Welcome to the fourth edition of Dueling Disney. This time around, we are writing to you from the future! Thankfully, all of our futuristic technology allows us to beam content directly back to your present time, for you to enjoy as if we just wrote it last week. But in fact, we didn’t. This was written 50 years in the future. Oh, time travel! You make my head hurt.
Speaking of the future, let’s take a little trip to two Tomorrowlands – one at Disneyland and one at Walt Disney World. You know the place. It’s where the future that never was can finally be! Be sure to keep all hands, arms, legs, eyestalks, tentacles, and whatever else you may have inside the car at all times. Things are about to get shiny…
Topic 4: Tomorrowland
Jeff: You know, for the last three topics, we’ve kind of hit some snags. I had to concede to you on a number of occasions, but this time, I definitely think I have the upper hand. Because the place to be in Tomorrowland is Walt Disney World.
Keith: Uh, do we have to do Tomorrowland?
Jeff: Keith, listen. There’s always a great big, beautiful tomorrow…it’s just not located in California. So, yes, we’re going to do Tomorrowland. JUST GIVE ME THIS ONE THING, OK?!?!
Keith: Hahaha. Okay then. Here goes! Um… our Autopia is better than yours?
In 2000, Chevron took over as sponsor of the Autopia. The change brought several new enhancements to the opening day attraction. Three new vehicle styles were introduced, each themed after the cars featured in the animated Chevron ads of the day (a full six years before Disney/Pixar’s Cars). The queue was upgraded to accommodate more patrons, provide a little shade, and feature short animated vignettes of the Chevron cars dealing with the perils of being an automobile. The biggest change however came in the form of a new track. The Tomorrowland Autopia’s track was combined with the Fantasyland Autopia, creating a new ride experience that takes over six minutes to traverse. The redo also saw the addition of a fun “off-road” section, which is many guests’ favorite part of the ride. Observant passengers can even spot some bronzed vehicles on display: an old Midget Autopia car and a Mr. Toad car. That’s kind of cool, right? Okay can we end the column now??
Jeff: I like how you have to begin your defense by using one of the more recent changes of the Autopia as your opening argument. Sure, we can end it now, but you’re still going to lose. Especially when I start not with an attraction (which, by the way, ours bury yours), but with the aesthetics.
While the Walt Disney World version of Tomorrowland has gone through a few different incarnations, I think it’s current version of “the future that never was” is simply amazing. Especially at night, the entirety of Tomorrowland is aesthetically pleasing. I mean, some of the visuals are absolutely breathtaking. Going back a bit more, even the stark white of the older version of Tomorrowland was truly a sight to behold. There truly is no other place in the Magic Kingdom quite like Tomorrowland at night.
Walking in, with the big TOMORROWLAND entryway, you know you’re in for something special. We have little touches all over the place, such as the robotic news vendor, the mechanical palm trees, and did I mention the sweet, sweet sounds of the PeopleMover overheard?
Tell me a bit about how your Tomorrowland looks, Keith. Please. Enlighten me.
Keith: Oh. Uh, all right. I’d be happy to tell you all about–WHAT’S THAT OVER THERE?!
Okay, I got nothin’. You know, not long ago, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was a vista of kinetic glory. It was a world of motion before there was a World of Motion. Above you, Peoplemover cars glided across a mile of track that weaved throughout Disney’s land of the future. Above them, two stories from the ground, clean, white rocket jets glimmered in the sun as they made revolution after revolution. The Skyway ferried passengers from the future to fantasy. An entire building rotated while guests inside took a “magical joyride to musicland, U.S.A.” As Autopia cars traveled their own highway, submarines moved gently through the Submarine Lagoon. Today, aesthetically, Tomorrowland is a shadow of its former self. A deserted Peoplemover platform/track, the Rocket Jets (now Astro Orbitor) arbitrarily relocated to the ground with an often broken mechanical sculpture placed in its stead. Speaking of which, what’s the deal with the Observatron? Disney’s early promotional material boasted “Observatron signals the quarter hour with an impressive array of movement, lights, and vibrant music.” I can’t remember the last time I saw it light up, the music is not vibrant, and its movement is not impressive. But… our Autopia is better than yours!
Jeff: I’ll give you the point on the Autopia, but other than that, you’ve got nothing on us, dude. Let me back up a bit and talk about ours from the beginning. Much like the Disneyland version, the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland opened when the Park opened in 1971, but wasn’t really fully completed until a few years later. By 1975, it was an art deco paradise, with large waterfalls cascading at the front of the land, greeting guests. This lasted until about 1993 when it began a massive overhaul into what I mentioned earlier; the “tomorrow that never was.”
For most of its history, white was the dominate color there, but now it’s filled with darker blues and purples, to make it resemble a spaceport like you’d see out of Buck Rogers. It’s very futuristic looking, and it looks even better at night. Did I mention the PeopleMover yet? Because we still have a PeopleMover. And it’s awesome. PeopleMover.
Keith: You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my fist at you.
In 2003, our Space Mountain closed down for two full years to undergo a massive refurbishment. The exterior was restored to its original white color, and most of the queue was redone to look like a long, silver ship. They also removed the tragically unhip Space Mountain TV (for those of you who remember this, make fun of it in the Comments section with me!). The track itself was replaced as well (but with the same layout), affording passengers a much smoother ride experience. And every year around Halloween, our Space Mountain gets a spooky overlay, and the temporary moniker of Ghost Galaxy.
Take that, Heimbuch!
Jeff: Allow me to retort: PeopleMover.
Listen, I don’t want to beat a dead Disneyland attraction, but come on….PeopleMover trumps pretty much anything you may have in your Tomorrowland. Sure, we have the vastly underperforming Stitch’s Great Escape (it’s OK the first time you do it…but I do miss Extra TERRORestrial), and we may be missing the amazing Delta Dream Flight.
But seriously, our Tomorrowland is a thing of beauty. The theming is incredible, and I love every inch of it. And yes, that even includes Monster’s Inc. Laugh Factory. Because I find it hilarious every. single. time.
While your Space Mountain may be smoother and have a rockin’ audio system, ours is still a fantastic ride. And we never had Space Mountain TV. That’s an automatic check mark for us.
Keith: Okay Disneyland fans. I don’t want you guys to think I’m betraying our home resort, but I pretty much conceded this one the moment Jeff texted me with, “Let’s do Tomorrowland next.” It’s true we have a better Autopia, and a more updated Space Mountain. But to be honest, I like Florida’s Space Mountain better. I don’t mind rough roller coasters, and the single row rocket feels cooler. Not to mention the amazing music in their queue. I adore the Moonliner, our Buzz Lightyear is better because you can lift the gun, and while I love Star Tours, all those things added up still don’t compare to Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland. Oh, and I have three words for you: Carousel. Of. Progress.
So what do you guys think? Was Keith right to concede to Jeff and say Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland is better? Or do you think that Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is the place of the future? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments below!
Dueling Disney is written by Jeff Heimbuch & Keith Gluck