Thursday, June 07, 2018

Tomorrowland Vehicles on Display

I have a fun group of photos, brought to us courtesy of Irene and Bruce (you know them, you love them)! While the snapshots are undated, I am guestimating that they are from about 1999 or 2000. The NEW "New Tomorrowland" had debuted in 1998, and thanks to the mention of the Rocket Rods, which closed in September of 2000, we have a brief window in which today's photos could have been taken.

Until seeing these pictures, I did not know that an assortment of Tomorrowland vehicles, both old and new, had been put out on display, along with some informative signage.

First up is this rocket from the Astro Orbiter. While the intention was that "Tomorrowland '98" was supposed to have a "steampunk", Jules Verne-inspired look, this rocket looks more like a large tin toy from 1960's Japan to me (that is not necessarily a bad thing). I wonder if these are original "Rocket Jets", repainted and redecorated?

Bruce was nice enough to take photos of the accompanying signs for most of the vehicles!

Next we have two different Autopia vehicles; a classic green "Mark VII" example, and the red car, which might be anything from a "Mark I" through to a "Mark IV", since they looked essentially the same. This particular car has a plexiglass windscreen, not to mention a fancy paint job. Could this be Walt Disney's personal Autopia car?

Here's the sign. "Congestion-free freeway", if only!

You can't feature Tomorrowland vehicles without including the Peoplemover, which closed forever in  1995. There is no photo of the accompanying sign, but we already know all about the Peoplemover, don't we?

Oh boy, a genuine, bona-fide, electrified, five-passenger Rocket Rod. I think it was designed by the Borg Continuum.  

Hmm, possibly Jason Hulst was absorbed by the Borg? Resistance is futile! (Sorry, Jason). The sign implies that this attraction was still a going concern at this point.

A Skyway gondola sits nestled among potted ferns, instead of gliding through the air. Who owns this vehicle now? I wish I did! I guess I'll have to be happy with my fleet of supercars. 

The Skyway closed in November, 1994.

And finally, here's a Space Mountain vehicle. And more ferns! I am hoping that there will be a Space Mountain movie (featuring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Dame Judi Dench, perhaps) so that the ride can be updated with an unnecessary story, intrusive new effects, and some lumpy animatronics. Fingers crossed...

In case anybody at Disneyland didn't understand what Space Mountain was, there was this sign to clear things up. Now do you get it??

FYI, I read and memorize directions on how to use shampoo. You can't be too careful.

Many thanks to Irene and Bruce for these fun photos!


Nanook said...


What a fun and unusual grouping of photos. Just perhaps this was the best thing about the "NEW New Tomorrowland"... (Gotta love those ferns-!)

Thanks, Bruce, Irene & The Major.

K. Martinez said...

I'm kind of disappointed that there are no ferns placed around the Autopia vehicles. Are they not fern worthy?

What's Space Mountain?

Thank you, Bruce, Irene and Major.

Melissa said...

Holy conveyance, Batman! These are so shiny and clear and colorful and just generally spiffy.

"so that the ride can be updated with an unnecessary story, intrusive new effects, and some lumpy animatronics"

Nah, animatronics are so twentieth-century. It'll read your Magic Band to determine which 3-D projected character will pop up and send you a text with a code to earn five free points at disneymovierewardsdotcom.

Thanks to Irene and the Major!

Melissa said...

K. Martinez, the Autopia car was so used to that "congestion-free" environment that it couldn't stand being choked with ferns.


That display was for a Disney Gallery Transportation event to celebrate a Tomorrowland vehicle lithograph portfolio that was released that day - part of the "Looking at the Future" exhibit that was also used as a countdown display for the pending Tomorrowland 1998. It was done as if it was all part of the fictional TOMORROWLAND RAPID TRANSIT (company) the host of the Rocket Rods attraction.

The ASTRO ORBITOR rockets were newly sculpted vehicles and not retrofitted 1967 Rocket Jet capsules. The Astro Orbiter rockets are smaller than Rocket Jets were - this is because the Rotary ride system could add two addition vehicles to its ride capacity.

The Disneyland ASTRO ORBITOR is a duplicate of the ORBITRON attraction in Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland. The system and also Dumbo The Flying Elephants currently in use in Disney parks are manufactured by a company in Italy. When Disney placed an order for the Disneyland Astro Orbiter they had to order EVERYTHING included in the Paris "set" this included globe and spire decorations used around the Paris version . Disneyland had no space for these and didn't want them but the Italian Company insisted "them come with the whole system" , Imagineering found a place for these around the Tomorrowland Train Station.

Stefano said...

There's a Great, Big, Beautiful ....Yesterday ! The Carousel of Regress; and ferns are so '70s. Famous props from the past could be added; think of a photo op with the giant oleaginous shifting eye from Adventure Thru Inner Space.

The sign for Space Mountain says the opening for that ride was May 4th, 1977, which is over 3 weeks before the official debut date. I did ride Star Tours before its splashy January debut, on Monday December 15th, 1986; that was the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney's death, and a friend and I had ditched school to commemorate him at his park. It was a bonus that Star Tours was in preview; we waited all of 10 minutes for it, the longest line of the day.

Thank you Irene, Bruce, and Major for the happy look back.

Irene said...

Hi everyone. Well, I have a surprise for you Major and the rest of our gang. It turns out that Bruce did not take the pictures!!! His very good friend did. This was a total surprise to me. I had never mentioned the photos to Bruce but if I had, I'm sure he would have told me the history. So what is the history? I received this Facebook message from James (the taker of the pictures!):

"It is awesome that Bruce saved the Disneyland pictures I gave to him. Did he keep the panoramic ones as well? Back then, I was single, and was going to the Park 2-3 times a week. I knew Bruce couldn't get down as often so I made sure to give him duplicates of all the photos I took (3-6 rolls a week). When he and I would get together for our usual day at the park I would give him the photos along with other things I collected from my Disneyland visits and he would peruse them on the car ride to the Park. Some trips he would read to me, things that he found fascinating, as I drove. We sure had a lot of fun back then. Thanks for getting them posted to a website"

So I wrote back and asked him questions about time frame and I mentioned the Mary Blair mural that you had stitched together:

"The time frame of the pictures would be from the opening of Fantasmic (92) to the opening of new Tomorrowland (98). Partners statue was Mickeys bday 93. Lion king parade (94), Pocahontas show. Indy in 95. With the opening of Toontown, we spent a lot of time back there. We would spend our time at the park looking for something new. We never failed to see something that wasn't there the weeks before. We went to many Disneyana show and sales. I forgot that he and I would go to Magic Mountain on Saturday and Disneyland on Sunday. The Tomorrowland Mary Blair mural- it is ironic that David stitched them together, because Bruce had explained to me that he had just learned how to do the stitching of pictures in a new program he just experimented with. So I started to think of pictures I could take where that could be done."

It turns our that James looks at this blog weekly, prints it out and reads it later.

So a big thanks goes to James for taking all these cool pictures and Bruce for having the foresight to save them in an album!!!

K. Martinez said...

Irene, Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Enjoyed reading the background information and about Bruce and James' trips that you relayed to us from James messages.

Thank you, James! And thank you again, Irene. Your contributions to GDB are enjoyed and greatly appreciated.

Patrick Devlin said...

Wonderful pics and thanks to all of James, Bruce and Irene for their hands in displaying them here. I'm amazed to see that the Rocket Rods used "advanced motion activating devices", I'd have thought they used, y'know, motors...

JG said...

These are terrific photos, Thanks so much to Irene, Bruce and James, and of course, Major P for hosting the party.

@Mike Cozart, thanks for the update on the Astro Orbitor car and the funny story of the globe decor. Imagine having a lock on the world market for Astro Orbitors and flying elephants. What a gig that would be. I'm surprised they didn't require installation by their own staff, certified in "Rotational Attraction Mechanisms", or the warranty would be void.

I knew these vehicles were not do-overs of the 1967 ride since those older vehicles used an automobile sealed beam headlight in the front nosecone, quite a different look from the Jules Verne version. No detail too small to overlook.

Part of me thinks that 1998 TL was on the right track, but stopped short due to the unwillingness and budget to push it as far as it needed to go.

Major, I doubt that anything more will be done to Space Mountain, now that it has an official Star Wars overlay, implemented as cheaply as possible with a few videos, re-recorded sound tracks and film projections. Again, if they were really serious about it, the space ship model in the launch bay would be remodeled into the Tantive IV Blockade Runner and all the CM's would wear Wookie costumes. Hyperspace Mountain really is what Space Mountain was meant to be from the start.

Remember, Space Mountain opened the same year as the original Star Wars film, and I have always thought the model's inspiration should have been the Blockade Runner, instead of the Discovery from Space Odyssey. Space Mountain came at a low point in Disney's narrative creation as well, as judged by Dark Cauldron and Black Hole, and opened in a time when a roller coaster didn't really need a backstory for people to enjoy it.

Overall, though, I think the interiors of Space Mountain have aged fairly well, either that, or the visual imagery of science fiction since 1977 hasn't changed much. Could be both, I suppose.

Great post today. Thanks everyone.


zach said...

Great photos and commentary today. I'd like to have any of those vehicles on my deck. Thanks Major, Irene, Bruce and James for these beauties.

Off to the shower... lather, rinse, repeat,


JC Shannon said...

Thanks to all for these great scans. I confess I have a bad case of vehicle envy. I have always wanted a Peoplemover for my Den. But now I also want a Skyway Gondola. But what Jonny wants, he often doesn't get. I love the pristine condition of all these wonderful vehicles. 'Course I would like to have all of 'em, but where would I put them all. The only way the Peoplemover could get any better is if it were turquoise. I gotta stop now as I am drooling. Thanks to Irene, Bruce and James. Thanks to Major P. for sharing them!

Alonzo P Hawk said...

These are some great photos of some drooltastic collector attraction vehicles! Who'd a thunk these fiberglass and steel bits would sell at $30-100+k at auction today. Thanks for sharing (Irene & Bruce) and posting (major).

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I wonder if Disney still has all of those vehicles in storage somewhere? I seem to recall that a single Rocket Rod was saved, but that might not be accurate.

K. Martinez, Disney bought every fern in the northern hemisphere, and still ran short. I hope that you now understand the complex and intricate concept of Space Mountain!

Melissa, hey, if they could do a convincing 3-D projected character (a hologram?), that would be cool - although I admit that I am tired of the reliance on projections in rides. It’s cheap and unconvincing.

Melissa II, fossil fuels are mostly made of kajilliions of crushed ferns, so the Disney people were sensitive about it. I don’t blame them.

Mike Cozart, thank you for all of that great information (as usual)! I’ll have to see if I can find images of that lithograph portfolio. It amazes me to learn that some attractions (for Disney as well as other parks) are built in places as far away as Italy, of all places. I just wish they had left the attraction atop the Peoplemover station instead of blocking the entrance to Tomorrowland.

Stefano, 50 points to Gryffindor for using the word “oleaginous”! That’s ten points per syllable. Interesting about the disparity in the dates for Space Mountain - I was just going to ask how long you waited to ride Star Tours (expecting the answer to be “four hours”), and see that it was in fact a mere 10 minutes. Which was great for you, but not as great of a story!

Irene, oh my gosh, this is a scandal bigger than Watergate! I’m surprised that the paparazzi are not already camped outside. ;-) I guess I will have to credit James along with you and Bruce, since he took the photos. Hopefully he knows that the panoramas were among the photos that Bruce saved (there have been a few on this blog, as I’m sure you recall). Sounds like Bruce and James were good pals, it must have been fun (for both of them) to have a friend to talk about the park in detail. Thanks, Irene, Bruce, and James!

K. Martinez, if James took three to six rolls of film per week, well… he must have a whole lot of pictures! I have not counted how many were in Bruce’s binders, but it was hundreds and hundreds. I didn’t scan many of them (views of the castle, etc), and even so I think I have a few hundred scans to share.

Patrick Devlin, pffft, motors! Why, that is 20th century thinking. Now we all used advanced motion activating devices for everything.

JG, I can’t help wishing that some hard working Americans were building those rides, but i suppose the Italians do it for a lot less moolah. I remembered that the original Rocket Jets had the headlamp, but thought that there was a possibility that there might have been an original frame, re-skinned. But I was wrong! With the disappointing turnout for “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, I wonder if Disney is concerned about “Star Wars fatigue”? I know that I am definitely feeling it myself. Any warm fuzzy feelings I used to have for those movies have most been ground away by the relentless hype and the few (but vocal) very nasty fans.

David Zacher, I have visited Imagineering in Glendale a few times - I don’t know if this is still the case, but they used to have old Peoplemover and Skyway vehicles in the outdoor dining area that employees could actually sit in to eat their lunch. That’s what I need!

Jonathan, I definitely have no room for any Disneyland vehicle, but if I could have one, I think I would want an Alice caterpillar. I just love those.

Alonzo, yes, the value of those things is off the charts. I believe that Disney has destroyed a ton of stuff that they could have sold for big bucks if they’d had only known.

JC Shannon said...

I can totally relate, I love the smug look on the Caterpillar faces. So cool.

Jason Schultz said...

Major, these photos are from July 1998. I was just viewing my Hi8 video from this event the other day (for the first time in twenty years!). I have the lithograph packet. I might even have scans I made at the time. If you bought the whole packet (I think the lithographs were also available separately), there was also a "Tomorrowland Rapid Transit" pin thrown in. There was, however, no option to buy the TRT shirt that Bob Gurr sported for many years afterwards!

And since I didn't see anybody else confirm, yes, that is Walt's Autopia car!

Major Pepperidge said...

Jonathan, that being said, a “Dumbo” or Peter Pan pirate ship would be pretty sweet too.

Progressland, thanks for nailing down the date of the vehicle displays. I tried to find pictures of the lithographs online - there are SO many Disney lithographs out there that it’s hard to tell if I was seeing the 1998 set or not. I wonder if that Tomorrowland Rapid Transit pin is hotly traded on ebay?? You know how those pin traders are. Thanks also for the confirmation on Walt’s Autopia car.


The Astro Orbiter ( Orbitron) and Dumbo was first built in Italy because of a requirement that a certain percentage of Euro Disneyland has to be manufactured in Europe. The same same company made the recent park carousels . Since the company had the toolbox by and parts and a business relationship it was easier to just use the same Italian company.

The Rocket Jets of 1967 were all-American however and the body’s were cast here in California : the first between MAPO and ARROW DEVELOPMENT . The later replacements of the Rocket Jet vehicles in the early 80’s were cast by the staff shop right inside Disneyland ( now all gone for Galaxy’s Edge)......