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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.


The Fantasy of Space Colony Living

Ultimate residential living could only mean one thing- life in the City of EPCOT.  That is if you are on Earth.  What about orbiting around the planet in a man-made rotating colony?  THAT is the ultimate in future living, by golly.  Better than living on the moon or even Mars itself.

Fantasy or Reality?

This idea wasn't always in the category of comic book fiction or sci-fi cinema.  (Though 2001: A Space Odyssey featured a fantastic rotating space colony).  It may be viewed as fantasy today but a few short decades ago it was considered to be real-life preparation for something quickly becoming a reality.   The following concepts come from NASA engineers, futurists, illustrators, and Walt Disney and co.  

Space colonies were once a serious goal.  And a fantastic one at that.  The basic idea is a floating city in one shape or another rotating at a calculated speed to create the right amount of centrifugal force and therefore simulated Earth-like gravity for its inhabitants.  These enclosed colonies would be complete with housing, controlled sunlight, oxygen of course, plants, crops, animals, rivers, fantastic transportation systems, and killer views.


Three Main Space Colony Concepts  


1) Wheel-Shaped

How fantastic is it that NASA commissioned illustrations like these in order to visually share their ideas.  This particular colony would house up to 10,000 colonists.  Inhabitants would enjoy artificial gravity by means of centrifugal force.  The ground would be positioned to where people stand with their heads toward the hub of the station.  This means you could travel half way around the station and be "up-side-down" from where you started.

The center hub of the station will have almost no simulated gravity which makes for easy loading and loading of transport ships.  Elevator shafts would lower inhabitants from the hub to the outer ring, with gravity increasing along the way.  

This photo of a FANTASTIC model (which I just recently dug out of an old book of mine) shows not only the cool looking residential area of the outer ring but the underlying "utilidors" if you will.

This detail of the hub shows docking facilities, antenna, and access to spokes to the living area.  Between spokes you see solar power cells.


2) Spherical

 Horizons, anyone??  The "Bernal Sphere" as it is called has a varied degrees of simulated gravity.  Along the equator of the sphere gravity is "normal".  As you move toward the poles gravity lessens.  Recreational activities could center around these no-to-low-gravity areas to take advantage of this near weightlessness.  

The layered rings on either end of the sphere would house crops, chickens, and cows. 


Who needs "Soarin'" when you've got that cool 70's red hang glider you launch from zero-gravity, with a view this great??


3) Cylindrical

This concept would be as long as 19 miles with a diameter of 4 miles.  Jeepers!

You could walk to the opposite surface of the cylinder, look "up" and see people, lakes, and houses "above" you.  Weird yet so super intriguing.

Something very fascinating within this concept is the idea of simulated night.  While revolving around Earth, an eclipse would form as Earth blocks the space colony's view of the sun every "evening".  

A mammoth colony would eventually be constructed to house hundreds of thousands of people.  An area the size of San Francisco Bay would easily fit inside this enormous structure.

The teacup-looking modules are agricultural stations.  

This concept was predicted to be feasible by the end of the 20th century with possibilites of being built as early as the early 1990s.  Hmmm.


Is This Possible?

A small portion of the structures would be built in pieces on Earth then transported into space.  The majority of the components would originate on the moon.  The moon??  Yep, the moon.  Colonists would enjoy little amounts of wood and plastic.  These materials would have to be shipped from Earth at an enormous cost, whereas aluminum and ceramic could come from the nearby moon.  And cheese.

Not only would the moon provide valuable building materials, it would be an outpost for extraterrestrial discovery!  "Project Cyclops" is a plan for a series of giant radiotelescope antennae which would be used to detect radio signals from alien planets 1,000 light year away.  And they'll drive around in cool electric trams with red stripes.


Walt Disney's Space Colony


Walt, the visionary, like to surround himself with other visionaries.  Wernher von Braun joined forces with Walt and famed animator Ward Kimball to produce short films about outer space.  The must-own and very funny "Man and the Moon", directed by Kimball, featured the concept of this wheel-shaped station.  

Much smaller than the colonies shown earlier, this station was to house 50 men for the purposes of inspecting the moon before the first humans were to ever set foot on its surface.

A recent photo of the actual model used in "Man and the Moon" on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.



"Man and the Moon" Screenshots


Next time!:  A Space Colony ride concept??  We'll see.  It may or may not be in the works amongst the staff.


Photos from Mitch's personal collection of books and video.  Graphics and Smithsonian photos by Mitch.


Disneyland in 1955

A look at the early days of Disneyland. The park opened to invited guests on July 17, 1955. The following day it opened to the general public.

Front and back covers of "Picture Souvenir Book of Disneyland in Natural Color" reprinted in 2005 for Disneland's 50th Anniversary.


Scan from the inside front cover of "Picture Souvenir Book of Disneyland in Natural Color"
A list of attractions was presented in this early map from an early Picture Souvenir Book. This specific book was not available on Opening Day, of course, because photos with guest in them were not available. This an interesting map-- oddly drawn and missing a number of attractions from 1955. You'll notice the lack of labels for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White, Peter Pan, Mad Tea Party, and almost everything in Tomorrowland. I love that the Railroad is traveling the wrong direction. Holidayland is on the complete opposite side of the park. It's cool to see the waters of Rivers of America connected to the waters of " 'Explorer Boat Ride' through the Rivers of Mexico, Africa, Central and South America, and Australia" (The Jungle Cruise).


Main Street, USA

No other part of Disneyland resembles the way things looked in 1955 more than the exterior portions of Main Street. Almost every sign has been changes but the architecture of the buildings remains almost identical. The interiors however have changed much.




Within the Castle Courtyard King Arthur Carrousel was positioned much closer to Sleeping Beauty Castle than it is today. The Mad Tea Party was directly north of the carrousel (both moved to new locations along with Dumbo in 1983). Sleeping Beauty Castle was spectacular yet the public had little connection with the animated film because Sleeping Beauty would not debut until January of 1959. Artwork was presented on Disneyland, the T.V. show in 1954 and the Sleeping Beauty walk through attraction inside the castle opened in 1957 with several dioramas telling the story of Sleeping Beauty. A similar walk through attraction exists today.

Casey Jr. Circus Train, one of the most charming little attractions even today, offered a view of the very underdeveloped Canal Boats of the World (later renamed Storybook Land Canal Boats). The boats were sadly not operational on Opening Day. The landscaping and miniature scenes we know today were not present but plenty of dirt was.

A creepy looking Court Jester selling balloons?

You'll notice what looks like another Court Jester running with kids on Opening Day through the castle in this famous photo. When did they finally get rid of those guys?? I guess they fit the land in which they reside, but still...



The most changed of any land. The Autopia is the only remaining attraction today. In 1955 guests enjoyed the following, now extinct, attractions. Circarama U.S.A., "A Tour of the West, the Dutch Boy Paint Color Gallery, Monsanto Hall of Chemistry, Kaiser's Hall of Aluminum Fame, Rocket to the Moon, Space Station X-1, Thimble Drome Flight Circle (displaying flying model planes), Tomorrowland Boats, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea exhibit, and The World Beneath Us presented by Richfield Oil.

No guide rail on the Autopia track?? Boy did I dream of that as small child. Among the first to ride the Autopia on Opening Day were Frank Sinatra and son and Sammy Davis Jr.



Hop aboard the "Explorer Boat Ride through the Rivers of Mexico, Africa, Central and South America, and Australia" (Jungle Cruise) where the skipper was not wise-cracking, the plants were small, and the Marc Davis gags we know and love today did not exist. However Schweitzer Falls waterfall was called Schweitzer Falls even way back then.


Other than the exteriors of Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle, the southern stretch of Frontierland facades have changed less than almost anything in the park.


Opening Day Model

It's worth taking a look at this top-notch model that was installed in the lobby of Disneyland's Opera House in Town Square for the 50th Anniversary. It was originally installed flat then later relocated within the same lobby to a northwest wall and was mounted on an angle. This location, as you might remember, once housed the talking animatronic owl who spoke about Walt Disney's True Life Adventures. Oh how I loved watching him narrate those clips in his little graduation cap in an old-fashioned classroom setting.


Hooray for Disneyland.

Images scanned by Mitch. All other photos taken by Mitch.


Related posts:

New Fantasyland 1983
Disneyland 1955 Model Close-ups
THEN AND NOWWalt at Disneyland