Note: In celebration of Disney’s Tomorrowland opening in theaters on May 22, Quest for Vault Disney is taking a decade by decade look at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. In Part 1 we looked at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland as it stood on Opening Day, July 17, 1955. Part 2 looked at the evolution and development of the land from July 18, 1955 through the end of calendar year 1964, while Part 3 looked at the ten years of 1965-1974. Part 4 looked at the ten year period between 1975 and 1984, and here is a look at Tomorrowland 1985 through 1994.
Just as the ten year period previous saw very few attractions opening, only four “attractions” opened in the period from 1985-94. A leadership change in the Walt Disney Company drew uncertainty of the park for a while, and there was construction being done in other areas of the park, with two new areas opening during this decade, Critter Country in the west (albeit more of a name change from Bear Country with a new thrill ride, Splash Mountain) and Mickey’s Toontown in the north, beyond the park berm. That being said, the additions that came to Tomorrowland ended up being some the most popular additions to enter Disneyland.
First to open, in May of 1986, came the Magic Eye Theater. As mentioned, a leadership change occurred in the Disney Company, and this was the first attraction completed under the watch of Michael Eisner. Just west of Space Mountain, the 525 seat theater began its operation by showing a 3-D film imported from Walt Disney World, Magic Journeys. This 16-minute film was scheduled for a four month run, after previously have 20 months of showing at the Space Stage. It was merely a place holder for the next 3-D film to run in the theater, still in post-production at the time. The Theater is still in use today, currently showing a preview of the movie Tomorrowland.
The four month, highly anticipated wait would end on September 18, when Captain EO made its Disneyland debut, six days after opening at Epcot in Disney World. A Hollywood A-List extravaganza, the film starred Michael Jackson in the title role, Anjelica Huston as the Supreme Ruler, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and was produced by George Lucas. While Magic Journeys had been the first 3-D film to be shown in Disneyland, previous theatrical attraction (Flight to the Moon, Mission to Mars) moving seats to enhance the guest experience. Captain EO utilized the same techniques, using seat vibrations to simulate impact as lasers hit the crew’s ship. After an eleven year run, the attraction wasn’t drawning the same level of crowds it previously had, as Jackson’s popularity dwindled and his legal issues soared. The 17 minute film closed on April 6, 1997. A tribute version of the show opened following Jackson’s death in 2010, on a temporary basis.
With a space Captain behind it, and another space attraction being built adjacent to it, the Character Shop was suddenly in need of a makeover. The doors shut on September 15, 1986, and it was reopened on November 21, 1986 as the Star Trader. Guests were greeted to the 5000 square foot retail shop with a neon-lit Mickey Mouse floating through space. Inside, toys, plush, shirts and hats were available for purchase, and a 30 foot X-Wing fighter hung overhead, giving a foreshadow of what was coming to the park in just six weeks. In preparation of the Star Wars attraction, toys and collector models were also available on opening day; now guests are able to build their own light saber. The store is still in operation, and quite popular, today.
On January 9, 1987 Tomorrowland premiered an attraction based on events that took place “a long time ago.” Star Tours, a shuttle service in the Star Wars galaxy. With a partnership with George Lucas, the attraction took the place of Adventures Thru Inner Space in the front show building of Tomorrowland. Making use of an enclosed flight simulator, 40 guests at a time would board StarSpeeder 3000s on a quick journey to the forest moon of Endor, with first time android pilot Rex, voiced by Paul Reubens. After taking a wrong turn, the StarSpeeder ended up in a galactic battle, aided by the rebel alliance while fleeing Imperial fighters. Opening day lines for the attractions spread all the way to Main Street’s Town Square. In the interior queue, guests were able to see two animatronics from American Sings, although the birds were not recognizable, having been plucked of their feathers and left in their inner-workings. With the arrival of Star Tours, the exterior of the building was repainted. This of course meant the loss of half of the Corridor of Murals. In 2010 the StarSpeeders came in for a long landing while the pre-boarding video and main film was updated. The attraction received a digital 3-D upgrade, and a randomized flight sequence, with many different planet destinations, and a new pilot, C-3PO.
These would be the only four attractions to open in Tomorrowland in the ten year period between the 30th and 40th anniversary celebrations. Much more would head to the area prior to the park’s 50th anniversary, which will be presented in Part 6. I thank you for taking the time to read this today. I ask you would please leave comments. You may contact me directly on Twitter @, and you may also subscribe to be alerted by email when new postings are published. Quest for Vault Disney is now on Facebook. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/questforvaultdisney. Have a great rest of your day. See ya real soon…