A Brief History of the WEDWay PeopleMover

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disneyland Resort, Features, The 626, Walt Disney World

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Published on October 28, 2012 at 12:34 am with 25 Comments

”Tomorrow’s transportation . . . today!” That’s the slogan that once graced the PeopleMover’s attraction poster at Disneyland. Debuting July 2nd, 1967 with the newly remodeled Tomorrowland, the PeopleMover was one of the most visible of the new attractions being unveiled that year…mostly because you could see it from almost everywhere in Tomorrowland!

The original idea for the PeopleMover was experimented with during the 1964-65 NY World’s Fair in the Magic Skyway attraction that Disney designed for Ford. The attraction featured a trip through time while guests were seated in various models of Ford cars. Since the cars themselves were not powered, they used a new propulsion concept that allowed them to be pushed along the track, which stemmed from an idea John Hench had while watching an assembly line at a Ford plant.

Two years after the Fair ended, Disney Imagineers re-worked the concept, and introduced it into the new Tomorrowland. The name of the attraction, the WEDway PeopleMover, was only a working title, but eventually it stuck. Much like at the World’s Fair, the cars themselves weren’t motorized…the track itself was. Rubber tires powered by electricity were mounted every nine feet along the three quarter of a mile track, and helped push the PeopleMover along its route. There were 517 of those motor driven tires, which moved your car anywhere between two to seven miles per hour, depending on the location.

For a single D-ticket, guests could get a scenic 16 minute tour of Tomorrowland, from a vantage point they were never able to see before. Along that tour, they went through Adventure thru Inner Space, the Carousel Theater (where guests could have a great view of Progress City!) near the Submarine Voyage lagoon, Circarama Theater, and in the late 70s, inside Space Mountain.

Each car, which were all fitted with a speaker to play music by Disney Legend Buddy Baker, was covered in a white canopy to protect Guests from the sun, and came in one of four colors: blue, red, green, or yellow. About four people could sit in one of the cars at a time. There were 62 four-train car trains, which had an hourly capacity of almost 5,000 people.

Before the ride was opened, Disney asked Ford to sponsor the attraction, since it was very similar to the system used in the Magic Skyway. However, since the PeopleMover was being considered as a viable replacement for public transportation, Ford was reluctant to support technology that would put them out of business.

Goodyear, known for selling quality car tires, stepped in to sponsor the attraction, and provided the tires for its propulsion system, from 1967 until 1981. The attraction had a few changes over the years, including adding a super speed tunnel and effects that mimicked the movie Tron to help promote the film. Sadly, the PeopleMover was removed in 1995 and was soon replaced by the short lived Rocket Rods.

A different version of the PeopleMover, now named the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, still exists at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom today. Though similar in concept, this version of the ride uses linear induction, instead of the tire propulsion system. The PeopleMover is still one of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World today, with its relaxing ride through Tomorrowland sometimes garnering waits close to an hour!

Though we can no longer experience the original attraction at Disneyland, rumors of its return have been making the rounds for years, so we may just be able to see it back in action once again.

Do you miss the PeopleMover at Disneyland? Do you continue to ride it at Walt Disney World?


by Jeff Heimbuch

If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!

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About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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  • BrerSchultzy

    I absolutely love all your articles, and am not usually one to criticize…AND, the Peoplemover is one of my favorites in WDW. But, when, exactly, has the wait ever been over 10 minutes, much less an hour? I remember being there on July 4th in mid-afternoon, and we still only waited 5 minutes. Granted, that’s because it’s so quick-loading, and not because it isn’t popular.

    • Jeff Heimbuch

      I have been there a few times (not often, mind you!) where the wait was incredibly long! It depends on when you catch it, it’s odd. But you’re right, it does usually take all of 5 minutes!

  • jcruise86

    Jeff, thanks for the excellent article. Like BrerSchultzy, I remember short lines for this smooth yet uplifting attraction. Do I miss the Peoplemover?

    Let’s see: it was
    relaxing,
    scenic,
    unique,
    for the entire family,
    would serve 5K per hour (Really? Isn’t that about twice PoTC’s capacity?),
    and had good music.
    Yes, I miss it a lot!

    It and the Carousel of Progress are two of the main reasons why we MIGHT cross the U.S. to visit Walt Disney World. They are the ultimate nostalgia trips for me. :)

  • eicarr

    Besides pirates, this was the only required favorite for the whole family. After rushing around all day and waiting in other lines, this was always a much appreciated long cruise around Disneyland to appritiate the grounds and atmosphere with music so dorkey it was cool. I remember appreciating it during an 80′s trip to Disneyworld where they had a short flat version without the groovey music or stunning dramatic views. Rocket Rods was Hurley jerky bad, but I enjoyed seeing my favorite sections of track. If its true they can’t use the track, it needs to come down. It’s like going into through the castle into fantasyland each time and seeing a dead Pinocchio to the right in the bushes. The peoplemover corpse is unnerving to all its rabid fans longing for a fun way to chill for 16 mins.

    • whitestrat

      I certainly miss the Peoplemover in Disneyland, and the Tomorrowland of that era?…goes without saying I think.

      Btw eicarr, I love the dead Pinocchio analogy!! :)
      The PM track just rotting away like that, is definitely like having to see the corpse of a long lost theme park friend every time you walk past. Sad

  • Redd Rockett

    Thanks for this article.

    I remember standing in front of Tomorrowland back in the 1970′s and watching the People Mover cars moving along their tracks loaded with guests. The waterfalls on each side of the entrance were working and in the background you could see the Rocket Jets soaring overhead. It was a demonstration of things to come, new technology and exciting inventions. It was a scene that drew guests into the land.

    Now when I stand in front of Tomorrowland, I see an abandoned People Mover track, no waterfalls and the main entrance completely obscured because Disney decided to stuff the Orbitron outside the main entrance directly in the main pedestrian path.

    Sitting in the patio at the Plaza Inn used to include a view of the main entrance of Tomorrowland where there was a huge planter always full of fresh flowers and plants. It was a great place to eat with a great view of the entire hub.

    Now the Plaza Inn is surrounded by a wall of shrubs, which blocks your view which is probably OK, because all you could see if the shrubs weren’t there would be guests trying to squeeze past those hideous, out of place rock piles while they attempt to weave their way past the Orbitron to get into narrow corridor of Tomorrowland.

    I’m looking forward to the brilliant team of designers that just finished the DCA redo to step in and work their magic on this area. It’s going to be a real challenge!

    • ScottOlsen

      I agree 100%. Great post.

  • peoplemover

    As you can tell by my screen name, I am a big fan! Was always one of my favorites and I am always thrilled when I can go to WDW and ride their version, different but still good! Sad that its gone but I will always hold a place in my heart for the original Peoplemover!

  • Trumpet

    Thanks Jeff for a nostagic article!
    It is a shame that the tracks is left in Tomorrowland without being used. Even though I would like it to return, I doubt it ever will. Sadly, this ride will never return from Yesterland.
    Thanks again Jeff

    Trumpet

  • coasterboy

    I have read somewhere that the main reason that Disneyland got the Peoplemover was that Walt owned the ride system from the Ford Pavilion, and wanted to use the electric motors that he owned. It at least had an impact on the length of the attraction, as they used all of them. Can anybody confirm this?

    • DrMemory

      Um… it’s in the article. Really early on, in the second and third paragraphs, in fact.
      Did you just skip to the comments when you saw the title, without even reading the article?

      • Omnispace

        The article doesn’t say if Disney actually owned the motors (ride system) from the Ford pavilion — only that the concept was reworked for Disneyland. They brought back much of all the other world’s fair shows, including the flume and boats for “it’s a small world”, so coasterboy’s suggestion that the length of the Peoplemover was based on what was saved from New York is very possible.

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    The PeopleMover was the perfect Tomorrowland ride. It provided a modern way to tour the land and was a family friendly experience for young and old alike. Anyone could enjoy this attraction. Something which really can’t be said of many of Tomorrowland’s current attractions.

    While the excuse of ADA and OSHA regulations keeping the attraction from being reopened are being floated by Disney as a way to appease fans and allow for future removal. The fact is that there are many fairly easy ways for the attraction to be retrofitted and even possible for Disney to petition for exemptions which would allow for a return. If the monorail can operate without emergency exit routes, so can the PeopleMover. Think about it.

    It isn’t just fans that want to see this attraction return. The high efficiency and high capacity operation make it an ideal way to boost guest satisfaction scores in the park (and particularly Tomorrowland). But sadly, the decision to bring Marvel to Tomorrowland has likely doomed the PeopleMover for good as it stands in the way of future construction. a beloved relic of our fond memories.

  • SpectroMan

    Great article, but yeah, the “waits close to an hour” would probably get you a lot of sarcastic comments were this to be published in a newspaper. Suffice to say, even with short lines, it’s still incredibly popular; you just don’t “see” it since it has such an incredibly high capacity.

  • Disneywhimsey

    Thanks for the memory Jeff. I never fail to look up at the tracks and wish the would bring it back. It was such a unique way for the whole family to relax, regroup and just take in the park from above. It’s a must do a WDW, albeit a bit different, still thoroughly enjoy it!

  • DisWedWay

    I would love to see the WEDWay People Mover and Skyway buckets come back along with an updated Carousel of Progress for the 2007 New Tomorrowland. They are timeless.

    • DisWedWay

      Oh its already 2012, so we will make that 2015 for the New Tomorrowland update.

  • Jeffrey Clinard

    I would also like to see the Peoplemover return. However, we know there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to Disneyland; if something comes in, then something has to give elsewhere. I’m not sure what that something would be. There is a pretty good argument for everything at the park right now, and the things I wouldn’t mind seeing closed have a purpose beyond my own desires.

  • Ravjay12

    It was a great idea for its time. I’m actually glad to see it go. Hardly anyone seemed to care about it or ride it the last few years it was there. Even with all of Rocket-Rods problems, it still was a better ride than Peoplemover. The Peoplemover would be great for airports, or on the Vegas Strip between hotels or something. I’ll be glad when they finally demo the track so Tomorrowland can move on to better things.

  • sandiegomousefan

    I think it works well at WDW because of A) the Heat; B) the Size of the park(s) C) The relative low Ap to Vacationers ratio. But at DL the problem becomes that APs just are not that interested in taking a 20 minute ride when they visit the park multiple times each month.

    • pineapplewhipaddict

      I respectfully disagree with you there. As an APer, I enjoy taking my time to RELAX while in the parks, and there are hardly any relaxing attractions left. Most trips I’m wishing that the Peoplemover was open so that I could sit but still actively enjoy the park for 20 minutes.

      I miss the Peoplemover and I truly hope that some incarnation of it comes back to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. When WDI built Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and updated Star Tours, the track was maintained (you can see the track in BLAB in the big finale showdown room of Buzz and Zurg when you look back at the hallway your vehicle came from up above). I am trying to have faith in WDI here by hoping that they will try to maintain a route through the Iron Man attraction. After all, Al has said that they were talking about more than just a new attraction where Innoventions is…the details are probably still just being hammered out.

  • RosevilleDisfan

    I just got back from DL and this article made me miss the old Tommorrowland even more. I always liked the Peoplemover. It did give you some great views of the park.