Disneyland 1967 Part Two: New Tomorrowland

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer
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Last week, I wrote about the addition in 1967 to Disneyland of New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean. This week, I want to share a few stories about New Tomorrowland that appeared in the summer of that same year.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, the thing that most disappointed Walt Disney was Tomorrowland. He didn't have the time, money, or technology to construct it to match his vision. It became a collection of company-sponsored exhibits promoting dairy products, paint, and plumbing, among other things.

It was a hodgepodge that included the Rocket to the Moon attraction, inspired by the popular Tomorrowland episodes on the weekly Disney television show, as well as a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea exhibit that referenced Jules Verne's Victorian view of the future mixed with Kaiser Aluminum's telescope and Monsanto's Chemitron.

Guests enjoyed the land, especially the Autopia cars, but it was not as cohesive a storytelling experience as the other lands of the park.

In August of 1957, Imagineering prepared a document called "The Future of Disneyland" and emphasized a project called "Science Land." This would be a re-imagining of Tomorrowland that Walt had jokingly nicknamed "Todayland" when talking with his staff.

According to the document, this re-design would be "the result of Walt Disney's desire to interest the youth of America in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Walt believes that Disneyland, working with national sponsors, can help instill and stimulate interest in these fields by providing scientific attractions of a new concept at Disneyland."

After all, on the dedication of the land in July 1955, Walt said that Tomorrowland was meant to offer "A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements…a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: the Atomic Age, the challenge of outer space, and the hope for a peaceful and unified world."


Concept art from the New Tomorrowland that opened in Disneyland in 1967.

The reality fell far short of that vision.

"Tomorrowland was something very dear to Walt's heart," stated his older brother Roy. "The old Tomorrowland had always been a source of annoyance to him because he never really accomplished what he was trying to do…he was involved in great depth in the New Tomorrowland until the day he died."

In 1959, Walt had tried to "fix" Tomorrowland by introducing the Monorail, the Submarine Voyage and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, but despite the huge success of these "E Ticket" attractions, the land still didn't come close to Walt's original plans to provide a glimpse at "the future just around the corner."

While $15 million had been spent on New Orleans Square, more than $23 million was spent on "Disneyland's New Tomorrowland: Where the Dreams of the Future are Reality Today." It was expanded to twice the size of the original land.

Walt Disney intended the New Tomorrowland to be "a world on the move" with a variety of transportation conveyances in constant motion to give the land a kinetic feeling of excitement of always moving forward.

At the dedication, Walt's brother Roy, who was then president of Walt Disney Productions, said that the New Tomorrowland was another example of the company's determination to "move ahead" without interruption in the carrying out of Walt Disney's plans.

Walt died in December 1966, but he had been deeply involved in the re-design of New Tomorrowland, with serious meetings beginning in June 1964, and had significant input into all the new additions.

Besides the previously popular attractions like Autopia (which got a 1967 upgrade to the Mark VII Stingray), the Skyway, Monorail, and Submarine Voyage (Imagineer Marc Davis re-staged some scenes for 1967), the New Tomorrowland featured:

  • America the Beautiful in a new nine-screen "Circle-Vision 360" theater presented by the Bell System.
  • Flight to the Moon, a totally updated space adventure featuring the Audio-Animatronics Mr. Tom Morrow talking about the impeding launch of Flight 92 presented by Douglas Aircraft.
  • Carousel of Progress from the 1964-65 New York World's Fair presented by General Electric and, featured on the upper level, Walt Disney's plans for EPCOT in a massive model called "Progress City".
  • Adventure Thru Inner Space aboard the very first version of an omnimover vehicle called an "Atomobile," where guests were shrunk down and sent into a mighty microscope to journey into a snowflake in a presentation of the Monsanto Company. Monsanto's House of the Future still stood out in front of Tomorrowland but would be demolished by the end of the year.
  • The WEDWay PeopleMover, a versatile new continuously moving, intermediate-speed transportation system not dependent on an internal combustion engine but on silent electric motors in the track itself that Walt intended to use in EPCOT presented by Goodyear.
  • A dining and dancing outdoor complex sponsored by Coca-Cola featuring a futuristic garden area that rose from ground level to become the canopy for an entertainment stage. It was originally named Coca-Cola Refreshment Gardens, but was quickly re-dubbed Tomorrowland Terrace before the official opening. With no exterior walls, guests enjoyed Tomorrowland's new panorama and, at the end of a performance by a musical group, the stage descended leaving only the stylistic planters designed by Rolly Crump. In order to accommodate the performers loading and unloading underneath the stage, Disneyland's first underground tunnel was built that connected with the Flight to the Moon and Circle Vision buildings.

According to the press release: "For six of America's largest industries, WED Enterprises, Inc. — the Disney architectural engineering, research and development firm — has designed unique attractions to demonstrate that tomorrow's world can be built now through the application of current technology."

When the New Tomorrowland officially opened in July 1967 (to tie in with Disneyland's original opening 12 years earlier), several things were missing, including the Moonliner, the Flying Saucers, and the Clock of the World, among others to make way for the future.

Mickey Mouse dressed as an astronaut, along with Disneyland ambassador Marcia Miner, appeared at the dedication that included a person in a jet pack flying around, fireworks, balloons and much more.

Let's take a closer look at these new additions that bumped out a few favorites.

PeopleMover

When Disneyland opened in 1955, the steam trains went non-stop around the entire perimeter of the park on a "Grand Circle Tour" to allow guests a glimpse at what was actually there.

For the New Tomorrowland, the PeopleMover system was to provide the same function of showing guests an inside glimpse of the new attractions in a leisurely 16-minute ride in 62 four-car trains. However, it was not free and required a "D" ticket.

The term PeopleMover was simply a casual placeholder identification suggested by Walt himself, because the vehicle moved people. He assumed that his staff would eventually come up with a better name, but that never happened.

The attraction was an updated version of a system developed by Imagineering for the Ford Magic Skyway attraction at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. Ford did not want to sponsor the ride at Disneyland, since it promoted a form of transportation that could replace Ford automobiles.

Roughly every nine feet, the vehicle passed over one of 517 electric motors in the three-quarter mile long track that would turn a tire. The tires turn against the bottom of the vehicle, propelling the vehicle forward up to a speed of six miles per hour. Guests boarded on a rotating platform moving at the same speed so the vehicles seemed almost motionless.

It was Walt's intention that the PeopleMover would eventually carry citizens of EPCOT from their homes to shopping areas, to their work in the centralized hub of the city and more, without having to use cars. Doing so would eliminate air and noise pollution, traffic jams, save energy and much more.

Goodyear, maker of tires including the ones used on the attraction, became the sponsor for the PeopleMover.

On either side of the train were two facing 54-foot-long tile murals on buildings depicting children done by artist Mary Blair, familiar for her similar work on the "it's a small world" attraction.

One mural was on the CircleVision 360 building representing global communication. The other was on the Adventure Thru Inner Space building representing different types of energy (sun, sea, sky, and water). Collectively, they were known as "The Spirit of Creative Energies Among Children."

Imagineer John Hench was the major influence in the re-design of the exterior of the New Tomorrowland and, on the PeopleMover, he was attempting to create a more organic approach that would welcome guests to the future. He worked closely with sculptor Mitsu to have soft symmetrical arches.

This approach can clearly be seen on the PeopleMover, where he had the support columns resemble curving tree branches with softened shapes and edges.

Carousel of Progress

Another transplant from the World's Fair was the great, big, beautiful tomorrow (as the Sherman Brothers' theme song reminded us) of the Carousel of Progress.

"Carousel of Progress was inspired by Thornton Wilder's [play] Our Town. It was really quite a touching play. I saw it three times, I think. I came back and told Walt I thought that's what we should do for General Electric," said Imagineer John Hench.

Walt eventually saw the play himself that featured the story of a small town and its residents over several decades at least three times in Los Angeles.

GE decided to fund an elaborate version of a similar concept that would feature an Audio-Animatronics family in different eras appreciating the advancements in electricity in a unique theater where the audience moved around various stages.

While the Audio-Animatronics characters were simpler in movement than the President Lincoln at the Illinois pavilion, there were roughly 32 of them that had to be coordinated, each on its own separate recording track.

At the World's Fair, an average of 41,000 visitors saw the show every day. By the end of the first year, more than 7 million people had seen the attraction. Walt had always intended for his attractions for the World's Fair to be relocated to Disneyland, and GE agreed to sponsor the relocation of its attraction.

The new Hench-designed Disneyland building was two-storied and there were two major changes to the show: First, the final scene was revised and updated, eliminating references to dated products like color kitchen lighting, and adding new miracles like videotape recording of television programs.

In the background, the Christmastime night showed the skyline of Walt's vision for EPCOT with the Cosmopolitan Hotel towering in the center.

Second, as guests went up the speedramp, they no longer saw the Skydome Spectacular as they did at the fair, but an amazingly detailed miniature of Walt's dream for EPCOT.

However, with the death of Walt, the Disney Company was debating whether to pursue making that dream a reality so the city was re-dubbed "Progress City" to tie-in with all the references to progress in the attraction.

Built 1/8th of an inch to a foot, it was 6,900-square feet, 115-feet wide, and 60-feet deep. It had 2,500 moving vehicles (monorails, peoplemovers, moving sidewalks, electric trains), 20,000 trees, 4,500 structures (Walt insisted the interior of each of the buildings be finished, furnished and lit), 1,400 working street lights, and it all came alive as the audiences moved from one side of the room to the other on a three-tiered audience viewing area.

A small part of that massive model can be seen on the PeopleMover at Walt Disney World.

Adventure Thru Inner Space

Adventure Thru Inner Space gave guests a chance to be miniaturized "beyond the limits of normal magnification."

Guests boarded vehicles and went through the "Mighty Microscope" (12-feet high, 37-feet long) into a microscopic world of a snowflake. The vehicles continued to diminish in size while guests heard the audio log of the first explorer (Paul Frees) helping them understand what they were seeing on the 682-foot loop of track.

Eventually, the guests were confronted by the nucleus of the atom (containing a strobe light inside) and had to quickly return to normal size as the snowflake began to melt to find themselves once again in a "world of comfort and convenience, made possible through miracles from molecules." This phrase inspired the theme song for the attraction written by the Sherman Brothers.

Even as early as 1957 and the episode of the Disney weekly television show "Our Friend, the Atom," Walt had considered some type of attraction at Disneyland dealing with exploring the world of atoms.

Working with Dr. Charles Allen Thomas, the chairman of the Monsanto Company (that manipulated molecules), the Imagineers decided that frozen water would be the easiest and most understandable concept for guests. Walt had lived long enough to actually see the omnimovers in operation.

The omnimovers not only moved people quickly and efficiently through the attraction, but controlled what the audience would see. The curving sides of the vehicle prevented the guests from looking anywhere else besides where the vehicle was facing, as well as creating an acoustical chamber so that the narration could be heard more clearly.

"We are hoping the excitement generated in our attraction by the creativity of many Disney artists will bring alive the excitement of Inner Space," Thomas said.

To make the attraction more intimate, the Imagineers placed objects within easy reach of the guests in the Atomobiles, which was a huge mistake. People grabbed at items and even tried to physically destroy them. So the Imagineers came up with the concept now called "Envelope of Protection" meaning to put things well out of easy reach of a ride vehicle.

The darkness and intimacy of the attraction encouraged everything from covert smoking of marijuana to amorous antics. When the attraction finally closed, an angry guest wrote a complaint letter that included the interesting statement: "My son was conceived on that ride!"

Flight to the Moon

The original Rocket to the Moon attraction that had opened in 1955 took guests on a round-trip voyage around the moon and back to Earth. For the New Tomorrowland, the attraction was updated to Flight to the Moon utilizing all the latest technological advances that had happened over the last decade.

The theater was expanded, the seats were wider and there was now a four minute pre-show with eight Audio-Animatronics figures in the Mission Control room. Director Tom Morrow carried on a conversation with the ride operator explaining factual information. The actual flight also included a segment where explorers from a moon colony on a big screen gathering ore samples talked to the guests.

Imagineers were disappointed because NASA refused to share any information about their newest designs, including a lunar landing module, so when the actual moon landing took place two years later, the attraction was already hopelessly out-of-date in some areas.

On August 12, 1969, the Apollo moon landing was shown live on TV at the Tomorrowland Stage, the current site for Space Mountain, so that guests who wanted to visit Disneyland that day and spend money wouldn't miss the historic moment.

America the Beautiful

There had been several versions of a circle vision film titled America the Beautiful but the 18-minute long one from 1967 was certainly the best. Instead of the previous eleven cameras, this was filmed with nine cameras in 35mm film giving the images a better clarity and was housed in a beautiful new show building that now included reinforced lean rails.

There were pre-show and post-show exhibits including Picture Phones and Chatter Phones (speaker phones where a family could gather in a booth and talk at the same time to someone they dialed), as well as an opportunity to pick up a phone and hear a Disney character talk to you. Although "hosted" by the Southern California Pacific Telephone, this free show was sponsored by the larger Bell System and AT&T.

The film which could be enjoyed by 3,000 guest per hour celebrated numerous locations in America from New York to Williamsburg to the Grand Canyon to even Hawaii and Alaska. The film was later shown at Walt Disney World.

The Rocket Jets

The Rocket Jets were the newest version of a Disneyland favorite, although they were relocated above the PeopleMover making them the tallest object at over three stories high in Disneyland. The center spire was now a replica of a Saturn V rocket designed by Imagineer George McGinnis.

Walt was never interested in science-fiction which may be surprising for a man who spent much of his life dealing in fantasy. He was interested in science fact and how new advancements in technology would improve the lives of people in the immediate future.

Walt wanted Tomorrowland to showcase the latest discoveries and to inspire people to make even greater accomplishments that he hoped would unify the world. Walt's New Tomorrowland of 1967 was one of the last things that reflected his philosophy that science was our friend and it would unite our world in peace and harmony.

Unfortunately, like many of his dreams, this one was never fully realized.