August 1967 – September 1985
Plans for a molecule-themed attraction in Tomorrowland had been in discussion since 1957. Originally, Walt envisioned a walk-through exhibit, called “Our Friend The Atom”. But plans for the exhibit were all but scrapped when Disney’s focus shifted to the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the brand new It’s A Small World ride. After the success of It’s A Small World and the conclusion of the fair, Disney began construction on a molecule dark ride. Adventure Thru Inner Space finally opened in August 1967, and quickly became a headliner in Tomorrowland.
Riders began the trek into space by walking through a high-tech laboratory. While waiting in line, guests could watch monitors showing other guests climbing into microscopes. Once riders loaded into their “atommobiles”, an unseen scientist welcomed his subjects as they began to shrink. The scientist shows images of snowflakes growing larger and larger, showing how the audience has become microscopic in size.
As the atommobile continued to shrink, the audience saw atoms swirling around them. The atommobile led riders inside one of the atoms, swirling through the electron cloud before arriving at the nucleus.
Finally, the atommobiles left the atom, and slowly grew the audience back to human size. Along the way, the scientist informs his subjects that the snowflakes have melted, and riders could peer up into his microscope, seeing his giant eye looking down on them. After returning to normal size, riders departed the atommobile and walked through a series of displays showing the scientist’s molecular studies.
Though Adventure Thru Inner Space had no major problems and stayed consistently popular during its run, the ride closed in favor of a much-anticipated Star Wars attraction. The atommobiles made their last ride in 1985, and the first version of Star Tours opened in 1987.
Adventure Thru Inner Space was the first Disneyland ride to use the Omnimover loading system (the platform and ride move at a constant speed without stopping for boarding, like in the Haunted Mansion or Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters).
The voice for the scientist was that of actor Paul Frees (Boris on The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show).
The Sherman Brothers wrote an original song for the ride, called “Miracles From Molecules”. A synthesized/digitalized version of the song is on rotation as Tomorrowland background music.
Biotech company Monsato served as the official sponsor of Adventure Thru Inner Space until 1977.
You can find a tribute to Adventure Thru Inner Space in Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. Pay close attention when your StarSpeeder moves into the maintenance bay; you can see the Mighty Microscope in the bottom left corner of the screen.