History and photos of the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
From the earliest of days, people have been looking forward to tomorrow and all of the innovations and wild concepts that may one day happen, from traveling out into space to seeking a better life here on Earth.
Naturally, Walt Disney himself was such a visionary. It was only natural to make a futuristic land a part of Disneyland and later the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Originally, Tomorrowland was designed to be a themed land set in the near-future about thirty to forty years from its construction. The idea was to present realistic futuristic concepts that park guests may experience in the forms of rides and shows. The problem though was that humanity as a whole was advancing at a rapid pace, and advances in technology quickly began to put Tomorrowland's concepts into the past. That problem with Tomorrowland would be "corrected" in 1994 and chance everything that you knew about the land.
When the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, Tomorrowland was a mostly empty section of the theme park. In fact, the land only had two attractions open on opening day: the Grand Prix Raceway and the Tomorrowland Skyway station. The Circle-Vision 360 film America the Beautiful opened a month later in November, and the Flight to the Moon attraction opened in late December of 1971.
Although Tomorrowland was lacking attractions in 1971, the land would experience a constant addition of attractions for the next few years. The ride If You Had Wings opened in 1972, the StarJets opened in 1974, and then Space Mountain, Carousel of Progress and the WEDWay PeopleMover opened in 1975.
From 1975 through 1993, Tomorrowland experienced minor changes here and there. Flight to the Moon was changed to Mission to Mars, If You Had Wings became If You Could Fly and then a vastly different version in Dreamflight, and America the Beautiful changed to Magic Carpet 'Round The World and then American Journeys.
That's how Tomorrowland was presented to park guests from 1971 through 1993. It was cool, innovative, and, unfortunately, pretty outdated in the early 1990s. It was time to give Tomorrowland a significant makeover, something that would allow the land to continue to exist without fear of it becoming outdated again. As it's stated in the preshow to Dinosaur in Disney's Animal Kingdom, "The future is truly in the past."
For the first half of 1994, Tomorrowland underwent a massive construction process that re-themed the entire land. Instead of a sleek a futuristic vision of the near-future, Tomorrowland became a radically different land, a future that "never was." It became a futuristic fantasy land straight out of classic comics such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.
In mid-1994, Tomorrowland became New Tomorrowland, a retro version of the future. This is the meeting place of the prestigious League of Planets. Around Rockettower Plaza you'll find everything from neon lights and rock formations to the Interplanetary Science and Convention Centers to even a robotic newsboy delivering the news to metallic palm trees.
The conversion to New Tomorrowland also involved the transformation of most of the land's attractions, shops and restaurants as well. American Journeys became The Transportarium (later renamed to The Timekeeper), a Circle-Vision 360 show hosted by a pair of time-traveling robots (voiced by Robin Williams and Rhea Perlman). Mission to Mars became The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, a rather frightening experience involving a fierce alien monster. The StarJets were changed into the Astro Orbiter, and the WEDWay PeopleMover became the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA). The Grand Prix Speedway was rethemed to the Tomorrowland Speedway. Space Mountain's experience was largely unchanged, but the attraction received a new entrance area, a new line queue, and new scenes on the post-show exit ramps.
Since its transformation to New Tomorrowland in 1994, the land has continued to receive updates and changes over the years. Dreamflight / Take Flight closed in 1997, and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin opened in its place in 1998. Skyway closed in 1999 though its station would remain in Tomorrowland until 2009. Alien Encounter closed in 2003 and was replaced by Stitch's Great Escape! in November of 2004. The Timekeeper closed in 2006 and was replaced by Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor in April of 2007.
Today's version of Tomorrowland continues to be a popular land in the Magic Kingdom. To me, the current version of the land isn't nearly as good as the Tomorrowland from the mid-1990s. It feels like the land has lost some of its "punch" with the downgrading of The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter to Stitch's Great Escape!, and the changing of The Timekeeper to the incredibly lame Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. The land has been shifting to being more and more kid friendly, but it's coming at a cost that destroys the land's theming (Monsters, Inc. does NOT belong in Tomorrowland!) as well as removing the more eerie, mysterious and sinister aspects of the land.
Needless to say, Tomorrowland is still a must-see area of the Magic Kingdom. The land's most popular attractions are Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, a counter-service restaurant in Tomorrowland, is one of the largest (and busiest) restaurants in the Magic Kingdom.
As you can see in the photographs below, the land is extremely photogenic and a treat for the eyes, especially at night.
Additional photo pages for Tomorrowland include:
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe counter-service restaurant
Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant counter-service restaurant
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