TL '67 was inspired largely by the real-world events that were occuring during that timeframe. The escalating Cold War, Vietnam, growing public interest in space and the imminent moon landing, the civil rights movement. People are largely a product of their times, and these things factored into what went into TL '67. The '60s were by and large a time of political unrest, and Disney did a neat thing by using those events to paint the picture for a more modern, peaceful and united world. I think TL '67 was also more in line with what Walt had envisioned when he first opened Disneyland. It had suffered budget cuts and short-term attractions in 1955, and it took more than ten years for it to become representative of what Walt was after. Sadly, he didn't live to see the end result. But that Tomorrowland held strong for nearly 30 years and arguably, could have held strong even longer. Even so, I think if the political landscape had been more popular in the '60s, it would have resulted in a less ambitious Tomorrowland.
Fast forward to the years between 1998 and 2012. What seemed like an overall peaceful time in the '90s was turned upside down after September 11. The Iraq War and growing of the central government created another hostile political landscape. And then a never-ending recession began. But this time, there was nothing to look up to as there had been in the '60s. Too many national and global problems left little room for space exploration or other significant advancements when it comes to imagination-capturing technology. Sure, we have smartphones, and the virtual world is a bigger part of our lives than ever, but nothing grand to spark the imagination and instill a promise of a more peaceful and better tomorrow. Without such promise, people are forced to turn to what we have now. And what we have now for escapism isn't as imaginative as what there may have been before. Nowadays, escapism involves the latest Access Hollywood news, voting for your favorite American Idol, a weekend in Vegas, checking Facebook every ten minutes, and having the latest gadget or Louis Vuiton bag that will be outdated in six months. Today's society is one with a heart set on instant gratification rather than one willing to wait for more world-changing, meaningful events. Factor in a Disney corporation that is less ambitious than what it was in the '60s, and you have yourself a solid stalemate of a Tomorrowland that seems to be stuck in an everlasting suspension.
Focussing solely on Tomorrowland, the problem isn't that Disney created a new TL in '98, but it was the way they did it. I think on paper, the idea of a Jules Verne-inspired TL wasn't bad, but the execution was half-baked. It didn't make sense for them to leave the architecture as it had been previously, and things such as Rocket Rods suffered inadequate support. If they had gone in all the way and re-done TL from the ground up, I think the end results could have been quite grandiose. So now, the issue at hand has been to correct what was done in '98. Disney had actually been doing quite a bit to get away from TL '98. After opening Buzz, they repainted Star Tours, the PM track near the entrance, Innoventions, and Space Mountain. The subs made a return, Captain EO came back, and Star Tours was repainted once again when STII came about. They even repainted the Astro Orbiter. Then fast forward to 2012, and they repainted Pizza Port in the TL '98 colors. There have been times where I feel like they are making a conscious effort to revitalize TL and give it a more unifying theme, then they do something out of left field that makes little sense. (Let's not forget the '90s-esque aqua and pink colored Autopia structure and unpleasant brown handrails and PM track that are ever-present in that area.) As such, I honestly have no idea what they are up to. But what I do know is that TL is sorely lacking a cohesiveness that feels lived-in and brings the whole thing together. They desperately need a person who has an informed and strategic vision for that whole area to step in and work their magic. Someone who is respectful of Tomorrowland's past, but wise enough to give it a more everlasting feel than what it currently has and bring it past the year 2013.