Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Tomorrowland Construction 1998

Today I have a quartet of photos from the Dream Team - Irene, Bruce, and James! All of the pix are from the time of the Tomorrowland redo - the construction project took place from 1995 through to 1998. Some say the endeavor was "ill-fated", but we don't believe in fate, do we? 

If you wanted to hop on the choo-choo train at Tomorrowland Station, you were denied. Dee-nied! Not sure why exactly, it doesn't look like much was going on there. But they did put up a swell sign directing you to the Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square to see an exhibit of artwork; maybe a model or two. Did you see this exhibit?

We're looking down on the courtyard (from the upper level of the Tomorrowland Arcade I believe) where the entrance to "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience" was being worked on. "Mission to Mars" was gone, and Rocket Redd's Pizza Port went in its place. And across the way (to our left), the old "America Sings" building was being turned into "Innoventions". 

This next one is obviously partially-obscured, and was taken earlier than the first image, because the Mission to Mars building still looks about the same as it did when all was right and good in the world. I think that's the Space Place to our right.

I believe that the structure to our right is the "hub" where the Rocket Jets and Peoplemover lived? Sadly, both of those rides were gone forever. The Rocket Rods were probably being installed at this point, and I would guess that at least a few people already had an inkling that this "just OK" ride was going to cause major problems. And lo! It came to pass. 

Even though this version of Tomorrowland was a disappointment to fans, I'm still fascinated by seeing these construction images.

Thank you, Irene, Bruce, and James!


Nanook said...

Yes - documentation is always welcome, and I thank The Dream Team for providing it. But that doesn't mean it leaves me feeling all too well. Woe is me-!

TokyoMagic! said...

Ha, ha, Nanook! I was just going to say that seeing the demolition/construction in these pics, still gives me nightmares! But yes, I am happy for the documentation. I took a lot of Tomorrowland '98 construction photos, but I don't think I have any from this particular phase of construction.

I'd really like to know where James and Bruce were, when that second to last pic was taken. It appears to be from an elevated location. The PeopleMover was definitely closed by this time and I believe the Rocket Jets were closed, too. As for the last pic, I'm thinking that maybe it was taken over the top of a construction wall, perhaps while standing on a planter.....or someone's shoulders? Maybe the other pic was taken the same way, but it just seems like the photographer was even higher up for that one.

Major, I visited that Tomorrowland exhibit in the Disney Gallery multiple times. I think I only took 3 photos inside, but I did shoot some video. I'm going to get the link for that video and post it in a separate comment.

K. Martinez said...

Tomorrowland 1998? Ugh. Other than that, thanks Dream Team for the documentation. Always appreciate your contributions to GDB.

TokyoMagic! said...

I forgot to thank The Dream Team, for sharing with us!

Here is Part 1 of the "Tomorrowland 1955-1998" Disney Gallery Exhibit. I shot this video in December of 1997. The video screen footage at the beginning, lasts 5 minutes. The rest of the footage is of artwork on the walls, models, and even a recreation of the 1950s Tomorrowland Spaceman costume:

And here is Part 2. The only reason there are two parts, is because YouTube cut off the uploading of this video in the middle, for some reason:


TOKYOMAGIC: I speculate the 2nd photo is taken from the second level of the STARCADE. The STARCADE lower lever and Speedramp was used as a temporary entrance and que for SPACE MOUNTAIN during the construction of Tomorrowland’98.

The Disney Gallery Tomorrowland exhibit “LOOKING AT THE FUTURE” was originally only suppose to feature past and unbuilt Tomorrowland concept art and models .... the Circle-Vision lobby was going to feature a series of changing exhibits for the New Tomorrowland and also the added feature of a farewell performance of the 1967 America the beautiful ( guests really were watching the 1976 bicentennial version and were watching a Walt Disney World backup set of reels. No other actual park used versions of the film survived - in fact those you of you that watched the farewell performance may recall some scenes that were actually still pictures to fill in badly deteriorated segments of the film - The St. Louis Arch scene is a good example. Anyway , it was decided not to feature the new tomorrowland preview center in Tomorrowland so a edited version was added to the Disney Gallery exhibit. I’ve mentioned this before , but a Tomorrowland costume exhibit was also proposed for the STARCADE but it was not possible to do as most of the costumes no longer existed due to a storage fire.

The New Tomorrowland 1998 was a dismal failure in design and execution ..... and showed guests Disney no longer could promise Disneyland guests a “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”. Incidentally , the canceled big budget TOMORROWLAND 2055 project’s funding was split into two other projects : MICKEYS TOONTOWN and FANTASMIC.

If I had had any power as soon as I heard the project teams proposal of a Tomorrowland of aged metal, brass and weathered copper I would have said fire every person on that project team and for a NEW Tomorrowland project team as the old one has no idea what it’s doing. Why would you create a Tomorrowland that uses all the same finishes and colors and finishes already being used in Frontierland , Adventureland and parts of Fantasyland!!

And whoever cane up with the idea of those cheap-ass pavers that you could purchase at any discount home center - I hope they never worked in theme park design again . The law suits of guests who tripped over loose stones is many!!

They ruin everything .....

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, thanks for all of that info! Ugh! The pavers! I forgot about those! They were just as ugly as everything else in the remodeled land. I wish you did have some power at that time! I just kept asking myself, "Who gave all of this crap the green light?" And don't projects like that have to pass several stages of approval? Or is it just one single person saying, "Looks good.....go for it!"?

I agree with you and Major about the second pic being taken from the second level of the Starcade. The photo that I was wondering about, was actually the second to last photo. I can't figure out where Bruce or James was when they took that pic.


TOKYOMAGIC : thats s good question .... it’s possible they walked up the Speedramp of the former PeopleMover station - I took that chance many times when barricades came and went .... I recall by the time these shots are taken Rocket Jets has been closed. I was in the Walt Disney Imagineering workshop-internship program at time of Tomorrowland ‘98 construction and we used to meet in Tomorrowland several times a week and was able to take hundreds of photographs from rare places and viewpoints. It was sad to have been so exited about a New Tomorrowland and to witness every week how bad it was - and kept getting. I remember seeing the Eric Hershong Tomorrowland overview rendering for the first time and thinking how awful it looked - like a giant Tomorrowland junkyard of rusted browns and weathered Netflix finishes. ( Hershong’s painting wasn’t the problem it was the design itself) we called it TACOBELL TOMORROWLAND because the fast food chain used the same browns , deep reds and greens in the 1990’s.

One time Bruce Gordon walked us through Innoventions and they found out they would not be getting many of the old Horizons props after all and he told us “they now no idea what the hell they were gonna put inside there!” And this was less than a year to re-opening!! Then GM wanted nothing to do with the Rocket Rods show and declined sponsorship .....

I was so disgusted with Rocket Rods ... the way the circle vision doors had to be manually opened by a cast member - then the line was in this odd exit/back stock room like space next to premiere shop area ... then guests went down stairs into a cheap underground passage like into the Tomorrowland sewers ... then back up a narrow spiral staircase to board the Rocket Rods. It was the worst possible design!! John Hench said it was one of the worst things he had ever seen!! I lost so much respect for WDI and Disneyland and couldn’t believe some imagineers and Disney managers were not fired on the spot.

Disneyland managers were also a GIANT pain in the ass when I was working on Shanghai Disneyland - they were arrogant , snotty and pushy — and they were only at WDI to advise on registers and souvenir pins for the China park . At a future Gurrtini Night I’ll tell you and Major some stories of WDI project directors and their hatred for the idiot mangement at Disneyland!



Stu29573 said...

As good as these pictures are for documentation (and they are really good, thanks, Dream Team!) they shine the lights on a whole room of imagineering cockroaches that needed to be exterminated before this kind of mess ever happened. I know that Disney got really really sick if hearing "What would Walt do?" and, in fact, I've heard certain managers threatened doom (and unemployment) upon anyone who asked it, but that was exactly the question that needed to be asked. Why? Because Walt was always about giving guests the best show possible, hang the compromises. When retailers from The Gap took over, they had neither the brains nor the character to answer that question. That, my friends, is why things like this happened. I will now step off my soapbox and dust my shoes off on their accursed memory. So there.

DrGoat said...

Just wanted to thank you guys for all the inside info.
Visited the gallery a couple of times in the late nineties. Remember being pixelated by all the cool shop, construction documents and drawings. And the old posters.
Of course, you're right. They should have fired the lot of them for approving that horrible project. But after they run the gauntlet.
Thanks Dream team and thanks Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I know exactly how you feel.

TokyoMagic!, it’s always frustrating to see them trying to “fix something that’s not broken”. As I’ve said before, in theory I think the idea of a Jules Verne-inspired Tomorrowland sounds kind of cool, but they did it in a half-assed manner. Paint everything in shades of brown, copper, and brass. DONE. Also, remove some of the best stuff, like the Rocket Jets. I think you’re right about photo #3 being taken by holding a camera up over a construction wall. As for photo #4, I have no idea! I’d love to see that video.

K. Martinez, ha ha, it’s nice to know that I’ve made everyone’s morning a little less pleasant! ;-)

TokyoMagic!, oh, ha ha, I did not expect to actually see that video so soon - I figured you’d share it on your own blog! THANKS! Very cool that you preserved a copy of that presentation video. I’m rockin’ out to the music, which is totally tubular. And those rad video effects are mind-blowing. What is that weird thing with a grinning child at 1:39?? At this point it looks like the Astro Orbiter was still going to be up where the Rocket Jets were, judging by the model they show. I’d seen some of the artwork before, but a LOT of it was new to me. I miss that old Disney Gallery. It’s pretty cool that we can all experience that whole exhibit thanks to your video!

Mike Cozart, interesting that the Starcade was used as a temporary entrance for Space Mountain. It makes me sad to think that there is no surviving version of that Circle-Vision film - Disney usually seems so good about preserving things like that, I’d love to believe that the original master negatives are being stored in a salt mine somewhere. It seems to be a common thing, a project is budgeted for a certain amount, and then something happens and some of that money goes to other projects, resulting in a much-reduced version of the original thing. Not a good system! I love Tomorrowland, but if they were going to redo it with those brown/copper/brass colors and make it a “tomorrow of yesterday” land, they should have renamed it. And I agree about the pavers, they are probably durable, but I don’t think they look good.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I always assume that Michael Eisner had the ultimate say, but of course I have no real idea. Maybe Paul Pressler was partly responsible too, the man who never met a budget cut that he didn’t like.

Mike Cozart, I wish I’d been brave enough to walk up ramps and steps that were supposed to be off-limits! I was too much of a good boy. I wonder if somebody would have just said, “Hey, you’re not supposed to be up there” and let you go on your merry way? I always wanted to walk up the steps to the old Skyway station in Fantasyland too. “Taco Bell Tomorrowland”, oh man. I remember the first time I walked through Innovations, it was still pretty new, and there were hardly any people in there. I’m almost positive we were there in late summer. A friendly CM started talking to us, and I felt bad because I wanted to be polite, but I also wanted to get the heck out of there! The Rocket Rods really were a disaster - an inappropriate design for the space, and obviously they had not ironed out the technical issues. Think of how much that ride must have cost, only to have it last a few years! I would love it if there was another Gurrtini night, but our generous host is pretty busy with his young kids these days. Still, I would show up if there was one!

Mike Cozart, I admit that I was puzzled by “Netflix finishes”!

Stu29573, I really do believe that most Imagineers want to make the best experience possible, and that they are often hampered by meddling from “the suits”, and handicapped by a lack of money. As I said to TokyoMagic!, Tomorrowland was not broken, the only thing wrong with it was that they’d removed attractions leaving dead spaces. I think it would be hard to really have any idea what Walt would do, the corporate culture has changed so much since the 1960s. It’s a shame that they wind up hiring executives that have no theme park experience, no creativity or vision, just the ability to remove live music, cut rides, and reduce maintenance…

DrGoat, I loved the old Disney Gallery. Would you believe that I’ve never set foot in the version that went into the old Bank of America building? I always meant to pop in on the way out of the park, but never got around to it. I can’t help wondering if the real people in charge of giant failures stay on, while some lower-down sacrificial goat gets blamed (and fired)?

The Magic Ears Dudebro said...

You have to feel sorry for how poorly the Tomorrowland renovation was received. The land was in dire need of a refurb, and Discoveryland in Paris seemed to be the perfect template to emulate. But many of the decisions were just bad: painting Space Mountain bronze, covering up the Mary Blair mural, and, worse of all, replacing the Peoplemover with Rocket Rods--an attraction that lasted only half a year before shutting down. The renovation had promise, but that promise did not meet its full potential. :(


MAJOR: Disney has the masters and negatives for all the circle-vision films as well as duplicate masters - they are stored in old salt mines ( in New Jersey) with all the master park and studio audio ) for the farewell performance there was no money to create new playback prints for just a few months of use , so Florida sent their old back up reels sun storage since the early 80’s when the revised MAGIC CARPET ROUND THE WORLD ( updated for Tokyo Disneyland) began playing in Tomorrowland in 1983-1984.

What’s arrogant about imagineers saying they’ve solved the problem of Tomorrowland becoming outdated by creating a Jules Verne retro Tomorrowland is that they have NOT solved that problem. With some minor exceptions like the Nautilus, the Hyperion Airship and elements of Discovery Mountain /Space Mountain is that DISCOVERYLAND looks dated!!! It was designed by people in the 80’s and 90’s and it looks now like it’s from the 1990’s!! The Deco-Tech “future that never was is finally here” Tomorrowland in Florida had some convincing elements but it too became dated ! It looked like people using popular 1990’s colors and architectural finishes popular in the 1990’s made by people of the 1990’s ..... at it went bad. Currently it’s returning back to a cleaner bolder 70’s Tomorrowland which is contemporary again ( for now)

Just build a current vision of Tomorrowland and change it as needed ..... that’s the legacy of Tomorrowland.

Harper Goff’s Nautilus is such a successful design because he created it to look in every way how engineers would have built such a submarine with the technology of the mid 1800’s. 1950’s fluted chrome wasn’t added and do it doesn’t become dated as it fits in the design technology of the 19th century. That’s the way paris DISCOVERYLAND should have been designed ... but I trying to creat a “new timeless retro look “ they literally created design elements that would become dated as if they had just tried to create a contemporary Tomorrowland.

When the Mary blair murals became covered up and the Tomorrowland 1967 architecture was removed in 1987 to add Star Tours I was sad to see the Tomorrowland I grew up with disappearing but Tom Morris’s Star Tours exterior was so damn beautiful - you couldn’t not like it - even if you were not excited for the first non Disney property in Disneyland . And that 1987 look became dated and has had some minor revisions but in all Tomorrowland just keeps getting pushed back and half-ass attention. Walt would be so damn pissed off!!

JC Shannon said...

Ah yes, the Steampunk Jules Verne nightmare on concrete. Hated it. Stu nailed it. What would Walt do? He would never stop throwing up. Thanks to Irene, Bruce and James for sharing these. Thanks to everyone for the great comments, and thanks to Major. Hey, put Major in charge of the next renovation. I bet we get a Moonliner and a Peoplemover out of that deal. Woo Hoo!

MRaymond said...

That first picture is more of a tomb stone. Tomorrowland died in 1998, now it's a zombie that refuses to die. I'm a believer that it can be truly revived and it doesn't need the Tron-coaster or ripping out the subs to do it but that's another story

Irene said...

Wow! Love reading all these comments and the general negative vibe toward this redo of Tomorrowland. I'll throw my two cents in about one (or maybe two) things I did not like about it. Moving the rocket ride to the front and totally clogging up the entrance! Hated it then and hated it when I was still going. The other thing I couldn't wrap my brain around was the plantings of edible food. Really? That's the future? I don't think so - it was more the ecology thing we were starting to get into in the 90's. I don't remember Bruce's feelings on this version of Tomorrowland. I think he was excited about it and what it would turn out like because he liked the Jules Verne look of Paris. I also know he loved looking at construction and construction photos. We talked once about all the photos of construction going on at Disneyland and I told him I found it boring and just skipped over a lot of those kinds of photos on some of the mouse sites. He, on the other hand, loved it and told me he just poured over the photos studying them. To each his own I guess.

Omnispace said...

Great "gorilla" camera work to get these photos! ;)

Hard to say what hasn't already been said about this project. I think that Mike gets the closest to the issue - that there was a certain amount of conceit regarding a "tomorrow that never was" combined with the lack of talent and resources to pull it off convincingly. And it didn't just apply to the design misses of putting bolts and gears all over everything to make it Steampunk, the entire flow and spacial relationships of Tomorrowland got messed-up. I remember visiting it after it was completed and with all the browns and drab finishes it felt like the life had been sucked out of the place. That rendering was probably the best look for it, but then it has massive highlights added to everything to liven it up - never translated to reality.

hogarth hughes said...

From the very beginning, Tomorrowland was always slipping into becoming Todayland - but what's wrong with that? It began, and for years remained, a part of the park devoted to showcasing the most promising technologies of TODAY - things like advances in communications, chemistry, and modes of transportation.
It was like a constantly changing worlds fair of the magic of current technology, and AS THAT, it succeeded perfectly.
Tomorrowland showed us the world we were just beginning to live in. It was reassuring and hopeful.
In a way, the version we see today is still that, I guess. Half-baked attractions, rides that don't work - and what in the world is that floating globe of stone supposed to represent, anyway? Get it out - it doesn't belong anywhere other than a shopping mall.

JG said...

My goodness, this is a sad post.

Let me echo everyone's distaste for 1998 TL. I had high hopes for it looking at the ideas, but reality was no match for the hopes.

We visited just after it opened and rode the ill-fated Rocket Rods. The queue was just as described, with an extensive tour through the Back-of-House that was fascinating to me, but thoroughly "bad show" that would never have happened with old Disney.

My kids dubbed the disappointing ride "Rip-Off Rods" since the 90 minute wait for a 90 second ride was not worth even a second glance.

Tomorrowland now has three bright spots, I've always liked Star Tours and wondered why it could not have replaced Mission to Mars, and then we could have kept ATIS. The Buzz Lightyear shoot-em-up is lots of fun. Of course, Space Mountain is still great, but everything else is sort of meh now. The monorail is a nice ride home and I have used it as that the last several visits, causing me to miss the best part, the tour through the forest. I am tired of Autopia, another long wait for a smoggy stuck-in-traffic experience similar to the Rip-Off Rods.

It seems weird to me that a "media" company like Disney cannot create any new compelling content for the Circarama theater or the Tomorrowland theater which is still running 30 y.o. junk like Captain EO, which wasn't good to start with...

Before Wookie World, I had hopes that Star Wars would rejuvenate this land, but now it's just a sad mish-mash. On my last solo trip I barely went through at all till monorail-thirty. I tossed out a fast pass for Space Mountain because it was broken.

Thanks Major, Dream Team, and Mike Cozart for all the good info, and Tokyo for the video links which I will watch later.


Major Pepperidge said...

The Magic Ears Dudebro, I personally can’t feel too sorry for how the Tomorrowland redo was received because the whole thing was half-baked. I don’t know if there was a lack of ideas for new Tomorrowland attractions, or just not enough money, but it mostly felt like a repaint.

Mike Cozart, I’m glad that there are still masters stored safely! I can’t help wondering what rare wonders are in those salt mines. Things that we can’t even imagine. I wonder if a better plan for a Tomorrowland redo would be to really emphasize the 1950s and ‘60s sci-fi theme? More trips to planets on rockets. Maybe some scary (but not TOO scary) aliens. How about a nice shootout between Earth soldiers and invading Venusians? I know that there were good elements to the Discoveryland concept, but from what I’ve seen I was never that excited about it. Likely I don’t know many of the details. It’s amazing how quickly fashionable colors become UNfashionable! Many times you can roughly guess the date of a photo just from the color palette. I still don’t understand why they couldn’t fix the holes in the Mary Blair murals and reintroduce them. Nobody would miss the murals that are there now (well, not many people anyway). I’ll have to look at old photos to see what the original Star Tours exterior looked like, I don’t even remember anymore! If you liked it it must have been really nice.

Jonathan, somehow the Jules Verne thing works at Tokyo DisneySeas, but they committed to the theme are really outdid themselves. The Disneyland version was sort of tacked on to the old buildings, and it felt like it. Don’t put me in charge of anything, hire somebody good at that kind of thing! :-)

MRaymond, Tomorrowland has never been the same since 1998, and it used to be my favorite land without question. I worry that the Submarine Voyage’s days are numbered, but I would mostly miss that big beautiful lagoon more than the Nemo ride itself.

Major Pepperidge said...

Irene, I can only imagine that they expected so many people to jam Tomorrowland that they must have assumed that the old gantry elevator up to the Rocket Jets was inadequate. It was certainly wheelchair-accessible! I don’t hate the idea of edible plants (maybe because my best buddy is obsessed with knowing what plants are edible), but they just weren’t that nice to look at. Cabbages? Well OK. Like Bruce, I looked at MANY Disney sites to see the progress on the Tomorrowland redo, but it’s always hard to really tell what the final product will be like until it opens to the public. Thanks as always for sharing these photos!

Omnispace, even though California Adventure wouldn’t open until three years after the Tomorrowland redo, I feel like there was a similar thinking about anything that they built. “They love Disney, and they’ll eat this up!”. But people can sense when they are served a so-so “meal”. The 1998 Tomorrowland had little to do with Walt’s dedication speech to that land - “… a step into the future with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals, the atomic age, the challenge of outer space and the hopes for a peaceful and unified world”.

hogarth hughes (!), I kind of agree, I don’t think it bothered too many people that there was a “Flight To The Moon” ride after we’d really been to the moon, for example. By the time it had been converted to “Mission to Mars”, it was beginning to feel a little creaky, but I can’t believe that there wouldn’t have been a way to jazz it up with new effects, a new storyline, and maybe an ending that had us actually landing on “Mars”. I know that presents many challenges, but that’s what makes it fun. While they say that folks were not riding the Peoplemover or Adventure Thru Inner Space, my guess is that they would both be very popular now. And both were “people eaters”!

JG, I am glad that I got to personally experience the Rocket Rods (twice), but the line was incredibly long, and it kept breaking down. Should we just give up and go to another ride after already waiting for an hour? We waited. That was one of those visits where me managed to go on maybe six rides due to breakdowns and big crowds, it was crazy. I like Star Tours, especially since the update where you can potentially have more variety. Plus I was once chosen as the rebel spy! Space Mountain is great as always. I even have a lot of nostalgia for the Autopia. But we lost the Skyway and original Subs, and the Carousel Theater got corporate exhibits. I never did sit through Captain Eo… Michael Jackson was talented, but I just had no real interest. Seeing videos on YouTube, it looks amazing bad considering how much it cost. Maybe in the future they can fix Tomorrowland, but I will probably be too old to enjoy it!

Chuck said...

I think this is one of my top-ten favorite posts, not because of the pictures, but because of the discussion they sparked. Thanks, everybody.

Andrew said...

That video was pretty cool, TokyoMagic. To answer Major's question, the kid looking at the light on the ground was a fiber-optic design outside of Innoventions at Epcot. They used a lot of clips from that attraction as well as Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris.

Dean Finder said...

The discussion on the color of the bag reminds me of the Simpsons scene where Lisa is getting flyers made in goldenrod, canary, saffron, and paella, and the copy shop guy just calls them yellow

Melissa said...

“Gorilla camera work,” hehe!

A day late and my two cents short: I think it’s more true in Florida than in California, but the ‘90’s Tomorrowland remodel somehow managed to be over the top and half-assed at the same time. Quite an accomplishment.

"Lou and Sue" said...

I'm late to the party, but wanted to thank Irene, Bruce & James for these photos, and also everyone else for the interesting and funny comments. Only the Junior Gorillas could make a "sad" renovation into something entertaining to read about!

Thank you, too, Major!