Saturday, May 12, 2012

Disneyland's Tomorrowland - Reaching for ... Futility

"A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements.... A step into the future with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals, the atomic age, the challenge of outer space and the hope for a peaceful and unified world."

Walt Disney's Dedication of Tomorrowland - July 17, 1955

The world was much different when Walt Disney dedicated Tomorrowland in 1955 than it is today.  There really was a world of tomorrow in space exploration, earth exploration, science, and technology.  The future was as big as imagination would allow it to be. But it's 2012 and Walt Disney has been dead for 45 years or so. The future is still unknown in the big picture of it all but in today's world things change rapidly, too rapidly for anyone to keep up let alone a theme park. The Dell notebook computer I am typing this blog entry on right now is probably a year a old and was outdated by the time I got it out of the box. Everyone has a cell phone but its lifespan is about as long as it take to learn how to use it. Manned space travel is coming to an end probably because someone figured out "wow! this is expensive". The deepest trenches of the oceans have been explored and for the most part it's been discovered that it is cold, dark, and kind of boring down there. Advances in medicine and science occur so fast that it boggles the mind and unfortunately the driving force may be said to be for the betterment of mankind but often its "there's a lot of money to be made in this stuff".

For years, Disneyland was able to fit Walt's dreams and vision of a land of Tomorrow with it rides and attractions. But everyone knows for the last couple of decades Disneyland's Tomorrowland has deteriorated into a mish-mashed collection of rides and attractions, most having nothing to do with tomorrow at all.

Stand on the upper of level of the Innoventions building and survey the Tommorland landscape. To the left is what most people feel is Tomorrowland's best attraction, Space Mountain, an imaginative ride not based on a movie (what a concept!). It's great but here we go. Off to the right is Autopia, still a great ride for kids and a popular one, but it has nothing to do with tomorrow other than kids actually do grow up and drive cars in their futures. Next to it is Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage. The subs WERE great once upon a time but now they get to explore what basically is a cartoon.

Speaking of cartoons, a little further down is Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, a really good ride that Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I enjoy thoroughly, but is it a ride of "tomorrow"? No, Buzz Lightyear when you come down to it, is a toy. 

Across from Buzz sits the recently rebooted and great Star Tours with its impressive motion simulation 3D technology. Lines are long again and people love it. With 56 possible story combinations, its a way to get people hopping back on again and again. But Star Tours is based on the Star Wars movie franchise and the creative mind of George Lucas, not Walt Disney. Accompanying Star Tours is the Jedi Training Academy which allow kids to have a great time interacting with Star Wars characters. Even if your an adult, it's fun to watch as you sit out on the venerable Tomorrowland Terrace.

Then there's Captain EO, a refugee from the 80's, that was a bad idea to bring back to Tomorrowland and everyone knows is going to be given the boot sometime in the near future. Does anyone even go in there anymore to see the silliness of it all?

And there's Innoventions itself which is supposed to be all about tomorrow but other than ASIMO, the amazing robot built by Honda, what goes on in there is essentially a big commercial for companies like HP, Microsoft, and Yamaha that pay Disney big money to pay the light bill in there.

So what's the point? The point is there is little tomorrow left in Tomorrowland. The theme of the original land is obscenely askewed. There will probably be a Marvel attraction based on the Avengers somewhere in Disneyland (or DCA) at some point and a lot of people look to the cavernous, under-utilized Innoventions building as a likely piece of real estate to acquire for a major attraction. But again, there is nothing tomorrow about The Avengers though comics certainly do have the ability to bend time and space.

Here is the thought of a heretic - just dump the concept of a Tomorrowland. To theme to that name is an effort in futility. Rides and attractions cost millions (even hundreds of millions) to build. Why try to strap them to an unachievable effort in Tomorrowland theming? CHANGE THE NAME for crying out loud. I don't know the name yet, I'm sure one will come to me but there has to be something better than Tomorrowland that will allow the popular attractions of Space Mountain, Nemo subs, Autopia, Buzz Lightyear, and Star Tours to co-exist with Marvel's The Avengers.

Now some may think this is sacrilegious going against a land that Walt Disney himself put into his park but the time has come. I wrote yesterday in a forum that many will think the dumping of a conceptual Tomorrowland would have Walt spinning in his grave. But Walt Disney has been dead for 45 years and at this point, I believe he is done spinning.


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