The Mouse House: The Need for Reinvention: Tomorrowland 2055
theme song by Buddy Baker, Richard Sherman, and Robert Sherman and owned by Walt Disney Records
This is the article where all the previous articles from the Eisner one on start to come together. Everything I have talked about will come into focus and how it relates to Tomorrowland’s status in the present and the plans that Disney has for the future.
By the 1980s the 1967 remake of Tomorrowland was showing its age. Many guests were losing interest in the land more and more. One reason why was merely the whole dated nature of the attractions. An opening day attraction like Rocket to the Moon is pretty dated when humans actually landed on the moon in 1969. The attraction was renamed Mission to Mars, but much of the technology seemed too B movie sci fi to many. Circle Vision 360 was cool, but no longer innovative. Carousel of Progress was moved to Florida’s Magic Kingdom in the 1970s and was replaced by America Sings to commemorate America’s bicentennial, but in the 1980s the show was no longer necessary and even more obviously dated.
The other reason why the land was struggling was because of the cultural shift and different perceptions of the future. In the 1950s and 1960s the future was thought of in high regard. World War 2 was over and America won. The future and prosperity of our country was on the rise. There was genuine enthusiasm for all the possibilities that our industries, working people and entrepreneurs could think of and deliver to the world. According to the Theme Park Tourist article on this topic they point out the cultural shift with the perceptions of audiences when it comes to sci fi. The article points out that many films, books, and media of the 1970s and 1980s and even the 1990s all the way to today have shown a much darker, cynical, pessimistic, dystopian future. The aesthetic was not the bright colors and how wonderful technology could be, but grimy, lived in, dank, muggy, heavily polluted environments. In the modern era if it’s not a dystopian future it’s a nihilistic one that has a post-apocalyptic setting. Shows like Black Mirror on Netflix have stories about how technology is ruining our society and our social interactions. Even the Tomorrowland film has commented on these trends and how they are an obstacle to Tomorrowland’s overall vision. Walt’s vision of tomorrow in the eyes of the general public is dead and to some they would say “good riddance”.
In 1984 when Michael Eisner took over as CEO for the Walt Disney Company he wanted to tonally balance the parks. When it came to Tomorrowland he did NOT want to go all in on the pessimistic future, but did want to create diverse experiences with a little bit of an edge to balance out the age groups of guests at the park. Tony Baxter also felt this as well and Baxter and Eisner wanted to reinvigorate Tomorrowland. They found a temporary solution in making a deal with George Lucas to bring one of the most popular sci fi IPs ever to the parks and the result was Star Tours that was massively successful. Still Star Tours was only the first step in revitalizing Tomorrowland. The Imagineers needed something else to make Tomorrowland timeless. Something that would make it so Tomorrowland would never have to be updated again. Inspiration struck with the concept of Discoveryland!
Conceptually Discoveryland for Disneyland Paris was a fictional timeless future as envisioned by 19th century authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. With this new vision Imagineers were inspired to think outside the box and they came up with a very ambitious project that would build upon the legacy of the 1967 remake and take it in a much larger and bolder direction. This project was called Tomorrowland 2055.
Instead of trying to fantastically predict the future Tomorrowland 2055 would be a futuristic metropolis that would serve as an intergalactic space port. Aliens from across the galaxy would live, travel, shop, and eat in this new Tomorrowland and earthlings would be allowed to check out all of the city’s activities. Think Star Trek. This alien spaceport concept would be for Disneyland while Florida would get a recreation of Paris’s Discoveryland. At least this was the original plan.
The aesthetic of the new land would be completely rethemed to be a silver and chrome color with the old buildings serving as a skeleton, but a massive overhaul of the facades. The lights for the nighttime illumination would be several bright colors and the land would have a fully traversable second floor! Star Tours and Space Mountain would remain the same since both rides would maintain the theme of intergalactic travel. Rocket Jets and the People Mover would all get an aesthetic overhaul to fit the transportation systems of this area. The Circle Vision theatre would become a new attraction called the Timekeeper with the main character played by Robin Williams. The former Carousel of Progress Theatre would be a new show featuring singing animatronic aliens called Plectu’s Intergalactic Revue. In the Mission to Mars building would be a darker horror attraction called the Extra Terror estrial Alien Encounter. It is unknown at least in the Theme Park Tourist article how the Submarine Voyage and Autopia would fit into this new aesthetic, but one could simply say that they represent the Earth based origins of the old metropolis before the alien arrival. As if this wasn’t enough there was a parade known as Lightkeepers that would be a spiritual successor to the Main Street Electrical Parade. With all of these new attractions, upgraded attractions, upgraded aesthetics and ambition Tomorrowland 2055 was set to have Tomorrowland be a flagship area in Disneyland. No longer would it be that outdated place that Walt thought was cool back in the 60s, but it would be a flagship area and icon of the park in the same way Fantasyland is. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland 2055 was CANCELLED and guests would never properly see the potential of this reimagined Tomorrowland for themselves.
How could this have happened? Well Disneyland Paris failed that’s what happened! With the failure of Paris Eisner was not willing to spend money to properly fund projects to reach their potential and Tomorrowland 2055 was cancelled outright! But “at Disney a good idea never goes away”. So what happens next? Something way worse. Ladies and Gentlemen for Disneyland it would get one of the worst changes in theme park history! Tomorrowland 1998!
Brian Krosnick from Theme Park Tourist.com “Disney Tried to Invent a Timeless Tomorrowland. Here’s Where it all Went Wrong”
Check out this article. Very fascinating, comprehensive and a ton of visual aids!