Tomorrowland has been a core part of Disneyland since 1955. Its premise is simple: a land that time travels, showing what life will be like in the future. But for me, the most interesting part of Tomorrowland is that in some ways, it is actually a snapshot of today. Whatever we imagine for the future comes from what’s going on right now, and Tomorrowland constantly evolves to reflect the world around it.
TOMORROWLAND THROUGH THE YEARS
The original Tomorrowland opened in the mid 1950’s. This was the height of the “nuclear family” age in America. People moved to the suburbs, and every sitcom depicted a happy family living in a large house with a shiny new car. Tomorrowland predicted a future that fit right into that narrative. The land’s theme was home technology, and headliner attractions included the Bathroom of Tomorrow, the House of the Future, and a smaller, more “neighborhood” version of Autopia. This Tomorrowland predicted a world with state-of-the-art homes, and though it did include one outer-space attraction, it was heavily themed on the future of domestic life.
By the end of the 60s and early 70s, Tomorrowland changed. The dream of quiet suburbia went out of style, and instead the world became a bigger, busier place…and so did Tomorrowland. This was the age when we walked on the moon, and when interstate highways made traveling across the US easier than ever before. Tomorrowland became “Tomorrowland on the Move”, and transportation and travel were at its forefront. Guests could shrink to the size of an atom to explore their immediate surroundings, or fly into the vastness of outer space and visit Mars. The PeopleMover carted passengers across the land, and the Skyway lifted riders above the action.
In the 80s and 90s, technology itself became the star of Tomorrowland. The outside world was experiencing the tech boom, and it didn’t take long for Tomorrowland to mirror that excitement. New, state-of-the-art experiences offered guests thrills unlike anything they had ever seen before. They could fly on a ship through Star Wars’ vast galaxy, feeling every bump and turn of the simulation; they could fly among the stars in a high-speed coaster, or visit Innoventions, a building dedicated to computer technology, games, and even high-tech home devices. With computers, anything was possible.
SO WHAT ABOUT TODAY?
It’s a lot harder to analyze the present than it is to look at the past. That being said, I think Tomorrowland today is about one key word: choice. We are a generation that wants to have a connection with what we do, and we want to customize our experience at Disneyland to make it personal. In Tomorrowland today, you can go for thrills (Space Mountain, Star Tours, Autopia), connect with characters (Buzz Lightyear, Finding Nemo, Star Wars Launch Bay), or take a leisurely approach and sightsee. You can make Tomorrowland your own.
Walt famously said that Disneyland will never be complete, and I don’t think any land represents that idea more than Tomorrowland. It will continue to grow, change, and reflect what matters to us today. Tomorrowland’s history is almost like a study of American culture, and how emerging technologies change what we imagine for the future. Even though we see this land as a step ahead of where we are right now, today really does shape Tomorrowland.