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

As you step into the magnificent New Tomorrowland, you're likely to be awe-struck. The Peoplemover glides effortlessly overhead as the towering Rocket Jets spiral in the center of the land. Just beyond, the Carousel Theater gracefully turns, hosting the brand-new, Audio-Animatronics packed Carousel of Progress designed by Walt Disney himself. In the distance, the Monorail glides past the towering Matterhorn Bobsleds as the mysterious Submarine Voyage propels through a crystal-clear lagoon. This is Walt's "World on the Move" - a genuine, thoughtful look at what the wonders of the Space Age might contain. It's sleek and white with pops of red and blue and yellow. If we're lucky, this is what the future will look, sound, and feel like.

And the key to that future is right inside the land, beneath the towering silver fins that mark the land's grand entry. This is Adventure Thru Inner Space. 

You've been on Disneyland's classic dark rides in Fantasyland, like Peter Pan's Flight and Snow White's Scary Adventures. But this new ride in Tomorrowland is different. It uses an entirely new ride system unlike anything you've seen before.

Stepping into the spacious lobby of the attraction, something catches your eye: the Mighty Monsanto Microscope towers over the gently winding queue, the Peoplemover gliding behind it. The microscope appears to be focused on a snowflake, its graceful geometric arms broadcast on a massive screen looming overhead. You'll also notice something else: deep blue, egg-shaped vehicles carrying passengers glide effortlessly into the base of the Mighty Microscope. At the microscope's end, they exit, but now they're merely a few inches tall, the vehicles – and the guests inside – completely miniaturized.

If you're ready to undergo this magnificent shrinking, step onto the continuously-moving pathway that glides alongside a chain of the constantly-moving vehicles. Step right into it as it moves and sit back. You're about to shrink down to the size of an atom.

The first thing you'll hear once seated is the voice of Paul Frees (famously the narrator of another Disneyland Omnimover-based attraction: the Ghost Host of the Haunted Mansion). "I am the first person to make this fabulous journey... Suspended in the timelessness of inner space are the thoughtwaves of my first impressions. They will be our only source of contact once you have passed beyond the limits of normal Mag-ni-fi-ca-tion!"

The Atommobile presses forward into the Microscope, shaking lightly as all light fades. Very slowly, small streaks of light appear in the darkness... Snowflakes. They'll falling and twisting and tumbling through the darkness. And the appear to be getting bigger. "I am passing beyond the magnification limits of even the most powerful microscopes. These are snowflakes – and yet they seem to grow larger and larger. Or can I be shrinking... shrinking beyond the smallness of a tiny snowflake crystal? Indeed, I am becoming smaller and smaller!"

As guests continue to shrink, a giant wall of geometric patterns comes into view. But wait... this isn't a wall of ice. It's a single snowflake, filling up our entire field of vision. "These tiny bits of snowflake crystal tower above me – like an enormous wall of ice. Can I penetrate this gigantic prism?" The answer, of course, is yes. Objects on Earth exist in three states: solid, liquid, or gas. But even solids, on a microscopic level, are made up of molecules arranged in rigid patterns. At this level of magnification, we can see the gaps between those molecules. "And yet, this wall of ice only seems smooth and solid! From this tiny viewpoint, I can see that nothing is solid, no matter how it appears."

Image: Monsanto / Disney

A great lattice structure comes into view as we see that the "solid" snowflake is indeed made up of spheres lined up in infinite, parallel columns and rows. "What are these strange spheres? Have I reached the universe of the molecule? Yes, these are water molecules – H2O... They vibrate in such an orderly pattern because this is water frozen into the solid state of matter."

The magnification continues as the infinite lattice gives way to blurry spheres, like great metallic orbs. 

"These fuzzy spheres must be the atoms that make up the molecule – two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single oxygen atom. And I see that it's the orbiting electrons that give the atom its fuzzy appearance. And still I continue to shrink. Is it possible that I can enter the atom itself?"

The Atommobile pushed further into the atom itself as the car becomes surrounded in a flurry of falling white lights, darting from all sides. "Electrons are dashing about me – like so many fiery comets! Can I possibly survive?" Somehow, the electrons suddenly disappear, leaving the vehicle to float through an infinite darkess with spheres of light glowing all around – it's a hypnotic and beautiful sight, as if drifting through an eternal outer space. "I am so infinitely small now that I can see millions of orbiting electrons. They appear like the Milky Way of our own solar system. This vast realm, THIS is the infinite universe within a tiny speck of snowflake crystal."

If the grand finale of Spaceship Earth at Epcot is intended to make us feel small – to see our own insignificance in the grand scheme of time and space – then this finale does just the opposite: it allows us to see that infinity exists within a snowflake. We're floating in an endless sea of electrons as vast as outer space, but contained within a microscopic molecule. While it's difficult to conceptually understand the borderless infinity of the universe, it's downright impossible to comprehend how, to an atom, a snowflake is an endless universe unto itself! 

...Sorry, folks. Lost myself there for a minute. But now, from the darkness, a large red sphere suddenly appears, floating. It's pulsating with warm light. "And there is the nucleus of the atom! Do I dare explore the vastness of its inner space? No, I dare not go on... I must return to the realm of the molecule, before I go on shrinking...forever!"

As the riders begin to re-enlarge, humongous water droplets surround the Atommobile. They rise and fall, swirling around. "Ah, how strange! The molecules are so active now! They have become fluid – freed from their frozen state. That can only mean that the snowflake is melting! Yes, the snowflake has melted, but there is no cause for alarm. You are back on visual, and returning to your normal size!" Now, looming overhead was perhaps the ride's most recognizable feature: a huge eyeball gazing down at the riders as they return to our world. Emerging from the darkness, the Omnimovers pass beneath the Peoplemover yet again and take a leisurely circle around a display area showing Monsanto's newest innovations.

Image: Monsanto / Disney

"This has been one of many exciting Adventures Thru Inner Space in a never-ending search for new ways to rearrange molecules for the benefit of man-kind. Now, in our display area, you will see modern miracles created by rearranging the molecules of not only water, but air, coal, petroleum, and many other raw materials. This is Monsanto." Like the EPCOT Center dark rides it would inspire, Adventure Thru Inner Space concludes with a post-show exhibit and Sherman Brothers' sing-along guests can explore: Miracles from Molecules. 

As always, we like to close our Lost Legends ride-throughs with the best point-of-view videos can find. Luckily, we have the Disney History Institute who provided this ride-through video on YouTube – one of the only videos of the ride – from which two of the images on this page were taken. 

Because Adventure Thru Inner Space closed in the 1980s, it's difficult to find any videos that accurately represent the ride experience. Luckily, the ride's cult-following has allowed for many fans to create ultra-accurate computer-generated recreations of the ride, including this fantastic one by Steve Wesson:

And thus ends one of the greatest educational dark rides Disney ever produced. What became of Adventure Thru Inner Space, and why? Find out the rest of the story on the next page...

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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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