Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What belongs in Tomorrowland?

"That show doesn't belong in Tomorrowland!" That's what many longtime Disney fans said when Stitch's Great Escape premiered in the Magic Kingdom back in 2004. We heard it again in 2007, when the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor moved into the space formerly occupied by the Timekeeper. Presumably, folks felt this way because Stitch's Great Escape and the Laugh Floor aren't really "futuristic". But if one examines the history of Disney World's Tomorrowland, it's surprising just how many of the attractions it's housed over the years have had nothing at all to do with futurism.

Let's start with the original Tomorrowland attractions, the ones that opened during the Magic Kingdom's first five years of operation. Obviously, Flight to the Moon (later Mission to Mars), Carousel of Progress, Star Jets, Space Mountain, and the WEDWay PeopleMover were future or space-oriented. But what about the Grand Prix Raceway, If You Had Wings, or the films in the CircleVision theater? What do driving a car, flying in an airliner, or a CircleVision film about America have to do with the future? It's as if these three attractions were just shoved into Tomorrowland because they didn't quite fit anywhere else.

None of this really changed during the park's first two decades of operation. If You Had Wings went through a few name and sponsor changes, but remained devoted to contemporary 20th century air travel until its replacement by Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. The CircleVision theater hosted America the Beautiful, Magic Carpet 'Round the World, and American Journeys, all of which were about showing viewers scenic panoramas and had nothing to do with the traditional Tomorrowland themes of science, technology, space travel, and futurism.

Therefore, it could be said that Stitch's Great Escape and the Monsters' Inc. Laugh Floor do belong in Tomorrowland, inasmuch as they continue that area's tradition of housing attractions that don't really belong anywhere else. And although If You Had Wings/Dreamflight and the Circlevision films are long gone, the Grand Prix Raceway still operates as the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, and guests still putt-putt around the track in little racecars much as they did when the attraction first opened in 1971. Yet, I don't recall any online cries of outrage that the Speedway doesn't belong in Tomorrowland because it has nothing to do with the future.

Indeed, most of the complaints about Tomorrowland's newest attractions seem to revolve around the fact that kid-oriented Disney character-based shows, once restricted to Fantasyland, have slowly spread throughout the entire Magic Kingdom. Whether or not one appreciates that is, of course, a matter of personal taste. But a look at Tomorrowland's history shows us that what "belongs" there is a rather fluid concept.


  1. While I would like the theming to be more consistent in "Tomorrowland", I believe you've made some good points. As you say, some of those attractions don't really "fit" in any of the lands...still, they're good attractions. Maybe an expanded Toon-town would be the place for them. If they do a revision of Tomorrowland (probably not likely in today's economic climate) I'd still like to see them stay truer to theme.

  2. I am a hardcore "that doesn't fit" fan and have never really thought about what you said. Okay, so Circle Vision, If You Had Wings, Speedway don't quite fit the world of tomorrow, they did show what could be potential in the future and/or current. Cartoons in Tomorrowland? Get them out. That will never be a reality. Disney has lost touch with being the first "Theme" park.

  3. Oh, I agree they've lost touch with what the Magic Kingdom was originally supposed to be. It was never supposed to be "licensed Disney character" land, which it now is. The cartoon characters were supposed to stay in Fantasyland, and the other "lands" were for other stuff. I think the Eisner administration started adding character-based stuff all willy-nilly because they didn't know how to do anything else.


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