In August 1972 the attraction “If You Had Wings” opened in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World. Eastern Air Lines, the official airline of Walt Disney World, sponsored the attraction. This sponsorship ended in 1987 (and Eastern Air Lines liquidated 4 years later). Following its closure, the attraction changed names and sponsorship several times. In this article, we’ll walk you through the past, and present, of “If You Had Wings”.
In September 1971, construction in Magic Kingdom was almost finished. At the entrance of Tomorrowland, two buildings were built to mirror each other (today, they hold the Laugh Floor/Buzz Lightyear, and across the way Stitch’s Great Escape.
When Magic Kingdom opened the south building was completed but remained empty. Construction began to extend this building and complete the utilidors below.
It was at this point Disney had concrete plans to build a ride sponsored by a major airline, similar to the sponsorship of the Tiki Room in Disneyland by United Airlines.
Eastern Airlines Sponsorship
Eastern Air Lines invested a $10 million in the sponsorship of If You Had Wings. Despite this, the ride was not well known or promoted, and lines were usually nonexistent even when the parks were crowded. The one big selling point of the attraction was that it was free with park admission. In the 70s, different attractions needed separate tickets (hence the name E-ticket attraction for the popular rides in the parks).
If You Had Wings was the second ride in Magic Kingdom to use to Omnimover vehicle system, the first being Haunted Mansion. It was designed by Claude Coats. It was very clear that this attraction was sponsored by Eastern Airlines and was meant to be a “commercial” type ride. In the photo below, check out the “Eastern Airlines” logo above the ride sign.
Guests started out in a spacious, modern airport terminal then traveled down a boarding ramp. When you boarded the omniover the ride began with projections of animated silhouettes of airplanes on the walls that would morph into birds. It created the connection of flying an airplane to turning into a bird, and is one of the highlights guests still remember today.
There was a repeated song, similar to It’s A Small World, called “If You Had Wings” composed by Norman “Buddy” Baker. The guest would be transported through various locations, all of which Eastern Airline flew to. It included sixteen different journeys in total:
- the globe
- the ascending flight
- Aztec and Mexico
- Mexico City
- Caribbean Port
- Straw Market
- Treasure Hunt
- Caribbean Island
- Puerto Rico
- Bahamian Traffic Scene
- Tropical Forest/Jamaica
- New Orleans
- the Speed Room
- the Mirror Room
- and the Descending Flight.
If you want to hear the song, or experience the journey yourself, check out this home video from 1981 that takes you through the attraction!
The first room of this ride was the globe. At this point, the vehicles would spin backwards and go up an incline. This would take you into the first scene, Mexico. The country was represented by an Aztec pyramid, cliff divers, flower boats, and a fiesta.
Next, the came the Caribbean. The Caribbean scenes featured people on a cruise ship, a fisherman, a marketplace, divers, and people doing the limbo on the beach. Puerto Rico featured the ocean and musicians performing in a town square. The Bahamas scene featured a police officer trying to alternate traffic, pedestrians, and flamingos. Jamaica was represented by people walking up to Dunn’s River Falls. A projection of flamingos led to a jazz band in New Orleans and Mardi Gras revelers.
Globe Room, first room of If You Had Wings
Speed Room, Mirror Room, and Ride Exit Details
The speed room was the most popular room of the ride. Guests would hear the roar of a jet engine was they entered the speed room. There was high speed footage of a plane taking off, people waterskiing, and a dune buggy race. The images were not crystal clear like Disney’s Circle-Vision 360 technology, rather they resembled fuzzy Cinema 180 tv. Fun fact: this room is still used in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin! More on that below.
This room led into the mirror room, where two large projectors showed images of snow covered mountains that reflected on floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The exit of the ride contained an Eastern travel desk where you could book a flight from an agent there.
The ride also interacted with the People Mover. Three large diorama windows showed scenes of Mexico, Jamaica, and Trinidad to riders of the People Mover.
After Eastern pulled its sponsorship, the ride was renamed “If You Could Fly” and Disney removed all references to Eastern Airlines. The sets and films remained the same, but the theme music was replaced. For many fans of the ride the absence of the original music took out a lot of the fun. The ride was open for only two years, and closed permanently in 1989.
Soon after, Delta Air Lines took over the sponsorship and updated and remodeled the attraction. The replacement ride was called “Delta Dreamflight” which used the same ride system and floor layout, but all-new scenery and music.
Delta dropped its sponsorship in June 1996. WDW again removed all references to the old sponsor and renamed the ride “Disney’s Take Flight”. The ride finally closed permanently in 1997.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
In 1998, Disney decided to use the ride to promote the new and popular film Toy Story. The ride would be called “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin”. One of the most interesting things about this ride is that it is very similar to the old attraction.
Take a look at the “Delta Dreamflight” sign above. Notice that the sign is in the shape of a cloud, which makes sense, saying the attraction was about a flight. Now, look at the image below. You might not notice it at first, but this sign is identical to the Delta Dreamflight Sign! It was just repainted.
The Floor Plan
Another similarity is that the new attraction uses the original ride system and floor plan. The new attraction Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin again used the original ride system and floor plan. In the “If You Had Wings” blue print before, you can see the path of the ride.
At the bottom, there is a “1”. This is the loading zone, which is in the same spot. Now look at the sharp turn at “2”. This is the area you turn on Buzz right before your laser guns allow you to start shooting.
Jump ahead to “8”. This is the turn in Buzz in the room with the Volcano in the back. This is also one of the areas that the People Mover has a view of the ride, which is identical to the old attraction.
The Speed Tunnel
Now jump to “14” and “15”. Notice the sharp turn again. This is the old speed tunnel in “If You Had Wings”, still in use today. Remember earlier we said it was not crystal clear images, and sort of fuzzy? That is still the case today. The speed room on Buzz is the area with projections that you can “shoot” at, but never gets you many points. It’s right before the final rooms where they take your picture.
Wrapping It Up
Did you ever get to experience “If You Had Wings”, or any of its successors? Let us know in the comments, and if you have any pictures shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org