”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
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