Tomorrowland started out a little slow when Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, but Disney really ramped things up with the opening of the following three attractions, all of which are still in operation today!
Space Mountain (January 15, 1975)
The original version of this iconic Disney attraction has since been replicated in all but one of the other Disney theme parks around the world. Space Mountain has the distinction of being the first completely indoor roller coaster. It is also the oldest operating roller coaster in the state of Florida.
Space Mountain was inspired by the success of Matterhorn Bobsleds in Disneyland. It was originally planned to be built in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, but limitations in technology, in addition to size constraints with Disneyland’s footprint, delayed the project, until it eventually found a home in Magic Kingdom.
The maximum speed of this coaster tops out at 27 miles per hour. But the indoor speed tunnel effect, in addition to the fact that most of the ride is spent in the dark, make this coaster much more exciting than the modest top speed suggests.
Space Mountain continues to be one of Magic Kingdom’s top drawing attractions. It is also one of the more photographed locations in the park, providing a slick and sharp background for many a family photo.
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (January 15, 1975)
This classic Disney attraction may have opened in Magic Kingdom in 1975, but that represented the THIRD iteration of the attraction. Carousel of Progress was originally designed and constructed as part of Walt Disney’s involvement with the 1964 World’s Fair in New York (along with it’s a small world, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, and Ford’s Magic Skyway).
After a wildly successful two-season run at the Fair, the Carousel was packed up, shipped to California, and opened in Disneyland in 1967. The early 1970s saw decreasing attendance for the show. With Disneyland historically being considered somewhat of a “locals park”, the show seemed to have run its course there. At the request of sponsor General Electric, the Carousel was once again packaged up, this time moved to Florida, where it opened (and still resides) in its current location.
The attraction was modified a bit en route from California to Florida. The theater rotation reversed direction and the loading and unloading process was updated. But the most notable update to the attraction came with the change of its theme song. The Sherman Brothers’ fan favorite “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was replaced with another Sherman Brothers masterpiece “The Best Time of Your Life.” The theme song was eventually changed back to “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” in 1996.
Fun Facts: Carousel of Progress holds the record for the most performances of a single stage show in U.S. history. It is one of the oldest attractions in the Walt Disney World Resort, and it is also the oldest attraction at Walt Disney World to have been personally touched by Walt Disney.
WEDway PeopleMover (July 1, 1975)
For all the well-deserved attention that Space Mountain receives as being the “marquis attraction” in Tomorrowland, the WEDway PeopleMover (or Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover as it is currently called) has been simmering as a fan favorite for almost as long.
Boarding occurs in the center of Rocket Tower Plaza, where guests elevate themselves via an inclined moving walkway. Once aboard, guests enjoy a tour around Tomorrowland, including views of the courtyards, Cinderella Castle, Tomorrowland stage, and tunnels through Space Mountain and around the Carousel of Progress. While inside one of the interior spaces, Disney history buffs will enjoy their peek at the Progress City/Epcot model, which originally resided in the upper level of the Carousel of Progress at the New York World’s Fair of 1966-1967, then at Disneyland starting in 1967.
In this day of Instagram and social media, a trip on the PeopleMover is not only relaxing, it’s also a chance to snag some family and park photos from a unique vantage point. This attraction is well worth the wait. Now if only we could ride it a couple more times…
What’s next for Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland? I think it has something to do with a 1980’s cyber thriller film. TRON, we are ready to ride!
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