On the opening day of Disneyland in 1955, Walt Disney stated in his dedication that Tomorrowland would be, "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 ideas: the Atomic Age, the challenge of outer space, and the hope for a peaceful and united world.” Unfortunately we’ve gradually settled for a very different Tomorrowland.
When designing Tomorrowland for Disneyland Walt Disney hired astrophysics, scientist, and men who would go on to work for NASA to design what they imagined for the future. Walt Disney believed strongly that there was hope and promise for the future, and that Tomorrowland was the perfect canvas to show the American people what that future could be. Essentially, Tomorrowland was supposed to be a permanent expo to show the future of science, technology, transportation, and so much more.
Small changes and updates were important to keep Tomorrowland up to date with what the future truly was, and by 1967 it was in store for the biggest change it had ever seen. This massive redesign was finished seven months after Walt Disney passed away. The new theme of this Tomorrowland redesign was a "World on the Move,” and it included attractions like Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Adventure Thru Inner Space, Flight to the Moon, and the PeopleMover. This was a brilliant redesign. Two of the attractions, the PeopleMover and Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, are now widely recognized by Disney fans as all time classic Disney attraction.
Over time some other great attractions were added to Tomorrowland like Space Mountain, but for the most part as time went on the Tomorrowland that inspired people for the future started to become increasingly gimmicky. Many of Disney’s intellectual properties started to make a large presence in Tomorrowland. This is at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Slowly but surely Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, Star Wars, and Monsters Inc. played a bigger role, and the “promises of the future” became an afterthought.
Personally, I still love Tomorrowland. I worked in the Magic Kingdom in 2013, and it is one of my favorite places in the world. This article wasn’t meant to bash Disney, or Tomorrowland. Rather it was a small reminder that maybe, just maybe, Disney has lost sight of what Walt Disney wanted Tomorrowland to be. I’m also not trying to argue that Disney should wipe out all fun intellectual properties that guests know and love. It's just that I feel like we’ve had to sacrifice “the promises of the future” for Buzz Lightyear and Star Wars, and I want to know why we can’t have a little of both.
I’ve stated this in articles in the past, but I’ll say it again. In the 1950s and 60s Americans were largely optimistic about the future. The promises made by Walt Disney and others had many excited for jetpacks, flying cars and so much more. Without Walt Disney we as Americans have forgotten what it feels like to truly believe in ourselves. We now lack the optimism and creative spark that he gave our country.
Photo Credit: Disney