Dueling Disney: Tomorrowland

Written by Keith Gluck. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Dueling Disney, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on February 27, 2013 at 4:03 am with 48 Comments

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…

Your authors, Keith Gluck (on the left) and Jeff Heimbuch (on the right).

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.

Conceding complete.

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

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected]

You can follow us on Twitter: @DisneyProject and @JeffHeimbuch

About Keith Gluck

Keith Gluck writes for and volunteers at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. He also runs a Disney blog called thedisneyproject.com, and travels to Disney Parks as often as he can. A fan of many facets of The Disney Company, Keith's main interest is the life and legacy of Walt Disney. For questions/comments, or to request a certain topic be covered, please send an email to: [email protected] Twitter: @DisneyProject Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Disney-Project/194569877288847

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Comments for Dueling Disney: Tomorrowland are now closed.

  1. Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom DID have the dreadful Space Mountain TV

    • This is true. I remember it vividly. And I remember Mario Lopez was in some of the clips. Ugh… that thing was terrible. the jokes were so bad you had to laugh. They should use Space Mountain TV as punishment for shoplifting.

      • Yes, someone remembers that SMTV was on both coasts, with the weather presented by X-S. ;)


  2. My home park is disneyland, but i have been to Disney World twice. Tomorrowland, I unfortunately have to say goes to Florida. even though space mountain, buzz and star tours are better in Anaheim. Anaheim seems to have lost its way when it comes to this section of the park.

    the Astro Orbiter is in a really bad spot. the old rocket jets area seems to have been completely neglected. as a small child going up the elevator to ride the jets was exciting. the people mover track is a complete mess, and the innoventions area is just a waste of space.

    I do not want the scare floor in tomorrowland. i wouldnt mind it at DCA( where they do the dancing with characters area, it would make sense to have it there because the monsters inc ride is next door),

    I have had a chance to watch both encounters shows and they are both fun. I would love to see the 3d theater replaced with an indoor audioanamatronic show or live stunt show. I am tired of 3d shows.

    I dont know what to do with autopia or the subs because it no longer relates to tomorrow. maybe the could make a horror sub ride dealing with aliens (that would be cool but would cost upwards of over 100 million to replace nemo).

    Maybe you can enclose autopia and make it a time travel ride and make it look like test track 2.0???

    innoventions just needs to be turned into Mission space. Unfortunately lines in California would be lengthy compared to epcot. then lots of neon spruce up the place.

    • I forgot about the Elevator that really made the experience even better. Let us hope Disney feelss some presure USLA and upadtes the land

    • Agreed – the Nemo subs and Autopia are not very futuristic. Neither is the (one half of the) Matterhorn, for that matter. Perhaps Fantasyland should annex those areas!

  3. Sorry Keith you can’t bea the original. That said your TL in Florida beats ours for the one fact you have The People Mover, and yours seems a lot better themed. Sorry I think Disneyland is being way to cheap in not putting the Rockets back on top of the people mover and returning the people mover in some form or another. They could do both at the same time and advertise them as two new attractions. I honstly see the people mover returning in the form of PODS like on the Incredibles (Yah I to am not looking forward to another Pixar themed ride, but take what you can get). As far as being cheap, yes they are! They just put down $1 billion dollars to fix DCA putting in a new People Mover and Rocket ride would maybe cost $100 million tops. I like Iger but I think it is time for a new guy with some dramtic new ideas!

  4. While I will give you that the WDW Tomorrowland is most definitely the better looking, the attractions at Disneyland are much better. We still call Space Mountain at WDW “ow my spleen” even after the redo. It’s simply too jerky as opposed to the smooth ride and rockin tunes of the Disneyland version. With the fantastic new Star Tours open, and our superior Buzz LIghtyear, not too mention the Finding Nemo Submarines, I can’t concede that the People Mover (while missed in California) makes up for the shortcomings of the other attractions. Maybe if they bring back Extra TERRORestrial Encounter we could call it even. :)

  5. I agree with Jeff, but if DL would get a Tomorrowland makeover that includes removing the abandoned PeopleMover track, returning the Astro Orbitor to it’s rightful place above the skyline, and putting a meaningful attraction in the Carousel this Duel would have been a lot closer.

  6. Tomorrowland:
    Magic Kingdom and Disneyland have a theme that could go any way. For example the entrance at the MK is better, but it is not complete. Its like the stopped at the Peoplemover station due to the budget.
    Disneyland has a better sense of overall theme throughout the whole land. All of the attraction buildings match.

    Buzz Lightyear – Better at Disneyland due to the ride vehicles (DL)
    Star Tours – Not at the Magic Kingdom (DL)
    Peoplemover – Not at Disneyland (MK)
    Monsters Inc Laugh Factory – Fun attraction, but doesn’t fit in TL (MK)
    Asto Jets/Orbiter – Location is better at the MK (MK)
    Captain EO – Only at Disneyland (DL)
    Innoventions / Carousel of Progress – Classic attraction, but in a building that was never updated to the rest of Tomorrowland (MK)
    Autopia – Beautiful scenery at DL (DL)
    Space Mountain – An attraction in space should be smooth. The MK version is basically Matterhorn in space. Add the soundtrack and the Halloween overlay. (DL)

    Each park has two restaurants, but Redd Rocket outshines them all. (DL)

    Overall Land – Tie
    Food – DL
    Attraction Wins
    DL = 5
    MK = 4

    My opinion – Disneyland wins

    • Uh… no. Have you met Sonny Eclipse?

  7. I must say that the look of Disneyland is better in my opinion, but the fact that WDW is all up and running people mover and all is a tie breaker…

  8. The original white Tomorrowland in Florida was modernism, not art deco. In fact, what they have now is actually a lot closer to art deco style.

    Florida’s Space Mountain did have SMTV in the FedEx sponsored years.

    I’m kind of sad that Keith conceded so early because there was a lot more that can be said in support of Florida’s Tomorrowland. The People mover is just one of the trump cards but I guess that was all that was needed. You could have brought up Space Mountain’s pre and post shows to compensate for the sub-par on ride audio.

    Keith could have tried harder and put Star Tours and Finding Nemo up against Stitch and Monster’s Inc, but the functioning Peoplemover with the beautiful Astro-Orbiter on top is tough to overcome. He could have brought up the monorail, since Florida’s doesn’t stop in Tomorrowland or even travel through it, but I don’t think it’s wise to pick a monorail fight with Walt Disney World. Oh, Disneyland also has the anachronistic train station and the dioramas in their Tomorrowland, those count right?

    I don’t blame Keith though, he couldn’t invoke Walt to try to win this one like he usually does, and if he did he would have run smack into the real reason the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland gets the easy win. I’m surprised Jeff didn’t bring it up because it’s so rare that the east coast park gets to play the Walt card and this one is so major that it might even win other articles in this series. Walt designed the Carousel of Progress. From start to finish it was his idea. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but the name of the attraction is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. He’s even in the pre-show with the Sherman Brothers singing the song. Does Walt even appear in any Disneyland attractions? Since name dropping Walt seems to be how you win these discussions, why not go all in? Sure, the Carousel of Progress may not be in the best shape right now, but it’s still a heck of a lot better than Innoventions. We can’t compare those though, Florida’s vastly superior Innoventions is over at Epcot. Wait a minute… Tomorrowland, Carousel of Progress, Epcot… what am I forgetting? Oh yeah, Florida’s Tomorrowland also has what’s left of the Progress City model from the finale of the original Carousel of Progress which also served as the model for Walt’s EPCOT the city, aka the Florida Project, aka the last thing Walt Disney ever did.

    • …. and THAT’S how you win an argument! BAM!

  9. You guys are ALL missing the ONE element that still trumps MK tomorrowland FOR DL… The Tomorrowland Terrace stage!

    I still remember being there in the first month that Tomorrowland ’67 was opened. I grew up running around with my friends in the Tomorrowland of the late 70′s and early 80′s… Riding Innerspace over and over, riding PeopleMover over and over, marveling at the scope of America the Beautiful, talking to our buddies stuck at home in the Bell Telephone group phone booth, singing along with “Dad” on Carosel of Progress, playing Tron at the Starcade, riding People Mover over and over, going under the icecap on the submarines, riding the Monorail out to the Disneyland Hotel just to get a drink, goofing around on the Skyway, bumping one another on Autopia, riding PeopleMover over and over… (I DID mention PeopleMover didn’t I?) But as the sun set, we would go to the Tomorrowland Terrace and see bands that might one day “become somebody” and pick up girls to go ride Innerspace and PeopleMover.

    When you heard the band start to play and the flowers on Rolly Crump’s stagetop garden began to shake and then the band would actually RISE out of the GROUND? You were living in tomorrow!

    Innerspace has given way to Star Tours v1 and v2, but it still feels like a bit of fantastic tomorrow (although one wag pointed out at its opening, how can you have tomorrow with an attraction from “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away” at the entrance?). Buzz has pushed Circlevision out (Really Rocket Rods, but that was such a abortive underfunded mess and killed PeopleMover along with it that I hasten to mention it. It wasn’t even fun to ride with all the starting and slowing down all the time.) but his fantastical Space Ranger Spin does have a bit of tomorrow from the Edgar Rice Burroughs era via a toy about it. Innoventions is just as awful as Rocket Rods were, but after the bit of Americana that America Sings was, is at least a nod to relevance, but sucky in comparison to the actual edutainment that CoP is. Nemo resurrects the ride system of one of the best attractions in any park EVER for placing you in a new environment while the Monorails continue to draw a ridership that WISHES LA had taken Walt up on his offer of rapid transit that would avoid the traffic the city is now plagued with, while Autopia makes driving pretty fun and MUCH LESS noisy than before. And while our beloved and BEST VERSION PeopleMover is deathly missing, (They ought to have its ghost shambling the halls of the Haunted Mansion in homage) and the Astro Orbiter only serves to lower your expectations in every way (it is physically low, feels slow, takes forever to load/unload and blocks the beauty of Tomorrowland with its ugly rocks and makes a nusience of itself when things are crowded), Space Mountian with its smoooooth track and awesome soundtrack are just pure riding joy.

    STILL the thing that makes me feel like there is a hope for tomorrow is when the band starts to play and the plants shake and up comes the stage from the ground like a daisy blooming once again! The Tomorrowland Terrace is still there to amuse, delight, and entertain you. I go there with my kids and wife now, and while I’m living a bit of my past in dancing to the beat, I see the promise in my kid’s eyes for the future. I can’t do that in WDW’s Tomorrowland.

    Once upon a time there was a wonderful, living kenetic piece of art that was Tomorrowland in Disneyland. It sleeps now, but with hope and trust and maybe a little bit of pixie dust, it might one day rise again to its former glory, starting from the little stage that hasn’t given up.

    Ride for ride, light for light MK may have DL’s tomorrowland on the mat, but put something up on that PeopleMover track once again and give people a real reason to go into the spinning building, and I say the fight will be over once again and Walt’s first park will win out.

  10. I think this is a toss up.

    Pros for Magic Kingdom Park:
    - People Mover
    - Carousel of Progress
    - Elevated AstroOrbiter

    Pros for Disneyland Park:
    - Lagoon Attractions
    – Submarines
    – Monorial
    – Autopia
    – Railroad Station
    – The Lagoon itsslef
    - Buzz Lightyear
    - Space Mountain
    - Star Tours

  11. Uh Jeff actually MKP’s Space Mountain did have Space Mountain TV for about the same about of time as Disneyland’s did. I remember having to hear it and even sometimes having to see for hours and hours when I was at Load, Grouper, Fastpass Merge and even in the Tower.

  12. ATIS, who remebers that. That is the greatest Disneyland attraction, which was NOT in WDW (in my opinon anyway)