Magic Kingdom Tour, some thoughts

Although I didn’t make it to the parks this last weekend (the horror, the horror, I know) I’ve been thinking about the Magic Kingdom and why it’s been so long since they last added a significant new attraction. Stitch was the last, but is somewhere between a new attraction and an overlay… I think the cost savings of the overlay meant they had to sacrifice some of the story… and it shows with peak time waits under 20 minutes. These pictures are from a few weeks ago, but the story is the same.

Tta_2

Let’s stay in Tomorrowland. The last land to receive a major makeover, 1994, Tomorrowland shows serious signs of living in the past. To start, there is the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. Next year the Indy Racing League will switch to an Ethanol mix and the year after that 100% biofuel. But the Autopia cars still burn gasoline. Noisy, polluting, and stuck in the 80s, the current cars have to go. They also use up a lot of real estate that could also be used to expand Toontown or Tomorrowland. The future of the automobile lies in handsfree driving, renewable energy, and customization. Actually, to see the future of transportation you just have to look up.

Tta_1

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority (the TTA) or the Peoplemover to
most people, is one part of an overall transportation plan that
environmentally responsible cities must try to implement. But it’s not
meant to be a slow tour through the concrete parking lot that
Tomorrowland has become. It’s meant to transport you places. Plus, as
you can see above, the TTA needs some style and design upgrades. Who is
going to want to ride those blue plastic shells or look at the dull
gray and white track day after day. Disney should design something that
will inspire visitors to go back to their hometowns and demand
integrated mass transit, because if Disney World can do it, then why
can’t Detroit or Houston or Los Angeles.

Epcot_model_1

I know, you’re saying leave the environmental message for Epcot. But
I think MK’s Tomorrowland can be about the message too, if offered in a
friendlier less direct way. Afterall, The TTA takes guests right by the
very model for Walt’s vision of the future but then deposits them back
out on the concrete plaza. Rudely devaluing the dream.

Tl_openspace_1

Please tell me the future isn’t going to be miles and miles of
concrete and abandoned buildings. The abandoned building in this
building used to house on of the park’s most amusement park like
attraction, the Skyway. But the Skyway served a purpose; transporting
guests from one side of the park to another and it gave guests an
overview of the park. Something they can’t get now. I don’t see the
Skyway coming back, but this building either needs to be repurposed,
perhaps a garden-esque restaurant, or removed and an attraction put in
its place.

Cop_ext_1

Before we disembark from the TTA, I wanted to point out this bad
show. This area is used by Cast Members as a break zone. I’ve seen CMs
smoking there more than once. At a minimum, move the chairs and
beautiful the place with a few plants.

All is not lost in Tomorrowland. Although the TimeKeeper is gone
forever, that location is supposedly undergoing the installment of a
new attraction. Although that might be on hold. A few other Disney
websites have reported on recent trips to Disneyland by Orlando
executives. Word is they were impressed by what Disneyland was able to
do with the 50th Celebration and by spending some decent money on good
projects that can stand on their own instead of small projects that
turn out to be just a plus for people who were already planning a
vacation to Disney World anyway.

So with that in mind, I humbly submit three projects Walt Disney
World management can do to quickly improve the Magic Kingdom
Tomorrowland area. First, as above, the Indy Speedway is no longer part
of a vision of tomorrow. Come up with something new that fits the
target demographics or rework the autopia to be LEED certified (ie,
non-polluting).

Sm_int_3

Second, Redo Space Mountain. It’s old and showing its age. My
personal opinion is that a one track, high capacity, medium thrill (no
loop) coaster is the perfect solution here. Although there is a Mission
to Mars in Epcot, America is currently committed to sending humans to
Mars and the Magic Kingdom should be capitalizing on that. Space
Mountain could lead the way. Throw in a LIM launch and a rotating
soundtrack and you’ve got a hit.

Third. One word – Montana. Don’t laugh, because it was the only
successful part of Disneyland’s 1998 Tomorrowland makeover. When asked
what he thought the Future should be like Michael Eisner answered,
Montana. Green, peace inspiring, technologically integrated, but
simple. All the plants in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland are edible, that’s
good land use. But I’d go even one step farther: solar power, wind
power, and LEED rated buildings should be worked into the new
Tomorrowland. Go lush with the restaurants. Large spaces of concrete
that aren’t being used currently by entertainment need to be easily
converted to gardens. Fake palm trees would be replaced by real ones.
This doesn’t mean the outer-space theme has got to go, but the show
needs to convert to one of sustainability. Aliens would know this, or
their civilization wouldn’t have survived to reach other planets.

To complete the new Tomorrowland: Stitch and Buzz would not have to
change (although the cartoon invasion of Tomorrowland should stop
there); the Carousel of Progress could update the final scene once
again; TTA would get a makeover and a second destination (instead of
just a loop); the Timekeeper replacement should continue (I’m hearing
either a new version of the Flying Saucers or a Monster’s Inc
attraction similar to California Adventure); and the industrial cold
steel and rock formations of the 1994 upgrade should giveway to open
spaces, green gardens, and eco-friendly design. The home of the future
is here. It’s time for Disney to give America a vision of how good
Tomorrow could be.

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About Whit

Whit Honea is the author of The Parents' Phrase Book. He lives in the L.A. area with his wife and two boys. You can find his writings and other works all over the Internets. Now available on Twitter.
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6 Responses to Magic Kingdom Tour, some thoughts

  1. N says:

    With a two year old son, we spend more time than I’d like in Tomorrowland, a noisy, ugly space with that awful Peoplemover soundtrack over your head and absolutely no landscaping to speak of. And we have to ride the Indy Speedway every visit, with its hot, noisy, smelly queue and headache-inducing bumps. I always feel so awful for the CMs who work Speedway. I don’t know how they can stand the fumes and the noise.

    Tomorrowland is the only place in MK I’ve never worked, and I don’t intend to, either.

    Does the “new” Tomorrowland not work now because it’s completely outdated, or did it never work? I seem to remember liking it the first time I saw it, back in 98 or thereabouts. Tomorrowland just dates itself so quickly. It seems like every five years it needs a makeover. I know that Walt redid Disneyland’s often, because it just couldn’t keep up.

    And how do you keep Tomorrowland from looking like Epcot? I mean, Disneyland’s original versions made Tomorrowland essentially like a little Future World. Thus, the fantasy version of Tomorrow (the Tomorrow That Never Was) for Tomorrowland. I like that concept, but it just didn’t translate too well from the concept art, did it?

  2. CoffeeJedi says:

    Absolutely
    I couldn’t get over how run down and, dare i say it, “Six Flags-esque” Tommorowland has become when i was there last week. Peeling paint, rusted metal, and that huge expanse of empty grey concrete stretching from Space Mountain over to the Carousel of Progress, it was depressing. Perhaps that’s part of the problem of Tommorowland too, rusted metal and chipped paint actually look DELIBERATE in Adventureland or Frontierland, so you don’t notice as much.

    I really really like the IDEA of the whimsical sci-fi future from the 94 rehab, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Especially now that they’ve destroyed so much of that story. Remember back then, that Tommorowland was a spaceport city on Earth built by the XS corporation? It all fit together perfectly, right down to the “broken” mechanical palm tree. The attractions and environment referenced each other and shared common “universe”. But now, Stitch and Buzz Lightyear have really skewed that storyline, there’s no sense of place anymore, and there’s really no way to make those two attractions part of the same setting. It will only get worse with a Monster’s Inc. attraction, the area can’t even decide what planet its supposed to be set on now.

    If they want to do a sci-fi setting, that’s great, but they should start with a “shared universe” and make all the attraction storylines fit into that, and then carry it over into the theming as well.

    Oh, and ditch the Indy cars, i’d rather see an e-ticket in that space instead of a ride that i can go on at any local amusement park.

  3. cc says:

    I think Buzz fits in with the theme much better than Dream Flight/Take Flight did.

    Really, the overall problem was that the rehab was only completed about half way and I feel that has led to the rest of the issues.

    That big expansive bit of concrete? they had a “temporary stage” set up there for several years. Planters were torn out for the crowds.

    Stitch and Alien Encounter both suffered from the “been there/done that” syndrome that happened with many attractions in the mid 90’s on. Timekeeper falls into that category for me.

    There is a lot of unused spots around Tomorrowland (the larger stage that housed the character space show for instance) and I wouldn’t be surprised that construction starts happening within the next several years. They could continue with the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon themeing, but finish it up to encompass the entire land instead of just a small part of it.

  4. Ryan says:

    You know, I don’t have a problem with the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland might need a little adjustment, but there’s a bigger problem with Disney World.

    Magic Kingdom has a timeless quality to it, and Epcot seems to excel at being my favorite park in the whole resort with so much to do. Animal Kingdom needs some time to grow, but it has room to grow. My problem with WDW? The Studios park.

    With the exceptions of Sunset Blvd. and the new stunt show (which I have not seen), most of the park is just dated and dull. I can recite Star Tours from memory, and I’ve only seen it five or six times in the last decade. Indiana Jones suffers from slow pacing, and it’s getting old. Muppets 4D is a fun attraction, but it’s one of several sit-down shows in the park. Voyage of the Little Mermaid feels rushed and cut-down. My brother who is 12 years younger than I didn’t have fun playing in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground. The Great Movie Ride, a good, long Disney dark ride, needs an upgrade. The giant hat needs to go. The Animation tour doesn’t carry enough weight now that they don’t make Disney features there anymore. Sounds Dangerous… I don’t even remember what it was, besides starring Drew Carey.

    And yet, as Epcot gets Soarin’, Tomorrowland gets Stich, and Animal Kingdom gets the walking animatronic, I wonder, why not improve this park? If I go back to Disney World next year, I would only plan half a day. Visit Muppets, the new stunt show, Rock’n’Rollercoaster, ToT, and Fantasmic.

  5. Jacques says:

    Any word on the carousel? I had heard rumours it was closing. Out of everything in the park, that’s the one exhibit I drag my family to every time (usually groaning, if not outright kicking and screaming)

  6. N says:

    Studios barely qualifies as a park. We have to go there to see the parade – I think it’s much better than the three o’clock parade – but other than that it’s a struggle to kill time until tthe parade starts. People just go there for ToT/RRCoaster, esp passholders and local kids.

    The New York street is creepy, by the way. A street with NYC buildings, wide enough to be Broadway, and just a couple confused tourists taking pictures. It wigs me out.

    Sadly, Studios has some of the best theming, in my opinion, of any of the parks, in the entrance and then heading down Sunset.

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