Disneyland was Walt Disney’s biggest dream, and was also his most complicated and expensive project. Though Walt always envisioned a park completely independently owned and operated by Disney, he unfortunately couldn’t afford to do that right from the beginning. To offset the cost of building the park, Disney hosted a number of sponsored attractions and restaurants that were not Disney-owned, particularly in Tomorrowland. In fact, for the first decade of park operation, Tomorrowland was more like “Sponsorland”, with almost every single ride, shop, and restaurant owned and operated by a partnering company.
It didn’t take long for the park to become an overwhelmingly popular attraction in Orange County, and Disney soon had enough money to start reclaiming valuable real estate in the park. But having tons of sponsors wasn’t the only problem with Tomorrowland. As the park grew and changed, the futuristic land started to feel like it was behind the times, and it lacked the exciting dark rides and shows found in other lands. So rather than converting sponsored exhibits into Disney-owned exhibits, Imagineers decided to start from scratch.
The new Tomorrowland theme was “World on the Move”. And the world had changed since the park opened a decade earlier; people were moving faster and further thanks to all of the new highways in California. Imagineers created new attractions that brought Tomorrowland up to speed, like the Carousel of Progress, and even into the future, like on Rocket to the Moon. Instead of walking through exhibits and galleries of futuristic American homes, guests now participated in the technology. They shrunk to the size of an atom (Adventure Thru Inner Space), soared above the landscape (PeopleMover), and stepped right into the center of a changing world (Circle-Vision 360).
The difference was night and day. Just look at how much the entrance changed the whole feel of the land. Here it is in 1955, before:
And after, in 1967:
Tomorrowland had newfound energy, and was once again an exciting and innovative space in the park. Out of all of the lands in Disneyland, Tomorrowland has by far changed the most; attractions regularly close or change to fit whatever vision the world currently has for the future. Tomorrowland not only reflects a peek into the future, but the mindset of the times. In the 1950’s, the exhibits were all about chemicals, plastics, and home technology. In the 60’s, it became all about space travel and innovative transportation. Each decade in Tomorrowland has its own personality and identity, which means this land represents not only the future, but also the present people imagining that future.
Read about Tomorrowland’s second major expansion & renovation – 1998’s “New Tomorrowland” here.