Tomorrowland Indy Speedway (No Characters)
Space Mountain (No Characters)
Astro Orbiters (No Characters)
Tomorrowland Transit Authority (No Characters)
Carrousel of Progress (No Characters)
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (Characters: Disney/Pixar)
Stitch’s Great Escape (Characters: Disney)
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (Characters: Disney Pixar)
Just based on number of attractions alone, not to mention the time spent in those attractions, and their queues, you have a character rate of 37.5 percent. Disney/Pixar characters hold a whopping quarter of Tomorrowland alone.
The arguments have been made that Fantasyland is, and has always been, the home to characters and their stories. Not to mention, the question has been raised of what these three attractions (Monsters, Inc., Stitch, and Buzz Lightyear) have in common with the future. To further understand the dispute, let us examine these questions further.
TO THE FUTURE
What, exactly, do a toy, monsters, and a furry alien have to do with the future?
Okay, well, the furry blue alien gets a pass on this point. Clearly life in space, our lives as well as extraterrestrial life, has always been a tale of the future. The main anxiety with Stitch is that he is a Disney film character inside of Tomorrowland, which we will discuss a little later. The other concern Stitch raises, which is of no concern here, is that there are people who believe the original incarnation of this attraction, Alien Encounter, was a far better story. This is a debate best saved for another day.
Buzz Lightyear and his Space Ranger Corp., however, do pose a threat to the status quo of Tomorrowland. No matter how you dress it up, all of the characters portrayed here are toys. Plastic action figures have been around longer than I have; there is no news from the future here. The saving grace this attraction has is that you are hurtling through space into battle against Zurg with lasers. Space travel, and lasers, are other hopes, or fears depending on your view, for the future. While not as strong of a tie to the future as a furry blue alien, space travel does have more of a stake in Tomorrowland than say a ride examine the pleasures of jetting off to exotic locales in a jumbo jet.
Monsters, Inc., and their Laugh Floor, seems totally out of place in Tomorrowland. Aside for the fact that the Monsters (and Imagineers) are showing off their new technology, there is not one thing to persuade me to believe this attraction belongs in Tomorrowland.
TO SHARE THE STORY
Characters are not the future, putting aside Nemo and his friends and Simba and his friends, who have taken up residence in Future World at Epcot. But taking a step back, and peering deep at just the Magic Kingdom, the home for characters and their beloved stories has always been Fantasyland. From Dumbo to Peter Pan, Snow White to Mickey Mouse, and even a Pooh or two, no character has ever been discouraged to tell their tale here.
So why then did Stitch, Buzz, and Mike and Sully choose to disregard this time honored tradition and pull a fast one to the future? Well, perhaps it is because they felt more at home among the stars and speedways, or perhaps they thought Fantasyland was a little overcrowded and they wanted room to spread out, or perhaps, and this appears to be the most likely, is was that this time honored tradition had not been so time honored before. That’s right, the tradition of characters staying put in Fantasyland had been broken before, on one occasion with true success.
Excluding Mickey’s Toontown Fair for obvious reasons, characters have secretly been out and about in other lands for years. In Adventureland, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, have been circling the bazaar since 2001. Though this sly move by the street rat is actually predated by both Stitch and Buzz Lightyear’s moves, it is not discussed with as near the amount of venom as the attractions of Tomorrowland are.
But the first, and most successful, character to jump from Fantasyland was Br’er Rabbit and his felonious associates. When the critters of Splash Mountain popped up in Frontierland in 1992 it was not to boos, hisses, and calls to ‘go home,’ no, it was to thunderous applause, screams of joy, and enough laughin’ to fill up the Laughin’ Place. To this day one of the most frequented attractions is Splash Mountain. Whether that has to do with the fact that it is a Disney Mountain, a flume ride, a thrill ride, or a tremendous example of Imagineering storytelling is beside the point here. This is a much beloved attraction, and no one goes around complaining that it does not belong in Frontierland because of the characters involved.
So we are clear, I would, and did, visit a Tomorrowland with The Timekeeper, Alien Encounter, and Dreamflight a hundred times before I stepped foot in the current embodiment of Tomorrowland. I would even stake out a spot in line to see Mr. Johnson and his spaceflight again, before I would say I thoroughly enjoy Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Just so we’re clear, I do not love what the characters on Tomorrowland’s main thoroughfare have done to my dreams of the future. But, there is no reason that the characters should not be allowed to stay. They are family friendly, and child recognizable, and the Magic Kingdom was never created to cater to adults, not even those who spent their lives growing up in the parks. The characters, and their stories, can all make claims to embodying a piece of the future, even if it is a stretch for some of them. And, the characters themselves, clearly have a right to be there, and should never be relegated to Fantasyland, just because the majority of characters have always heralded Fantasyland as home.
To those of you, like me, who wish for a better tomorrow, or Tomorrowland, as the case may be, just wait. Remember all those families that were extremely displeased with the sheer terror Alien Encounter caused their children? Walt Disney World listened, and soon enough there was a change in Tomorrowland. And, if that idea isn’t enough for you, just remember Walt Disney. How many times has he been quoted on Disneyland as a piece of clay, or how the parks will never be finished because they will always be changing? These words, instilled in those who build the dreams, have become their mantra. Which means, sooner or later, Tomorrowland will go through another renaissance. And I cannot wait to see what that future has in store for us.