The ongoing Space Mountain renovation, along with the change in the TTA’s audio track to one that more closely resembles the old pre-1994 PeopleMover narration has some people speculating that a change in Tomorrowland’s “theme” is imminent. As I’ve discussed before, prior to its 1994 overhaul, Tomorrowland’s “theme” could best be described as “space, the future, and other stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else”. For a short time after the ‘94 refurb, however, the area actually had a fairly cohesive theme. New attractions like Alien Encounter and Timekeeper, along with the conversion of the PeopleMover to the TTA and StarJets into the Astro Orbiter, all contributed to the the idea that the new Tomorrowland was a retro-futuristic metropolis. Of course, when Alien Encounter and the Timekeeper were replaced by Stitch and Monsters Inc. attractions, respectively, Tomorrowland once again reverted to a crazy quilt of mismatched elements. It’s hard to see how it could return to thematic unity without an expensive and near-total overhaul, which, given the huge Fantasyland/Toontown Fair overhaul that won’t be completed until 2013, doesn’t seem very likely.
So, how can Tomorrowland return to some semblance of the thematic unity it had in 1994? I don’t think it can, not completely. As much as they irritate the purists, Stitch’s Great Escape and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor are probably here to stay for better part of the next decade. After all, converting the Timekeeper’s theater into the Laugh Floor wasn’t cheap, and unless a sinkhole opens up under the building, I don’t see Disney closing it anytime soon. And there’s only so much that can be done with building that houses Stitch’s Great Escape; restoring the old Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars rocketship ride wouldn’t exactly wow modern audiences, and a more “extreme” version of the “escaped creature” show has already been tried and deemed incongruous with Disney World’s family friendly atmosphere. Since Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is probably Tomorrowland’s second-biggest draw behind Space Mountain, it’s safe to bet that it’s not going anywhere, either.
The most likely scenario, I think, is the informal division of Tomorrowland into two areas; the western “Toon” area where the Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, and Monsters Inc. attractions live, and an eastern “Classic” area encompassing Space Mountain, the PeopleMover, Carousel of Progress, and the Speedway. Hopefully, after the Space Mountain rehab is complete the Carousel of Progress will get the refurbishment it’s needed for most of this decade. If that happens, Tomorrowland will have struck a balance between the kind of character-based attractions that are popular with the general public, and the old classics toward which longtime Disney fans feel so protective.