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This Ride Was Hailed as a Masterpiece. Here's Why Disney Closed it After 18 Years

New Tomorrowland: A World on the Move (1967)

Walt didn't live long enough to see the New Tomorrowland that opened July 2, 1967. He passed away seven months prior due to lung cancer. But Walt’s fingerprints were present in almost every corner of the land – it was exactly as he had envisioned from the start.

Imagineers called this stunning, groundbreaking New Tomorrowland “a world on the move.” And it was. If Frontierland was meant to display the idling speed of the past with its humungous riverboats and stagecoaches, Tomorrowland would be a kinetic paradise of bright colors whizzing past; motion above, below, and before; the sounds of transportation all around.

Indeed, standing at the entrance to this New Tomorrowland, guests would look down an entry corridor not unlike the “old” land. But now, gone were the boxy showbuildings so distinctly of the 1950s. Instead, tall, soaring geometric fins and rounded exteriors of two mirrored showbuildings – one to the north and one to the south – signaled that this land was dynamic and fluid. Gone were the ornamental flags and concrete towers. Instead, this land was white and sleek, packed with Googie architecture – upswept roofs, curves, boomerangs, and parabolas.

Between those mirrored showbuildings, the white, geometric tracks of the Peoplemover whisked guests along the land’s second story in brightly colored trains – a pop of color whizzing past white architecture. The trains of the Peoplemover would glide effortlessly down this central straightaway, beginning and ending their round-trip tour of Tomorrowland from a pedestal at the land’s core.

There, a red-and-white rocket launch elevator would carry batches of guests up to the third story, where the gleaming white Rocket Jets would await, spiraling guests forty feet above the futuristic land. Just past, the revolving Carousel Theatre played host to the Carousel of Progress rotating theatre show, relocated from the World’s Fair.

Of course, Walt’s staples from 1959 remained, with the cars of the Autopia curving around the caves and waterfalls of the Submarine Voyage chugging through the lagoon below, now joined by the Peoplemover as it zigged and zagged through the Monorail tracks that curved gracefully overhead.

Put simply, this Tomorrowland got it right. Even removed from nostalgia (and the widespread disdain of the half-hearted Tomorrowland that replaced it), New Tomorrowland was exactly what Disneyland needed – a fanciful, clever, bright, kinetic look at the future dedicated to real scientific ideals. The defining ride for this wonderful, optimistic, educational, scientific Tomorrowland resided right at the land’s entry beneath a graceful curve in the track of the Peoplemover – finally, it was Walt’s atomic attraction that would redefine dark rides.

Monsanto

Image: Monsanto

As the story goes, the Monsanto Company who had sponsored the House of the Future and the Hall of Chemicals in the “old” Tomorrowland had grown tired of the outdated confines of their exhibits. Times had changed, and so had Monsanto’s reach. Guests no longer fawned over microwave ovens, and Monsanto had better products to showcase. When Tomorrowland went under the knife for its 1967 rebirth, the Monsanto House of the Future was demolished. (According to Disney legend, the wrecking ball bounced right off of the plastic house, necessitating a week-long demolition done by hand with hacksaws.) 

Monsanto wanted a better showcase of their specialties, and they got their chance when New Tomorrowland debuted a new starring attraction: Adventure Thru Inner Space. Born of the same thoughtful processes that would later give rise to EPCOT Center and its educational, historic, and epic dark rides, Adventure Thru Inner Space was a wonder. It was a high-capacity dark ride in tune with the optimism and wonder that filled audiences of the 1960s as they explored this utopian Tomorrowland that they saw as their very real future.

On the next page, we’re going to step inside of Adventure Thru Inner Space and miniaturize down to the size of an atom. Hold on tight, and read on! 

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There are 8 comments.

I grew up a few miles from Disneyland. In high school, it was well known that Adventures Through Inner Space (or "Monsanto" for short) earned the dubious distinction as the "make-out ride." In later years, the giant styrofoam snowflakes too close to the Omnimover vehicles were decorated with wads of gum.

I worked at the park, starting in 1983 as a Park Decorater, in the "inner-space" attraction we took care of the scrims in about the middle of the ride, guests spit on everything in the ride, it was bad, same in the Haunted Mansion in the Attic, to service a prop or clean, you wore gloves. Anyway, I always loved the ride. the day after it closed, I went into the per-show to maybe get one of the "Atomoblies" to put on my work station, all were gone when I got there, I kept doing my "Park Checks" walking the ride, it got to be an echo chamber , then I got a security guard who I knew said you can't be in here anymore, I guess I was one of the last to see, I guess respect this great attraction!

All I got to say about this ride is I rode it when I was about young and my sister made sure she pointed out that no people were coming out. The ride was so convincing and was terrified by Fantastic voyage I was very much starting to freak out. When I saw the eye at the end I just completely freaked out screaming and just was a wreck took me about 10 minutes to calm down once off the ride.

That ride was awesome.

I thought it was weird, must have been age 7 through 9 when I rode it. The whole thing about atoms maybe were just a bit over my head. I remember thinking what is this weird ride? Now as an adult reminiscing over my long lost childhood I fondly remember the eyeball looking at me as the atom mobile turned around. It was weird and way too much knowledge for a small child to understand. Perhaps that is why Buzzlight Year, Star Wars and Monsters inc has taken over Tomorrowland. The all mighty dollar rules over everything. I do remember that the transportation aspect of Tomorrowland was very awesome and the main reason I think that Disneyland in the 70's was a far more grand place than it is now. All the motion and sounds of motion was breathtaking and is what I miss most. The lonely and largely abandoned Peoplemover track and station is so solemn and only stands as monument to the glory days of Walt's Tomorrowland. Gone are the Skyway towers and cables with only abandoned stations with only a hole through the Matterhorn as a reminder of Tomorrowland's former glory. Gone are the Rocketjets platform and towering rocket structure only to be replaced by a version that has faster rider through put placed in front of the "Y" of the old Peoplemover track. So sad is the current Tomorrowland that kids of today will never know of its former glorious past.

Two of the greatest things about the Monsanto Ride (as we all called it) were, #1: It was dark and hidden and a great place to be with your girlfriend, and #2: It was free! You didn't need to waste a ticket on it.

I rode this many, many times. Don't remember ever spitting or wadding up gum on the walls, but I did take advantage of it being a dark ride from time to time with my dates.

This is an all-time classic ride! Disney should bring it back in its classic form down to the tiniest details. (See what I did there?) DisneyWorld should have their own version that is a complete re-imagining using the the latest technology. That's my two cents.

What will become of the space when they move Star Tours to Star Wars Land?

This was one of my favorites as a kid. It's still would be today. I was sad when it finally went away. Good stuff!

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