast of super heroes would take up residence in Tomorrowland – an excuse to give the land the rebirth it needed. But in summer 2016, Disney announced that across the way at Disney California Adventure, the carefully-constructed Golden Age California narrative would be shattered by a universally-panned decision to change the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! – the first element of a growing Marvel presence at that park. 

With Marvel placed at California Adventure, insiders began to report that Star Wars that would be the key to Disneyland's Tomorrowland rebirth. Fans were vocal about their distaste for the idea. Turning Walt's bright, optimistic "step into the future" into a war-torn spaceport from a galaxy "a long time ago?" In any case, Disney must've realized that simply re-skinning Tomorrowland in a Star Wars wrapper wouldn't give Universal's Wizarding World a run for its money creatively or commercially, so an entire standalone Star Wars land began to take shape in the spot once set aside for Disneyland's legendary lost land preserved in our series, Possibilityland: Discovery Bay.

Abandoned PeopleMover

And that's all well at good. But if Marvel will be at Disney California Adventure and Star Wars will be centered in its own land elsewhere in the park, what's left for and of Tomorrowland?

Well... Not much.

Personally, we envision two options.

One is that Disneyland's Tomorrowland could take on Magic Kingdom's aesthetic – a "real" sci-fi city based on early 20th century comics – metallic palm trees, cogs, neon signs, alien nightclubs, etc. Disney almost bought into this idea with a radical revamp of Tomorrowland we chronicled in its own Possibilityland: Tomorrowland 2055 feature. And when you think of the original New Tomorrowland that debuted at Magic Kingdom, it didn't have a super hero or a Jedi in sight. It was all original ideas, like Alien Encounter, Timekeeper, Take Flight, and Space Mountain. Such an original, darker, sci-fi spaceport Tomorrowland would be leaps and bounds better than what Disneyland has now, and it probably the way to go, exiling Pixar from the land and recasting it as a detailed land on-par with any other.

The second option is to restore Tomorrowland to its 1967 stylings. Sure, the simple, geometric, optimistic aesthetic looked downright dated by time the '80s and '90s rolled around. But now in retrospect, we see that the bright kinetic style of New Tomorrowland '67 actually did come back en vogue, and that Tomorrowland today would be a beautiful, retro-timeless view of the future – a time capsule with Carousel of Progress, Adventure Thru Inner Space, Space Mountain, and more. 

Either way, we’re unlikely to see the PeopleMover replaced or removed until something on that floor-to-ceiling scale happens.

It won’t be replaced because of those ADA specifications.

It won’t be removed because its track and supports form the structural integrity and foundation of many of the land’s buildings that it travels through. It would be prohibitively expensive to remove the tracks just for aesthetic purposes.

PeopleMover and Autopia

In short, it’s all just a shame. The PeopleMover was one of those attractions that most guests probably didn’t appreciate until it was gone. It was a gentle, functional, high-capacity park addition that was a fan favorite. Even more, it was a charming reminder of Walt’s original plans for a World on the Move, and one that included mass transportation, unity, and showmanship. It’s possible – even probable ­– that Disneyland will never again see a PeopleMover or equivalent, and that’s a sincere loss.

Perhaps in part because of its absence, Tomorrowland lacks the optimism, fluidity, motion, and spirit that Walt and his Imagineers had so infused in the land back in 1967. Perhaps it goes to show that not every starring attraction has to be a thrilling E-ticket. Perhaps the most appropriate lesson to learn from the case of the PeopleMover is one of the oldest adages in the book: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

If you enjoyed this in-depth look at Disneyland's forgotten highway in the sky, make the jump to our In-Depth Collections Library and set course for another Lost Legends feature. Then, share your memories, thoughts, and ideas about the PeopleMover in the comments below.

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There are 28 comments.

wow what a great read. I love these in depth looks at the history of parks and rides long forgotten. I myself have always said that the people mover is the best ride at magic kingdom. for someone who has grown up in Orlando and practically lives at the parks, its nice to be able to just walk onto a ride with no wait time and get a nice relaxing 15 min tour with the breeze in your face.

Wow, Alien and Timekeeper in Orlando? Sign me Up! Where can i get tickets for those!

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...

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!

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.

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.

This was a fascinating read. I agree with what the other comments say about how great and sad the whole thing was. I did want to note that part of the reason for getting rid of the people mover, apart from style changes, was that it broke down a lot. My brother and I went on it shortly after Star Tours had opened and the ride broke down just as we past the Star Tours entrance. Due to the closed-in nature of the cars, we were stuck in there for at least half an hour or more (the animatronic C-3PO and company cycled no less than three times) before we were rescued. This was a pretty common occurrence, from what I came to understand, at least by the late 80s. Again, that could be one of many reasons for its removal.

Managed to ride the rocket cars once. It was not worth the long line I waited through, mainly because it went way too fast through what was supposed to be a grand tour of the park. You blink, you miss it.

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.

I first want to compliment you for an outstanding article about my absolute favorite Disney attraction. Well sort of. While I have been to Walt Disney World many times, this past May 2015 was my first ever trip to Disneyland. I am an avid fan of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority ride (Peoplemover) at WDW and was so excited about the prospect of riding the original on my pending trip to Disneyland. I had absolutely no idea that it had closed and was thoroughly disappointed upon arriving there only to learn of it's demise so many years ago. How could I have missed that. After all I read about all things Disney every opportunity (Which is pretty much every day) and couldn't believe that this was gone. I would so love to be able to ride that original version of this classic ride some day.
After reading your article, I have to add that I don't think it would be as difficult to put this ride back in operation as one might think. I work in the construction industry and after watching the ride thru video embedded in your article plus what I saw of the tracks on my recent trip, I truly see this as a doable project. I know you have the ADA hurdle to deal with but that too isn't a big problem. I mean we ARE talking about Disney right, Imagineers and all that stuff. I know management would make many Disney enthusiasts / purists very happy if they were to find it in them to do exactly this. About the only think I see keeping them from doing it is of course... Money! Even then, I believe that see where having this ride in operation would actually benefit them greatly. As you stated this / was is a high capacity ride which because of it's ability to draw large quantities of people would relieve the burden on the other attractions thereby decreasing wait times. This intern would get guests thru the rides quicker & on to where Disney ultimately wants them to end up. That's right, Gift Shops and Restaurants / Food Kiosks. I think that corporates all too often are so short sighted that they are looking for the quick solution to return on their investment and they completely miss out on the big picture.
But then again, I am only one fan wishing for the return of something that was classic and actually makes us all fell as though we knew Walt personally. I want to again thank you for such a wonderful piece of work. Keep them coming because I have become a fan of your site even though I only recently found out about it.

P.S. I don't have my own website but I put the link to my son's sports blog. He will be starting at LSU this coming fall where he will study Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communications. His goal is to become a Sports Journalist. I would appreciate if found a moment to give him a look. I think you will like what you see.

I am very blessed to own one of the cars. It makes me smile everyday.

I'm happy to say that in one way Rocket Rods still survives today. I was one of the two programmers for the Rocket Rods onboard vehicle software. My task was the layer that was more concerned with general features of ride control. So although the attraction itself was short lived the software framework developed for Rocket Rods has been reused in numerous other attractions including Pooh (Toyko), Tower of Terror and Cars. I like to think of Rocket Rods as the $16M test bed for the Imagineer's Ride Library which is still in use today. So just like Magic Skyway the pieces that are useful do get reused. :)

With all the strides toward a nature-inspired future, Disney should turn the people mover into a one-way bike path. Disney-branded bikes could only be used on the path. One to three stations could be added at ideal locations. Rules would exist to ensure there wouldn't be too much congestion.
The money saved on build a new attraction on the track would instead go toward safe rails, hanging gardens & ADA compliance. Motorized single/tandem quadracycles would be available for the handicapped.
Separate from the track (but near it), half-pipes & BMX courses could be installed. These would be separate attractions that qualified Disney performers would utilize (and show off). In those areas, there would be wide sections of the track where people could pause & watch.

Another great article. You mention Timekeeper at the end though, that hasn't been there in a LOOOOONG time. It's Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, which I am sure you already know, but it makes it seem like you wrote this article years back when Timekeeper was still there (another greatly missed attraction, RIP Robin Williams).

Glad to have come across this site. Have gone through most of the links. One ride/attraction I haven't seen yet, maybe I missed it, was the old Eastern Airlines ride in Walt Disney World in Orlando, which is now the Toy Story attraction. I believe it closed up before I became a teenager. I would love to see if anything can be shared about that attraction. Keep up the good work.

This was the DELTA DREAMFLIGHT -- great attraction!!

In the late 70s and early 80s, Disneyland was an annual trip the week between Christmas and New Years. The last one was Spring Break. Anyway, we got very used to seeing it on the out of service sign at the entrance, since it seemed like the hint of rain was enough to shut it down. I suspect that this is why the WDW version was self powered and completely covered... I think that in 5 years we got to ride it once.

I worked at Disneyland in the early 80's and one of the attractions I worked on was PeopleMover. And, yes, we walked all day on the moving platform in polyester jumpsuits that were very uncomfortable and quite un-flattering to the male physique. When the wind blew, it was crazy cold up there with no place to hide... And, yes, the ride would be stopped every once in a while...usually because an unruly teenager would climb out of one of the cars to show off to friends...there were mats along the side of the track inside the buildings that would set off an alarm if someone walked on them...plus there were quite a few cameras positioned along the tracks to keep a look out for people climbing out of the train cars. If a mat alarm went off or if you saw someone on camera out of the train cars, you would shut down the ride immediately so that no one would get hurt....then the time consuming task of evacuating everyone off the ride by foot...Grad Nights were the worst!!

Paul Pressler, then President of Disneyland, got the blame for the epic failure of Rocket Rods, along with the lack of maintenance and other entertainment blunders that happened during his tenure, including "Light Magic," which was supposed to be the overly-hyped replacement for the "Main Street Electrical Parade" but only lasted a single summer after its epically-flubbed preview to Annual Passholders who were promised a "sneak peak" of the show only to get a dress rehearsal with nearly none of the special effects and technology yet working, then the finished show causing a logjam on Main Street U.S.A. so severe that guests had to be routed through the "back of the house" to get to the park exits (previously doing so was all but anathema). The show ended on Labor Day weekend with teasers that it would be retooled and come back later that year; it never did. I remember as a passholder how many of us started sending back the light bulbs from the Electrical Parade back en masse after seeing Light Magic the first time (they had sold off the parade bulbs for charity).

Great post. I grew up in Lakewood Ca. and my aunt worked at the park. My Grandfather built the roofs on downtown main st USA. I really missed this ride when I came back with my wife last year. Bring back the people mover and please bring back adventure through inner space. That was my another great ride that disappeared. Thanks for the great information.

Wonderful article...very in depth and much appreciated. Thank you!

WOW! Great article! Tank you for all of the info! I was at DL a few weeks ago and was very disappointed. I visited TL, my favorite land of them all and it had been bastardized into a giant Star Wars promotion land. It's just sad. After I saw this abomination, my soul died just a little bit. I think that was my very last trip to DL. At this point, 20 years later, I have lost any hope of a return of the PeopleMover.

Thank you for publishing this wonderful article which serves as proof that once upon a time Disneyland Tomorrowland was a fantastic hub (a place where park guests left feeling that "beautiful bright tomorrow") ....

It saddens me that Eisner's regime took a giant poop all over Disneyland (and it shows in Tomorrowland as this area is a poop chute of its formal self)! But - since Iger's regime can afford to build a new theme park in China AND a Star Wars land extension in Disneyland - I sincerely hope within the next 5 years Tomorrowland is brought back to its original retro future environment (with minimal influence from Pixar Marvel Star Wars franchises - and no more gift shops at the ride's exit)!

The only thing stopping our dreams from coming true are the damn Bean Counters at Team Disney Burbank (the Walt Disney Company is swimming in profit, it can afford to make things right, especially if it wants to compete with Universal Studios Hollywood)!

It's sad to see Tomorrowland crumbling away.
The Submarines, Mission to Mars, America the Beautiful, The Rocket Jets, America Sings and the People Mover were all closed at the same time for years.
Actually I thought the park was in deep financial trouble and simply didn't care anymore.
Since that time Tomorrowland has seen improvements, but abandoned The Rocket Jet platform and tangle of People Mover/Rocket Rod track are just ugly eyesores.
I wonder what Walt would think?
Bad show.

Really interesting article. I can't say I miss the People Mover at all though. There are many classic rides I'd be pissed if they removed but that was never one of them. Also don't really get the negativity over the current Tomorrowland. Star Tours is great, Submarines have been updated and look really good. Space Mountan got a minor Star Wars update but would be better if they really upgraded it. Autopia needs to be replaced, it's dirty and boring but kids still dig it.

Running an amusement park is much harder than armchair imagineering. I like to hear the theories because everything on paper looks amazing from an enthusiast point of view. The facts are much more complicated than the regurgitated articles that continue to roll out on the inter webs. Rarely do we get factual information out on the Wikipedia that is Disney fan fiction sites from real insiders such as Bob Gurr, who actually spoke to Walt and could tell you exactly what happened and "what Walt was thinking". But entertaining somewhat to read.

I'd love to see If You Had Wings visited. Loved that ride. Loved all the others that came after it too but that was my gave. I've only ever been to WDW so it was interesting to read about the PM. I love TTA and find it a refreshing ride.

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.

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.

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