Theme Park City >
Orlando Guide >
Walt Disney World >
The Magic Kingdom >
It isn't easy keeping up with the future. For years Disney tried -- yet Tomorrrowland always stayed just a step behind; yesterday's version of tomorrow. So, now they've embraced the futures of the past, creating a sort of retro-tomorrow look that owes just as much to Buck Rogers and the great pulp Science Fiction illustrators of the 1930's and 1940's as it does to a serious view of what's ahead.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Now you can become a space cadet and travel with Toy Story's intrepid Buzz Lightyear to infinity and beyond in his fight
against the evil Emperor Zurg to help keep the Universe safe for all toys.
Zurg is trying to steal the galaxy's supply of power units (which look suspiciously like
batteries) and it's up to you to board an interstellar craft capable of spinning 360 degrees
at your command, take control of your laser gun (there are two per craft) and blast
away at the many targets (Zurg's "Z" symbol) located throughout the ride. Your individual score is displayed on the
panel in front of you so you can play against your partner or go for a personal best.
In keeping with the toy theme the sets are fairly cheezy and look sort of, well, plastic, with
some consisting primarily of cut-outs. There is, however, a very nicely done Buzz Lightyear
audio-anamatronic figure, and the interactive nature of the ride
does enable you to get into the feel of playing with some really neat toys.
It's not an E-Ticket kind of thing, but taken on its own level, it can be a lot of fun for the young --
or just the young at heart.
Stitch's Great Escape!
Once upon a time, this space was home to ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, the first Disney attraction designed to scare the heck out of even the most sanguine guest. Taking the form of a demonstration of an alien teleportation device, during the presentation something went terribly wrong and a big, carnivorous, and hungry alien was teleported into the chamber. It broke out, the lights went out -- and what followed was an exercise in psychological horror, as multiple effects combined to make us think the alien was loose and about to eat us, as it did a poor maintenance worker, graphically, right before our ears, with a sprinkle of falling blood. Take the most effective horror movie you've ever seen, and then multiply it by being trapped inside the screen. And this was in the same park as it's a small world.
I'm used to seeing the audiences in Walt Disney World shows break into spontaneous applause at the end -- here, most people were too stunned to clap. Small children, terrified by the show, were actually left in tears with their parents desperately trying to assure them it wasn't real. This show may have contributed to more nightmares than any other Disney sources combined (Bambi's Mother's death included). Parents often disregarded the warnings about the intense nature of the attraction because, after all, this was Disney, right? It couldn't be that scary, could it?
Clearly, the show needed a makeover and a major reduction in the nasty factor (and a tie-in with a Disney movie couldn't hurt, either). So, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was reborn as Stitch's Great Escape, with the mischievous little alien from the animated feature Lilo & Stitch imported to lighten things up.
Our first stop is a short video pre-show congratulating us on our new jobs as intergalactic prison guards, this leads us into an audioanamatronic pre-show emceed by our new robot supervisor, who assures us that we'll only be dealing with Level One criminals (like the cute little jaywalker incarcerated in a small tube behind him) or, at worst, the nasty Level Twos. Suddenly, of course, comes word that a Level Three criminal, the worst of the worst, is about to be delivered and that all hands, even we trainees, are needed to keep this dangerous prisoner at bay. So, we are sent on to the main theater-in-the-round,
housing a bigger version of the teleportation tube we just saw.
Here over the shoulder restraints are lowered, keeping us in our seats and in the proper position for the effects (and sound system -- tiny speakers are located in restraints at ear level, essential for the binaural system) to work (don't worry: at no time does the theater or our seating actually move).
Soon, the Level Three prisoner is transported in and -- no surprise here in an attraction called Stitch's Great Escape -- it's Experiment 626, aka Stitch, and he... escapes. He doesn't eat anybody, but he does manage to short out the electrical system and run around in the dark taunting us. It's fun for most people, but it can still scare small children who are afraid of the dark, or loud noises, or are claustrophobic (due to the restraints).
Presumably from here Stitch goes on to steal a spaceship and land in Hawaii (as this attraction is a prequel of sorts to the film) while we just get ushered out through a gift shop.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Just across the way from Alien Encounter is a comedy club, where Mike Wazowski, the little, round guy with one big eye from the Pixar feature Monsters, Inc, is assigned to energize the city of Monstropolis with the power of our laughter. Using the same technology employed at Epcot's Turtle Talk With Crush (but in a much larger theatre), animated monster comics take the stage and, in real time, crack jokes and interact with the audience, doing anything for a laugh. The blend of computer animation with live voices is an amazing thing to watch, and the show can get pretty funny, too. Drop by for a laugh and help some monsters out.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority
It's about a ten minute ride around the second story level of Tomorrowland, providing peeks into attractions like Space Mountain. Formerly known as the WED-Way PeopleMover, the TTA consists of constantly moving trains powered by linear-induction -- electromagnets in the track pull the cars forward silently and cleanly. It's a relaxing, quiet ride with a great view of the whole of Tomorrowland -- a good place to rest your feet and regroup.
The centerpiece of Tomorrowland, high above the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, is this minor thrill ride that looks like a mad scientist's model of the solar system. The ride itself is similar to Dumbo -- it's just cars that go up and down as they spin. The thrill comes from the height and the faster speed. As with Dumbo it's slow to load and lines can build fast, so you'll have to decide if it's worth much of a wait.
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
Walt developed the first Carousel of Progress for the 1964/65 World's Fair under the sponsorship of General Electric -- so it's not surprising it has the theme of progress through electrical appliances. The theater here revolves around the stage, as we see how an audioanamatronic family's life is changed by better living through electricity. The production is upbeat and punctuated by a catchy tune, "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," the original theme song from its World's Fair and Disneyland run. (Blame the Sherman Brothers, the same tunesmiths responsible for "It's A Small World". They also wrote "Now Is The Time," the Carousel's previous theme here. A video preshow in the waiting area shows the Shermans with Walt himself and tells the story of the attraction.) The Carousel is often open for only limited hours and is closed seasonally.
The oldest of the Walt Disney World "mountains," Space Mountain is still just as popular as its siblings Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Essentially a wild mouse type roller coaster in the dark, Space Mountain treads a fine line between thrill ride and thrilling family ride -- big coaster fans think it's wimpy (what? no inversions? No 70 degree drops?) but can still like it, while non-coaster fans can enjoy it without total fear of impending death. The track consists mostly of fast, well banked turns -- given an extra kick by being in dim lighting so you don't always see what's coming. (Tracks, actually: Space Mountain contains two slightly different tracks, the "Alpha" and "Omega" sides.)
You must be over 44 inches to ride, and must be in good health (no back, neck, or heart problems, tendencies to motion sickness, or other physical limitations, including pregnancy).
Space Mountain lets out into a video arcade where plenty of quarter suckers (most costing more than twenty-five cents) await your small change.
Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
Far from being an image of tomorrow, with its loud engine roar and smell of burning gasoline, this ride is more a sad reminder of today. Most adults will have gotten their fill of bumper to bumper traffic driving in on I-4 (if not, try the NASCAR racers at the Richard Petty Driving Experience). Still, kids who are years away from getting a driver's license love it and are willing to brave the long lines for their chance to "drive" a racecar. Children must be 52 inches tall to drive solo, under that height must accompany a parent (but you can still let them steer while you work the pedals.)
The Galaxy Palace Theater
Between Buzz Lightyear and Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, this outdoor theater presents various forms of entertainment seasonally. Check the entertainment schedule to see what's playing.
The bad news is, there will be no table service restaurants in the future (if Tomorrowland is to be a guide). The good news is, the fast food joints will be big and efficient.
Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station, tucked away next to Main Street's Plaza Restaurant at the edge of Tomorrowland, this counter service restaurant dishes up chicken teriyaki, beef & broccoli, and various noodle bowls. The crowds seem to miss this area much of the time, so you can sometimes get in here even when the other places are packed.
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe is the largest fast food restaurant in the park, operating as a food court with different menus at different counters. There's often entertainment thrown in as well, either live or from lounge lizard Sonny Eclipse (well, he looks like a lizard.)
Auntie Gravities Galactic Goodies, Cool Ship, and The Lunching Pad handle the snack and cold drink duties for the land, if you're in a hurry or just want a nibble.
Shopping apparently will not be a big deal in the future, either -- there's not much here, and what there is can also be found, for the most part, elsewhere. Mickey's Star Traders is your big plush toy and character T-shirt joint, Merchant Of Venus will keep you in Stitch-es, while Geiger's Counter and Ursa's Major Minor Mart have snappy names but the same old souvenir things.
Tomorrowland is between Mickey's ToonTown Fair and Main Street USA.