New Tomorrowland (1967)
While Walt Disney would not live to see the 1967 debut of New Tomorrowland, it would be impossible to separate the land from his DNA. Walt’s fingerprints were everywhere in the land. More than just a refresh, Imagineers had totally rebuilt Tomorrowland from the ground up, with new showbuildings, new architecture, and new attractions. It was truly a visual, kinetic wonder, and for many fans – even those who never saw it in person – this is the "definitive" Tomorrowland; its most iconic and ideal state.
This is the land that set the precedent, with the sleek, white Googie architecture that would later make Space Mountain feel right at home. In a towering showbuilding along the land’s main entry stood a ride so revered by Imagineering fans, it earned its own in-depth feature – Lost Legends: Adventures Thru Inner Space.
Overhead, the Rocket Jets would spiral along the third story of a pedestal in the center of the land, with the revolving Carousel Theater showing the esteemed Carousel of Progress, straight from the World’s Fair (where it had been GE's Progressland, of course). The old Flight to the Moon theater-in-the-round attraction was given a new lease on life as Mission to Mars. To the north, the sleek submarines of Walt’s Submarine Voyage cut through choppy water with the futuristic Monorail sailing by overhead…
This was the Tomorrowland Walt wanted – a “world on the move,” filled with kinetic energy and pastel colors, all set among the era's Space Age architecture that signaled this unique time in American history when families gathered around television sets to watch rockets launch to the stars.
If you’re checking off your list, you’ll notice that three of Walt’s World’s Fair attractions made it to Disneyland – Mr. Lincoln, "it's a small world," and the Carousel of Progress. But what of Ford’s Magic Skyway with its vehicles whisked effortlessly and silently along aerial highways and into enormous dinosaur dioramas? It seemed that Ford's Magic Skyway was no where to be found... Unless, of course, you knew where to look. The towering animatronics and prehistoric sets from the Magic Skyway were relocated to the Disneyland Railroad (as an evolution of the existing Grand Canyon Diorama) just outside Tomorrowland. Meanwhile, the elevated highways that had whisked guests around Ford’s pavilion were present, too, in a spiritual sibling that might be one of Disney’s most beloved rides ever.
A sort of mainstay of New Tomorrowland, the PeopleMover was always intended as a living prototype – a working model to showcase what would inevitably become the de facto mass transit system of the future. So convincingly adaptable was the PeopleMover’s constantly moving elevated highway, Ford declined to continue its sponsorship of the attraction lest the technology replace their motorcars.
Instead, Goodyear came aboard, installing genuine Goodyear tires affixed to motors every nine feet along the ride’s track. On the ride, guests would be whisked along the elevated highways of Tomorrowland, departing from a constantly-moving platform on the second level of the land’s central pedestal, under the spiraling Rocket Jets.
During the sixteen-minute tour of the land, the ride would reach speeds of seven miles per hour darting in and out of the ride’s showbuildings for up-close, inside peeks at Adventure Thru Inner Space (and later its replacement – another Lost Legend: Star Tours), CircleVision, and, eventually the distant galaxies of Space Mountain. Passing through the upper level of the Carousel Theater, guests would get a stunning view of the tremendous model Imagineers had designed for Walt's Progress City – what later became E.P.C.O.T.
The gentle, functional, whimsical, narrated trip was an absolute wonder and an epitome of Walt’s hopes for Tomorrowland, adaptable to any style that the land may evolve into. It was timeless in that very particular way that made it an understated but beloved element of Disneyland’s ride lineup.
So outstanding was the PeopleMover, it earned it own in-depth feature – Lost Legends: The PeopleMover – that’s a must-read for Disney Parks fans. Unfortunately, the PeopleMover is part of our Lost Legends series because it's gone. It was doomed to be replaced by what might be the most embarrassing attraction Disney’s ever dealt with…
The Fall of Walt’s Tomorrowland (1988 – 1997)
While we encourage you to read the in-depth Lost Legends entry above, here’s the unfortunate ending of the PeopleMover and the rest of Walt’s Tomorrowland: by the early 1990s, the Tomorrowland Walt and his team had developed three decades prior was looking like Yesterdayland. Pop culture’s vision of the future had evolved. The pristine, Googie, pastel future envisioned in the ‘60s was downright dated to audiences of the '90s, given that the grimy, industrial futures of dystopian sci-fi films had become the norm.
(Sure, in retrospect, we can see very clearly that if this ‘60s version of Tomorrowland had held on for just a decade or so longer, it would’ve become retro-cool again – nostalgic and hip for its groovy influenced style and its naïve and simple view of tomorrow. In fact, we might argue that restoring Tomorrowland to this gleaming, geometric, retro-future might be the land’s best bet at this juncture… but we digress…)
In the 1990s, Imagineers were faced with giving Tomorrowland another facelift. The land needed to be redesigned from the ground up, with a fresh identity that would resonate with audiences of the era. But executives had learned their lesson in their continuous dealings with “the Tomorrowland Problem.” Ever since Disneyland’s opening, Tomorrowland (in California, Florida, and Tokyo) had been determined to showcase real scientific advancement. But “tomorrow” always becomes “today” (and sometimes, “yesterday”) meaning that each Tomorrowland around the globe would need continuous investment to stay convincingly futuristic…
Unless Imagineers could come up with a way to develop Tomorrowland in a new direction… If executives had their way, Tomorrowlands around the globe would leave actual science behind and instead diverge.
In 1992, Disneyland Paris would open without a Tomorrowland at all. In its place was Discoveryland, taking all the elements of the futuristic land and passing them through a lens of fantasy. Discoveryland is not an ever-changing, ever-evolving view of the real future, but a version of the future as it might’ve been envisioned by great European thinkers and authors like Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci… A golden seaport of bubbling lagoons, iron-rich red rocks jutting from the earth, wind-sail towers, and floating zephyrs where Disney classics would be entirely re-imagined.
There’s no doubt that this Discoveryland is based on the never-built but much-beloved lost land once earmarked for Disneyland, and we chronicled the detailed behind it in its own incredible Possibilityland: Discovery Bay feature. But this new version of Tomorrowland proved that by rooting the future in the past, Tomorrowland would never need to be updated!
While Walt’s Tomorrowland in the ‘60s had been determined to showcase real scientific advancement and cultural understanding of the future, whatever replaced it would need to forego science in favor of something else. In Paris, it was fantasy. In California, it would be science-fiction.
The plan was staggering. “Tomorrowland 2055” would transform the dated ‘60s land into a stunning sci-fi comic book spaceport city where aliens from around the galaxy would live, work, and play. The industrial cityscape would continue to include fan favorites like Star Tours (much more at home in this industrial future than the ‘60s one, anyway), and the Carousel Theater would now host Plectu’s Intergalactic Revue animtronic musical extravaganza.
But the land’s new headliner would introduce something more sinister. A mysterious Martian race would have you test out their newest intergalactic teleportation technology when something would go horribly wrong, releasing a bloodthirsty arachnoid creature into the audience where terrifying special effects would takeover in pitch black darkness. Yes, the incredible and renowned Lost Legend: The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was due to debut in this staggering New Tomorrowland before being duplicated at Disney Parks across the globe.
Of course, Tomorrowland 2055 never landed. You can find out the full story of what this land entailed and what happened to it in our in-depth Possibilityland: Tomorrowland 2055 feature, but like so many Disney projects in the 1990s and early 2000s, it’s all because of Paris. The overbuilt and underfunded resort came crashing down upon its opening in 1992, and CEO Michael Eisner became wary of any large-scale investments, slashing projects across the parks division for a decade.
Trouble is, Disneyland needed a New Tomorrowland. By the mid-1990s when a Tomorrowland 2055 would've debuted, the land was in a sad state:
The Carousel Theater had been closed as the 100+ animatronic animal cast of "America Sings!" had been relocated to the new Splash Mountain.
Michael Jackson's Captain EO was feeling very tired, still playing after a full decade.
Mission to Mars had already closed to become Alien Encounter when the project was cancelled leaving the building empty.
And to top it all off, on August 21st, 1995, the PeopleMover was closed forever.
Even if Tomorrowland 2055 was off the table, Imagineers were tasked with making sure Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was reborn. But now, whatever they came up with would need to be done quickly and – most importantly – cheaply, with as little development as possible. That meant they’d have to borrow. So they did. This new New Tomorrowland would see one of Disney's most well-loved rides transformed into one of its most disatrous ever. Read on...