Getting Deep on Tomorrowland ’98 with Tony Baxter – Season Pass Podcast

Written by WinsomeWench. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Resort, Features, Podcasts, The Seasonpass Podcast

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Published on February 05, 2015 at 12:33 am with 8 Comments

Memorial Day Weekend in May of 1998, I was 18 years old, a senior in high school, participating in Magic Music Days at Disneyland. While I was playing percussion with a high school band to accompany a Disney movie (I believe it was Pocahontas), Doug Barnes, who had deserted band as an elective due to major burnout, decided to eschew Magic Music Days (no lingering bitterness there) and go ride Rocket Rods. I, being a pragmatic 18 year old, wanted no part of waiting 3+ hours for ANYTHING, and told Doug to go for it and let me how it was. By the time I got out of Music Days, Doug was STILL in line for the ride, and I had to wait a further 30 minutes for him to get done. He was SO…THRILLED…To be out of line when the ride was over, and he was so overwhelmed by the experience that I can’t even recall what his reaction was to the ride. (That last sentence was largely sarcasm, although he was happy to be done with the waiting in line, after the anticipation of finally getting to go to The New Tomorrowland.) I finally rode Rocket Rods in 1999, and I found it to be very…meh.

Hindsight is a funny thing. If 18 year old me knew what 35 year old me knows, maybe 18-34 year old me would’ve done some things different; then again, perhaps not. You never know which decision is the pivot point in changing your lifeline.

As I was researching the Googlesphere for information about the opening of 1998’s version of Tomorrowland, I happened across a fun little find on this very website. So, if you will indulge me for a moment, this is the link to that Micechat discussion: Who was the idiot responsible for the 1998 New Tomorrowland?

The opening question was “Who was the idiot responsible for the 1998 Tomorrowland? Just wondering if he/she still works for Disney, or they mercifully fired that person.”

My response to that question is, Tony Baxter (and others), and no, he “retired” from Disney Imagineering. As I was listening to The Season Pass Podcast’s 4th installment of the Tony Baxter interviews (Please, Mr. Barnes, the Disneyland that never was episode needs to be in my ear holes, as soon as humanly possible), my ears perked to attention (Not that I wasn’t paying attention during the discussion about Disneyland Paris, I was! I promise!!) at the point where Tony Baxter forged head on into the discussion about the austere management and budgeting when Tomorrowland was being revamped; and, in hindsight, a single large attraction with an 80 million dollar price tag would’ve been the better option.

Now that 17 years have passed since the opening of The New Tomorrowland, and 4 years since Tony’s job security was called into question on this forum board, have we forgiven the sins of the Tomorrowland ’98 revamping? Does a new Star Tours forgive some ills? Whatever your opinion, and I certainly have mine—but I’m fairly charitable—is about Tomorrowland in its current state, maybe it’s time to reopen the discussion about fan expectation versus Disney delivery, especially in light of Universal’s moves of late in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

And that bring us to this deep dive into the mind of Tony Baxter and what the real story is behind Tomorrowland ’98:

 

About WinsomeWench

Wife of Season Pass Podcast owner and producer, and co-host of Micechat podcast, Doug Barnes. Mom of three fledgling theme park and Disney enthusiasts, and supportive wife of a grown theme park and Disney geek.

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  • Algernon

    In my opinion, they tore out something good and replaced it with something horrible, spending millions of dollars in the process. What were they thinking? But it didn’t stop there: they also took out the Skyway, turned the Subs from a family ride into a kiddy ride, ruined the pavement and Main Street sidewalks with paving stones, put safety railings everywhere, placed nettings on the Jungle Cruise boats, installed East German Cold War railings on the Castle, dumped the Main Street Electrical Parade, got rid of the Peoplemover, turned the Arcade into a gift shop, ruined the Space Mountain entrance, got rid of the Carrousel of Progress (instead of updating it), replacing it with a boring exhibition of outdated products, beefed up an elitist club for the very rich. Now, what will they do with those Fantasyland rides–the very heart and soul of Disneyland? I wouldn’t put it past them to replace the Disney characters with the creepy and bizarre Alison Wilson, Christopher Walken live television version of Peter Pan, with projections everywhere, just like the Subs, where you go underwater to watch a bad cartoon …

  • Geezer

    Let me start by saying that I usually don’t feel that I have an hour or more to listen to a podcast. Todays episode, and all the Baxter interviews, have been amazing. I’m looking forward to more and will be listening to these again.

    Thanks to you all for a great job.

    • Thank you so much Geezer. Your kind words are truly appreciated and we hope to bring more in the near future my friend.

      -Doug

  • stimpy586

    Even if TB got the budget he wanted for TL98, the basic concept was beyond flawed. 17 years later and TL is more like depressing-airport-terminal-land. The only way to make it a true Tomorrowland is to bulldoze everything and start again. Yes, even 70s relic Space Mountain.

  • tooncity

    Look it’s OK to make a mistake. Upper management at the time, didn’t know how to run a theme park like Disneyland. They were the wrong people at the wrong time.

    But the real failure here was allowing it to stay flawed. Disney has had plenty of money, plenty of time and plenty of ideas to fix this land. They CHOSE to do nothing. They chose poorly. We are 3 years away from the 20th anniversary of the baby diaper brown tomorrow land. Even if Disney announced TODAY a big magical plan to fix this eyesore, it wouldn’t be completed for 5 years. That’s just sad and more than embarrassing for a company that has creativity as it’s legacy.

    • tooncity, I’m right there with you my friend. Tomorrowland 98 was an unfortunate victim of budget chopping and it didn’t work out like they hoped. Tony and WDI had a pretty fantastic and bold original concept for it, but obviously, the final product, not many can be proud of. I agree with you; they’ve had plenty of time and BUDGET to fix what has been one of the bigger busts in Disneyland history, and we’re STILL waiting. Rumors will always surround Tomorrowland because it’s the most confused and tumultuous land in the park. I will say though, it’s nice to hear Tony finally speak out on the whole project. It brings a light, though dim, to help us frustrated fans discern the situation.

      Thanks for the comments.

      -Doug

  • Disney Adventure

    I could listen to Tony Baxter talk about his career for HOURS.

    • Country Bear

      Ditto.

      Thank you so much for sharing this interview with us. I hung onto every word that Tony shared. He’s an incredible communicator, as well as an amazing, interesting person.
      Clearly not the type of person Disney wishes to associate itself with anymore.

      He will forever be a god in the hearts and minds of those whom his attractions have touched.

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