24 October 2009

Tomorrow is just a dream away

Today, we conclude our look back at the Magic Kingdom in 1972 with Tomorrowland. These days, as guests make their way to Tomorrowland from Fantasyland, they are met with a choice to visit Tomorrowland or Mickey’s Toontown Fair. While Mickey’s Toontown Fair has a long and storied history, first as Mickey’s Birthdayland and then Mickey’s Starland before transforming into its current state, this area was undeveloped for the first sixteen-plus years of the Magic Kingdom’s existence. While it may not be on every guests ‘Must See’ list, Mickey’s Toontown Fair is a treasure trove of animation history and clever jokes. For the purposes of this series, however, we’ll stop there and let the area speak for itself in other articles.

Like other lands that have one foot in reality and one foot in whimsy, namely Adventureland and Frontierland, the early years of Tomorrowland could be viewed as a work in progress. Many of the infamous and beloved attractions of Tomorrowland had not yet been created in 1972. What was there, however, could be described as the promise of tomorrow.

What was missing in Tomorrowland 1972 included a veritable who’s who of the area, including Space Mountain the WEDway Peoplemover (or Tomorrowland Transit Authority, if you must), Carousel of Progress, and the Star Jets (Astro Orbiter). In the place of the current Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was the free attraction If You Had Wings, a darling among the Magic Kingdom’s extinct attractions. Flight to the Moon, later Flight to Mars, has become Stitch’s Great Escape, and America the Beautiful Circle-Vision 360 is now the home to the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. Connected to Fantasyland, the Skyway was silenced almost a decade ago, and its home in Tomorrowland is currently being removed. The Grand Prix Raceway still exists, though its track has been altered, in the Tomorrowland Speedway.

With so few attractions in its first few years, Tomorrowland used the expansive dining area known as the Tomorrowland Terrace, known today as Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, to pull in guests and kept guest there with live music like the Tomorrowland Terrace Rock Band. The only other home for futuristic food in 1972 was the Lunching Pad, then located where Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies stands today. Assorted sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream, and hamburgers were available in Tomorrowland via these two locations.

Mickey’s Mart, the Skyway Station Stop, and The Space Port covered the gifts from the future. Mickey’s Mart, currently Mickey’s Star Traders, carried Tomorrowland toys and apparel, while The Space Port, in the modern Merchant of Venus’ location, offered contemporary furnishings for the home. With the subtraction of the former Tomorrowland Skyway building the Skyway Station Stop is venturing into the realm of extinct shopping experiences, but at one time it offered an assortment of standard Walt Disney World souvenirs.

The truly lost treasure of 1972 Tomorrowland was the entrance and architecture. The towering white spires, originally meant to containing pillars of crystal water, spoke to a clean, safe view of the future. When Tomorrowland was retrofitted to grant guests a glimpse into the science-fiction tomorrow that never was, these pristine towers, along with the clean curves found throughout the remainder of Tomorrowland, were replaced with mechanical apparatuses, gears, and rockwork.

The Tomorrowland of 1972 was a prelude to the land’s golden age, but still spoke to the possibilities the future held for each guest. Today, the ideas of tomorrow have become muddled by advancements in technology and science-fiction storylines. Even the cohesive storyline of Tomorrowland as a central city of the future has, for the most part, been forgotten, with only a scant few reminders left for those who know where to look. Of the many lands of the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland is the land most in need of a polishing. Take it from the man who still has an ancient lightsaber in his closet somewhere, the world of tomorrow should be bright and full of promise, not convoluted and worn thin.

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