The Tomorrowland Problem

Tomorrowland opened in Magic Kingdom in 1971 and closed in 1994. Does this fact seem wrong? Don’t worry, we’ve done our research. In 1994, New Tomorrowland opened, with a complete theme overhaul of the land.

Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and closed in 1994. Does this fact seem wrong? Don’t worry, we’ve done our research! New Tomorrowland opened in 1995 at Magic Kingdom, which was a redone and newly themed Tomorrowland. Its intent was to fix “The Tomorrowland Problem”. A simple explanation of this problem is the fact that Tomorrowland is meant to resemble the future, and eventually the future always becomes the present. Thus, Disney has to constantly renovate and improve Tomorrowland to resemble the future.

Tomorrowland: 1971-1994

When Magic Kingdom opened in Walt Disney World, Tomorrowland was styled around clean, geometric shapes, gleaming white buildings, and concrete pylons. It had a very minimalist look with muted pastels and whites, and the signs were basic with understated text and minimal graphics.

The entry was flanked by massive pointed pylons with waterfalls flowing into the moat below.

The land’s attractions in the mid-1970s included the park’s own Circle-Vision theater, an aviation-themed dark ride called If You Had Wings and the relocated Carousel of Progress. Florida’s Tomorrowland included a clone of the theater-in-the-round that Disneyland had used for Flight to the Moon. However, by the mid-1970s, flights to the moon were not the most exciting and becoming outdated. Instead, the attraction opened in Florida as Mission to Mars.

Much of Tomorrowland was themed with space exploration. In the 60s and 70s the moon race was fascinating to the public. When the 80s rolled around Disney had to update their space-themed rides to fit the newest exploration themes. This meant every decade all the attractions and rides would have to be redone.

The Star Jets were added to Tomorrowland in 1974, and kept closely with the theme of space exploration and minimalist colors. The center of the ride featured a Saturn V rocket and the cars were shaped like futuristic hovercrafts.

Even the People Mover was a futuristic idea at the time. When Walt Disney dreamed up the idea of Epcot, he wanted one of the main transportation systems to be the People Mover. Guests felt like this was the newest technology at the time. This also became outdated quickly and soon no longer felt like the futuristic attraction it once was.

In the 1980s and 90s, Tomorrowland felt like a remnant of the past with retro attractions and a vintage style. This was no longer what the future was envisioned as. This is when Disney had a tough decision to make. Should they update Tomorrowland to fit the current visions of the future? If they were to do this, it would be a perpetual cycle of updating outdated attractions and theming. They had to solve the problem of how “a world of tomorrow can be timeless”.

A Solution: Discoveryland

An imaginer developed a new plan for Tomorrowland, called Discoveryland. He wanted to leave the sleek, white, geometric cities in the past, and forget science, innovation, and computers of the Space Age. Discoveryland was meant to be a vision of the future, from the past. He imagined what the future seemed to be from dreamers like Jules Verne. He imagined “a gold and bronze port of bubbling lagoons, organic windsail towers, iron-rich red rocks jutting from the crowd, sprawling gardens, and wild, steam-powered inventions.” The attractions would not be based off of Space exploration, rather wild adventures.

This idea never came to fruition in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, however it was built in Disneyland Paris. Discoveryland is full of gold colors, unique inventions, and is anchored at a set period in time, so will never need to be completely rethemed.

Space Mountain is not anchored towards a space exploration like in WDW and Disneyland. Nor is it sleek and white with a tall peak. Instead, it is made of bronze and copper rivets and panels anchored by screws, with a bronze cannon launching guests up the side of the mountain. The story is based on a unique journey dreamed up by Jules Verne. This timeless idea has been extremely successful in Disneyland Paris, but was not the idea adopted for Tomorrowland in Disney World.

Unfortunately, while Discoveryland and Disneyland Paris are two of the best themed lands and parks in all of Disney, Disneyland Paris failed. Attendance was extremely low in its opening years, and it became a huge financial disaster. The CEO at the time, Eisner, had been convinced this project would be successful. When it failed, he adopted a new mindset that he would never bid again on large scale projects. It was at this point that WestCOT was canceled and Disney stopped putting money into its parks under orders from the CEO. The overhauls of Tomorrowland at Disneyland and WDW were canceled, and instead came New Tomorrowland.

New Tomorrowland 1994 – 2018

New Tomorrowland opened in 1994, with a massive retheming. The sleek and simple 1970s look had been replaced by a metropolis of the future. Tomorrowland shifted from scientific based to science-fiction based. It was said to be a look envisioned by early 1900s comics, a neon intergalactic alien spaceport.

Tomorrowland was to be perceived by guests as a real, functioning galactic spaceport. The People Mover became the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover which acted as the city’s public transportation. The narrator would point out the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center, the Tomorrowland Metropolitan Space Center, the Intergalactic Space Port 77 (which was actually Space Mountain), and the “Light and Power Company” (actually the arcade).

The colors of the land shifted from subdued pastels to purples, greens, and golds. Gears were put in and all the signage was redone.

Flight to the Moon and Mission to Mars became a alien then Stitch themed attraction. The land also integrated more characters including Buzz Lightyear and in 2007 Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. The most iconic changes in this retheming were the entrance and the Star Jets changing to the Astro Orbiter.

In comparison to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland renovation this retheming was extremely successful. If we had to choose one issue with this land, it is the juxtaposition between the sharp edges and the smooth architecture. The buildings were designed to be curved and circular, but with the retheming the designs had gears and sharp corners. This doesn’t necessarily coincide, but unless Disney tore down the buildings this change would be impossible to make.

Tomorrowland in 2019

Disney has recently begun another Tomorrowland renovation. New paint has been added to many of the buildings that tie into a new color scheme: teals, oranges, and yellows. Sound familiar? That’s because it looks like the original color scheme that focused heavily on pastels! With Tron opening soon, we can expect to see more changes coming to Tomorrowland.