Friday, September 13, 2019

Flying Saucers, 1960's

Boy oh boy, do I love today's clear, colorful photos of the old Flying Saucers attraction!

If I understand correctly (and I probably don't), the large blue oval structure on which the saucers flew was divided in half, so that there were two separate sections - basically like two Saucer rides next to each other. A boom would sweep around on each half (sort of like a hand on a clock), trapping  the Saucers that had completed their rides, and freeing the ones that were ready to go. Does this make any sense at all? I think that the boom is that raised walkway with the rounded end that we can see to the right.

I know that you will correct me if I'm wrong - and I'm counting on it!

It sure looks like this attraction appealed to younger guests - there are kids and teens almost exclusively. I don't think I've ever noticed the CMs before, in their black and blue costumes. They are wearing hats (or visors?) with what appears to be a logo for the attraction - why don't I have one of those in my collection??

Notice that the Saucers in the background are now empty and new guests are walking toward them. It's kind of fun to see the people aboard their vehicles, torquing their bodies this way and that in an effort to make their giant air-hockey pucks move in the desired direction - all in the hopes of colliding  with somebody else!


Nanook said...

Sharp, indeed-! The attire is a cornucopia of 'neat' styes of the day - including the one fella with the dark brown vest, and what appears to be some very-stylish, pointed loafers, and that lovely red, patterned ski sweater on another lad.

As to the operation of the attraction - let's consult The "E" Ticket for an explanation...

The operation of the ride facility itself was a marvel of people (and saucer) management. The attraction had two sides that operated more or less independently. Each worked on a two cycle system of loading and unloading. A large boom would sweep across the half circle, collecting the 16 saucers that were just finishing their ride. As these were gathered in, the floor was cleared for 16 just-loaded saucers that were about to begin their ride. The floor remained pressurized during operating hours, with the exception of two strips of decking. These portions of the floor were isolated during the loading/unloading process by closing the baffles in the underground plenums that supplied the air to them, thereby insuring the safety of Disneyland guests. With the saucers loaded, and the boom swept aside, the baffles were re-opened, pressurizing that section of the floor and lifting the saucers. When in full operation, the booms swept at different times, allowing the ride to operate with a minimum of ride attendants. When the booms were not in motion, there were 32 ships being loaded/unloaded, and 32 ships gliding and crashing into one another on the two-sided arena floor.

The article (with information provided by none other than Bob Gurr), also includes details on the saucer design, air compressors, the (in)famous Morgan Valve, and an explanation of how the air pressure 'would escape', allowing each saucer to move - provided the "pilot" was of the proper weight.

Thanks, Major, for these wonderful images.

TokyoMagic! said...

Such a cool looking attraction with cool little ride vehicles! Do we know if any of the vehicles are still around today?

I still can't believe they thought that HUGE ugly flying tires would be as cool. And you couldn't even step on the edges of the tire vehicles. You had to jump over them to get into the vehicle. It looks like the Flying Saucer vehicles had no-slip patches affixed to the outer edges for people to step on. At least, I'm assuming that's what those squares were around the perimeter of the vehicles.

K. Martinez said...

Always liked the white and orange saucers against the blue flooring. Great color combination. The satellite centerpiece is pretty cool looking too.

I love the concept for the "Flying Saucers" attraction and appreciated that they tried it again as a part of Cars Land with "Luigi's Flying Tires". Unfortunately it didn't work out for the long term in both cases. I felt kind of sad when the newer attraction closed, but I also found it disappointing as a ride experience.

Thanks, Major.

JC Shannon said...

I remember this one as well. They were kinda difficult to operate, and by the time you figured it out, the ride was over. I think I only rode once. Somewhere in my moms tub of photos is a picture of me on a saucer. It was a pretty cool concept, but not very practical. TM, maybe they are reverse imagineering one in Groom Lake. Thanks Major.

Andrew said...

Oh yeah, the most novel kind of "bumper cars" that never caught on! The boom method is a very cool efficiency device that someone could probably figure out how to implement with regular bumper cars.


The FLYING SAUCERS were intended to return to NEW TOMORROWLAND phase two as part of the SPACE MOUNTAIN attraction complex - and operate on one of the indoor levels within “the mountain” the saucers remained in storage at some point.

TOKYO MAGIC: I have some photos taken in 1976 of some projects at the Disneyland Staff Shop and in the background in a few shots is a lone FLYING SAUCER ride vehicle - so at least one saucer survived into the mid 1970’s!


When DCA was beginning construction, and the Disneyland parking structure rerouted Disneyland Way closer to the backstage area Eisner declared to clear out all those corrugated steel backstage storage buildings ( most were Walt era built) and tear them down! During this rush of destruction many many things got trashed - props, signs, banners, parade floats and so many other things trashed! Towards the end Disney Auctioneers was started in partnership with EBAY and some stuff left was auctioned off. During the start of carnage, all the molds and tooling for SUBMARINE VOYAGE animation was destroyed as well as the molds for the PEOPLEMOVER cars, ROCKET JETS , and SKYWAY cabins were destroyed.Some remaining MOTOR BOATS trashed too. I always wonder if maybe a “ lone” FLYING SAUCER got taken to the dump as well......

Anonymous said...

I was never really athletic as a child (heck, I'm not real athletic now) so I always imagined myself stuck in a corner of this attraction while everybody else whizzed around having a wonderful time! The horror! For that reason alone, I never really wanted to try them, and their leaving left me with a decided "meh." That'll teach an attraction to make fun of me! So there!

"Lou and Sue" said...

I LOVED this ride! As a little kid, I rode this many times with my mom and she was darn good at getting the saucer to "sail" across an open area. It felt like we were floating - a very unique sensation.

Though it looks like a bumper car ride, I think most "repeat riders" weren't trying to hit each other like a bumper-car ride, but were trying to find "open spots" to glide across - that was the best part of the ride! When you were leaning and gliding, your saucer picked up a little speed, too.

My guess is that the first-time riders were bumping into each other a lot (and probably getting a bit frustrated, too). As I recall, if you sat still in your saucer and didn't lean, you wouldn't go anywhere.

Great pictures, Major - thank you!


Tom said...

Wonderful shots today! The bright blue of the floor contrasted with the orange bumpers on the saucers reminds me of the 64 World's Fair colors. Sad this attraction was so short lived. I'm sure it was a whole lot of fun, even if brief. Didn't make it to Disneyland until three years after they took it out.

Melissa said...

Hi yourself, brownshirted kid from the past!

Nanook said...

@ Lou and Sue-
‘Leaning’ was essential for movement. As a “pilot” would lean in a given direction, the saucer would list to that side, reducing the gap between the floor and skirt on the leading edge, and increasing the gap on the trailing edge. The air beneath the saucer would escape through the larger gap with a force that would propel the craft in the direction the pilot was leaning. In this fashion, the pilot and the saucer would skim over the expansive blue floor, opening and closing valve assemblies beneath it as it went. (Or so went the theory, anyway...)

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I am sure that I read that issue of The “E” Ticket years ago, and maybe that’s where I got my general idea of how the ride operated. The magazine’s description is much more detailed and clear, but I think I got the basic concept! Reading Bob Gurr’s explanation, the ride is more of a technological achievement than I think it gets credit for, in spite of its problems. Thanks very much!

TokyoMagic!, I have wondered the same thing about the vehicles, and assumed that if any were around we would have seen one at D-23 or someplace like it. “Luigi’s Flying Tires” was a bad idea; I appreciate that they tried to bring back a classic, but the changes were mostly for the worse.

K. Martinez, yeah, the colors for that ride are great! “Luigi’s” vehicles were so big and lumbering, I truly wonder if they couldn’t have made them for today’s heavier passengers, but not make them the equivalent of a slow-moving tractor? I only saw videos, never rode it myself, but it looked underwhelming.

Jonathan, you just needed to ride the Saucers until you were the master! 50, 100 times, as many as it took. I wish you had that photo of you. I agree, the concept of the Flying Saucer ride was a great one.

Penna. Andrew, yes, even that method of isolated some saucers while others “flew” was very ingenious.

Mike Cozart, I think I remember you mentioning the use of the saucers for the “phase two” Tomorrowland, but I suspect that the idea must have been one of those “blue sky” things where they always throw in every cool concept and then pare it back. Maybe those Imagineers would have figured out improvements to some of the technical issues that would have resulted in a better ride than both the original and the Flying Tires.

Mike Cozart, oh man, I hate reading about all of that stuff being trashed as if it was worthless garbage. They must have already known that they were going to do away with all of those Tomorrowland attractions. It seems so short-sighted, but I guess I understand the expense of storing all of those large items. It makes me think of the disbursement of the MGM props, which included burying stuff in landfills.

Stu29573, the ride looks so great, but I was never a fan of bumper cars, which the saucers was, basically. Seems like some sadistic kid would delight in crashing into my bumper car as hard as possible!

Lou and Sue, my brother claims that he and I both rode the Saucers, but I would have been awfully young, even when it was finally removed. I don’t remember it, in any case. You’re right, for me the appeal would have been to glide as far as possible, floating on the cushion of air. From what I’ve heard, controlling the saucers was very difficult for a first-timer.

Tom, you’re right, it does look very ’64 World’s Fair-ish. In fact, it might have been a rare case of a ride that was more fun to look at than it was to ride!

JG said...

I think I only rode this one once, too small to go alone. But with a parent, the saucer was too heavy to steer well, so it was kind of a bust.

I still enjoy the pictures though, thank you. Major, you are right, it is at least as much fun to look at as to ride. It's a very photogenic attraction, IMO.

And thanks to Nanook and Mike Cozart for the fascinating back-story. Major, your description of the operation is consistent with my memory, the booms moved perpendicular though, not in a radial direction.

Have a great weekend, Junior Gorillas!



TOKYO MAJGIC, MAJOR , and everyone:
I almost forgot! In the mid 90’s Imagineers Bruce Gordon and Dave Mumford went on a search through various WDI storage warehouses around Glendale and offsite Disneyland storage facilities looking for a FLYING SAUCER ride vehicle ( or anything else) they could potentially use in the 1998 New Tomorrowland for the Restaurant TOMORROWLAND TRANSPORTATION WAREHOUSE ( became Red Rockett’s Pizza) but alas they found no FLYING SAUCER .
Incidentally, when the GM sponsorship of ROCKET RODS fell through , the collected ride vehicles we used as quick decorating and re-theming of “RODS”. The TRANSPORTATION WAREHOUSE fell through when it was determined that have SKYWAY cabins, PEOPLEMOVER cars , MONORAIL RED and one of the MARS theaters ( continually playing segments of Mar, Flight and Rocket to the Moon) didn’t leave enough space for dinners.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Mike Cozart - I love all the history you share on this blog! Keep sharing!

If they went through with that restaurant with all of the past "attractions" on display, it would've been bittersweet and difficult to enjoy eating a meal while surrounded by the "destroyed" treasures - I would think. Sort of like eating with beautiful rare animals all around you that were "taxidermied."


Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, I don’t know if you remember the kid someone dubbed “Chip” from years ago, but that brown-shirted boy sure reminds me of Chip.

Nanook, I found that the best way to make a Flying Saucer go where you wanted was to fire a large rifle in the opposite direction. Newtonian physics!

JG, I feel like there must have been a way to make a new saucer ride that didn’t use those gigantic “Flying Tire” vehicles - technology could have provided greater lift, and more efficient use of the air. That’s my theory, anyway! I wonder why they decided to go with those big lumbering no-fun vehicles?

Mike Cozart, oh well, it seems like if Bruce and Dave couldn’t find a flying saucer, there probably weren’t any left. The Transportation Warehouse sounds kind of fun; I remember the Monorail and Peoplemover vehicles in the queue for the Rocket Rods, it was a bit sad. I forgot that they also had Skyway gondolas. Funny that after all that they wouldn’t have had room for the diners!

Lou and Sue, I have to agree, it would feel very weird to be in a place surrounded by those artifacts of beloved rides - and yet, I still kind of wish they’d made it. Red Rockett’s Pizza is nothing to write home about.

Anonymous said...

Sue's recollection of how she rode the Saucer is very similar to my experience. I wanted a clear path to skim along the surface from one side to the other. And yes, the ship picked up speed as it went. One my happy memories of the Park. I keep hoping that I'm in one of those shots but alas...

Oh yes...and it seemed to break down on every visit. We'd be told to come back in a couple hours. Being persistent, I was able to ride it every trip there tho. :) KS

"Lou and Sue" said...

KS, since the ride broke down a lot, we have a better chance of finding pictures of us riding it! Of the few pictures out there - of the few times it was working, we're bound to be in one of them. ;)


TokyoMagic! said...

JC Shannon, I had to look up Groom Lake. I didn't know that it was part of Area 51!

Mike, yes...thank you for all of that information. Now just tell us where that dump is located and everyone here, grab a shovel!!!

Weren't they considering reopening the Submarine Voyage at some point, but the plans were canceled once they realized that the molds they would need for casting new figures of the sea creatures, had all been thrown out? I think I remember hearing that it was something they were considering doing for the 50th anniversary in 2005?

Sue, not only were some of those Tomorrowland ride vehicles used in the queue for the Rocket Rods, but some were used in the shop at the exit of the ride. And some of those still remain today:

Vintage Tomorrowland Ride Vehicles


MAJOR: the SPACE MOUNTAIN 1968 was a more than a blue sky project - full architectural drawing packages were created .... Flying Saucers , the dance pavilion , shooting gallery , a restaurant and the 7-up refreshment garden was all completely drawn up and ready to go and could have been built. incidentally 7-up was signed up to be SPACE MOUNTAIN’s sponsor. As I have mentioned before the story that SPACE MOUNTAIN 1968 was put on hold because the technology didn’t exist was a myth ( it would be two double Matterhorn tracks ) it was postponed because money and staff resources were being funneled into to Walt Disney World .

Major Pepperidge said...

KS, I would definitely rather skim around in a Flying Saucer than bump into other people. Sounds like a lot more fun! You are lucky to have those great memories.

Lou and Sue, I feel like I have 10 or 15 good photos of the saucers, go back and see if you are in any of them!

TokyoMagic!, Jonathan knows more about Area 51 than he is letting on. And yeah, let’s go dig up rare Disneyland artifacts!! Like King Tut’s tomb, only better. I never heard the story that they’d considered reopening the Subs, but couldn’t because they’d thrown all that stuff out. It has the ring of truth, though! And looking at your link, I remembered your article about the vehicles used in the shop.

Mike Cozart, unless I am mistaken, was artwork for that mega-Space Mountain in the “Art of Disneyland” book from a few years ago? I vaguely remember something, or think I do, anyway. I realize that WDW was a large and important project, but I can’t help feeling a little sad that Disneyland did not get something as neat as what you described.