Animal Kingdom in 1998

Last year, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated 20 years of being “not a zoo.” The park opened on Earth Day in 1998 (April 22). This was the first U.S. Disney park to open during my adult lifetime (I was a teenager when EPCOT Center opened in 1982). I considered making a trip out for the grand opening, but decided I’d wait a bit and let the crowds settle.

I wish I had visited earlier, because by the time I saw it in October 1998, things had already started changing — including the removal of one original attraction!

But I digress…

I wanted to share a sample of what it was like experiencing this park for the first time.

While I was walking towards the entrance, I noticed how beautiful the greenery was. This light caught my attention:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom parking area light October 17, 1998.

I don’t remember what it said not the rock, or if that is even still there. I’ll look for it my next trip.

I remember it being a long walk to get to the entrance.

Walking to the entrance of DAK on October 17, 1998.

I remember being amazed when I saw this waterfall. What a great entrance for this new park!

The waterfall entrance on October 17, 1998.

A minute later, and I would realize this was not the entrance at all. It was the Rainforest Cafe! Neat. Of course, today, you can’t even see the waterfall from here. The trees have grown in and blocked that view.

The real entrance was cool, but now I was a bit let down.

The DAK entrance on October 17, 1998.

I don’t recall what that truck was doing, but I’m betting it was trying to sell tickets to Pleasure Island 😉

I could continue with these photos and take you on a tour of my day, but instead we’ll stick to the outside of the park. Back then, the trees were freshly planted:

The trees needed a bit of help on October 17, 1998.

Even though it didn’t open with the park, we were still pretty excited to see what might come when the fantasy animal realm (Beastly Kingdom) was added. You could see the dragon in the logo, so we knew it would be happening…

Original DAK logo featuring the Dragon on October 17, 1998.

I’m still waiting.

I’ll end with two pictures from the outside of Rainforest Cafe. Click to open the full-size gallery:

I’m not sure how much the inside has changed since I never spent much time in it after this first trip. I got to visit the first three Rainforest Cafes in the Chicago area, so I already had my T-shirt collection started.

There. Now I’ve given Walt Disney World a bit more love. But they will be much, much more love to give in future installments.

Until then…

Space Mountain 1999 FastPass.

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:

TMK’s Space Mountain on November 11, 1999.

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.

TMK’s Space Mountain entranceway on November 6, 1999.

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:

TMK’s Space Mountain “FX-1 Intergalactic Tracking Network” referencing former sponsor FedEx. October 4, 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).

TMK’s Space Mountain entranceway on April 10, 2019.

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.

TMK’s Space Mountain entrance got complicated with FastPass and Standby entrances, and FastPass machines. November 6, 1999.

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…

TMK’s Space Mountain Standby and FastPass entrances on November 6, 1999.

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”:

TMK’s Space Mountain FastPass distribution area on November 6, 1999.

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…

Folks line up to use the new FastPass machines at TMK’s Space Mountain on November 6, 1999.

Let’s take a closer look…

TMK’s Space Mountain FastPass machines on November 6, 1999.

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…

TMK’s Space Mountain FastPass ticket on November 6, 1999.

Humble beginnings!

I’ll leave you with one more view, taken at night…

TMK’s Space Mountain FastPass entrance at night, on November 6, 1999.

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…

Disney and other Theme Parks galleries updated.

My Walt Disney World gallery (over 40,000 photos) has been updated to included photos taken a few weeks ago. I have also done some resorting of the early years of my Epcot World Showcase photos, correcting a number of mistakes I found.

http://wdw.disneyfans.com

I have also added the latest batch of Universal Orlando Resort photos from a few weeks ago. These are on my non-Disney Theme Parks gallery (over 33,000 photos):

http://themeparks.disneyfans.com

Lastly, the Disneyland Resort gallery (over 56,000 photos) has been redone as well:

http://dl.disneyfans.com

All three galleries were restarted from scratch, using new settings. Please let me know if you encounter any issues. Thanks!

Up next: I still have to sort photos from Knott’s Berry Farm (2017 and 2018), Universal Studios Hollywood (2018), and Iowa’s Adventureland Halloween (2018). I also found I have photos form Worlds of Fun (Halloween 2014) I never got around to posting.

Never a dull moment here!

Until next time…

Hard-core Mickey Mouse fan at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on April 22, 1998 (Earth Day). I had considered being out there for the grand opening, but thought it would be a better trip if I let the crowds die down first. I made my first trip six months later in October that year.

The main attractions were the Kilimanjaro Safaris (still there, but changed), It’s Tough to Be a Bug (still there), and Countdown to Extinction (no longer there by that name, but still there and known as Dinosaur today). I’ll be writing about that first visit later, but I wanted to pass along this photo:

Super fan with a Sorcerer Mickey tattoo at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on October 17, 1998.

If I recall, I noticed her tattoo after my first ride on Dinosaur and I asked her if I could get a photo of it. Twenty years ago, tattoos still weren’t very common, and I’d never seen one in that position on the lower arm.

Today, such a simple arm tattoo wouldn’t get a second glance, and I’ve since seen folks with entire “sleeve tattoos” of copyrighted Disney characters walking around Disneyland. (When did the tough image of biker/military/pirate/prisoner tattoos become something you could mix with Disney?)

But back then, it was something surprising, and worth using one of my limited amount of digital photos on.

Does anyone know her? If so, tell her the guy with the computer camera she met at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998 says hi.

Until next time…

No photos. No video.

After twenty three years doing this, I have decided to switch my focus from photos and video of the U.S. Disney Parks and concentrate on my collection of refillable popcorn buckets.

And that’s as much of an April Fools joke as you get from me today. Instead…

Walt Disney World used to be far more strict on allowing photos and/or video inside attractions. When I visited with my first digital camcorder in 1999, I recorded dozens of hours of video, but almost none inside any attractions. I do, however, have many pre-shows that end with a cast member walking up to me and “asking” me to stop recording.

No flash (?) photography or video recording as recently as December 4, 2006.

I can only imagine how many more photos and hours of video I would have if this were not the case.

Keep this in mind as you watch all the YouTube videos that were recorded in direct violation to posted signs and cast member instructions 😉

My trick was to keep going through until a cast member forgot to make the announcement, or asking a cool cast member if they would look the other way for me. I mean, in 1999, it’s not like anyone was ever going to be able to watch that video other than friends I invited over to see it on my TV.

Until next time…

Magic Kingdom Main Street Cinema in 1996.

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom had buildings that were not used for retail space.

The Main Street Cinema used to be a small cinema that played classic Mickey Mouse cartoons. It was still doing this in 1996:

Main Street Cinema in August 1996.

That is the only photo of it from 1996 I have, but here is is in January 1998:

Main Street Cinema on January 23, 1998.

Later that year, it was being used to show previews for the new animated film Mulan:

Mulan replaces Mickey at the Main Street Cinema on October 16, 1998.

In 1999, Tarzan had replaced Mulan:

Tarzan replaces Mulan at the Main Street Cinema on November 6, 1999.

…and Toys Story 2 soon followed (they changed it out during my visit):

Toy Story 2 preview at Main Street Cinema on November 18, 1999.

I do have a photo of the cinema ticket booth from 1999:

Main Street Cinema ticket window on November 20, 1999.

I wonder what her name tag said. At Disneyland, it has her hometown listed as Marceline, Missouri (where Walt Disney grew up).

After my 1999 visit, I turned my focus to Disneyland trips and did not return to Walt Disney World until 2006. By that time, the Main Street Cinema had been turned into another shop. During this visit, it was also being used as the in-park headquarters for the Virtual Magic Kingdom online game:

Main Street Cinema no more on October 23, 2006.

They at least kept a projection screen at the back in tribute to the sign outside:

All that remains of the “cinema” part of Main Street Cinema on December 8, 2006.

Meanwhile, at Walt Disney’s original Disneyland, the Main Street Cinema is still a cinema, with multiple screens inside showing various Mickey Mouse cartoons. I guess California didn’t need another spot to sell T-shirts.

Until next time…

Liberty Square CMs from 1996.

I have begun the process of reorganizing all my Walt Disney World photos. When I started taking digital pictures in 1996, I was just grouping things together by park and land. I mean, no one has hundreds of photos from the same place, do they? Back then, one visit to Magic Kingdom may have only resulted in a few photos from Adventureland — hardly enough for a gallery, right? Thus, my photos from 1996 to 1998 were all grouped together. By 1999, I had started bringing my laptop into the park with me so I could go back to the lockers and then download photos during the day so I could take more. Here’s me at the front of Disney/MGM Studios in 1999:

Me, “discretely” using my laptop at Disney/MGM Studios to download photos on November 19, 1999.

Since there were no web galleries yet, I even went as far as renaming photos to things like “tmk_1.jpg” or “dmgm_15.jpg” so folks who downloaded them by filename at least had an indication of which park the photo was from. (Microsoft Windows at the time only allowed for 8-letters for a filename, so it was impossible to have a photo called “CinderellaCastleSideView.jpg”.) I wish I had NOT done that, since some of the photos lost their embedded date code leaving me with no easy way to tell what year they were taken.

I am now trying to split them out by year, even though that means some areas will only have one or two photos. Ah, the early days of digital cameras with 1 megabyte of memory! I did this last year with my Disneyland and Iowa Adventureland Park photos, so it’s going much faster this third time around.

During my sorting, I’ve found interesting patterns to my photo taking. Sometimes I’d only have one picture (Epcot World Showcase pavilions) as if I just took a token photo to represent the area. Other times, I’d have a dozen or more (favorite attractions like Haunted Mansion, or something that was brand new like the opening of Buzz Lightyear).

Sometimes I took things like this:

Liberty Square CMs pose for me on August 27, 1996.

Notice they are posing for the photo. Folks generally just didn’t “waste” film on taking pictures of cast members back then unless the cast member had a princess dress on or was a giant mouse. I suspect they must have asked me about my weird camera, and after explaining what a digital camera was, I took their photo. I can’t think of any other reason I’d have used one of my limited photos on a parasol cart.

These two girls are now twenty two years older than they were when I took this photo of them in 1996. I wonder how long they worked for Disney World. Maybe they are long gone, or maybe Vice Presidents somewhere out there.

Old photos are fun.

Until next time…

EPCOT turning points, part 2

In an earlier article, I speculated a bit on when EPCOT Center became the Epcot we know today. Today I’ll dive a bit deeper and include some comments from others.

Derek Mullins on Twitter commented:

From my observation, it was most likely the beginning of the sponsor losses, and the changes to be more thrilling (Test Track) and ‘hipper’ (Ellen’s Energy Adventure) in the mid-90’s. Of course, it’s all subjective, so I’m curious what answers you get.

Derek Mullins, @mewhunter67

Sponsor losses. That’s interesting, because sponsors go both ways. An existing ride could get a new sponsor which causes big changes… Or a ride could become sponsor less, and stay frozen as-is.

The comedic additions of Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy to Universe of Energy were certainly a change in feeling. That began in 1996.

Ellen is coming to Epcot! August 29, 1996.

World of Motion had closed and was to become Test Track in 1997.

Test Track opening spring 1997 on August 29, 1996.

The times they were a changing…

Howard Bowers on Twitter commented:

1999. Horizons is closed for the second time. Journey into Imagination is closed. Test Track is finally operational, having replaced World of Motion. And the 2000 wand is up next to Spaceship Earth.

Howard Bowers, @GoAwayGreen 

At this point in time, the park looked like this:

The ride’s closed. Mouse outside shoulda told you. November 11, 1999.
Lines out the door for the newly-opened Journey into YOUR Imagination. November 8, 1999.
The new Test Track with a 1 hour wait. November 11, 1999.
Epcot 2000?

Four notable changes certainly is a good percentage of the original attraction lineup. Howard also added…

Original Epcot took some hits in 1994 with the closing of Kitchen Kabaret and the addition of Food Rocks and the switch to Ellen’s Energy Adventure, along with Innoventions, but all of that still felt like Epcot, just the next generation. / Taking out Journey into Imagination and Horizons basically removed the Heart and Soul of Future World.

Howard Bowers

Ah, Kitchen Kabaret! Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit was the “it’s a small world” song of EPCOT Center… During my first visit with a digital camera, Food Rocks had already taken over:

Food Rock on August 29, 1996.

That was part of the sponsorship change from Kraft to Nestle.

The Land, presented by … the chocolate company? August 29, 1996

I recall many of “us” joked at the time that having a chocolate company take over the “healthy” pavilion made little sense. But it’s not about finding a sponsor that fits — it’s about finding a sponsor that will spend the money. At least Listen to the Land didn’t become a chocolate boat ride ala Willy Wonka! (Hmmm, that would have made great sense and fit the sponsor… It just would have not fit at Epcot…)

The loss of Imagination was sad, since no other attraction ever embodied just what “imagination” really was like better than that original dark ride. Still, the two updates (Journey into YOUR Imagination, and Journey into Imagination with Figment) at least tried to keep the theme rather than becoming, say, a Wreck It Ralph ride through.

But Horizons, well, that was just a total loss. Nothing put the “future” in Future World better than Horizons. And, unlike updates done to Tomorrowland, or the final scene of Carousel of Progress, the futures presented in Horizons would still be as futuristic today as they were in the 1980s. I think it had much more life left… Pity the crowds disagreed, and it was almost always a walk on when I visited.

The closed building made a nice backdrop for Cast in Bronze, at least.

Cast in Bronze performs in front of the closed Horizons on November 8, 1999.

I think this needs “to be continued”…

Until next time…

Final year Horizons cast member on October 24, 1998.

Indiana Jones Adventure in 1996.

According to the always accurate Wikipedia, the Indiana Jones Adventure opened in Disneyland on March 4, 1995. This ride is the reason I wanted to return to Disneyland after not visiting there since the 1970s. I had been reading about its construction in the Disneyland section of the Destination Florida RoundTable on GEnie. (That was the General Electric text-based dial-up service I was on, years before there was such a thing as the “world wide web.”)

When my new job scheduled me to be in Irvine, California in December 1995, the first thing I did was call my hotel and ask how far they were from Disneyland. (Remember, this was before online maps — even before the things that were before Google Maps, like MapQuest.) They told me it was about 15 miles away. I was ecstatic, though I would soon learn that 15 minutes could mean an hour or more in Southern California traffic.

May 26, 1996. Indy line starting on Main Street U.S.A.

In the early days of this attraction, the line would often start on Main Street U.S.A. and wind through Adventureland. They’d have cast members hold the line to let traffic cross from time to time. In 2017,  the same thing was being done for Disney California Adventure’s Guardians of the Galaxy when the line would extend into A Bug’s Land.

After going in to Adventureland, the line would use the second level of the Jungle Cruise building and then finally enter the actual Indiana Jones queue. At the time, the GEnie rumors were that the queue was built to hold a three hour line. Today, that massive indoor queue is just a walkway since they hold everyone outside and merge in FastPass/MaxPass visitors at the entrance. It dawns on me that, since FastPass, there are folks who have never really experience this amazing queue the way it was intended.

AT&T sponsor sign on May 22, 1996.

Do you remember the original ride sponsor? Here’s a photo of the sign at the exit, taken during my first trip with a digital camera. Ah, the glory of low resolution 320×240 digital pictures!

Yep, it was AT&T. They also sponsored Spaceship Earth at EPCOT Center. The EPCOT sponsorship made sense to me since their logo already looked like Spaceship Earth. But Indy? The only link was this sign at the end. 

According to the story of the ride, tourists were going in to choose one of those three doors to give them either youth, riches, or visions of the future. The ride used to have an elaborate mechanism that made it appear like each car was “randomly” going through one of three entrance doors. A wall of haphazardly arranged mirrors would tilt so you could watch the car in front of you as it turned the corner and went through a door. Then, the mirror would move back, and your car would go and you would see that you got a different door. Very cool!

Choose wisely!

And what is the connection to the sponsor? At the time, AT&T was running a similar “choose wisely” ad campaign about selecting them for your long distance* service.

  • Old Guy Note: In olden days, “long distance” was a term used to mean calling someone who wasn’t in your local town. You paid extra for each minute of the long distance call. During the 1980s, a large telephone monopoly was disrupted and a bunch of competing phone services started up. You could then choose another company to provide you long distance service at lower rates.

You also got a bit of AT&T ad material every time you rode. Throughout the temple, there  were writings that you could decode with an AT&T-sponsored translation card they gave you. I suppose the idea was that you would have something to kill the time during your three hour+ wait 😉 I have a bunch of these cards. The writing was just a special font. I had a friend who could just read them (it’s easy once you realize that the symbols look quite a bit like the letters they represent). Years later, a special font was used in Guardians of the Galaxy with similar things for you to translate. It seems we have another connection to Guardians! (And, maybe as an indication of the changing times, many of the Guardians signs also have English translations already on them — no need to make you think while on vacation, I guess.)

In the early years, everything in the temple queue was shiny and new, yet it looked like it had been there for hundreds of years. The only thing that looked fresh was the bat guano in the bat cave. The in-queue effects (the first time Disney had ever done that, I believe?) all worked. In the last several trips I made, none seemed to be working. Do they ever work?

In case you haven’t even seen them, in the “spike room” you could push on the bamboo pole to trigger an effect that would make the ceiling (slowly… very slowly…) move down with a thunderous rumble.

There was also the rope you could pull on to annoy the archeologist that was hanging on to it below. Keep pulling and he’d drop something. Pull more, and he’d plummet to his … nap. (I mean, no one would die in a Disney queue, would they?) Good times.

A few years later, a similar rope was added at Disney/MGM Studios near the Indiana Jones Stunt show, though their sign makes it much more obvious you can pull the rope. Here’s their version from 1999:

Disney/MGM Studios Indiana Jones “rope” on November 13, 1999.

But I digress. Back to Disneyland’s Indy…

The ride itself was amazing, and still is, but today’s version pales compared to the original 1995-1996 version. Here’s a few highlights:

  • The ride used to be so “rough” there was no way to ride it without holding on for dear life. Someone managed to shoot video of it in 1995 (you can see how bumpy it is) and I commend them on that accomplishment. I guess I can see why they tamed it down, but it was far more of a thrill ride in the early years.
  • There was also a windy cavern that was REALLY windy. It, supposedly, blew off too many caps and caused issues from having to stop the ride to clear the track that they toned that down.
  • There was also the debris that would fall from the ceiling. Just as you’d turn a corner and be facing the main ride chamber, the music would swell, and a green light blast would shine and there’d be a fire burst nearby. Debris would fall from the ceiling. It was ice that would drop, where it could just melt away at the bottom. (Someone finally posted a clip of this effect happening ,so even if you’ve never seen it yourself, now you have “proof” it existed.)
  • But my all-time favorite part was the different “random” profiles for the vehicles. They would stall in different places, speed through a scene or drive slowly through it, and do so differently each time you rode them. I’m sure there was a finite set of “random” variations, but it was so nicely done it never felt repetitive. My favorite was the one where the car kept grinding the shift gears, and you could feel the gears grind under the floor board! Impressive!

Here’s a YouTube video summarizing some of the missing effects from the original Indy ride (though it is incorrect about one, and doesn’t comment on the random ride profiles that were bragged about during the early promotional material):

There were also a few secrets that users of GEnie and the newsgroups (there were no fan websites yet, really) had discovered.

  • There was a LIFE magazine with Mickey on the cover.
  • There was a reference to Star Wars’ Obi Wan Kenobe (which was also in the Indiana Jones movie).
  • And Disney had told us about the ID numbers of the vehicles being Imagineer birthdates.

Another detail that changed was the sign just before going up the stairs. The original version looked much more authentic, but it was replaced with a warning-heavy version that looked far more modern and out-of-place.

Speaking of signs, have you ever noticed the “nails” used throughout? They are historically-correct representations of what was used before we had modern nails. Nice details.

And speaking of details, in the original days, all the light bulbs were unlabeled and looked like old bulbs. Today, you will find modern bulbs scattered around (with modern writing on them showing the wattage, etc.). 

Also, the “generator” in the outdoor queue is supposed to be powering all the lights in the temple. You can trace the wiring running from it all the way into the load area. As the generator spits and sputters, the lights will flicker and dim. It was a very cool effect that I don’t know if many notice these days.

Indiana Jones Adventure was one of the greatest things Imagineering has ever done.  What we have today is still a great ride, but it’s just a shadow of the ride as originally intended back in 1995. I’m glad I got to see it during those early years.

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…