Disneyland Past and Present: The PeopleMover

This post may contain affiliate links; please read the disclosure for more information.

Disney enthusiasts are a sentimental lot. Few developments incite the passionate masses quite like alterations within their beloved parks. The most recent Pirates of the Caribbean renovations met with the standard harsh reviews among many Disneyland contemporaries. This is nothing new. From the relocation of the very first trashcan, Disney refurbishment invites almost as much scrutiny as the endless parade of price increases. One of the more historically confounding developments was the removal of the Disneyland PeopleMover. Its continued absence is widely lamented and misunderstood. Where has it gone? Why? And will it ever return?

Disneyland PeopleMover Tomorrowland 1970

In this installment of “Disneyland Past and Present“, we examine the tragic loss of of the Disneyland PeopleMover. For decades, the plodding attraction catered to Tomorrowland guests intent on reflection and relaxation. It was a special favorite among those not keen on waiting in some prohibitive line. The constant-loading feature, and the fact it was rather tame (exception, see Superspeed Tunnel), helped keep crowds down. The original attraction, sponsored by Goodyear, opened July 2, 1967. Once the D-ticket novelty wore off, guests virtually walked on to the PeopleMover on all but the most festive days.

For those with a proper appreciation for Disney’s mid-twentieth-century vision of the future, the PeopleMover was a must-do. Clunky construction, stirring primary colors, classic narration; the leisurely tour of Tomorrowland was as much a part of an early visit to Disneyland as Mickey Ears and ice cream sandwiches.

Reportedly, the ride could handle over 40-thousand guests a day. It rarely did. Disneyland, and Tomorrowland, specifically, is about progress. To call the PeopleMover unpopular is perhaps a bit inaccurate. It was beloved with a passion to rival Pirates of the Caribbean among those with the proper sentiment. Unfortunately for it, this contingent just wasn’t attraction-sustainingly large. On August 21, 1995, the PeopleMover came to a permanent halt. Those of us who were not alive during the Kennedy assassination remember exactly where we were when news came down regarding the PeopleMover.

Enter the Rocket Rods. Unlike the poorly conceived Tomorrowland chromatic color-change that accompanied it, the Rocket Rods was actually well conceived. It was just poorly delivered. Though the Imagineers should have just left it alone, the idea of transforming the PeopleMover into a thrill ride had merit. The track and queue were already in place, all that was required to revitalize the attraction were new vehicles and a few tweaks to the programming. Right? Well, no, not at all.

Rocket Rods pretty much never functioned properly. Oh, there were times, multiple days in succession, even, where it operated from rope drop to park closing without incident. Guests fortunate enough to be present on these occasions were treated to a whirlwind tour of Tomorrowland. The one rider up front in each car probably even enjoyed it enough to believe Rocket Rods was an improvement. This impression quickly faded, when, on a future visit, one is relegated to any of the far less exciting seat assignments. Most often, though, the attraction simply wasn’t running at all.

Rocket Rods, itself, closed for good in the summer of 2000. It was slated to reopen after renovations, though never did. It was replaced by nothing. Strangely, the PeopleMover still has not resurfaced.

Disneyland Tomorrowland Star Tours Buzz Lightyear

Longtime Disneyland guests envy the younger generation’s ability to ignore the derelict track left in the PeopleMover’s wake. Visitors under a certain age are hardly compelled to even speculate regarding the forlorn white spires blatantly circumnavigating the entire Tomorrowland. They make their merry way between Star Tours, Space Mountain, and the latest misapplication of the former Carousel of Progress building without a reflexive thought. To the rest of us the track stands as a monument to a missing element of our past. Still, the fact that it has not been completely removed in all this time may give one hope for the future. As of yet, there are no obvious plans for the PeopleMover’s reinstatement. Alas.

There’s always tomorrow.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when planning a Disney vacation can be overwhelming! There are so many options, where to stay, when to go, is this the best price. So, I want to introduce you all to Cindy Minor and the team at Small World Big Fun. They will help you plan your Disney vacation for FREE. Contact them today!

About the author

Christopher Schmidt

Christopher Schmidt is a former Disneyland Resort bartender and author of The Unofficial Walt Disney World Drinking Companion, The Unofficial Disneyland Drinking Companion, and The Complete Guide to runDisney - Disneyland Edition.
If it involves amusement, attractions, athletics, adventure, and responsible enjoyment of exotic libations, you will find Christopher in the middle of it, eager to tell you all about it.
Questions, topic ideas or improvements, and private correspondence? Drop me a message: [email protected]

8 Comments

Click here to post a comment
  • The success of places like Disneyland and Disney World, are built upon traditions.

    Guests grow attachments to the wonderful memories which are made when visiting…

    The removal of long standing Attractions serves only to destroy these traditions and cause great harm in disappointment in the hearts of those who care.

    Decisions to close such Attractions are made by people who clearly do not life these dreams.

    It matters not if ride attendance falls because Guests are satisfied simply because the Attraction is there IF they want to ride.

    Once it is removed, it becomes a slap in the face for those who carry the memories in their heart.

    As more and more changes are made, it becomes a cold and unfamiliar place for those who once thought of the parks as their second home.

    It is a transformation turning the happiest place on Earth, into just another theme park, and THAT is the real outrage.

    Decisions based upon dollars and cents of ride operations and maintenance are cold and heartless choices…

    And it tells the Guests who care that they really mean nothing, as the love that they carry in their heart cannot be measured on their spread sheet of the accountants making the decisions.

    Without someone in charge who LIVES the dreams, these resuls are inevitable.

  • I remember riding it during the early 90’s probably just before it closed. Got on the constantly rotating platform and asked the, what looked like 70’s retro uniformed, cast member the obligatory, “You must get tired.” Got on and thought “ahh this is the Disneyland I remember from my youth.” Went through the speed tunnel and thought wow this is new. At the end I remember thinking okay done next. Little did I know that would be the last time riding it.

    What I really miss is having all the movement. The Skyway, People Mover, Rocket Jets, Autopia, Monorail and Submarine Voyage all going at once was such an awesome experience for a 7 year old.

    Now it’s a little boring.

  • To me, the genius of Disneyland is in way tracks, vehicles, and paths are “layered.”

    The way the monorail, submarines, and Autopia cars (and, many years ago, the speed boats) swirl around each other in Tomorrowland is a prime example.

    But throughout the park, paths and tracks of all kinds go in and out of each other. They go through and around each other. They “peek” at each other. The guest is always getting pleasant reminders of where she’s been, or gentle teases about where she could go next.

    Certainly the PeopleMover was the ultimate example of this. I’m glad it is still in Florida, and — even though I think it is very unlikely — I’d love to see it expanded in the Magic Kingdom to embrace the upcoming “Tron” coaster.

    Thanks for this great article.

  • Interesting article about one of my favorite rides (at least the WDW version). But you never go into the “why” of the ride… in the beginning you ask: Where has it gone? Why? And will it ever return? As far as I know, there is an answer to the first two questions, but I’ve wondered if it was true: That if the Peoplemover had kept running, it would have been “grandfathered” into current, updated safety standards, but since it has been closed, you could not simply put the old vehicles back on the (repaired) track and go back to business as usual. Or maybe there is going to be a part two to this article where you discuss this?

    From Micechat, user Mellonballer: ” I was there for Tony Baxter’s presentation and here is some of what he said and showed us. The Peoplemover– He said that it will not be back in ANY form and asked us to get this information out there. There are a couple reasons why.
    1. The track has badly deteriorated in several spots.
    2. OSHA regulations would require a TON of changes. First they would have to add railings to the entire track. Second they would have to add stairways and other means to get down all along the track in case of evacuation. Third they would need to enclose the track so that people could not reach out to touch the side of the buildings as you travel along the track.

    Tony said that they have tired many different ideas to try to get a ride that worked there, but nothing really worked. He really wants it there. Unfortunately, no one thought to ask when is the track was going to come down.”

    • Unfortunately this is the answer in a nutshell. Any substantive changes to the Peoplemover in either WDW or DL would cause them to have to meet all current ADA and OSHA standards. My son was DCP at the peoplemover and there are tons of issues they would like to address with the ride, but are worried that they would have to make major modifications once they make any changes. We are lucky to have WDWs version right now. Hopefully they can continue to support it in its current form, otherwise we may lose that one as well.

      • Thanks Chaz! Does DCP stand for Disney Cast Person? I love the Peoplemover so much, it’s an amazing ride that required so much forethought and I love that it exists. Such a shame about the Disney Land version. I just thought it was strange that the article asked those questions in the beginning and then never answered them, as if it was a big mystery. But maybe there is a part 2 coming. There are concrete answers for this one, unlike the “Why did we lose Horizons” debate. The Peoplemover is forever in my heart, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how cities and even suburban neighborhoods could offer clean, safe Peoplemovers for their residents if we didn’t spend so much money on bombs and junk. In a perfect world!

  • My wife and I would love it if Disneyland brought back the PeopleMover. The current track winds through a scenic path that has fascinating views. I’d be wearing out my cameras taking photos and videos! It would be a great place to rest our feet and relax, so we could return to hiking around the park, refreshed. Instead, now it just looks like a pointless unused track, a disappointment.

  • I dont get why a “straight” loading platform, kinda like in the haunted mansion, could not be installed somewhere along the space mountain side of the people mover track to allow for more ability to be ada compliant…they can slow or stop the people mover this way as needed for removal of wheelchairs, or those with other disablilties. Just move the entrance of the ride….nobody said it HAD to be the revolving platform….just keep it as part of the ride…or somehow incorporate the people mover loading area into the rockets loading area and move the rockets back up where they belong.(Also solving the horrible bottleneck at the entrance to Tomorrowland. There’s so many options they can consider that could bring the attraction back. The damage they say was done to the track by the rocket rods….come on Disney…if it is do it right…repair it….bring back that kinetic energy to the land.

Fantasy Strollers
Lost Bros
TeePublic

Latest Videos