Disney’s Tomorrowland is coming to theaters on May 22. On the same day, Disneyland is kicking off its 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration. In celebration of these two events, Quest For The Vault Disney is taking a Disney Decade by Decade look at the Disneyland area of the future, Tomorrowland. We begin with the Opening Day attractions of July 17, 1955. Our second entry will look at all post-opening day additions through 1964, a decade by decade look will come after that. It is worth noting there are some attractions that many considered part of opening day, but were not open to the public on July 17, 1955, and therefore I have pushed them to part two of the series.
A history of the land before we begin. Tomorowland was the last of the lands to begin construction in earnest in Anaheim.In conception, Tomorrowland as set in the distant future of 1986 (chosen for the next fly-by of Haley’s Comet). Designers struggled to create architecture of the future, let alone a futuristic landscape. Budget constraints did not make the job easier, and the land would end up opening with empty show buildings with the promise of future attractions to come.
Although the entire area was not considered “complete” on opening day, may attractions were. A quick rundown of the attractions of July 17, 1955 version of Tomorrowland:
At the entrance of Tomorrowland stood the Clock of the World. Park guests were able to walk up to a 17 foot tall tower which had a world map projected on it. A set of 24 numbers would rotate counterclockwise around the map, aligning with the proper hour for each area of the world. A digital display showed the minute display for park guests. The clock would last until 1966.
To the left of the Clock of the World stood one of the main show buildings of Tomorrowland, containing Space Station X-1, also known as a Satellite View of the World. This was more painting than attraction, giving park guests the chance to stand on a platform and look down on the earth from “90 miles above.” A three minute presentation took place, with the room rotating around the map. This attraction took an A Ticket to experience it. The platform would last until 1960.
At opening day, the heart of Tomorrowland was the Court of Honor, which was a eight-point star-shaped flower box. Each of the points contained six flag poles, which flew one of the 48 state flags of the nation. Court of Honor would be short lived in its opening day location, as it would be relocated and renamed in 1956.
Moving counterclockwise from the Court of Honor comes the first ride attraction in this tour, Autopia. The original version of the ride was quite a bit different from the version known today. To begin, no center rail was on the miniature highway, meaning the Mach 1 model cars were able to drive side by side, as well as pass other drivers. As well, the Mach 1 cars were not very sturdy. While the car bodies were modeled after Porches and Ferraris, the frames were only made out of aluminum, the bumpers of fiberglass. Due to collisions and hitting the side railings, 38 of the 40 cars were inoperable by the end of opening day. Changes would come to the cars in coming weeks and years, and the ride still exists to this day.
Next on our tour comes an icon of Opening Day, the Moonliner. Sponsored at first by TWA, this 76 foot tower of a rocket stood in Tomorrowland for guests to walk past, but it as a display only. It was the tallest structure in the park, eight feet taller than Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It stood next the entrance to Flight to the Moon (see Part 2). It would stand in its original display place until 1967.
Our last Opening Day Tomorrowland Attraction stood in the show building near the Main Street Hub entrance, the Hall of Chemistry. The first of four Monsanto sponsored attractions, it was a free walk through exhibit teaching the benefits of chemical engineering. The hall was decorated with test tubes, wall displayed and a metaphorical arm reaching across the ceiling. This exhibit would last until 1966.
This completes our first venture through the history of Tomorrowland. Coming soon, Part 2, July 18, 1955 – 1964.
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