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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

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. :)

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

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.

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.

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