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

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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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25 Comments

Comments for A Brief History of the WEDWay PeopleMover are now closed.

  1. Most folks don”t know that WED actually built a people mover outside of Disneyworld and Disneyland. When the Houston International Airport was built, they hired WED to build a people mover to connect the terminals. It uses linear induction, is located underground and runs in a loop connecting all the terminals and the onsite hotel. I believe that a newer system has since been added, but last time I checked WED’s people movers was still there and still moving people.

  2. I LOVED Peoplemover. It WAS Tomorrowland for me in SO MANY ways. Tomorrowland was a “place on the move” and the Peoplemover was its bloodstream… a kinetic sculpture that provided an enjoyable ride, a relaxing respite from the walking all over the park or standing in line, an opportunity to imagine the alternative to the Autopia, NOT HAVING to drive, yet be wisked comfortably to and from work and play areas of the city, and a reminder that the Disney Corporation really DID once have greater solutions for society than just what color of princess dress could you sex-type your child with.

  3. Dear Jeff –

    Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane …. how I miss the WEDway Peoplemover (& how I curse Eisner’s era for removing what should’ve never been taken out of Tomrrowland @ Disneyland) …

    I don’t know how another WEDway Peoplemover could return to Tomorrowland @ Disneyland unless :

    1) the whole elevated track was repaired (including structures which hold up the track)
    2) the ride was changed per CAL-OSHA (no longer protected under grandfather clause)
    3) new queue entrance (which doesn’t disrupt entrance into Buzz Lightyear)
    4) new carts (designed to CAL-OSHA’s specifications)

    Sincerely,

    C J