Welcome to the next edition of Disney Extinct Attractions! My name is Cole Geryak, and I’ll be your pilot on this unofficial flight through the sky! I’ll I’m happy you managed to find your way here and thank you in advance for reading!
Summer is finally here (well, at least for me because finals have ended!), and that means I will finally be able to get back home and visit Disneyland! I haven’t been to Disneyland since late January, so I’ve heard about a lot of the changes to the park due to construction, but I have not been able to actually see them with my own eyes yet.
Most of the construction is a result of the creation of Star Wars Land (which I really hope gets a cooler name sometime soon!). This new land will be taking the place of Big Thunder Ranch, employee areas, and causing a restructure of the Rivers of America and the Disneyland Railroad. And there is one additional removal that was just announced this week.
The chalet for the Skyway to Tomorrowland still stands in the park to this day, but Disney announced this week that it would need to demolish the building to make way for Star Wars Land. The demolition further ends the Skyway’s journey in Disneyland, but it served as a perfect segue into this week’s post! I was actually planning on writing about the Skyway this week before the announcement of its demolition, so it was ironic that it ended up working out in that way.
As I’ve talked about before, Walt Disney loved the idea of transportation and how he could help showcase its progress within his park, as seen with attractions like the PeopleMover and the Monorail. One such type of transportation that Walt discovered was a Sky Ride where guests could cruise across the park through the sky. Luckily for him, the Von Roll Company out of Switzerland had the exact type of design that Walt had in mind, so WED Enterprises purchased an entire Von Roll Type 101 aerial ropeway to be used within the park. It was actually the first of its kind in the United States, so Disneyland truly was groundbreaking in its introduction of new technologies.
The Skyway officially opened in Disneyland on June 23, 1956, a little less than a year after the rest of the park. It was extremely popular almost immediately because of its extremely unique way to travel across the park. The attraction cost a D-ticket to ride, and guests could either choose to travel from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland or vice versa. However, the attraction had to close for an extended period of time almost a year after its opening because of the addition of the Matterhorn to the park!
One of the coolest things about the attraction’s version in Disneyland was that guests actually got to travel through the Matterhorn! I am always a big fan of attractions interacting with each other because you get a bonus attraction out of the experience! Going through the Matterhorn, you could hear the sounds of the yeti and screams of terrified guests, while leisurely flying through the air, really adding to the atmosphere of the sky ride (pun highly intended).
In my opinion, the journey through the Matterhorn is what truly set the Skyway in Disneyland apart from the other Skyways in the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. In both of those parks, the Skyway was an opening day attraction (October 1, 1971 and April 15, 1983 respectively), showing that once Disney saw what it had at Disneyland, it became an essential part of the initial plans for these newer parks. While the same general idea was followed for each attraction, they each had their own twist, so it’s time to swing from rope to rope and explore each one.
I’ve already talked a lot about the one at Disneyland, but one tidbit that I haven’t mentioned yet was that cruising above the park at a higher altitude showed that Disneyland does not have quite as much greenery as the other parks. I think a lot of that has to do with it being located in an urban area, but nevertheless the park definitely is not as secluded as the other parks or as full of trees. Not that that is a bad thing! If anything, it helps to differentiate Disneyland and shows a more selective group of shrubbery that really adds to the park’s atmosphere as opposed to being overkill.
If you wanted to relive your days on the Skyway, the video found here actually includes footage of the Skyway on journeys to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, so you get the best of both worlds! Never having been able to actually experience the attraction, I really loved the aerial view of the park because I still had the chance to see it in a way that I never had before!
The Magic Kingdom Skyway followed the same path as the Disneyland Skyway and similarly used a Von Roll 101. However, the ride was a little bit longer (my guess is simply because the Magic Kingdom is much larger!) and also featured a turn halfway through the journey! I had never seen seen a direct turn like that on a sky ride or ski lift (then again I don’t see many sky rides or ski lifts!), so it certainly caught my attention. It added that extra bit of moxie to the attraction to keep guests who consistently rode the attraction in California on their toes.
I couldn’t find a roundtrip video like the one at Disneyland, so this video will take you on a journey from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, while this one will let you travel the opposite direction. Not having been to Walt Disney World as often, I loved the chance to see more of the Magic Kingdom and certainly to view its vintage self in a whole new way.
Now onto the Tokyo Disneyland Skyway, which was the first to utilize the Von Roll 102 rather than the 101. The model led to Tokyo Disneyland’s version becoming the most advanced of the three, but it was actually the shortest of the three so guests had the newest technology but the least amount of time to enjoy it! Most of the trip took place in Tomorrowland, at least from what I could tell from the video found here. I could only find video of the Skyway to Tomorrowland, but from the video it seems like almost as soon as you leave the Fantasyland Station, you are in Tomorrowland!
One other different aspect of the attraction had to do with the buckets themselves. The buckets in Tokyo Disneyland had windows, so guests couldn’t throw things at guests or fall out. One of the most popular theories about the Skyway is that it closed because someone fell out of the Skyway at Disneyland. While a man did fall out of his bucket, he later admitted to having jumped out voluntarily, so this rumor simply isn’t true. (Plus, they could have just changed the buckets a little bit, adding windows to each one like in Tokyo!)
In terms of Disneyland, most of the blame for the closure actually goes to Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Disney Parks and Resorts were going through tough financials times at the time with the failure of Euro Disney, so they needed to cut the operating costs of another attraction at Disneyland in order to allocate those costs to Indy. At the same time, the supports inside of the Matterhorn were starting to get old and would have required a complete overhaul of the Matterhorn to ensure the long-term safety of passengers on the Skyway. The combination of these events led to the ultimate closure of the Skyway on November 9, 1994.
The Skyways in Tokyo Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom ended up lasting a little bit longer (November 3, 1998 and November 10, 1999 respectively), but both also ended up kicking the bucket. In Tokyo, the Fantasyland station was replaced with Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, one of the first rides to utilize a trackless ride system, and the Tomorrowland station was replaced by a candy store. Over in Florida, both of stations ended up simply becoming bathrooms, with the one in Tomorrowland having a stage connected to it. In both parks, the attractions closed for the mere reason that they were getting old, and it was “time to go,” as one Disney executive put it.
Overall, I really love the idea of the Skyway and wish that I had had a chance to experience it for myself! It was such a unique way to travel across the park and not something that I have seen in any other theme park. It truly is a shame that we will be losing such a large piece of its history with the demolition of its chalet in Fantasyland.
And with that sad note, this post must come to a close. I want to give a very special thank you to Rob Von Roll for answering my questions about the Skyway and providing me with most of the great pictures that you saw throughout this post! I really appreciate it!
Now here are the clues for next week’s post!
1. The replacement to this attraction opens next week.
2. This attraction adapted a Disney Animated Classic.
3. This attraction could only be found in one park.
I hope you enjoyed this post even though it went on a little longer than usual! As always, thank you for reading, and I love hearing your feedback on the post, so be sure to comment and let me know what you thought about the attraction if you rode it and the post as a whole. You can also join my Facebook Group for updates on future posts, but if you found this on a Facebook group, rest assured the posts will show up there, as well!
Ok, it’s almost the same joke as last week (plus it’s a bonus hint if you read this far!), but I still love it! Have a magical day!