The retro-futuristic vibe at Tomorrowland was ratcheted up in the ’90s to reflect the reality that Walt’s ’60s-era vision of the future was unlikely to come into fruition exactly as he saw it. This area of the park was themed to represent “the future that never was,” a polished-chrome and rounded-edge future of rocket-ship cars envisioned by the sci-fi writers of the 1920s and 1930s.
The theming is the most pronounced in attractions like Tomorrowland Transit Authority (a “people mover” that loops through Space Mountain, the Carousel of Progress, the Buzz Lightyear attraction, and other points throughout Tomorrowland) and the elevated spinning rockets of the Astro Orbiter.
Most people flock to Tomorrowland for one reason: Space Mountain. Opened in 1975, the 2.5-minute-long 28-mph indoor roller coaster ride is far from the fastest coaster around, but for years the combination of quirky futurism, quick turns, and darkened thrills has been irresistible to roller coaster fans. Space Mountain underwent a much-needed renovation in 2009. Lines stack up quickly here, so during high season a FastPass is essential.
Stitch’s Great Escape is simply a rebranded and toned-down update of an extremely intense theater-in-the-round attraction, “The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.” The new version puts the mischievous Stitch at center stage as a captured alien who breaks free; there’s lots of darkness, startles, and alien spit in this one, but there are plenty of laughs to break the tension.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is a remarkable attraction. Based on the revelation of the titular film—in which the monsters discover that laughs, rather than screams, are more effective at producing the energy they need—there has been a comedy club set up that allows humans to come in and provide some laughs/fuel. The premise, however, isn’t what makes this attraction work.
Technology has been employed that allows the various computer-animated characters to interact with the audience in real time, meaning that every unscripted show is unique. The often-corny jokes are quite funny, and some are even submitted from audience members via text message. The Magic Kingdom hasn’t had a lot of luck with attractions that it has put in this space, but given the technological innovations and interactive nature of the current occupant, that streak should change for the better.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin puts guests into a Toy Story–themed shooting game, riding around in “space cruisers” outfitted with laser guns. Riders can spin their cruisers in a full 360-degree rotation, allowing better sighting of the numerous targets. Points are racked up in eight different rooms leading up to a showdown with Buzz’s nemesis, Zurg. The super-competitive will want to aim for the diamond- and triangle-shaped targets, as they’re worth the most points.
For all the dated retro-futurism of Tomorrowland, it’s the noisy exhaust-spewing race cars of the Tomorrowland Speedway that actually seem the most anachronistic. Riders are allowed minimal speed-up/slow-down control but can’t go faster than 7 mph as the cars meander along their respective rails on the 2,000-foot track. There are always inexplicably long lines for this ride.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition