Remembering the Magic: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

by Jonathan Heigl, contributing writer
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In this, my first MousePlanet article, let's go back in time to the start of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover for a look at the first version of the attraction, then progress through time until we end up at what it is today. So sit back, relax, and keep your arms, legs, hands, and feet inside as we travel back in time.

WEDWay PeopleMover (1975–1994)

Opening on July 1, 1975, the WEDWay PeopleMover in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom was based off of the PeopleMover at Disneyland. This version, however, was different in a few ways. First, unlike the Disneyland version, the WEDWay PeopleMover had open-air cars with the track covered, and did not use rotating tires as the propulsion system. Instead, it used linear synchronous motors. Basically, the cars move through the use of magnets of different strength in the track itself and opposite magnets on the ride vehicles. Some magnets in the track have greater attraction, making the ride vehicles go faster, while some would have just enough to move the vehicle forward at a slower pace.

The Edison Electric Institute originally sponsored the WEDWay PeopleMover. Jack Wagner was the original voice of the attraction, until 1985, when he was replaced by ORAC-1 – “The Commuter Computer.”

The track led you through many of Tomorrowland’s other attractions, such as the building for If You Had Wings, where there were three windows strategically placed to look down on the ride, a tunnel above Flight to the Moon (later named Mission to Mars) where the architectural concept model of what the idea of Epcot was originally supposed to be (a working city) is shown, and through Space Mountain, where you could hear the riders screaming as they rode the attraction. Back when the Magic Kingdom required ride coupons, the WEDWay PeopleMover required a D ticket (ride tickets ranged in value from A–the least expensive–to E for the most popular, like Space Mountain).

Tomorrowland Transit Authority (1994–2010)

Tomorrowland received a massive overhaul in the spring of 1994 to change its theme from a showcase of future technology to a working city of tomorrow. As part of the overhaul, the WEDWay PeopleMover underwent a new paint job and got shiny blue vehicles. This wouldn’t be the only change; Pete Renaday broadcasting from TTA Central replaced ORAC-1 as the voice of the attraction, and the name was changed from WEDWay PeopleMover to Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

This version of the ride remained largely unchanged for long time, with the only changs being minor, in the script. They included Delta Dreamflight becoming Take Flight, which turned into Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin; when FedEx dropped its sponsorship of Space Mountain; and when The Timekeeper closed.

The script mentioned three different “lines”: Blue Line, Green Line and Red Line. The Blue Line was the actual ride itself and was the intra-city elevated train system. The Green Line was for local transportation to Tomorrowland’s “Hover-burbs,” and the Red Line took riders off of the planet to other destinations in the galaxy. Of course, the Green and Red lines are fictional and were never a working part of Tomorrowland, but used merely as a backstory for the current version. Over the course of the ride on the Blue Line (the actual journey made on the ride), there were references made to different Blue Line Stations. Only one truly existed (Rockettower Plaza—the one you boarded and got off at), but the others mentioned were:

  • Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center
  • Mickey’s Star Traders and Red Line / Green Line Transfer Station
  • Space Mountain
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  • Star Command Headquarters
  • Metropolis Science Center

Some other locations mentioned that were not stations were:

  • The Metro-Retro Historical Society Display
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • League of Planets Astro-Orbiter
  • Perfect Park Acres
  • The Interstellar Hair Salon

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (2010 – Present)

There are very few changes between the previous and present versions. The only two notable differences are the name being changed to include PeopleMover (as a nod to the past name), and a new script and narrator: Mike Brassell is now the voice heard on the narration. The narration style is similar to the original, with introductions to all of the rides in Tomorrowland. The new narration is also the first place in the park where you can hear the new voice of Mickey Mouse, Bret Iwan, when passing through Mickey’s Star Traders. Also, the ride vehicles have a bit of the original color scheme, where the outside of the ride vehicles are a shiny silver-gray and the insides are blue.

Jonathan's verdict –revert, update, leave alone, or re-imagine?

In my opinion, the current script, while lacking in some of the much-beloved references from the 1994–2010 era, is better than that script. I also like the reference to the PeopleMover that was recently placed back into the name. That said, however, I prefer the original name of WEDWay PeopleMover.

The ride track has remained unchanged, but the vehicles were replaced from white, puffy-looking vehicles to the sleeker blue cars, and then—seemingly as a nod to the ride's past—blue cars with a silvery side panel, which I like.

Overall, I would have to say at this point, besides changing the name back to WEDWay PeopleMover, my verdict is: Leave it alone.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I plan to write more articles that look at the history for Disney theme park attractions. But in order to make it better and more interesting for you, I'd love some feedback! Let me know what you think, not only about the attraction, but also about this article as well. Feel free to share your fond memories, as well as your own verdict—revert, update, leave alone, or re-imagine?

Comments

  1. By TubaGeek

    The PeopleMover is one of my favorites. That said, I think it could use a few changes. A majority is just operational; the track is no longer smooth, and it's far too common for the cars to collide. As for the ride itself, the show scenes need to be refurbished (Progress City just got some much-needed love, but not enough), and there are a lot of window panels to nothing in the dark corridors.
    I guess I'm just worried that if they don't put a little money into it now, it will soon go the way of its Disneyland counterpart.

  2. By spectromen

    Thanks for the article about one of my favorite WDW attractions. I could complain, but I'm mostly happy it just still exists. We're still mourning over here in Anaheim.
    The only thing I wish they'd consider is slowing the cars down. There's a lot to see and some of the whipping around sharp turns doesn't really need to be there.

  3. By MountainMan Mark

    QUOTE=MousePlanet AutoPoster;1800398]Remembering the Magic - Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover by Jonathan Heigl

    New contributing writer Jonathan Heigl explores the past, present and future of a classic WDW attraction

    Read it here![/QUOTE]

    Jonathan,
    Congrats on your first article.

    Another interesting fact about the ride. The WED in WEDway stands for our hero, Walter Elias Disney. It is a favorite for so many people for many reasons. Short wait times, a nice long 10-minute ride, great cool breeze, a preview before riding Space Mountain, and an elevated narrated tour of Tomorrowland.
    MountainMan Mark

  4. By jheigl

    Thanks for the responses everyone! I hope you enjoyed the article. Let's hear what your verdicts are!

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