Welcome back! I’m glad you made it back for the newest edition of Disney Extinct Attractions! My name is Cole Geryak, and I’ll be your unofficial narrator as we travel around Tomorrowland today!
I just want to preface this article by saying that I love hearing back from you lovely people about what you like and don’t like, so feel free to comment or email me at email@example.com!
Now onto the fun stuff! The only real business to report in the present is that there is now a Star Wars stage show in front of the Chinese Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! It is only a week old, but so far, reviews for it have been stellar. The show is in the space of a former Frozen themed stage show, so here’s a Frozen joke to please the Frozen fans who miss it!
Now that your mind is in the Disney spirit, let’s Move on over to our new (former) attraction of the week!
During the middle of the 1960s, Walt Disney and his Imagineers were in the full throes of several influential projects, namely the Florida Project and the New York’s World’s Fair. Within the Florida Project, Walt’s real interest laid with creating his perfect community in EPCOT.
Walt’s original plan for EPCOT was to create a community for like-minded people to live, in order to better develop ways to live in harmony. He was worried about how the urban communities of the world were currently set up and wanted to help shape a better future by bringing together doers who would be able fully realize his dream. Of course, we got the theme park known as EPCOT instead, but not all of the ideas for EPCOT were lost.
One concept that Walt was particularly fond of was the idea of a PeopleMover, a new way of transportation around a city that reduced the need for cars.
The vehicles seen on the left are what a PeopleMover in the original EPCOT might have looked like.
With the EPCOT on the forefront of his mind, Walt agreed to help create multiple pavilions for companies at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair (because why not have a lot of large-scale projects on your plate?!). One of the most memorable of those attractions was the Ford Magic Skyway.
Disney Legend Bob Gurr was tasked with creating the ride vehicles for the attraction (something he was particularly adept at as he was Imagineering’s go-to-guy for ride vehicle creation, helping with the Autopia cars, Haunted Mansion Omnimovers, and Submarine Voyage submarines, to name a few!). Guests on this attraction would sit in actual Ford cars mounted on a track with wheels embedded in the ground propelling the cars through the ride. This ride system allowed for a high theoretical ride capacity because the cars were kept in constant motion and could comfortably seat six people.
Because of the innovative nature of this attraction and the other Disney ones at the World’s Fair (it’s a small world and the Carrousel of Progress both also got their starts there), Disney’s attractions were big hits, and the two aforementioned ones both moved to Disneyland. During this time, Disneyland was also undergoing big changes to help Tomorrowland relate more to the tomorrow it was trying to represent (which I went into in the post about Adventure Thru Inner Space if you want more information on that).
One of the changes that Walt wanted to make was the addition of a PeopleMover around Tomorrowland to give riders a chance to see the land in a new way, while also showcasing what he felt would be a beneficial technology for the future of the world. Unfortunately, Walt passed away before New Tomorrowland was completed…
…but not before he got a chance to test out a version of the PeopleMover!
Walt’s ultimate goal of the PeopleMover was to use Disneyland as a testing ground for the more expansive PeopleMover that would be included at EPCOT. He viewed the technology as a true prototype for what transportation might entail in the future, and his new version of Tomorrowland would be the perfect place to debut his groundbreaking innovation.
Now you may be wondering where the Ford Magic Skyway fits into this story. The technology behind the propulsion of the Ford cars was a direct precursor to the PeopleMover. The constant motion and high capacity also perfectly lent themselves to the PeopleMover’s design, making it a direct descendant of the Ford Magic Skyway. Therefore, the design behind the Magic Skyway vehicles was only slightly altered to fit the PeopleMover when it officially opened in Disneyland on July 2, 1967 along with the rest of the first New Tomorrowland!
Guests went on a grand circle tour of Tomorrowland (and no, they didn’t market it as that, I just wanted to make the reference!). One of the coolest factors of the tour was that guests got to go through parts of the attractions and see them from a completely different point of view. The riders really experienced something unique, unlike anything really offered anywhere else in the park.
The “ride through the ride” experience remained essentially the same for the first ten years until the SuperSpeed Tunnel was added in 1977. The tunnel simulated a high speed race using projections along some of the side walls, making the PeopleMover more showy and adding a “fun” element. That wasn’t enough though, as the Imagineers then plussed the tunnel in by transforming it into a race with the Light Cycles from Tron. This new version, renamed the “PeopleMover Thru the World of Tron” was added on July 2, 1982 (the PeopleMover 15th birthday!) and actually opened a week before the movie did! Guests fell in love with the chance to ride through the grid from the movie, and I was pretty amazed by it when I saw it, even though it was just a video! You can watch a full version of the PeopleMover right here that featured the Tron Tunnel (as I’ve taken to calling it), and here’s a little appetizer picture to wet your appetite.
Perhaps the most incredible part of the PeopleMover was that it had a theoretical hourly ride capacity (THRC) of 4,800 people! In comparison, the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World has a THRC of 3,200 people, and it is one of the fastest loading attractions at any Disney park. But the PeopleMover beat that number by a full 50%! This ride was created almost 50 years ago, and rides created and refurbished today cannot even come close to the incredible THRC that the PeopleMover had.
But alas, even a huge ride capacity could not save the PeopleMover in Disneyland from joining the list of extinct Disney attractions. In the middle of the 1990s, Tomorrowland again began to not meet the ideal standards for the future that it was intended to represent. So because of circumstances almost identical to the ones that led to addition of the PeopleMover to the park, it was now time for the PeopleMover to leave the main stage of Disneyland. The whole point of the attraction was to function as a prototype for transportation in the future, but by this point the technology behind it was no longer innovative, and it did not fit within New Tomorrowland 2.0. With that, the attraction officially retired on August 21, 1995 to be replaced by the Rocket Rods, which opened along with New New Tomorrowland.
The PeopleMover remains a beloved classic amongst the Disneyland fan community, and fans constantly call for its return. The tracks still remain standing, so it would be possible for it to return, but it does not seem like it would be happening anytime soon. I personally would love to see it come back because I never got the chance to experience it! For now, fans have to be content with the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, which is a wonderful option to have. Ok, I may be a little biased, though, because TTA is my favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom, but it still has the same feel of the classic PeopleMover at Disneyland from what I can tell.
And with that, our tour of the PeopleMover at Disneyland has reached its conclusion. Please watch your hands and feet as your exit the ride vehicle and learn about what we have in store next week.
Here are some little teasers for next week’s post to get your excitement level up!
1. This show was only featured at one park.
2. This show lasted barely over one year.
3. This show opened during the same month at its park, but not in the same year.
Ok, so those clues barely give anything away, I know, but people have been getting good at guessing them, so I decided to make it a little bit tougher this time. Plus this attraction is really obscure, meaning the clues should be too! So back to the usual tidbits at the end!
If you liked this post and want to stay updated on future posts, be sure to join the Facebook Group! And as I said at the beginning, I LOVE hearing your feedback and comments about what you like and don’t like about the blog, so if you can think of anything feel free to comment in the post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. O! If you have any attractions, you really want to hear about, be sure to let me know! The more obscure the better, and parades and fireworks are open game, as well!
And as always, have a Magical Day!