Tomorrowland ’94: Revisiting the Future of the Past

SamanthaK

Tomorrowland ’94: Revisiting the Future of the Past

Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland has been facing a crisis for some time due to its hodge-podge identity. Once highly cohesive and charming, the land has since been updated — without any actual full updates. With plans to overhaul the land scrapped, the best parts of Tomorrowland remain only as ghostly echoes of a bygone era, and not in a beautifully themed way.

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Like Disneyland’s version, Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland once harkened back to science fiction visions of the 1950s. However, the land was eventually in need of an update. Following Imagineer Tony Baxter’s work on Discoveryland in Paris, a new vision was developed: Tomorrowland 94. This iteration of the iconic area would incorporate an industrial theme and create a new retro-vision inspired by the future. Gears, rivets, and turbines were all the rage within the land’s aesthetic.

tomorrowland 95 media

Blending The Old With The New In Tomorrowland 94

With some visions inspired by the steampunk and Jules Verne style of Euro Disney’s Discoveryland and the classic 70s influence of the previous Tomorrowland, the 90s overhaul could have had a promising future. Several attractions, including The People Mover and Space Mountain, were not altered. Others, such as The Tomorrowland Speedway, were.

d23 grand prix raceway tomorrowland poster

First opened as the Grand Prix Raceway, sponsored by Goodyear, it was rebranded as the Tomorrowland Speedway in 1994. In 1999, it was temporarily called the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway due to a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With this shift came the addition of a scoring pylon and branding from the well-known speedway. The updated attraction featured new sections with themed names, including Gasoline Alley and the Yard of Bricks. The attraction reverted to the Tomorrowland Speedway ten years later, in 2009, when the partnership concluded.

Besides the attractions mentioned above, a few other rides maintain the land’s classic aspects. This includes the Carousel of Progress – one of the most charming, though outdated, Disney Park rides. It is truly a love letter to the future Walt Disney once envisioned, continuing to bring the dreams of the 1964 New York World’s Fair to today’s guests. The 1994 refurbishment changed several scenes to show more aspects of daily family life with technology, instead of focusing predominantly on John talking in scenes beside his dog, Rover. The Magic Kingdom version opened with a new song: “The Best Time of Your Life.” The refurbishment brought back the original attraction’s iconic theme, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”

Magic Kingdom Carousel of Progress Future Scene

The Lunching Pad and Tomorrowland Terrace restaurants are also still present in different locations due to the land’s major update. Residual theming can still be seen in the architecture and details, but the 90s overhaul was rather thorough, albeit not maintained long-term. Additionally, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe still held to a retro diner vibe that helped maintain the vintage 70s elements embedded in the land.

Attractions That Didn’t Survive To See Tomorrowland’s New Era

Flight to the Moon was not open for Tomorrowland 94. It was an opening day attraction in 1971 but had already undergone significant changes in 1975, becoming Mission to Mars. The revamped attraction simulated a trip to the moon as well as Mars. However, it would close down in 1993. In addition to the closure of Mission to Mars, two restaurants were closed a year later in 1994: Plaza Pavilion and Space Bar. Nonetheless, space simulators have remained a staple, considering Mission Space would eventually open in EPCOT in 2003, leaving only a decade between these galactic Disney experiences.

Mission to Mars WDW

Attractions From Tomorrowland 94’s Debut That Didn’t Last to Today

At the time of Tomorrowland 94’s debut, the Skyway to Fantasyland was still open, transporting visitors from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland like the current Disney Skyliner. Delta Dreamflight, which opened in 1989, would also be a staple in the land until a few years after the Tomorrowland overhaul (1998). Like Spaceship Earth in its presentation of history, Dreamflight showcased the progression of aviation. Its predecessors, If You Had Wings/If You Could Fly, similarly focused on aviation, but they closed in 1987, several years before the land’s revamp.

dreamflight wings buzz

Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland also once had its own Circle-Vision 360, which featured America the Beautiful and Magic Carpet ‘Round the World before the land reopened. In 1984, American Journeys was the featured film of the attraction, and it would end just before the land’s new era began. While it stayed past the land’s last major shift, it was changed to the Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center, featuring the film The Timekeeper, an attraction made specifically for Euro Disneyland, not Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Mission to Mars was replaced by ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter – the notorious ride that has since dead-ended in numerous ways. Push the Talking Trash Can was once a staple of the land until its retirement in 2014. Even the arcade, the Tomorrowland Power & Light Co Video Arcade, didn’t make it past the early 2000s, closing in 2005 despite opening in 1995. This is part of the big problem with Tomorrowland today. Several attractions have closed, with numerous replacements rolling through, with very little long-term sticking power outside of the land’s staple rides and restaurants.

New Additions to Tomorrowland 94

Tomorrowland’s 90s era was ushered in with a couple of “new” rides and adjusted or replaced ones. Star Jets was adjusted, turning into Astro Orbiters, which still spins today. As previously mentioned, The Timekeeper was one of the land’s fan-favorite attractions despite its closure, mainly thanks to the titular Timekeeper – an animatronic voiced by Robin Williams. Paired with another animatronic, Nine Eyes, the Timekeeper took guests on a temporal journey featuring past and modern France. Sadly, this attraction, which would have been great in the France Pavilion at EPCOT, was closed in 2006 after being shifted to seasonal operation in 2001. It was replaced by Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor in 2007, which — while entertaining — perpetuates Tomorrowland’s current identity problem.

The Timekeeper from WDW Magic Kingdom

A few years after the overhaul, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin would debut (1998). It replaced the gap left by Delta Dreamflight’s closure. Since the land has not had another overhaul, each new addition is similarly part of Tomorrowland 94, on the technicality that another makeover never came to fruition. Later additions include the much-hated Stitch’s Great Escape!, which has long since closed, pleasing many park visitors. It replaced ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, a ride with several updates due to its scare factor and lack of staying power in the land.

Tomorrowland 2023: A Land Out Of Time

WDW MK Tomorrowland Launch Depot 21

Tomorrowland 94 was a brilliant vision for a land that tends to live in a retro-futuristic vision. A regularly updated futuristic theme hasn’t been possible, but Disney has similarly failed to maintain retrofuturism. The land’s in a state of crisis. New attractions are either futuristic or animation-centric, providing the land with a cuter, less industrial aesthetic. Without updates or maintenance, these changes result in a land truly out of time. It’s not the original futuristic vision the land once was; it isn’t a future dreamt up today. Tomorrowland 94 was truly a heyday for a section of the Magic Kingdom that has been left to wilt, leaving fans to long for the past instead of dreaming of the future.

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