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* Disneyland: New Tomorrowland *
Disneyland - May 21-22, 1998
(click on image for a FULL enlarged view)

(tomorrowland entrance)> Journal - May 21, 1998

Disneyland's Tomorrowland has been given an extreme face lift that includes a couple of new attractions. The old Rocket Jets attraction was relocated to the entrance of Tomorrowland and redesigned as the "Astro Orbitor". All the colors of Tomorrowland are very bronze/copper toned and the general design of the land has a great deal of 'Jules Verne' and 'Leonardo da Vinci' influence.

There were various dedications throughout the day. I began strolling through the area at 7 am. There were media representatives from all over the country and from foreign countries. I got a good chance to check out the new attractions and the 'feel' of the land. In front of the entrance to Space Mountain and the Imagination Institute, the location of "Honey I Shrunk the Audience", is the all new "Cosmic Waves" - an interactive 'wave maze' water fountain. I can tell this new future-fountain area will be a big hit with the summer crowd. The fountain's dancing water jets are programmed for different water release patterns. In the middle of this fountain is a two ton marble, approximately five foot in diameter, that is balanced on a pedestal. Water is released up the inside-middle of this pedestal and the water tension makes the heavy marble float ever so slightly. All it takes is a little push with the hand to start it spinning.

Tony Baxter is the gentleman from Walt Disney Imagineering that is in charge of the Tomorrowland Project. It was nice to see how some of the 'old Tomorrowland' was integrated into the new Tomorrowland. The Moonliner (the old TWA rocket) was skillfully recreated for the park (it's an exact replica except it's 10 feet shorter). Underneath the rocket is a Coca Cola beverage stand. When you order a drink, a bottle of Coke shoots straight up out of this stand and has to be caught in mid air by the cast member... as if the bottle (rocket) was just launched. An interesting change - when I was a kid, it was the 'man in a space suit' walking through the land of the future... now, it's 'space fembots'... ;-)

At the entrance of Tomorrowland, there was a stage and two JumboTron TV monitors. The dedication began with Walt on the JumboTron - they replayed his original Tomorrowland dedication speech from 1955. Paul Pressler (Disneyland's president) then came to the podium and gave his dedication speech. This was originally supposed to be delivered by Michael Eisner - but Michael was not able to make it due to travel delays.

New Tomorrowland Moonliner Imagineer Tony Baxter Cosmic Waves Floating Water Marble

During the presentation, 40 Nasa astronauts were introduced. Buzz Aldrin, Gordon Cooper and Wally Schirra were among the honored guests. One astronaut was not present but still made an appearance... it was Andrew Thomas by way of a direct feed from the orbiting space station Mir. I thought this was a very cool touch! As soon as he was done with his congratulating wishes, Paul concluded the dedication speech and three F16 fighter jets flew over the Park in a "V" formation at 300 knots (350 mph). The New Tomorrowland was officially unveiled.

Disney Fembots Futuristic Coke Launch Buzz Aldrin Paul Pressler & Mickey Buzz Aldrin

After the dedication, the astronauts were around for interviews at the Tomorrowland Terrace. I had a chance to meet most of them - but my favorites were the older, first astronauts (... I remember them and their achievements "first hand" as I watched on TV when I was younger). Wally Schirra was a very interesting gentleman to speak with. A Disney cast member took my camera to take a picture of Mr. Schirra and me... he got in position and said, "ready?... one, two, three... (click)". And then Wally said, "you know... that's 'three, two, one'...(click)". He had all of us around cracking up. Pictured with Wally Schirra are Wayne and Russi - the voices of Mickey and Minnie.

Next... on to the Rocket Rod dedication...

Mario Andretti dedicated the Rocket Rods with Mickey Mouse. They took a trip around Tomorrowland and another half dozen rods followed loaded with Disney characters and kids from the "Walt Disney Elementary School".

The Rocket Rods travel along the old PeopleMover track (but just a bit faster). The PeopleMover took about 16 minutes to complete the trip through Tomorrowland... the Rocket Rods take 2 minutes to travel the same route (max speed 30 mph).

Astronauts Gordon Cooper and tourist WallySchirra WallySchirra Astronauts

I had the opportunity to ride on the Rocket Rods. As you enter the queue (which was the entrance to the old '360 Circle-Vision theater') you walk through a black light area. There are Imagineering schematics of transportation devices displayed all around. Also on display are full size (what appear to be wire frame designs) old Tomorrowland transportation vehicles which include the "atommobile", the first monorail car, an original rocket jet and a peoplemover car. You then proceed though the 360' theater. During your wait, a series of 6 minute movies hosted by Walt Disney are shown. These movies show the ideas and fun of vehicles designed for "Tomorrowland Transportation" and other American future travel desires. It was a great way to use the existing theater and some old movie footage combined with new footage to set you in the mood for this new ride. The queue line also 'winds around and around' through the theater and the use of this 360 vision keeps you very occupied (so you don't seem to notice the long wait or what direction you are going).

Once seated in the 5 passenger Rocket Rod, the raceway countdown begins... you get the green light and you blast off , popping a wheelee, flying down the track above the middle of Tomorrowland. It is a very fun ride.

Mario Andretti Mario Andretti Minnie on Rocket Rods Minnie on Rocket Rods Tigger on Rocket Rods

> Final thoughts...

The dedication with the film clip of Walt, the astronauts, and the space station Mir video feed was truly spectacular. The design of the land, the 'Agrifuture' landscaping and the desire to entertain and educate have been carefully executed. It's a wonderfully blended presentation. I feel this version of Disneyland's Tomorrowland will withstand the test of time. I'm sure some attractions will be modified over time, but the overall 'look & feel' of Tomorrowland should blend well with the Park and not look outdated by color scheme or hard-design for quite some time.

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