Disneyland and the Future of Tomorrowland

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Disneyland Resort, In the Parks

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Published on October 19, 2012 at 5:01 am with 70 Comments


The message boards lit up this week as a load of news was broken by Al Lutz regarding huge changes coming to the Disneyland resort.  It seems that Tomorrowland as we know it will become a thing of the past in favor of movie themed attractions. But that’s just the beginning. Disneyland Fastpass will soon undergo a major change that you need to know about.  It’s not all bad news though.  A variety of projects around the resort are progressing nicely.  In fact, the Fantasy Faire Village is promising to be visually interesting if nothing else.  But let’s get right to the big story first.  We’ll have time to salivate over those Earl of Sandwich pictures at the end of the update.

Al Lutz reported in his most recent update that guests have until February to “enjoy” Innoventions. Apparently the plan is to make way for a new Iron Man themed E ticket attraction.  Now, if that were to go through, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland will be mostly filled with film-franchise based attractions. Only Autopia, The Monorail, and Space Mountain would be non-movie and neither really has much of a story behind it.

Marvel is on the way to Tomorrowland . . . does it fit?

Would you like to see Iron Man find a home here? Should a different attraction go here instead (Tron perhaps)?

Tomorrowland is filled with franchise based movie attractions like this…

And this . . .

There will then be a total of four film franchise attractions inside the boundaries of Tomorrowland; Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters  and the upcoming E-ticket.  But before you go crying foul, lighting the torches and raising the pitchforks, understand that this trend is nothing new.  There have been franchise attractions in Tomorrowland since the beginning. The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walk-through exhibit stood for 12 years, (1955-1967). Though, until the Eisner era, Tomorrowland was primarily a showcase for futuristic ideas and technologies. Although the Circarama films were not very futuristic, the technology which brought it to you was. Even the Monorail, Autopia and Subs once seemed futuristic (and perhaps the Monorails still do after all these years).

For many of us, it is sad to see Walt’s idea of a bright, hopeful and visionary tomorrow being thrown by the wayside in favor of an easier idea.  An Iron Man attraction is certain to be astounding.  When Imagineering gets something right, they knock it out of the park.  But how will the lore of Tony Stark and Stark Industries dazzle us with a bright and positive outlook on the future?

Attractions like the Monorail, The Peoplemover, Carousel of Progress or even Adventure Through Inner Space invited guests to experience an idealized version of the future in which science fiction became reality.  Guests could experience the impossible or the fantastic by stepping into Space Station X-1 and hover 50 miles above the Earth’s surface, they could stroll through the House of the Future and see what their house might look like in 1987, or they could enter a large telephone booth and call home without the use of a telephone receiver (early speakerphone).

We aren’t saying that Tomorrowland should be one big science fair.  But it has strayed so far from Walt’s original notion that it is more like Sci-Fantasyland these days. And perhaps the time has come for Disney to just level with us and change the name and stated focus of the land once and for all.

The future, experiencing a flight through outer space? We are on the verge of Virgin Galactic taking real passengers into space. It’s still futuristic!

This one is an anomaly. It’s a film, it’s fantasy, but it can hardly be looked at as “Tomorrow”. Unless we assume that our future holds an evil space queen whom can only be subdued by magical dancing.

We’re conflicted not just on Iron Man, but on what Tomorrowland has become in general. The building of this new attraction alone won’t fix this land. We are looking forward to hearing more about the overall plans for Tomorrowland and how it will be given a cohesive theme (whatever that may be).

As a heads up, it was also appears that Fastpass return times will soon be enforced at Disneyland. Since the implementation of the Fastpass ticket system, guests were never told that they were too late for their reservation window.  You could never show up early, but as long as you showed up after your reservation time, Cast Members would allow you to ride without question  Not so now. By the end of the year, cast members will be instructed to enforce the return time window rule.   

How do you find this return time?  Well…

At the entrance to each attraction that utilizes Fast Pass you will see a Stand-by wait time
and a RETURN BETWEEN time. Here we see that they are offering a return time between 1:25pm and 2:25pm

Cast Members will help you locate the Fast Pass Distribution machines. Just scan your regular ticket by inserting it into the machine and you will be given your Fast Pass.

See? Easy! My Fastpass says I can return between 1:25pm and 2:25pm.

This is going to be a hard lesson for us locals to learn after being able to take advantage of the system for so long.  But, really, rules are rules.  Maybe, if used properly, the Fastpass system won’t be such a burden on the park. Only time will tell.  Oh, and send your thoughts, prayers and good vibes to the front line CM’s that are going to have to break the bad news to loads of upset passholders. Yikes, we can only imagine how difficult it’s going to be for the cast and crew of the resort for a while.

The Fantasy Faire Village is showing even more interesting peaks and rooftops as more steel framing has been installed.

The City Hall Facade and nearby restrooms are still under refurbishment as well.  City Hall is open, but if you need to powder your nose, try the restrooms near the Disney Gallery or the ones near the Carnation Cafe.

Some sudden refurbishment has begun on one of the facades for the shops near the Golden Horseshoe.

Work continues on this attraction complex in which the whimsical Casey Jr. Train intertwines with the canals of Storybook Land.  It is rumored that during this refurbishment, OSHA mandated hand rails might be installed on the bridges.  As much as we appreciate OSHA helping to keep us all safe, they have been pushing for some overly aggressive changes to some classic attractions.  Let’s hope for the best.

More upkeep is taking place in ToonTown.  That’s a good thing!  This time it is the restrooms in the center of the land.

Minnie’s house
The landscape work continues near Minnie’s house.

But the hills behind her cute cottage look really bad.

Here we are at Bennie Watch 2012.  So far, Bennie still has NOT returned.  We will keep you posted if we spot him elsewhere in the park.

And now for an ADORABLE random picture:

THAT is what Disneyland is about.

Speaking of the restrooms, work is still going on at the location near the Fantasyland Theatre (aka former Princess Fantasy Faire)

Disney California Adventure continues to persuade the remaining skeptics and is pulling in crowds that often match Disneyland itself.

Construction walls are still up to the right of the entrance where the final entry planers will be built.

Another Random picture that we shot which was too funny to leave out:

Who can come up with the best caption for this photo?

The new Disney California Adventure Christmas Tree will soon be installed in front of Elias and Company in the round planter currently occupied by ficus trees.

Perfect spot

Oh, ficus tree, oh ficus tree, you’ll soon be gone and Christmas-y

Ice Skating is ready to go in Downtown Disney.  Yes, it’s a tie-in for another mid-grade, direct to video animated film, but what a fun novelty for the season. Who remembers the annual ice skating at the Disneyland Hotel before the Neverland Pool was built?

The rink could open any day now for soft openings.  But it will have a grand opening on October 23rd to mark the release of Secret of the Wings.

According to Disney the prices will be
$15 for adults and children
$12 for toddlers
with an additional $3 for skate rentals.

We can’t leave the Downtown Disney area without giving you the latest from the Earl of Sandwich shop.  The intricate paint scheme is a little loud, but somehow it works.

Finally, the interior looks like a real restaurant.

There’s an homage to Compass Books in the wallpaper.

And finally, before the big Christmas Tree is installed, the rug in the center of the Grand Californian is being replaced.  Thankfully the beautiful pattern remains.

This is the second time (we believe) that the carpet has been replaced since the hotel opened. The first was due to a fire in the Christmas Tree a few years ago which caused soot and water damage.

Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our company.  We look forward to the future with timid optimism and hope that Walt’s spirit will be retained.  We aren’t sure what to think about Marvel in Disneyland. It’s sort of a worst case scenario for the Disney purists. We’ve all hoped that Disney would reserve Marvel for the Studio parks or for a new super hero theme park. Disneyland is not a museum and we are all in favor of the disappointing Innoventions being replaced. But, if not Marvel, what would you fans like to see built in its place? (keep in mind that the entire building, back stage area, part of Autopia and Sub Lagoon are all part of the expansion area).  That’s a lot of room to build something which might tie Tomorrowland together again.

Just a final tip: If you haven’t yet, take a look at Today’s Dateline Disney World which features images of the newly opened Fantasyland Expansion at Walt Disney World.

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

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  • skoolpsyk

    Is it really going to be ice skating or that skatable plastic stuff?

  • SFDave

    For the caption contest … Here’s the finger I’m gonna give management for taking away our Holiday party!

  • Leofoenget

    Caption: Dude I have holes in my Handerpants

  • SpectroMan

    Caption: “I hope this fingerless glove will conceal my hairy palm…”

  • Gone2Disneyland

    Sorry, but seeing Iron Man spelled as one word bugged me. :/

    But about the Innoventions/Iron Man rumor, I was telling friends the day after Lutz posted his update the same as you, that Tomorrowland should get a name change to Pop Culture Land, since more than half of the land’s attractions will be given over to existing brands (Finding Nemo, Star Wars, Toy Story, Michael Jackson and Iron Man) and pop culture icons and the remaining Astro Orbitor, Autopia, the Monorail, and Space Mountain attractions are not. And in fact, it can be argued that even most of the remaining attractions could be described as pop culture icons as well.

    That said, I can’t imaging Tony Baxter and company haven’t already brainstormed ideas for how to justify bringing a Marvel superhero to Tomorrowland on top of the rumored plans to bring additional ideas and changes to the land. Hopefully, they’ll address head on with a name change. To be honest, just as they saw Pirates needed Depp, “Tomorrowland” now only really makes sense to us classic fans. :)

  • Omnispace

    As much as I enjoyed the nostalgic aspects of Stark Expo 74 and its “recent” incarnation in the movie, I’d have to vote against going with the idea of implementing it in Tomorrowland for the simple fact that it belongs in a different storytelling universe. It’s why Star Wars was a bad fit with Tomorrowland, (different universe, different galaxy), and why Indiana Jones works with Adventureland, (it’s a fictional story but set in our real past). The plain simple fact is that the Marvel characters were were created to exist in world that’s similar enough to ours to make it something we can relate to but skewed just enough to make the fantastic stories credible in their own right.

    Storytelling is something that Disney used to know how to do well. They profess to be experts now and yet they make the basic mistake of forcing incongruous stories together simply because they are all “futuristic”. It’s why Tomorrowland has become such a watered-down mess. And if the decision is to go forward with the concept of a Tomorrowland that once again expounds a better future through technology (aka Stark Expo) then why would a fictional realm work any better then the real one? The real story here is that Disney spent a lot of money on Marvel and they are trying everything they can to take the square peg they acquired and smash it into the round hole where Innoventions currently stands.

    My optimistic side, which by the way I gained partly from visiting the 1967 Tomorrowland when it was new, is really hoping that Disney at least creates something that is once again innovative and visionary and goes beyond what the “Jones” are doing. Tomorrowland’s original intent of showcasing the Space Age is certainly irrelevant now but the concepts of vision, inspiration, innovation, and optimism are all timeless and relevant. Disney should come up with some original “blow your mind” shows that push the limits of what path our technology is taking us. The attractions can still be immersive, escapist, and thrilling and yet still fit into what the intent of Tomorrowland was to be.

  • brian11811

    “Who can come up with the best caption for this photo?”

    (said in Kenau Reev’s voice).

    Dude… This is like.. MY hand…

  • UbIwerks

    Caption – “Crap! I missed my Fastpass window!”

  • Tinkbelle

    Caption: Does that say “Rowers of mowers gloom in the string?” uh… “Towers of flowers bloom in the sling?” I knew I should have memorized the lyrics!

    Yay for ice skating! I think that is a great Holiday addition to the resort.

    It is good to see the lobby getting attention at the GCH. I hope they pay some attention to the chair cushions next and the fireplace chairs that are starting to look scuffed and worn.

    I don’t mind Ironman coming to Tomorrowland. Stark is all about cutting edge technology. Hopefully they will display some of his fancy gizmos in the cue/ride.

    Boo for implementing strict return times on Fastpass! It won’t change wait times and all it does is take some of the flexibility and convenience away from the visitors.

  • Tinkbelle

    Caption – “Crap! I missed my Fastpass window!”

    Love it!

  • JessDisneyQ

    I wanna see Wall-E in TomorrowLand!!!! And don’t forget about Tron!

    • Internitty

      YES! YES! YES!

  • scarymouse

    Maybe its time to eliminate tomorrowland altogether , by that I mean everyone is right to predict the future and technology is a losing battle.We are given new phones and notebook type devices every couple of weeks to have a land survive in these kind of advances would be impossible .This is why nothing can last in this land, It seems space is the constant idea that has lasting appeal. If they can get away from the tomorrow aspect and stick with a space theme ,it could work for longer and would not be so hard to keep great attractions viable and lasting, space mountain isn’t going any time soon….star tours will be there for many moons to come……buzz not going anywhere…..rocketships……..staying put….nemo doesn’t fit really anywhere but its on the outskirts so ok, So something big in the corner could only help..autopia really carsland no brainer…….so an Ironman could work…I have faith in the imagineers to come up with something terrific and if it can get people interested in that real estate again,do it . Right now its not working so any improvement would be awesome…….Time to change the name to protect what is still good about the land…..

  • Awe_inspired

    Option 1: Change all of Tomorrowland to Star Wars-land (the anti-Potter at
    USH) Space Mtn retheme by installing floor to ceiling screens, riders wear
    3D goggles, projections change with each ride from space, to flying around
    Coruscant, to Hoth, etc. C- ticket for Starcade’s two floors using same
    vehicles as Mater’s Junkyard but moving along a track through show scenes,
    Terrace rethemed to Cantina, E-ticket to take the place of Innoventions,
    Pizza Port and Captain EO theater visiting several environs from the Star
    Wars Universe using suspended roller coaster instead of OMNI mover for a
    mild thrill, retheme Lightyear to Stormtroopers/battle droids/baddies
    shooter, retheme subs to Naboo, retheme autopia to sand speeders on
    Tatooine, retheme PM to Speeder Bikes or at least place “trains” of ships
    up there “flying around”, Move AO back on top of PM station retheme to
    X-wings and TIE fighters (geez long post!) Option 2: Remove Innoventions,
    Pizza Port, Capt EO theater replace with Journey to the Center of the
    Earth AND 20K Leagues near Nemo. Option 3: Change Innoventions to OMNI or
    suspended coaster ride visiting different planets- hot, cold, rainy,
    foggy, windy, all sorts of different environments/creatures to
    see/smell/hear. Beautiful, bizarre, scary… Mild randomly placed scares.

  • Wreckless Abrandon

    Caption – “You built a time machine… out of a trolly???”

    Yeah, I know wrong scene… closer to the “Scram Mcfly. I’m cuttin in!” scene, but it didn’t read right. I’m going to a Back to the Future midnight screening tonight.

    I’m ok with the Ironman idea! As long as it’s fun, and not a copy of Transformers or Harry Potter, I’m good with it. Not that there’s anything wrong with the technology used for those rides, but I don’t want Disney to be playing “catch up”

  • Zorro825

    Awesome update as always!
    Caption: “They call them fingers..but I’ve never seen them fing”