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Orange Bird Photo Hunt


« THEN AND NOW: Liberty Square [Part 1] | Main | Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It »

THEN AND NOW: MK Tomorrowland [Part 1]

In the first post in our new "Then and Now" series we bring you early Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland shots from decades ago compared to ones from now.

(Click on photos to enlarge)



Looking through vintage photos of the parks is fun enough but comparing the photos to the actual park is and thrill... sometimes a depressing one. (Can a thrill be depressing?)  I do have to say though that I was happily surprised this trip to Magic Kingdom at what still remains as I compare everything to early photos.  Plants and trees are much larger of course and a lot of things have different color schemes (too much purple for my taste), and a lot has been added--- mostly clutter.

Clutter. I need to write a post about clutter. Not construction clutter or food wrappers on the floor but cluttery design. Do we have to keep haphazardly pasting objects over well designed, aesthetically-pleasing, world-class architecture?? Are we to believe that "more is more"? Is the addition of all these merch carts and food carts really more important than the once breathtakingly beautiful sites they now block? OK--- another post for another day....

The "Then" photos throughout the series are from vintage souvenir pictorial books, slides, postcards, and other printed material.  The "Now" photos are taken by blog staffers.

When taking photos we try to stand as close as possible to the exact spot the original photographers stood.


Related posts:

Then and Now: Liberty Square [Part1]
Then and Now: Epcot Future World [Part 1] 

"Then" photos- copyright The Walt Disney Company- used for reference and comparison purposes only.

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (29)

I have to say that for the most part I like the "Now" photos a lot better. However, I'm pretty partial to the '90s Tomorrowland refurbishment. It's gone downhill since Buzz Lightyear was added, but the minimal architecture while pleasing from afar was very, very boring from within the land. the Decco-tech of the '90s was a much more fun, much more fantasy-driven and much more pleasing style than the '70s plastic spikes.

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Being a native of Anaheim, CA I spent a lot of time at Disneyland as a kid and young adult. I remember having an annual pass and going just about every weekend or even for a few hours during the week when it wasn't so crowded.

I know we all need change, but in my humble opinion, they've really taken a lot of the "magic" out of the Magic Kingdom. I'm not sure why they changed the Main Street Electrical Parade for one... it was perfect... lights, sound and music.

I'm in agreement with commenter Patrick. the early 1990's was a decent time for Disneyland.. but now it's way to expensive, over crowded and just not fun anymore.

I wonder what Walt Disney would think of what has happened to his Magic Kingdom if he was still alive?

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Clutter is right. Just look at "now" photos #3-5. Pure junk all over. I absolutely love the old Tomorrowlands for their overall design and feel. But a big complaint people had was that they were too simple and not enough to look at. But adding poorly designed clutter does not make it better. They could have added to the old design in a way that was aesthetically wonderful.

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTL98H8R

I'll go ahead and throw my two cents in as the Then and Now topic is being discussed. First it's a matter of opinion. A matter of taste. But consider this:

In the early days of Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT Center the designs of those parks were admired by top designers of all types from around the world- architects, photographers, industrial designers, graphic designers, urban planners, movie makers, engineers, etc.- for their aesthetic qualities. The aesthetics were also admired and loved by the common park guest.

Today the majority of things built at the parks not only disappoint designers of all types but a good portion of the guests too. Some say that the average park guest doesn't care about proper staging, line of sight, shape, color scheme, negative space, or any principle of design, but their experience lacks if all these things are out of wack. And the famous high standards Disney was built on fade away into something that should acceptable for nothing more than a roadside carnival or amusement park.

If after 15 years Disneyland looked like DCA, the current MK Tomorrowland, Toontown Fair, Dino Land, or a lot of Hollywood Studios, Disneyland would be nothing more than a local Six Flags or Knott's type of park.

October 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterFritz

I don't know where Disneyland's Tomorrowland came into the discussion... because as awful as Stitch and Monsters are as attractions, the overall appearance of the land at the Magic Kingdom is way better than Disneyland's complete disaster of a Tomorrowland. For all the knocking that DCA gets for its lack of theming, I'm so surprised that people ignore Disneyland's completely bland, thoughtless and forgettable Tomorrowland.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Disneyland's Tomorrowland is still suffering from the TL98 disaster. The Astro Orbitor bottlenecks the main entrance of the land; the Rocket Rods track is still doing nothing ten years after it fizzled out; the Observatron "space junk" is an eyesore; Innoventions is a phenomenal waste of a large building; the color scheme is silver and metallic blue but still retains the browns and golds of the 1998 redo; the upper level of the Starcade sits unused. I think Disneyland's Tomorrowland looked its best in the 70s, when Space Mountain was new and everything was sleek and white. But it's gotten better recently: the Tomorrowland Terrace is an enormous improvement over Club Buzz stage, and some of the walkways got a nice patterned concrete that is MUCH better than the old cobblestone brick (reminded me of a residential driveway, bleh). I haven't seen MK's Tomorrowland in person so I won't try to compare the two. But suffice it to say, both of them have serious issues.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDLtoday

Obviously i didn't see it before but growing up in the '90's I feel that I got to see some of the best Disney World. My family used to go all the time. But as the years went on, we started going less and less and I'm always so excited when we get to go again. That is until I get there. I think that Disney World has lost the Disney charm I used to love. I don't feel like i'm being transported into a new "land" anymore. I just feel like I'm in a themed souvenir shop. I just want the fun, safe, family friendly rides that I used to love, there's no need to shove your branding in my face. I know it's Disney, that's why I'm here.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterme

More clutter. That was exactly my analysis too, even before I read your comments. Most egregious to me is the fourth set, looking towards the People Mover and the Astro Orbiter. The Now photo is so "cartoony". Of course, that's largely due to the two big cartoon signs for Stitch and Monster's Inc. But notice how the Then photo draws you into the land, and the Now photo screams "Wait! Stop! Don't walk by!" It looks like what you might expect out on 192. "People are walking right past our 'store', let's extend our sign halfway out into the 'street'."

On the plus side, I do like the Now photo from the second set, looking toward Cosmic Ray's, with the additional touch of color. The Then photo looks kinda unfinished by comparison to me. On the other hand, I do like the grassy area seen in that photo, as opposed to the brush that seems to cover that space now. I'm sure the grass probably took a lot more work to maintain.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob D

I don't intend this post to add much to the discussion, but I miss the spires and their subtle suggestion that this area of the park was meant to lift the imagination of its visitors as they contemplate their role in the societies of the future (and continued in EPCOT Center and Horizons). Today's MK Tommorowland is firmly grounded, sans spires, in fantasy science fiction so much so that it could be an extension of Fantasyland itself.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeeJay

Looks like a bleak future for horticulture too. Seeing all those old photos I can almost smell the Tommorowland of yesterday. Its fleeting, but it not only looked different, I guess you could say it had a very new essence to it then. Group set 4 is especially troublesome, so yea, I'm a sucker for the spires and white out.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphilphoggs


October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHoot Gibson

These side by side comparisons should be really valuable design tools for the aspiring imagineer. Say what you like about the "bland" look and feel of the old style Tomorrowland, it has a strong and cohesive design right down to the shrubbery and grass space that just feels right. It's a canvas full of opportunity for subtle additions (sound & light for instance) that make for inconspicuous but interesting theming. The original represents a positive, carefully planned, clean and productive future while the new is a confusing, over-stuffed, over-branded and thoughtless mess, much like our society in general. The shifted emphasis is so clear in these pictures, it's depressing.

October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Flood

Sorry. I'm better not. Brilliant post!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHoot Gibson

Very Cool. Even the exterior of Tomorrowland Terrace/Cosmic Rays has subtle differences. I don't really agree with the "cluttered" sentiments. I think that the rich theming of the 1994 Tomorrowland refurb is amazing. Yeah, you don't get the same views that you once did, but thats because they have added themed areas. The original WDW Space Age Tomorrowland couldn't be kept up with and so they went with a cool theme. We didn't quite everything that they had planned, but I never thought that a view of Cinderella Castle from the Avenue of Planets was really intended anyway. Just my opinions. Thanks for the cool pics.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNate Parrish

Unsurprisingly one of the best parts of today’s TL is the falls in group set 4. That is until I heard about the rumored Nemo spawning adventure.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphilphoggs

@dj flood, you're right, and I love these sites that have all this wealth of knowledge and opinions and insight to a more glorious age with which to listen to. I make my Imaginations team check out new articles here and post many to my fb often.... definitely a good set of reference material to work with! it helps me possibly get set on a good path to work on my own...

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterderek

At least our Star Jets are still flying high, unlike Disneyland's which sit on the ground clogging up the entrance to Tomorrowland. I really do miss the original Tomorrowland. They had a lot of potential with the redo, and they totally half-assed it. Now if just one of them, I don't care if it's Disneyland or Disney World, does a Tomorrowland redo on the epically awesome scale of Disneyland's 1967 Tomorrowland, I'll be happy.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaelstrom

That is soo cool. I love Tomorrowland and it is awesome to see the old version! Click on my name to check out my blog about new tomorrowland.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNick Crawford

I started going to WDW when I was 4, in 1972. I've been back at least once a year since. Those "then"'picsmbring a tear to my eyes! I remember the days before Space really illustrate the difference, someone the "Wonderful World of Disney" WDW Grand Opening special...there's a WALL where the StarJets/Astro Orbiter is the Skyway. What wonderful memories!

June 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKenny

I prefer "now" much more. The exceptions are the attractions. Monsters Inc belongs in DHS and Stitch needs to find a happy medium between Alien and something fun that isn't stitch.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Clutter=Now was also MY first read impression as a designer and experiential director. The whole road sign "STOP AND READ ME!" thing Bob_D pointed out is right on. That said, while I personally miss the reach for the sky-ness of the original Tomorrowland, the overall cheeriness the rehab's color adds is welcomed.

Now that the space program has been gutted by the government, it would be perfect for Disney to take the lead again. I think it's high time a NEW realistic Mission to Mars be re-implemented in this area. (Mission Space at Epcot is too weak and video-gamey) Maybe a space station living adventure a'la Horizons could be a central attraction. Emphasize the Peoplemover instead of hiding it behind panels... it's STILL a viable transportation concept. Bring in more real-world technology again... Kick the Monsters, Buzz and Stitch out and send them to Disney Studios where they can be appreciated. Give us more real science and make this area about how America can still offer insight to a bright future ahead, once again.

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarin Kirschner

Just an editorial note. I see you using the word "site" a lot in your articles, when the correct word is "sight". A site is a location, like a construction site. A beautiful view of Cinderella Castle is a sight. Love the articles, though! :)

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Just spent the weekend at WDW and had to see the disastrous clutter attached to the original architecture. It is pretty bad when designers have no more imagination for "Tomorrowland" than to take their lead from Jules Verne's 19th century conception of the future. Clunk- and junk cladding with absolutely zero creativity have ruined this part of the park.

June 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHunter O'Hara

Just spent the weekend at WDW and had to see the disastrous clutter attached to the original architecture. It is pretty bad when designers have no more imagination for "Tomorrowland" than to take their lead from Jules Verne's 19th century conception of the future. Clunk- and junk cladding with absolutely zero creativity have ruined this part of the park.

June 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHunter O'Hara

I can't believe they removed the great architecture and waterfall that was at the entrance to Tomorrowland in the first pic and replaced it with rocks. They must have had rocks in their heads.

June 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfister72

My favorite memory of Disney is when I was little and my dad first took me there in 1972, and the first place we went was Tomorrowland, which was so cool and clean and futuristic. It was a great moment I had really looked forward to recreating with my own kids if I ever had any. So in 2002 I got the chance, and we turned the corner and my hear just broke as I saw the cluttered, ugly abomination Tomorrowland had become.

October 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMahatma Randy

As a kid, seeing Tomorrowland in the 70's and early 80's I LOVED the look of Tomorrowland. It was clean, pristine and I always thought that the future was a world of hope and I could not wait to see it. The last time I went I was in for a horrifying site. What was a vision of hope was turned into a Jules Verne Steampunk nightmare. The area was crammed in and crowded, the buildings were dark and foreboding. And one of my favorite part of the architecture, the waterfalls, were gone. Not even going into the missing WED way People mover gone. Its was/is just an amusement park now.

February 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterW Harinsky

MK new Tomorrowland reminds me of Deep Space Nine, the Cardassian space station from the 1993 TV series of the same name, when it used to look like the Starship Enterprise of the late 70's.

It is often said that the future catches up with Tomorrowland, If so please sign me up for wherever these cities of soaring white and silver spires with people movers, monorails and attainable space travel are!

May 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterScott Cueto

Wow. I'm so sad seeing the clutter. I first went to Tomorrowland in 1973. I last went 1994 (was sick a lot after that and travel has been curtailed severely). I loved the cleaner, uncluttered, old-retro look. No surprise, as I also collect Sci-Fi books from the golden age for the cover art. Love those old covers.

The new Tomorrowland lacks the clean beauty of the old. I suppose its fun for folks now. But it clashes horribly with my memories and my aesthetic preference.

October 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMirtika

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