Remembering the Magic: Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floorby Jonathan Heigl, contributing writer
This month's article is on the history of Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland’s Circle-Vision Theater. In this article, we’ll look at a current attraction's building that has housed many different attractions in the past (where the current attraction is not the same general attraction with a few modifications). Let's go through the history of the building with all of the attractions that were previously there, and give a brief history of them.
America the Beautiful (November 25, 1971 – March 15, 1974)
America the Beautiful was the first Circle-Vision 360 film to be shown at Walt Disney World. The film was a little over 18 minutes long and featured panoramic scenes of various places in America, usually from a fly-over view, along with a narrator and choir throughout the entire movie. There was no seating available in this theater.
The film begins by an aerial shot of mountains as we get closer to Mount Rushmore. As “America the Beautiful” is sung, the camera changes to show farm fields and mountains. As the narrator proceeds, a view of the Statue of Liberty is shown (the narrator is reading the quote on the Statue of Liberty; “Give me your tired…”). The camera proceeds to fly over New York City, then a New England port town, proceeding to a covered wooden bridge and then through a small town. As we go further through the film, we are then taken to the pioneer village of New Salem, Illinois (where Abraham Lincoln was a storekeeper and post master). We are then taken to Williamsburg. Independence Hall in Philadelphia is shown, and then the Liberty Bell, with a colonial mock battle staged in the background. After more narration, the White House exterior is shown, followed by Gettysburg. During a narration about the Civil War, the Lincoln Memorial is shown.
At this point, we move on to some of the countries’ natural wonders, biggest cities, and other sights to see, such as Niagara Falls, West Point, Chicago, French Quarter in New Orleans, The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Colorado River, cowboys herding cattle, deserts and mountains, a ski resort, Alaskan tundra and Mount McKinley, San Francisco (from the perspective of a cable car) and Fisherman’s Wharf, a studio lot in Los Angeles, Balboa Bay, Hawaii, Washington D.C., Jefferson Memorial, and then ending with the Statue of Liberty once again, but with the sun setting.
The attraction was closed on March 15, 1974, so that the film could be modified to show more scenes of Philadelphia for the Bicentennial celebration. In its place, Magic Carpet ‘Round the World was created.
Magic Carpet 'Round the World (March 16, 1974 – March 14, 1975)
This film was about 20 minutes long and took guests to more than 20 countries around the world. This film was similar to America the Beautiful, except it showed various locations around the world. This film was meant to be a placeholder until the next version of America the Beautiful could be completed.
America the Beautiful (March 15, 1975 – 1979)
This version of America the Beautiful was the same as the previous, with the exception of added scenes of Philadelphia for the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial celebration.
Magic Carpet ‘Round the World (1979 – September 9, 1984)
The same film as before would return after the Bicentennial celebration, replacing America the Beautiful once again.
American Journeys (September 15, 1984 – January 9, 1994)
This film showed updated scenes of America. It also included some different landmarks, such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains, and new scenes from New England and New Orleans. This film was also roughly 20 minutes long. Because of the similarity to America the Beautiful, I didn’t feel the need to elaborate on each scene, since they are mostly updated scenes. The biggest difference was that some of the narration were from “firsthand monologues” (voice actors portraying thoughts from the people that lived in the time).
The Timekeeper (November 21, 1994 – 2006)
When the theater closed in January 1994, it was being re-imagined for the New Tomorrowland work being done. The theater officially re-opened on November 21, 1994 as “Transportarium.” This theater was to hold a film brought in from Disneyland Paris, with the French dubbed to English and given the name "From Time to Time." However, the name of the building would only stick around for about six months, when it was then renamed “Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center” and the film renamed "The Timekeeper." This attraction would star Robin Williams as the Timekeeper, who was a mad scientist robot, Rhea Pearlman as 9-Eye, a hovering droid-like robot with nine eyes, Jeremy Irons as H.G. Wells, and other lesser-known actors providing voices for various characters.
As guests enter the queue, they are shown a video of a swirling time vortex of sorts. Within this vortex, many important things throughout time go by; everything from an old globe,Mona Lisa, a violin, to a chalkboard with a formula written on it. The attraction’s queue music is playing in the background and the video shows some thunder and lightning every now and then. With about four minutes until time travel, 9-Eye comes on the screen and sort of explains what the attraction will be about. It then goes on to show 9-Eye’s training films, in which she goes over Niagara Falls, flies into a dynamite filled barn in Topeka, Kansas, and when she hitches a ride on a space shuttle in Cape Canaveral, Florida. With a minute left until time travel, it shows 9-Eye and the Timekeeper seemingly having some technical difficulties with the time travel machine, then you are warned to pay attention to the safety information.
Upon entering the theater, there are various rows of metal bars, which are intended for leaning or holding onto while standing (guests stand throughout the attraction). Meanwhile, the Timekeeper is in the front of the room, “encouraging” guests to make their way into the room and move all the way forward.
As the attraction progresses, 9-Eye is introduced and the time machine is engaged. The screens show what looks like a time vortex, and 9-Eye is transported to the Triassic Period. The screens show different pictures, all from 9-Eye’s views. Then she is transported to the Ice Age, then an early battle in Ireland or Scotland, followed by the Renaissance period where she sees Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa. She is then sent to a scene where a 7-year-old Mozart is playing the piano, followed by the Paris Exposition in fast forward. Afterwards, it is slowed to real-time speed, where she will then meet Jules Verne and H.G. Wells as they have a conversation.
Jules Verne sees 9-Eye and grabs onto her as she is sent back to the present time (he is also transported), and he, 9-Eye and the Timekeeper have a discussion, and the Timekeeper shows Jules Verne the modern world, including scenes where Jules Verne is put in a racecar going the wrong way, on a bobsled, scuba diving, and then in a helicopter flying over various castles in Europe, a bridge over a canyon, over English fields, and then over New York City at night. They are then transported to space where they view the Earth and the moon, then they are transported to the courtyard where they started, but the wrong time period (rap music is playing). They correct this and send him back to the proper place at the proper time. H.G. Wells sees them come back and cannot believe his eyes!
The show ends by transporting 9-Eye back to the current time, and then the Timekeeper asks for volunteers in the audience to travel to the future. The person chosen in the audience is shown on the screen in the time machine and transported to a futuristic Paris with flying vehicles and the Eiffel Tower at night, and of course, our favorite guest stars, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
The Timekeeper was set to Seasonal in April 2001, usually opening during busy seasons and closing during slower seasons. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the attraction received some criticism as the New York scene showed the World Trade Center towers. Disney made the decision to keep the film as is, but change the clock in front of the Timekeeper to the year 2000.
The queue for the attraction was used as a meet-and-greet for characters, such as Stitch, some characters from The Incredibles, and Buzz Lightyear. The attraction closed for good in early 2006 to construct…
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (April 2, 2007 – Present)
The Circle-Vision theater was modified to include 400 seats and a new theme to match what would ultimately be called Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Many of the original Timekeeper queue and theater props are still in place, such as the water columns (which can still be seen in the queue) and the 9 screens, which are covered by other elements. The current show is about 11 minutes long.
This attraction takes place after the animated movie Monsters, Inc. The city of Monstropolis is running on laughter. Humans enter the world of the monsters by a door they have placed in Tomorrowland (the doors you enter through to get into the theater). Various monster comedians will entertain the humans and try to make them laugh so they can collect the laughs and power their city.
The only two original characters from the movie are Mike Wazowski and Roz. Mike is the “monster of ceremonies” in which his main job is to introduce the comedians (and take abuse from Roz). This attraction is a digital computer-rendered attraction that is shown on one main screen and a couple of smaller screens on either side. Because of this, the characters can change and the attraction can interact personally with the guests that are in the theater.
The show always picks out a few guests to show on screen and put funny captions on before the show begins, such as “will buy everyone churros,” “doesn’t know they’re on screen,”, and so on. They will also focus on a person, who will be known as “that guy” throughout the show, and will be referenced a few different times. One of the most exciting parts of the attraction for guests is the ability to text in their jokes to the attraction. Some lucky people will actually have their jokes told during the show.
The show was originally going to be called Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Before the soft openings, Monsters, Inc. was added to the beginning of that name, and then on March 19, 2008, the name was changed to the current name, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.
Jonathan's verdict – revert, update, leave alone, or re-imagine?
My verdict on this attraction was very tough for me to decide. On one hand, I appreciate the “next generation” attraction experience, where the attraction actually interacts with guests and they become a part of the show. I also appreciate the humor and silliness that the attraction is about. However, I must say that I do miss The Timekeeper. I like the comedy of Robin Williams and feel that the attraction has a slightly better fit to Tomorrowland than the current attraction does; however, I think it would need significant updates to the show, therefore, my verdict is to re-imagine. Whether it be reverting to The Timekeeper and updating it, or updating it to something entirely different, that would be fine. However, I would also be fine with leaving it as the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, but possibly updating it with some different characters, which due to the nature of the attraction, should not be very difficult.
Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to comment with what your verdict is.