Previously, I shared a photo of the original FastPass tickets that were give out at Magic Kingdom‘s Space Mountain in 1999. I thought I’d share a few more photos from the ride that started it all…
…or did I?
My memory says Space Mountain was the first, and I had assumed it did so in “late 1999” because the Wikipedia also said that, but I have since been reminded (via a well-researched Yesterland.com article) that it was announced to be starting in July 1999.
Amazingly, the Wikipedia was wrong about something. Let’s digress for a quick moment.
Doing some poking around the ancient archives of the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup, I found a post on February 18, 1999 by someone who got to try out a new “virtual queue system” on Countdown to Extinction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I then find a post from Al Lutz on May 31, 1999 referencing an Orange County Register newspaper article about the system being tested with plans for it to come to Disneyland. Then, on April 16, 1999, someone asked if the virtual queue was still being used and someone replied that it was not working on Space Mountain or CTX “this past Friday.”
Based on what I can find so far, the original testing seems to have been done on one (or both) of those two attractions sometime before February 18 and had ended by mid-April. But which was was first, and when? I shall continue to dig…
UPDATE: I found a reference from January 19, 1999 talking about the system being used on Space Mountain “last Christmas.” It seems December 1998 and Space Mountain?
But I digressed. Let’s get back to my November 1999 visit to Walt Disney World.
At that time, Space Mountain was sponsored by Federal Express:
I grew up with the ride being sponsored by RCA, so this was quite different than the old entrance sign I was used to with the “rocket” with astronauts in it. Inside was also different… The RCA dog listening to the record player had been replaced with a galactic mural.
When I visited next in 2006 and 2007, FedEx was no longer the sponsor. The signage and theming was still the same, but direct references to FedEx had been removed. I thought it was interesting they didn’t change this mural since “FX-1” in white and red colors was a referenced to FedEx.
Here’s a better look from 2007:
When I visited next in 2018, I saw that the FedEx references had been removed and the mural had been updated to be Starport Seven-Five… Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain opened in 1975. A similar update had been done at Disneyland with Starport ’77 (I bet you can guess which year their’s opened).
But I digress. Let’s get back to 1999.
This was the year FastPass went into public testing and was installed on Space Moutain. This meant new entrance markers for FastPass and for the normal line, which would be called Stand-By.
You now had the Stand-By line if you wanted to line up for the ride the way you always did, and a “Disney’s FASTPASS Return” line if you had the magic FastPass ticket…
Notice how the “Disney’s” looked like it was added to the sign after it was made. Maybe this was just in the era where “Disney’s” got added in front of anything the company made, yet somehow it wasn’t originally planned to be on this sign.
There was also a place to go to get those magic tickets. “Disney’s FASTPASS Distribution”:
Although my camera could not capture the specific time, the return time was the one-hour window where the ticket you received would allow you to return and use the FastPass Return entrance. (I guess we all understand this today, but back in 1999, it was a completely new concept.)
Let’s take a look at the machines…
Let’s take a closer look…
Insert park ticket here, receive your FastPass there… Simple enough (assuming that’s what it actually says; my ancient digital camera only took 640×480 pictures).
The machines were new, and often had issues.
I wasn’t bold enough to get closer, and the digital camera I had did not have a zoom (or a screen, or removable memory, or anything but a button for that matter). You can really tell this was more of a prototype than production system. Just look at all the wires and pieces of equipment all mounted inside there!
The end result was a nice FastPass ticket that could save you an hour or more waiting in line…
I’ll leave you with one more view, taken at night…
There is so much more to be said on the topic of FastPass, especially during the early years, so I look forward to writing more articles like this one, covering the other “first” attractions to have FastPass. (Or, FASTPASS as it was known at the time.)
Until next time…