Circle-Vision in 1996

When I returned to Disneyland in December 1995, there were some thing I had “just” missed (like the PeopleMover and Skyway, that had closed a few years earlier). But, some things were still there, though they would close soon after.

One such thing was the Circle-Vision theater, showing a special presentation of America the Beautiful, which was supervised by Walt Disney himself.

Disneyland’s Circle-Vision on August 12, 1996.

For the kids at home, this was where the Buzz Lightyear ride is today. You can learn more at Yesterland.com or read the writeup at the Wikipedia.

My ancient digital camera did not do well indoors without using a flash. But, since there aren’t that many photos of this online, I thought I’d share what I have.

Disneyland’s Circle-Vision on August 12, 1996.

Yep. Glorious low resolution, low quality digital photos from 1996! Above was the pre-show area, leading in to the main CircleVision theater. Below I will share the other photos I took that visit — all of equal quality.

After this theater closed, it eventually would re-open and be used as part of the queue for the Rocket Rods. They created a new Circle-Vision film for it, which features some clips from other CircleVision films (on all screens) as well as clips from Disney’s TV series segments on transportation (including clips of Walt Disney). It was nice to be in a Circle-Vision theater at Disneyland again, even if it was just something you passed through while waiting for a ride.

Walt Disney World had Circle-Vision theaters at Epcot‘s World Showcase (and still does) and Magic Kingdom‘s Tomorrowland (Timekeeper, gone and replaced by the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor).

Disneyland no long has any theater, as the building was redone to become Buzz Lightyear and the Circle-Vision screens were removed.

At least I got to see the “end” of Circle-Vision at Disneyland — the original theme park that pioneered this type of presentation. It’s one of the things I have never seen anywhere else (though surely someone else has made them).

Until next time…

Tomorrowland in 1996.

Updates:

  • 2018-02-25: Added “new” Tomorrowland history notes from Werner Weiss of Yesterland.com.

The Tomorrowland of 1996 was probably the “new” Tomorrowland, not to be confused with the new “new” Tomorrowland that would open two years later. After speaking with Werner of Yesterland.com,  I found that there were several other “new” new Tomorrowlands along the way. (See his notes at the end of this article.)

I’ll just call this one Tomorrowland ’96, in tribute to the recently renamed Epcot ’94.

First, the Rocket Jets were still in their original spot:

Rocket Jets on August 18, 1996.

By having them up on the second story (you took an elevator to get to them), it make them seem much more frightening. To prove that, here’s a non-public photo I vowed I would never share publicly:

I’m not traumatized by my two-story Rocket Jet ride. I’m smiling. That’s a smile. See the teeth?

Today a new version sits on the ground at the front of Tomorrowland, and the skeleton of the old Rocket Jets is a kinetic sculpture that may or more not kinet any more.

In 1996, you could also catch the original run of Captain EO, which I did, because I don’t think I ever caught it when it was at Epcot. (Recall, I visited Disneyland a few times in the 1970s, then my 1980s and early 1990s were only trips to Walt Disney World):

Caption EO playing at the Magic Eye Theater on August 18, 1996.

A short time later and that theater would be redone for Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Then, years later, it would be repurposed to become Captain EO Tribute after the passing of the film’s star, Michael Jackson. I wonder what will happen if Rick Moranis or Eric Idle passes away?

There was also this long-closed Carousel of Progress / America Sings Building that was being worked on for Tomorrowland ’98:

Carousel of Progress building on August 18, 1996.

The PeopleMover had been closed since shortly before I got back to visit in 1995, darnit. “Missed it by that much!”

People Mover-less on August 18, 1996.

Hey! That’s Esmarelda (bottom left, above) walking out of Tomorrowland! This, my friends, was one of the reasons why Walt Disney wanted so much land for his Florida Project. He said he didn’t want to see a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland, and I’m guessing seeing Esmeralda do the same also counts.

And taking a peek at the People Mover tracks showed work being done for the upcoming Rocket Rods ride:

People Move track without the People Mover track in 1996.
Disney VR on May 20, 1996.

Speaking of Walt Disney World… Did you ever see the Disney virtual reality demonstration at Epcot ’95? (Yes, Virginia. There was virtual reality in the early 1990s.)  It was in one of the buildings near Spaceship Earth, and I saw it with my dad during the summer of 1995. They selected a few guests to demonstrate the system on a stage while we all watched overhead monitors showing what they were seeing. It was an Aladdin magic carpet ride game. During my 1996 Disneyland trip, I got to play it at the Starcade. It was very cool.

V.R. is the future, I tell you!

I guess I should also point out the Circle-Vision was still showing movies:

Circle-Vision presents America the Beautiful on August 12, 1996.

That movie was interesting because Walt Disney was involved in it, and he could be seen over and over in various scenes. It’s hard to hide from a 360 camera. (Yes, Virginia, Disney was doing 360 movies back in the 1960s.)

This location later became the queue for Rocket Rods (the theater still intact and showing a new Rocket Rod film sequence), then later Buzz Lightyear.

Space Mountain was presented by FedEx and had the “speed ramp” up to the top:

Space Mountain speed ramp on August 18, 1996.

And the ride itself had recently gotten onboard sound via add-on speakers they put on the existing cars:

Space Mountain cars modified with add-on speakers.

During a later redo, they would get all-new cars with the speakers integrated into them.

The Submarine Voyage was still running:

Submarine Voyage on August 16, 1996.

Besides the subs being yellow instead of grey, it was very close to the original version that opened in 1959. A few years later, it would close and the lagoon would sit, abandoned, for what seemed like “forever” until Nemo saved it. Florida’s version, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, was not so fortunate. It just sat there for what seemed like “forever” and then got replaced with a Winnie the Pooh playground for toddlers.

And, who can forget the Toy Story Funhouse, showing that Disney began putting things in the Tomorrowlands long before Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. If I recall correctly, this was an exhibit that was used at a movie theater during the promotion of Toy Story, then moved to this area in Tomorrowland as an attraction.

I only took a few photos, so this one must have really stood out. It was the first time I ever saw a human Green Army Man.

It’s worth noting that the original versions had their feet connected on a platform just like the toys. They would wobble around just like the toy versions did in the movie. Cute.

It’s also worth notice that orange floor. Back in the 1970s, Radio Shack stores were also orange and brown. I guess those were good colors for the future, in the past.

I guess that about covers Tomorrowland. I took a few photos of Star Tours, but that remained mostly unchanged until the updates for the new movies so nothing interesting to share there.

Notes from Yesterland.com:

Werner Weiss contributed some more details about the various “new” Tomorrowlands:

  • 1959 – Significant additions to Tomorrowland at Disneyland, but not called “New Tomorrowland.” Included Disneyland Alweg Monorail, Submarine Voyage, and Matterhorn Bobsleds (Matterhorn is now classified as part of Fantasyland).
  • 1967 – “New Tomorrowland” at Disneyland. Included G.E. Carousel of Progress, Goodyear PeopleMover, Monsanto Adventure Thru Inner Space, AT&T Bell System Circle-Vision 360 (replacing the 11-screen 16mm version), Flight to the Moon (replacing Rocket to the Moon), Coca-Cola Tomorrowland Terrace, Space Stage, and the tile murals by Mary Blair.
  • 1994 – “New Tomorrowland” at Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World.
  • 1998 – “New Tomorrowland” at Disneyland. Included Rocket Rods, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” Innoventions, and Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port. 

Thanks, Werner!

Until next time…