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

Sponsors fall

In 1977, Monsanto suspended its sponsorship of the attraction.

It wasn’t the first time that a sponsor had opted not to renegotiate their contract with Disney, and it would be far from the last. Just a few years later, Disney would open a radical new kind of park in Florida called EPCOT Center that would rely almost entirely on sponsorship. A sort of “permanent World’s Fair,” Disney hoped that corporations would chomp at the bit to have their brands  plastered across a Disney Park, and would in turn pay for upkeep on attractions and keep pre- and post-shows stocked with their newest technologies…

While it must've read a win-win on paper, if you ask many Disney Parks fans, the sponsor-based strategy crippled Epcot and lead to the degradation or closure of many fellow Lost Legends: Horizons, Journey into Imagination, BODY WARSKitchen Kabaret, and Maelstrom to name just a few. Each languished when its sponsor dropped out.

Even without Monsanto footing the bill, Disney made a few simple edits to the attractions’ narration and signage and Adventure Thru Inner Space continued on for years.

Finally, on September 2, 1985, Adventure Thru Inner Space closed forever.

New directions

Adventure Thru Inner Space might’ve been one of the last holdouts of Tomorrowland’s initial ideology: to sincerely educate and entertain by predicting how scientific advancement might create a better world. If its closure signaled the end of an era, then its replacement was equally important in signaling the land’s new direction, and the new path forward for Disney Parks.

In January 1987, Star Tours took over the south showbuilding along Tomorrowland’s entry. Under the guidance of then-new CEO Michael Eisner, Disney would radically transform. Eisner would use all that he’d learned as CEO of Paramount Pictures to oversee the rejuvenation of the company’s film studio, animation division, and theme parks. It was Eisner’s assertion that Disneyland would be a place where guests could “ride the movies.” Trouble is, Disney wasn’t making many good movies at the time, so Eisner partnered with George Lucas to bring Star Wars into the parks. We told the full, behind-the-scenes story of the unprecedented collaboration in its own Lost Legends: Star Tours feature that's a must read, but you know how the story ends...

Obviously, Star Tours was a hit, though it's an obvious pivot point. Before Star Tours, Disney had been in the ceaseless, endless race to keep Tomorrowland futuristic. Every few years, new exhibits, new stories, and new technologies had to be funded to keep “tomorrow” from becoming “today.” But with Star Tours, it became conceivable to Imagineers that Tomorrowland could be built in a way that would be timeless. Forget science; a science fiction land wouldn’t have to try to keep up with real emerging technologies! It wouldn’t even try to predict a real future, instead bringing to life fantastical ones.

Currently, Tomorrowlands across the globe represent a golden seaside port rooted in the literary works of European thinkers (Paris), a sci-fi alien city as envisioned by early 20th century serial comics (Orlando), a glass and metal plaza that has no root in time or place (Shanghai), and an unfortunate mix of them all (California), each smartly (and for many, sadly) avoiding any semblance of what the real future might actually look like. Of course, while they might be creatively dressed and smartly designed on the outside, most of those Tomorrowlands are unfortunately and frustratingly populated by rides based on Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Lilo and Stitch, and Toy Story.

The takeaway? Tomorrowland’s very foundation shifted, and Adventure Thru Inner Space would be one of the last great sincere scientific attractions at a Disneyland-style park; a sort of precursor to the grand, revered dark rides that would open at EPCOT Center decades later. Inner Space would’ve felt right at home alongside World of Motion, Spaceship Earth, or Universe of Energy, and that is very high praise indeed.

Tomorrowland today has very little interest in actually predicting what tomorrow may bring, and even less interest in smartly presenting any kind of content. We traced that steep decline in its own in-depth feature perfect for Disney Parks history fans – Lost Legends: The Peoplemover and the Fall of Walt’s Tomorrowland.

Of course, the world in 2016 is quite different from the world in 1967. Would today’s guests even bother to ride Adventure Thru Inner Space? Or would they overwhelmingly prefer Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters given the choice? Speaking of which, Adventure Thru Inner Space survives even today in some very unique ways… Read on to find out where this classic Tomorrowland ride’s DNA ended up.

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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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