Thursday, March 19, 2015

Flying Saucers, 1965

You might remember a recently posted Tomorrowland photo, from a group of weirdly-eroded 35mm color negatives. Out of the 24 frames, only three were salvageable, and happily, this was one of them.

I can't get enough views of the wonderful Flying Saucers attraction that lasted a mere five years… from August 6th, 1961 to September 5th, 1966. They were notoriously problematic, and yet… they look like so much fun! Even the color choices were inspired, with the white and orange saucers skimming across that cobalt blue surface. Beautiful. 

One of the things I like about photos of this attraction is observing the way riders leaned and twisted and contorted themselves in an effort to make the saucers head in a particular direction - no easy task from what I've heard. But these small saucers had to have been much more nimble than the behemoths that were used in "Luigi's Flying Tires" - another "saucer" failure that was probably the nail in the coffin for this kind of ride.

"You boys have fun; I'm going to sit here and enjoy my cigarette".


Nanook said...


But you can really tell "Mom" is enjoying her cigarette by the way her hand and arm are positioned. No lung cancer for her-!

The two young gents in the foreground remind me of the very same struggles I encountered when attempting to make the saucer 'fly'. Being of a certain weight definitely helped with the locomotion of the beast.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

When an interactive attraction requires too much effort for the average guest to operate, it isn't going to be successful. I found Luigi's Flying Tires frustrating in that it was slow to get going and once I did get the hang of it, I usually got blocked in by other vehicles. I found the ride experience to be a dud. That's too bad, because kinetically and aesthetically it was a beauty.

While interactive attractions like "Toy Story Midway Mania" and "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters" do take some effort, they're much more attainable and enjoyable. In fact, as much as I loved "Radiator Springs Racers" and "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror", my favorite attraction at DCA became Toy Story Mania. I found it to be a total blast from the vehicle motion to the game-play. I absolutely loved it!

Nice photo today. Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned the colors for the ride. Those must be the colors of the future, because the same color pallet was used in Space Mountain!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, mom has that "I've been smoking since fourth grade" confidence. I'm sure that the "Flying Tires" were made larger at least partly because of the larger riders these days.

K. Martinez, you are right, and in fact, I don't generally need a whole lot of interactivity if the ride is good. I remember Tony Baxter talking about potential rides that would involve using your phone, and the idea sounded horrible to me. I guess I need to get over to DCA and check all that "new" stuff out (even though it is years old now!). Someday!

Anon, does Space Mountain use orange? I'm not saying it does't, I just can't think of where it is.

Anonymous said...

The costumes for SM are now blue and white, but for the first several years, the pants and vest was bright orange.

K. Martinez said...

Major - originally the entire Space Mountain complex utilized white, blue and orange. The orange brick in the outside upper queue and Space Place restaurant and the orange cast member costumes stand out in my mind. So yes, the Flying Saucers color palette reminds me very much of the original 1977 era Space Mountain.

TokyoMagic! said...

K. Martinez, that orange tile on the upper level of Space Mountain not only continued throughout the Space Place restaurant as you mentioned, but also throughout both levels of the Starcade. I always thought it was an odd choice of color to be used so prominently throughout the Space Mt. complex, but now I'm wondering if someone was trying to give a nod to the old Flying Saucer attraction.

Chuck said...

The colors and the general shape and position of the saucers remind me of a bunch of Apollo capsules bobbing in the Pacific after a successful splashdown. And I know that's not what they were going for here, because the ride debuted in 1961 and the first manned Apollo mission didn't happen until 1968. Perhaps NASA was inspired by this attraction...

Anonymous said...

Still have great memories of this ride. Seemed to break down on every visit, but I'd always run over when it opened. When you got it to skim across the surface, you indeed were 'flying'!


Major Pepperidge said...

Anon, oh man, I sure don't remember the old costumes! The bright orange does seem very 70's though, which makes sense.

K. Martinez, I do remember the orange brick (or tile?) for sure… I wonder if any of that is left, or if it's all been removed.

TokyoMagic!, oh yeah, there was a lot of orange in that part of Tomorrowland for sure! I wonder if it was an attempt to make "tomorrow" look warmer and friendlier by getting away from so much white and blue?

Chuck, I know just what you mean… those strange round floats with the hexagon pattern on them. I've always wondered why the inside of the old space suits appeared to be a red/orange, at least at around where the helmet would attach.

KS, I wish I had memories of this ride! The first I was aware of it was when I saw a photo in the 1963 National Geographic (though I didn't see that issue until many years later).

Connie Moreno said...

I will NEVER forget the thrill of those Flying Saucers!