|Disney artist Herb Ryman's concept illustration of Tomorrowland, circa 1954.|
When Disneyland opened, Tomorrowland wasn't really ready for prime time yet. Disney knew this, and tried to fill space with some uninspiring sponsor-driven exhibits, not unlike today's Innoventions. They filled more empty space with a snazzy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea exhibit, promoting the Disney film and making good use of movie props. But overall, Tomorrowland was half-baked. Disney gradually improved the area in the coming years. The "turn over rate" for attractions was greater than in other lands.
|Tomorrowland in 1955, shortly after Disneyland's opening. Image courtesy Daveland.|
In 1959, Tomorrowland was beefed up considerably with the opening of the Submarine Voyage and the Monorail -- both in the shadow of the new Matterhorn mountain.
But the land-wide makeover of Tomorrowland came in 1967 with a whole new environment that emphasized motion. PeopleMover tracks wound through the entire area and crossed paths with the Monorail. The Carousel of Progress building revolved just a short distance from a spiffed-up Autopia and the still-newish submarines. The Tomorrowland Terrace stage emerged almost magically out of the ground for regular musical performances. And the Rocket Jets spun high above everything.
|The same view in 1974, taken from Yesterland's article on the PeopleMover.|
The land's redesign was also beset with funding problems which killed any truly impressive projects that might have been undertaken.
Meanwhile, the old Rocket Jets was recombobulated as Astro-Orbiter and placed at the entrance to Tomorrowland, blocking traffic flow and putting the look and feel of the park's central hub all out of balance.
|The same angle, circa 2012 -- essentially as it appears today|
The PeopleMover cars were pulled off their tracks and replaced with new Rocket Rods vehicles. This was supposed to make for a faster more thrilling ride. Unfortunately, the engineering of the tracks didn't allow for faster vehicles. So Rocket Rods was a slow ride with fake "speed" sounds (ZOOM! WHOOSH! VROOOM!) played over speakers in an attempt to fool riders. This was the big signature attraction for the New Tomorrowland. It broke down constantly until it was finally shuttered for good in 2000.
Some of the worst ideas from 1998 have already disappeared, and some new and updated attractions have debuted in Tomorrowland since then. But we're still waiting for the next major overhaul. Unfortunately, thinking about the future isn't something Americans seem to be very good at these days. As a culture, we have to dream up a better future before Disney can build a compact replica of it in Anaheim.
Meanwhile, for more Tomorrowland history than you can shake a stick at, check out Werner Weiss' Yesterland website. It's both fun and endlessly nostalgia-inducing.