The Rise and Fall of Magic Kingdom's 1990s Tomorrowland: Disney Parks History

Disney Parks History

Tomorrowland Magic Kingdom From Peoplemover Disney World

Tomorrowland has undergone more changes than potentially any other land in the Disney Parks, with many unique designs and approaches being developed for its various versions over the years. One of the most unique and adventurous versions over the years was the intergalactic spaceport of Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland in the 1990s.

Today we are going to explore the rise and fall of the 1990s version of Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom.

Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom began its life as a space-age inspired future of a US-led journey into the beginning of space travel. It was firmly planted in the futuristic aspects of 1950s and 1960s design. Attractions were all based on different things deemed futuristic in that time period. Traveling to the moon, widespread international travel, highly efficient public transportation. This theme would last until the mid-1990s when the success of Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris would cause Disney to reevaluate all of their versions of Tomorrowland around the world.

Disney had been continually plagued by the Tomorrowland problem ever since Disneyland opened. No matter what attraction Disney designed, the future would always come, making attractions outdated and requiring for attractions in Tomorrowland to need to be replaced more often than in other lands in the park.

Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris attempted to solve this by taking a retro-futuristic look at the future, in its case inspired by Jules Verne. This would inspire Disney to take this same approach to their other futuristic lands, most notably in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World would be the first to attempt this, and chose to replace its space-age design with an intergalactic spaceport that was not based entirely on current visions of the future. It presented an alternative future port city of innovation. It utilized the same steampunk style designs of Jules Verne, but attempted to make them more workable within the confines of a modern city.

Every attraction would be tied into a larger mythology that gave the entire land an overarching storyline.

The entirety of Tomorrowland would become a city that felt like it was functioning, breathing place. Every attraction perfectly tied into not only the aesthetic of the land, but its overall story.

Starting from the entrance we are going to take you through every attraction in this version of the land.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was set as the convention center of the city. It featured X-S Tech showcasing its latest transportation technology, which almost worked perfectly.

In The Timekeeper, you entered the science center of the spaceport, with an experimental use of time travel led by the Timekeeper and Nine-Eye. This was even proposed to also extend into a restaurant but that would never happen.

Minor changes would come to preexisting attractions in the land to tie them into the larger theme. 

Cosmic Ray's would get an intergalactic musical act with Sonny Eclipse.

The Peoplemover would get a refresh as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, becoming the public transit of the newly reimagined city of Tomorrowland.

Space Mountain would also get a light retheme to fit a new storyline of the ride as an intergalactic postal service (due in part to a sponsorship from FedEx) making the classic ride into the spaceport theme as the main port of the city.

Other attractions while not being directly tied into the story, like Carousel of Progress and the Tomorrowland Speedway would end up receiving light cosmetic refreshes to their buildings to better fit the newly redesigned land.

This theme was constant throughout the land when it opened in 1994, but it would slowly be destroyed over the years.

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin would open here in 1998, and did not even try to work with the larger theme of the area beyond preserving the integrity of its facade and a general sci-fi theme.

Galactic Federation Sign Stitch's Great Escape Tomorrowland Magic Kingdom Disney World

This would all begin with the replacement of Alien Encounter with Stitch's Great Escape. It would attempt to fit into the land aesthetically and by taking an approach of being the lands prison system, but it was by no means as good of a fit.

Then 9/11 would complicate the Timekeeper, forcing it to alter one of its scenes, which would be the beginning of the end for this attraction.

Monsters Inc Laugh Floor would replace this attraction, and while it would attempt to make it work in Tomorrowland by transporting you to and from the world of the monsters in the attraction, it was an even worse fit than Stitch had been.

Monsters Inc Laugh Floor Retro Sign Tomorrowland Disney World

Then in advance of Tron, Disney would formally begin abandoning it altogether, in favor of a return to the space age light theming the land had original featured. That theme had now gone from outdated to nostalgic in its own sense, with preexisting attractions receiving aesthetic updates to fit the returning retrofuturistic theme.

Elements of the 1994 version of the land have been slowly being removed, revealing the mostly still present original design elements.

Tomorrowland right now is caught in a weird place right now. Stuck between its intergalactic spaceport phase, its original design, and something new entirely. This is all being done in anticipation of Tron Lightcycle Run, creating an entirely new aesthetic for the land that will hopefully bring it into the 21st century.