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Entries in PeopleMover (10)


Lake Buena Vista: The Other Prototype City with a Peoplemover

The Lake Buena Vista area, know today for its Downtown Disney, once sought out to become more than a district of Disney merchandise, second-rate rainforest animal dining environments, and third party gift shops. From its inception, Lake Buena Vista (chartered 1967) was to be a kind of “new town”. The town was to accommodate “transient residents” and welcome millions of visitors to its wide array of recreational facilities. Oh and to get around... Peoplemovers and Monorails.

A Peoplemover system was clearly never installed but we take a look at how such an idea almost became a reality.  


A Prototype of a Prototype

“In a sense, it is a prototype of the prototype community that is being built at Walt Disney World.” So it was explained in publications of the mid-70s. And the similarities are striking.

Though LBV was not the radial city of tomorrow that EPCOT was to be, it was to put into place some of the same environmental practices, transportation systems, and other concepts of urban design.

As listed in the 1976 publication “Lake Buena Vista Peoplemover”:

The basic development concepts and policies that have evolved from this planning process are:

  1. To build an activity-oriented “transient” home community.
  2. To develop commercial , industrial and institutional areas that will serve both local and regional demands.
  3. To develop unifying transportation elements that tie the community together.
  4. To build with distinctive, innovative designs to the extent possible within the limitations imposed by land development economics, financing, and marketing.
  5. To maintain a high degree of flexibility to respond to unforeseen opportunities inherent in these unique conditions.


A “Water Park”?

The LBV city was described as a “water park of woods, waterways, trails, fields, and active recreation.” No water slides or splash pads. I’m not clear on why this term was used however water-based recreational activities were a part of the plan as were abundant views of water ways from homes and hotel rooms.

Themed Recreational-Residential Communities

“Themes” were to include golf, tennis, equestrian, and boating. Each community would have a sort of central club-house to accommodate its theme. Enjoy tennis? Well the tennis community would be perfect for you. Have a boat? Why not live in the boating community? The boating community would be nestled between Lake Mabel and South Lake just East of Bay Lake. “Water related sports activities will center around the aquatic club on Lake Mabel.” Fun. And logically the equestrian community, with its rustic Old West style, was to partner with the Tri-Circle-D Ranch (Fort Wilderness) and offer horse trails and such.

Side note: You can live on Lake Mabel today, as my wife did when we were dating. Ahh the memories. And there are a few houses along South Lake right off of CR-535 (you know, the back way to Magic Kingdom/Disney University/Central Shops/West Clock via Reams Road).

Walt’s Cabin

Side note II: Our pal Hoot Gibson told me once about an old cabin between Lake Mabel and Bay Lake that Walt himself wanted to stay in when visiting Disney World. I’ve only met one person who has ever seen this fabled cabin which has since crumbled to the ground. Bay Lake mysterious cabin experts, please send details.


Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Areas

Early phases of commercial LBV that still exist today in one form or another are “major hotels” along what is now Hotel Plaza Blvd and “a 100,000 square foot shopping village” later known as the Village and today as Downtown Disney. A 20-bed emergency hospital was built. In what form it exists today, I don’t know. It was “linked to a major hospital in Orlando by radio telemetry and voice communication which enables Orlando’s doctors to diagnose from a remote location.” Fancy.

And now the real reason I brought us all together today... Transportation.


Three basic modes of transportation were implemented to reduce the need for internal travel by car: Pathways for bicycles, horses and electric vehicles; a water network; and a network of trails for hiking. Additionally roads for vehicles were built.

As part of the master plan, but never built, were Peoplemover and Monorail routes.


The Multi-Modal Terminal

“Intra-urban, inter-urban, and inter-state facilities” were to make up the central transportation hub of LBV. Much like the Walt Disney World’s current Ticket and Transportation Center (but far cooler) this center would offer choices for short or long distance travel. Travel choices would include everything from Monorails to Peoplemovers to taxi cabs and busses.

Not only would this transportation system have offered transport to and from LBV and Walt Disney World, but five other “satellite” terminal sites would have been built around the Orlando area.


Peoplemover Vehicles

The Peoplemovers in such a setting were described as “horizontal elevators”. But unlike regular elevators the Peoplemovers would take you directly to your stop without intervening stops. Much like regular elevators you would call the vehicle to stop where you are waiting. Once inside you would select your destination on a control panel. If no close-by vehicle is available a reserve supply of units would fill the empty position resulting in minimal waiting. If a station were to be full of empty units, they would be sent to the “spur track” to make room for vehicle arriving from other stations.

As far as I can tell, these Peoplemovers would differ from those of the city of EPCOT because of their start/stop load/unload system. EPCOT’s system was to have Peoplemovers that “never stop”.

4-6 seated passengers and an additional 4-6 standing passengers would fit in each vehicle (much larger than Disneyland's or Magic Kingdom's vehicles). Individual vehicles could leave the stations independent of other vehicles however multiple units could “form a train” to accommodate larger crowds.

Cars would be fully enclosed to defend against the elements. Rocket Rods were to appear at random for those lucky guest who desired to pop-a-wheelie and travel slightly faster. Just messin’.

Peoplemover and Monorail Routes

As published in 1967:

1967 routes over today's view of Lake Buena Vista:

It would have been “reliable... polution-free, smooth, efficient, quiet (and) required minimum routine maintenance and has low operating costs.”


“I feel your pain, Disneyland” said Lake Buena Vista City to a depressed little Tomorrowland, “I feel your pain.”


Related posts:

A Look at the Progress City Model- Then and Now
1967 "New Tomorrowland" Broadcast
2 Fantastic Disneyland Scale Models
THEN AND NOW: MK Tomorrowland [Part 1]


A Look at the Progress City Model- Then and Now

The Progress City model was once a spectacular site. Housed on the second level of the Carousel Theater at Disneyland above The Carousel of Progress, it was often visited but not-so-often photographed or filmed.  It was a large model with many moving parts and electric lights.

What you see today while riding the Magic Kingdom’s TTA  is only a piece of the original model. Not only did a relatively small section of the model survive, a very small amount of movement and lighting remain today. There are fewer houses, far fewer cars and the landscaping is almost nonexistent compared to the original. The thing was literally sliced up in various places to fit it’s new space at Walt Disney World.

The blue lines below indicate the area of the model you see today.


A Chance to Restore the Model

A few years back I was asked if I’d like to help restore this old model city.  I wet my pants a little and said, “Sign me up!  I’ll come in early and stay late if I have to, just don’t change your mind”.  Life stinks sometimes, the lousy bums changed their minds.

– “It’s a matter of ownership.  We don’t actually know who ‘owns‘ the model”.

Yeah well I’d been up there a few times before to climb around and my old model train city I made as a kid with my mom’s hot glue gun and little hobby shop fake trees was in better shape.

The model as seen within the last several years. Viewed from catwalk above the TTA track.


– “Well we think it belongs to Decorating and they ain’t interested in doin’ notin’  wid it.”

 – “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Give me their number.  You are saying that even if I volunteer my time to save this piece of history, you aren't gonna let me because no one wants to deal with the thing??  IT’S OLDER THAN ALL OF DISNEY WORLD!”

- “Yeah well, we isn’t interested in the best interest of stuff around here.  Go finish yurr work on that Small World doll.”

Good thing I like working on Small World dolls.  As it turns out, ‘Decorating’ had already been there. No need to clean the model or fix the broken buildings. Definitely no need to fix the double ferris wheel that once moved round and around.

Now that brings me to something that not everyone seems to quite understand.  Imagineering doesn’t maintain everything you see at the parks.  Hardly. There are loads of other departments who are assigned to various pieces of the attractions and parks in general (Engineering Services, Decorating, Artist Prep, Creative Costuming, Buildings, Custodial, even Buena Vista Construction Company, etc.).


The Fantasy of EPCOT-style Living 

I’d always loved the WEDWay PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom (now TTA) in large part due to the view of Progress City.  I liked to dream of the life I could have had in the low-density residential outer rings of a city patterned after EPCOT.

Concept art for Medallion City, 64-65 New York World Fair, meant to showcase (at full-scale) the residential life in Progress City

While riding past the model I’d spot nifty looking mid-century modern ranch-style houses with PeopleMover stations out the back door and with views of the towering cosmopolitan hotel and convention center.  A little amusement area and schools for the kids, pedestrian walkways separate from the motor ways, a Monorail traveling through the center of town... What could be better?

The wife and I could meet up for ethnic food while she shops in the retail district just below my office building. Once inside, weather conditions good and bad would be safely out of reach, yet visible though the domed glass skylights. Walt Disney would be walking around pointing at stuff and I’d say ‘hi’ to him. Herb Ryman would be at the next table sketching on a napkin.  Then he’d give me his sketches and we’d discuss the look of transportation systems of the future.


Why the Tiki Lounge in the City of the Future?

Tiki building as seen in the model's original state

The same tiki building on current model

Doesn’t seam to fit in, or does it? Remember, the peak of America’s fascination with all things ‘tiki’ was the 1950s and 60s.  The phenomenon began with returning WWII soldiers who had served time in the Pacific. Hawaii had not been opened to tourist travel by jet plane for all that long. The war ended in the mid 40s and i presume many of the W.E.D. staff had spent time in Polynesia. And remember that Progress City focussed on all areas of life, including leisure. What better way to relax than in some tike restaurant on the marina?  Maybe someone just liked tiki stuff and added it to the plans??  Either way, this piece is still on the model and boy is it cool to think about.


A Hacked Model

You can compare the model in its two locations and the pieces that still stand today.  You’ll notice the little PeopleMover tracks no longer have moving PeopleMover cars on them.  The tracks were hacked, therefore no longer operational. They appear to have been made of simple slot car technology.  Just like the slot car tracks you had as a kid.

Let's give give credit where credit's due.  Though the model is in a very dilapidated state after all these years, it's presented in a way that makes it look pretty good. I'd love to see moving parts and fewer broken pieces, but from a moving WEDWay car, in a dark tunnel, behing glass, the thing doesn't look half bad.  

Some of these photos were taken without show lighting and with the use of flash.  Some are with show lighting, no flash.


I'd Give My Right Eye

I’ve been looking for video or imagery of the upper level of Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress forever now. After the final act of the show, guests would exit though the stage area and ascend to the second floor to see the Progress City model.  I’ve found very little.  I would love to see exactly what that experience was, including the viewing area of the model.  

So PLEASE send anything you have showing these things.


Photos by Fritz, Mitch and Hoot. A special thanks to Hoot who has done a heap of research and investigation involving the model. He was the one who showed me door to get to the model and the catwalk above. Photos were taken on assignment and with permission. Please don't attempt to access the model. 


Related posts:

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
EPCOT City Model [Part 1]
Lake Buena Vista: The Other Prototype City with a Peoplemover



1967 "New Tomorrowland" Broadcast

Was Disneyland ever better than it was when "New Tomorrowland" opened in 1967?  I suggest that this was Disneyland in it's prime.

See more images at our new Facebook Fan Page:

Stunning Herb Ryman rendering of Tomorrowland 1967. Click for high-res version.

"Tomorrowland was rushed together in less than six months for the July 1955 opening of Disneyland.  Although significant additions were made in 1959 (Submarines, Monorail, Matterhorn), Walt Disney decided to start fro scratch after the New York World's fair in 1964-1965 and create a New Tomorrowland.  Soft yet symmetrical shapes and sculptured reflective surfaces reaching skyward symbolize human aspiration, while constant movement manifests the ceaseless activity envisioned in a city of the future." -The Art of Disneyland by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon

This broadcast with it's great instrumental music and the 1960's narrator voice and all that amazing footage just takes my breath away.

"Even today’s household word, astronaut, had not been coined."  How great would it have been to be the guy wearing the jetpack. Such great footage of the "Atom-mobiles" in Adventures Thru Inner Space.  The WEDWay People Mover had such great views of the Tomorrowland.  The view of the Character Shop (today's Star Trader) is fantastic.  The Flight to the Moon shots are great.  What an age.  (And nothing was painted gold).