Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Autopia, August 1970

Here's a pair of swell Instamatics, from slides generously given to me by my pal, Mr. X.

Oh yeah, two streamlined, cerulean blue Autopia vehicle are moving along the roadway at blinding speed! I have said it before, but just look at how beautifully landscaped the grounds are. No sterile concrete, steel and glass Tomorrow for Walt Disney. In spite of the criss-crossing roadways, the Peoplemover track, and the Monorail beamway, it feels like a drive in the country (well, almost). In the lower left is the pool of water that overflowed into double waterfalls, perfect for passing submarines to go through. Every time I see it I want to go for a swim, it looks so inviting.

The first six iterations of Autopia designs had their issues, but it seems that by the time Bob Gurr hatched the Mark VII design,  he'd figured it all out. Lightweight, sporty, reliable. They sure look great when you put a few different colors together.


Nanook said...

The first image is so lovely. Our future Dale Earnhardt is required to completely elongate his arms in order for them to reach the steering wheel. Happy motoring, kid-!

Thanks to Mr. X & The Major.

Chuck said...

Outstanding job of matching the “cerulean blue” font color to the cars. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess you were a professional artist of some flavor.

Don’t think I ever consciously realized while driving the Autopia that the source for those waterfalls was right there as you drove by, although of course it had to be. I do recall the “aha!” moment in my mid-twenties when I realized that much of the Autopia is on top of the submarine show building.

Thanks, Major & Mr. X!

DrGoat said...

Neat pics. The second shot is interesting. What goes on behind those ficus leaves? The driver of the yellow car will remain anonymous. He;s probably a famous celebrity from the 70s. Bob Denver?
Thanks Mr.X, and thank you Major.

JG said...

Oh the memories, both Dads are letting the kids drive, as it should be.

The interweaving of the Tomorrowland rides in the forest is brilliant.

Autopia now too much resembles the freeway just outside, wait to get on, drive in a cloud of fumes, can’t wait to get off, but there was a day…

Thanks for the pics and notes, Major. I can’t keep the models straight. Give my best to Mr. X, may his fedora never be dusty.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, fortunately the boy’s vibranium skeleton allows him to elongate his arms at will. Handy for reaching stuff on the top shelves at the grocery store.

Chuck, matching the color of the text to the color of the Autopia cars took me a month and cost me most of my fortune, but it was worth it! I agree, I doubt I had any idea that the Sub lagoon and those waterfalls were just on the other side of that rock wall. I was too busy concentrating on ramming the car in front of me.

DrGoat, the person behind the ficus leaves is none other than TokyoMagic!, who has used his magical powers to obscure his likeness from all cameras. I’ve met him in person, and realized that he was always obscured by something, sort of like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor’s neighbor Wilson in “Home Improvement”.

JG, I agree, let the kids drive. Though I’m sure there are those timid kids who prefer to let Dad handle the responsibility while they sit back and enjoy the scenery. People have speculated that the Autopia cars will someday be converted to electric motors, but my guess is that will never happen (even though I think it’s a good idea!). No fumes, sign me up.

MRaymond said...

The Mark VII, my favorite version of the Autopia cars, mainly because that's the version I learned to drive in. Such a 70's icon.
I took my nephew to Disneyland in the 90's and that's his version of the car as well, and I let him drive. I have a video where I asked him where he learned to drive? He said "By watching me". Touche.

"Lou and Sue" said...

I would love to be on that PeopleMover - overlooking all of this action!

What's that red thing in the water? Fake starfish or octopus?

Chuck, you are much wiser than me...I never thought about the cars being over the sub show building till you mentioned it now! Up until recently (a couple years ago, when I discovered GDB), I NEVER wanted to know or see what went on, behind the scenes - I didn't want to ruin the "magic" for myself. Now, I find it fascinating!

Thank you Mr. X and Major!

Anonymous said...

Ah...the world of motion...and gas fumes. But I loved viewing it behind the well as looking downw from the Monorail and Peoplemover. But after 3 months of working it...I happily transferred back to the Westside. KS

Stu29573 said...

What do you do when you don't have much room in our theme park? Stack attractions! Ok, that was mainly just in Tomorrowland, but still...
I always liked how the waterfalls combined with the bubbles to create the diving and surfacing of the subs. Need to go down so deep the light doesn't reach you? Go into a show building! With a highway on top!
Thank you Mr. X (and Major)

JB said...

Chuck's comment about the Autopia being above the subs' show building got me thinking: Can you hear the Autopia cars rumbling overhead when you're riding the subs? Probably too much concrete, turf, and grass, etc. to hear the engine noise. Also, at that point of the sub ride we're too busy looking at the sea serpent and hearing the rumbling of the undersea volcano.

Thanks to Major P and to his/our friend Mr. X for more great photos.

DBenson said...

I recall reading that the primary design challenge for Bob Gurr was that drivers were going to keep bumping each other, no matter what.

In my childhood the landscaping was a lot thinner, in part to call attention to the simulation of a modern freeway with overpasses. Back then, wide new highways spanning the nation were an exciting improvement on patchy local roads, and freeways with big billboards were actually glamorous. Now that we're thoroughly tired of them, the Autopia is dressed to evoke scenic country driving.

My prediction is that the Autopia will shift to electric cars when it's sponsored by a major manufacturer of same.

Nanook said...

Thanks to Daveland, HERE'S probably the best overhead view showing the relationship of the Autopia(s) and the Submarine attractions. (from 1971)

Major Pepperidge said...

MRaymond, the Mark VII cars were the ones I remember from my childhood, but I love seeing photos of the earlier iterations. They all had problems to one degree or another (I think it was hard to keep the weight down), but I think they all look great! Your nephew sounds like my kind of fellow, ha ha.

Lou and Sue, if I had to guess, I’d say that the red thing is a starfish. I can already hear my niece correcting me, “They aren’t FISH, you should call them “sea stars”!”. OK, OK! I’m not sure when I learned about the Autopia running above the Sub’s “dark ride” portion, but when I did, I was even MORE impressed - yet another layer of activity in that Tomorrowland - we don’t even think about the Subs cruising along just beneath the grass and roadways.

KS, ha ha, I can believe that working the Autopia might get old in a hurry. Was it just the fumes? When there’s a big backup, I often think that the CMs look a bit frazzled.

Stu29573, I wonder if there are any non-Disney parks that stacked attractions even HALF as cleverly as what was done at Disneyland? It’s quite an achievement. And yes, the waterfall was a brilliant and effective (and simple!) way to transition from one scene to another. Those guys were on top of their game.

JB, I’ve seen one or two photos from inside the show building, where there are catwalks above the water - I would think that the sound from the roadway might be audible down there - but it’s just a guess. I’d love to hear from anybody who knows for sure. But when you were aboard the Subs, you had the rumble of the diesel engine, the recorded spiel, and they were mostly surrounded by water.

DBenson, I’m not sure how often it actually happened, but it seems to me that when I was a kid, there was always a bigger kid behind me who only wanted to ram my car. I’m sure those kids grew up to be typical L.A. drivers! It is funny to think of the days when we were all so proud of our freeways. Now they are a necessary evil (perhaps too harsh of a word), but I can’t say I love them. And you might be right, maybe Tesla will sponsor the Autopia some day!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, thanks for that link!

Anonymous said...

Nanook, that aerial has a lot of good stuff in it, first, the driveway that passes under the monorail beam where the "Disney Navy Yards" sign used to be.

And clearly visible in lower right is the monorail beam switch where the trains can be directed to the (not)roundhouse north of the DLRR, as well as the DLRR diversion to it's roundhouse.

Major, as regards photos of inside the sub show building, those might be the scarcest of all, hard to think of a part of Disneyland less accessible to guests. Hope you can score some someday.



Hong Kong Disneyland used electric cars for their Autopia .... they figured out a way to recharge the batteries while guests loaded... but the cars didn’t work well in the high humidity and heat . The batteries had to be replaced constantly and the attraction became The most expensive in the park ..... it was the first Hong Kong Disneyland attraction to be replaced ASAP!

The Hong Kong Autopia’s also featured ANTI-Bump sensors for safety, courtesy and more importantly , electric things don’t operate well with collisions or bumps - as anyone knows in minor real-life auto accidents the car’s electrical systems is what suffers the most damage.

And in the future ..... the electric car: unable to produced enough electricity to power the demand .... the failure to operate in extreme cold and heat .... the extreme toxicity of electric car batteries and camdium nickel. The increase of 24% surface mining to source the materials to make the batteries ..... and now electric car owners being told to park their cars outside and at least 50 feet AWAY from other cars because of EXPLODING car batteries!! The electric car is a dream of the far off future ..... definitely not ready for 2030.

Anonymous said...

Well, google and you shall receive.

This link purports to have backstage photos of a submarine evacuation.

I used to have an aerial photo showing the extent of the old show building, but can't find it.

As far as hearing the Autopia from the subs, it is more likely the reverse. There were (are?) vents from the sub tunnels to upper air to vent the diesel exhaust from the old subs (the current yellow subs seem to be electric, but I can't confirm that), while the overburden of soil (has to be pretty deep to hold bushes and maybe trees), waterproofing, concrete structure, water, sub hull, air circulation and narration provide a lot of muffling and distraction for sound leakage in the other direction.

Still so cool, though.


Anonymous said...

Ok, this is more fun than working.

Here is a link to a newer aerial showing the sub track overlaid on Autopia.

Also includes the added building from the "Nemo" update, but that did not affect the old building extent, it just made the exposed lagoon smaller.


"Lou and Sue" said...

Nanook and JG, thanks for those links!

Chuck said...

Ditto what Sue said above. Love these aerials and other linked pictures.

JG, it was seeing "random" exhaust vents out in the Autopia landscaping that made me realize we were on top of the subs.

Andrew said...

Arrow Development made antique cars that had an electrified rail with a very memorable clicking sound. I loved the Kennywood Turnpike before it was removed in 2009, and another installation was at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Stu29573 said...

Major, you could tell your niece that they aren't "stars" either, but "horribly weird brainless sea creatures" isn't nearly as nice a name.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Stu, your last comment, for some crazy reason, just jarred my memory bank. On a trip to Disneyland around 1970, I purchased a dead, dried-out, stiff "horribly weird brainless sea creature" in either Disneyland or one of the Disneyland Hotel gift shops - that looked something like THIS. It was brownish and it was "standing up" on all it's "tips" - the middle was raised - it was about 6" wide and 4" tall. And the silly thing had two googly eyes glued to it. What possessed me to buy it - I'll never know.

I'm still amazed that the Autopia is over the subs.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, ha, ha! That could've been me behind the ficus tree in the second pic. But alas, it is not. I would have only been five years old, and I don't think I would have been tall enough to drive one of the vehicles. From what we can see of the driver in that pic, it is someone who is larger than a five year old. Hey, wasn't that the name of a game show? "Are You Larger Than A Five-Year Old?"

Stu29573 said...

Sue- Yikes!