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Entries in Tomorrowland (35)

Monday
Jun172013

Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain Construction

Enjoy these rare construction photos of Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain, taken in 1974.

Although the concept of Space Mountain was originally envisioned for Disneyland, the first Space Mountain to open was at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. After the Matterhorn Bobsleds opened at Disneyland in 1959 and were hugely popular, Disneyland management asked for a second thrill ride. Walt was on board but the plans for this second coaster were delayed for another decade. Disneyland didn't get their Space Mountain until 1977, more than two years after Magic Kingdom got theirs in 1975. 

 

Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: MK Tomorrowland [Part 1]
Signs of the Times: Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland '67 [Part 1]
Walt Disney World in 1971 [Part 1]
WDW Construction: Magic Kingdom
WDW Construction: Liberty Square


Friday
May312013

"As Long as There Is Imagination Left in the World": Putting the Phrase to Better Use

Recently, my buddy and I were talking about how Walt Disney (the person) is too often misquoted. There's one quote in particular that stood out in our conversation. I asked this friend to write an article about this topic.

Article by Guest Author, Stan

[Author’s Note: My intention here is not to have a “whine session”; but rather have a “wish session” where positive solutions to these current problems could be considered and “imagined” by readers. Thanks.]


Walt Disney said:

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.”

This oft-quoted statement is a good one. In context, it describes Walt Disney’s development philosophy and plan for his beloved theme park. Unfortunately, this statement is also ill-quoted all too often by many in the Disney ranks who seem to say it anytime the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts business is discussed publicly or anytime changes to the parks are announced. Whether the changes truly are imaginative additions or solutions doesn't seem to matter. The quote has been tied to announcements and discussions for not only new and revamped attractions, but also for meet and greets, time shares and radio frequency wristbands. What was once a philosophy about park additions and innovations now often seems like an excuse for mediocrity and neglect.

If there is any imagination left in the world, and I think there is, maybe it could be put to better use by solving some of these problems currently plaguing the U.S.-based Disney theme parks:

1. The Giant Sorcerer Mickey Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I can imagine a once-gorgeous and perfectly scaled theme park entrance that could be made beautiful again with the removal of this promotional structure which has, unfortunately, overstayed its welcome by 12+ years. The Hollywood Boulevard entrance used to be a brilliant first act to the park. Scaled using the same forced perspective as Main Street, U.S.A., but with buildings and facades reflecting architectural styles found in Southern California during the golden age of Hollywood, and using the design of a classic movie palace as the park’s “castle” so to speak, it was like Disneyland dedicated to the love of movies. It sure made this movie and Disney fan very happy and inspired, at least in the year 2001 B.H. (Before Hat) and earlier. Even though all of the buildings and facades are still there, I believe that the giant hat severely detracts, if not completely erases, all of the beutiful proportions, charm, and artistry of this formerly great entrance. I can imagine that someday this wonderful entrance could return. What do you imagine?

2. Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.
I can imagine a land that embraces a cartoon alien/monster-free future and adds instead fun and truly futuristic attractions in their places. I’ve never had much of a problem with the Magic Kingdom’s 1994 Tomorrowland re-do in which “the future that never was” actually arrived in the form of metallic retro sci-fi futurism. It’s the attractions that reside inside the retro-futuristic facades that I think miss the mark. Stitch’s Great Escape (I can’t even bear to include the exclamation point) misses the quality and excellence that are the hallmarks of a well-designed Disney attraction all the way around. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is a enjoyable and well-run attraction in a wrong part of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. I can imagine that these two attractions could be replaced by experiences that are more in alignment with what the Tomorrowland dedication plaque in Disneyland states: “A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements...a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: the Atomic Age...the challenges of outer space...and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.” What do you imagine?

3. Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
I can imagine a Tomorrowland that works. Whether it’s the removal of the former People Mover/Rocket Rods track (since it’s probably never coming back in any form), the returning of the Astro Orbiter/Rocket Jets to its rightful place where it was from 1967-1997, or the addition of an enjoyable and innovative ride-through attraction where the Carousel of Progress/America Sings/Innoventions building now resides, I can imagine (and truly hope), that needed aesthetic and functional changes could be coming soon to Tomorrowland. What do you imagine?

4. The Disco Yeti in Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I can imagine this attraction closing down for a few months in order to get a better solution in place for this eternally broken audio-animatronic. I’m quite baffled why one of the best effects in a flagship ride in a park that really needs a flagship ride never gets fixed. I can understand that operationally it might not be feasible to close down the attraction for the length of time needed to make the repairs and modifications. However, wouldn’t it make sense in the long run to get things working? It all seems very short sighted to me. I might not be able to see the entire picture, but I can imagine that a solution is plausible and possible. What do you imagine?

5. All of Future World at Epcot.
I can imagine a return to beautiful, relevant, inspirational and well-maintained Future World pavilions. Of all of the current problems happening at Disney theme parks, the current state of Future World is the most heartbreaking to me. I don’t pine for a return to the 1980s (although they were awesome); what I wish for is a return to the “future” in Future World. Let me reference again a dedication plaque, this time it is Epcot’s plaque from opening day in October 1982: “EPCOT Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.” What current Future World pavilion lives up what is stated in the dedication plaque? I can imagine that Disney (The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Imagineering, Team Disney Orlando, or whoever will make this decision) would want to allocate the money and resources necessary to restore and renew this portion of the park to its intended aspirational vision and guest experience. What do you imagine?

 

Related posts:

That's What Walt Said
Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad
My 10-Point Plan for Better Character Attraction Placement
Disney Management Apathy / Hockey Analogy
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Vintage Disneyland Home Movies- Meeting Walt Disney Himself
THEN AND NOW: Walt at Disneyland


Tuesday
May142013

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 4]

In Part 3 we explored little-known details about the Carousel of Progress at Disneyland and its upper-level Progress City. Now we turn back the clock even further to a time when the Carousel of Progress was going to have an OMNIMOVER RIDE! This wonderful concept has been right under our noses for years yet we never hear anyone talking about it. Let's gather some concept art and make sense of this great idea. 

After the success of the Carousel of Progress at the World's Fair, Disney pitched a concept to General Electric that included a ride system similar to the system later built for EPCOT Center's Spaceship Earth. The vehicles were to be called "G.E.M.s" or "General Electric Mobiles" (above). How would an entire ride system have fit into the Carousel Theater?

Take a look at the first image in this post and next image below. We've seen these pieces of concept art in various books over the years. The image below has been on display on Main Street at Disneyland for the last few years. But have you ever noticed how the lower level of the Carousel of Progress building is without walls? It's an open-air architecture. The rotating Carousel Theater appears to be on the upper level. Yep, that was the plan.

Disney planned for a switchback ramp on the exterior of the building, much like the one at World's Fair. Guests would have walked from ground-level up to an upper-level queue before boarding the attraction. Audience members would have exited their theater seats after Act 4, then entered a boarding area in front of them.

The following concept art by John Hench has always intrigued and fascinated me. I have often heard and read that this piece represents the speedramp that was built for Tomorrowland '67. You know, the ramp that took the audience from the lower level to the upper level of the building. It's often assumed that the vehicles in the rendering were Peoplemovers. The vehicles are actually "G.E.M.s" and this all takes place on the upper level of the building.

From the upper level, the ride vehicles would have taken passengers on a slow downward spiral towards a Progress City model, as seen in the next piece of concept art. The model city would have been below the Carousel Theater. In fact, it would have been well below the upper level. The center of the model would have been at basement level.

FUN FACT: A basement of sorts was built under the Carousel of Progress building (now the Innoventions building) and is still there today. I would often enter this basement area from a staircase backstage on the far east side of the building not far from the men's locker room. The locker room was on the back side of the Grand Canyon Diorama. A long basement hallway would lead to the Alpine Gardens (now Pixie Hollow) near the Matterhorn. The basement area and hallway look a lot like Magic Kingdom's Utilidors.

The following artwork is a detail from a broader Hench rendering of the General Electric Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The concept of the zig-zag roofs over various full-scale (or almost full-scale) show scenes was to be included in the omnimover attraction at Disneyland. Not only would guests have traveled closer and closer to the scale Progress City model, they would have experienced up-close views of G.E.-living at its best. 

Show elements would have been similar to G.E.'s "Medallion City" exhibit in their World's Fair Pavilion.

We learn something interesting about the proposed G.E.-sponsored building in the next image, courtesy of the great Tomorrowlounge 67 website. The building was to have an open center, like a donut. This would explain the palm trees in the images 1 and 5 of this post. Would the model city in the center of the donut have been exposed to rain and other weather? Perhaps the model city was protected. Perhaps it was gradually revealed to ride passengers and not visible from the boarding area. I can't be certain.

Another interesting thing we learn from this next piece is that a different People Mover track layout was planned. See how it doesn't stretch down the middle avenue from the rocket tower towards the entrance of the land? Sort of like Magic Kingdom's Peoplemover layout. Also, it appears to travel all the way over towards what is now the Storybook Land queue.

Here I've prepared a set of cross sections representing both the proposed attraction and the attraction that was actually built.

 

At some point the idea of an open-air lower level was changed to a walled-in lower level. You'll notice the Carousel of Progress show is still on the upper level. It looks like the Peoplemover track was to exit the north side of the building but look how it comes out of the building on the lower level, unlike the version that was actually built.

Why did this magnificent concept never come to pass? My guess would be... money. Isn't it always money?

There are still plenty of mysteries surrounding this Carousel of Progress/Progress City ride. What was it going to be called? What else was it going to include? If you have more information on the subject, please let us know. Email us at Imagineering.Disney@gmail.com.

 

Related posts:

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 1]
Tomorrowland '67 [Part 2]
Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
1967 "New Tomorrowland" Broadcast
America Sings
THEN AND NOW: 1964-65 New York World's Fair
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It