Tomorrowland at Tokyo Disneyland: Interesting Facts


The visual identity of Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is almost impossible to describe. Thanks to rolling changes in the land over the years without a wholesale overhaul to the overarching sense of design aesthetics and style of the land itself, you have what can best be described as a veritable World Showcase of “the future/alien/monster-stuff.” Except unlike the World Showcase in Epcot, it’s hard to say that the competing styles in Tokyo’s Tomorrowland bear any remote connection to realizable designs of the future. It’s not as if the entrance is 2028 Paris, Star Tours is 2035 Canada, and Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek is 2054 Tokyo.

Rather, the competing elements of Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland are all stylized pieces of real world architecture that invoke a sense of other-worldliness, which I suppose is as good of a surrogate as any for futuristic design…when done correctly. In a recent article, Foxxy at Passport 2 Dreams hit on this well. She does a much better job analyzing the distinct styles at play and defining the “Theme Architecture” present in Tomorrowland better than I can. Similarly, Brice Croskey over at Progressland covered Walt Disney World’s “New Tomorrowland” in great depth. Both articles should be required reading for anyone wishing to take an intellectual look at the supposed “Tomorrowland Problem.” Also, both of these articles can be generally applied to Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.

I can’t really offer much to the discussion concerning the Tomorrowland Problem, other than to say that I don’t think there is one. Having seen the various incarnations of Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland, plus Disneyland Paris’ Discoveryland (and I suppose Tokyo DisneySea’s Port Discovery), my take is that Foxxy and Brice are more or less right, and it’s not so much an inherent problem with Tomorrowland. I don’t believe that, as a concept, Tomorrowland is fatally flawed. I think that the execution of certain overhauls to the various Tomorrowlands have been fatally flawed, and that it’s very difficult to redo Tomorrowland in a piecemeal approach (something Tokyo demonstrates well). I don’t view the “future catching up to us” as an inescapable problem.

To me, the linchpin of success for any Tomorrowland is not the precise substance of its attractions and whether those remain relevant visions of the future, but it is in a land that evokes a romanticized sense of progress and optimism. For this, architecture that simply looks futuristic is necessary. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that certain styles of architecture embody themes of futurism and progress, regardless of their age. For example, despite being over 60 years old, I’d still describe the Kauffman Desert House as looking “modern.” (Contrarily, when I look at more recent examples of gothic revival, I still think, “that looks old.”) Combine elements of that style and other forward-thinking designs with clean, yet whimsical stylization, and you have a look that can’t be pinpointed as a real world design (which can be dated to a specific time-period), but will instead always conjure the feel of the “futurism” in the minds of guests. It’s not that it’s actually futuristic, it’s that it actually feels futuristic. It’s referential without explicit reference, and conjures exactly what it’s intended to conjure. I would consider that a success for a Tomorrowland. (more…)

Seize The Future With X-S…and “New Tomorrowland”

Tomorrowland - Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

A lot of my preferences at Walt Disney World are rooted in nostalgia rather than logic. For instance, Tomorrowland is my favorite land in the Magic Kingdom. My love for the land is based upon how it existed when it emerged from it’s 1994 “New Tomorrowland” overhaul. I can’t logically defend why I still love it. Although I love Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, and Space Mountain (I’ve rambled about this in the caption of another recent photo), when trying to look at the land objectively, it has a lot of faults. Anyone who has been visiting Walt Disney World for years or decades but says their opinions aren’t at least somewhat biased by nostalgia is feeding you a line of crap.

There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia and liking certain things because of it. Now, it’s a different story when you advocate change (or lack thereof) because of nostalgia. For example, hoping that Captain EO stays in the Imagination pavilion. No one in their right mind can objectively think that this is an appropriate attraction for Epcot’s Future World (or anywhere, for that matter). That location deserves a new attraction that fits our imaginative ambitions for the future. From a personal perspective, I preferred Kitchen Kabaret over Soarin’, but I would never contend that Kitchen Kabaret should still be around because, objectively, Soarin’ does more for Epcot than Kitchen Kabaret.

Walt Disney World ResortMagic KingdomTomorrowlandAlthough classic attractions like Alien Encounter, Time Keeper, If You Had Wings, and many others have departed Tomorrowland, it's still my favorite land in the Magic Kingdom. Classics like Carousel of Progress and the TTA Peoplemover make it easy to love. Plus, it's beautiful at night!

On our trip in 1995, we saw the “new” Tomorrowland for the first time, and I was blown away. (I’ve written about this trip and other childhood trip in my “childhood trip report.”) I was 10 at the time, which was probably my sweet spot for visiting Walt Disney World as a kid. Not too cool for anything, but “brave” and tall enough to do everything. I loved the new look of Tomorrowland, which seemed distinctly futuristic to my 10 year old eyes.

The highlight of that trip was the all new ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (check out that page for an extensive look at Alien Encounter). The attraction was closed on and off while we were there, so it felt like something special when we finally did get to experience it. And what an experience it was. I was at an age where I could grasp some of the dark humor in the pre-show, but not so old that the attraction didn’t scare me a little. It had everything that made an attraction awesome to me: an interesting story, an entertaining wait in line, and most important–-an awesome character in Skippy! After exiting the attraction, I flew into its gift-shop and snatched up the largest Skippy plush I could find.

I had been saving up money I had earned for the past year (in my lucrative career cleaning up dog poop for my grandpa) just for such an investment! I still have that Skippy to this day, complete with his original “MousekeToy” tag attached. To date, Alien Encounter is still my second favorite attraction in the history of Walt Disney World behind the original Journey into Imagination. Sarah and I even bravely go where no man should go and experience Stitch’s Great Escape every once in a while just to see the pre-show and my old friend, Skippy.

Tomorrowland is my favorite land at night. What is yours?More Tomorrowland night photos: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/tomorrowland-night-photos/

While I love the look of the current Tomorrowland, neon and all, I know that a big part of the appeal is due to the memories I formed in this incarnation of Tomorrowland as a kid. It also still deeply disappoints me that Alien Encounter, an attraction I still consider incredibly brilliant, has been replaced by an abomination of an attraction. Objectively, I realize that the aesthetics of Tomorrowland aren’t the best, and that Alien Encounter might have been a bit too “adult” for Tomorrowland…but I still love that Tomorrowland of 1995.

Your Help Needed!

Regular readers of the blog may know that I’m Disney theme park history geek. While my knowledge pales in comparison to some other Disney fans, I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World regularly since 1986, and I have a lot of nostalgia for extinct attractions. (You might recall my EPCOT30 series on vintage EPCOT Center attractions.)

Anyway, I’d love to do a post on Alien Encounter, Timekeeper, and bygone Tomorrowland, but I don’t have the photos necessary for such a post. Since I’m a photographer myself, I’m not comfortable just “borrowing” anonymous photos online, either. So, if you visited Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland before 2003, and would be willing to allow me to use your photos in a blog post, I’d love it if you could email me your photos. You can send them to tom@disneytouristblog.com. I’ll be sure to credit the photographers at the bottom of any posts in which I use the photos. I’m hoping to have this post finished by April 4, 2014, so if you see this message after that date, disregard it. Thanks in advance for the help!

Your Thoughts…

What Disney attraction or land tickles your nostalgia bone? Were you raised on Walt Disney World’s 1994 “New Tomorrowland”? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Merchant of Venus Tomorrowland Photo

Tomorrowland Night Photo - Walt Disney World

Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, especially at night, is my favorite land at Walt Disney World. It has three of my favorite attractions: Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, and Space Mountain. It has great background music, fun puns for restaurant and shop names, and details that I love–such as the palms and Sonny Eclipse. I also enjoy the neon, which I think is quite photogenic and adds to the ambiance.

All of these things easily help the land overcome the loses of the amazing Alien Encounter and Timekeeper attractions, and the general thematic misfire and lack of cohesiveness of the land. Those issues do push Tomorrowland just behind New Orleans Square in Disneyland as my overall favorite land, but second place isn’t too bad, all things considered. A replacement for Stitch’s Great Escape that captures the spirit and dark humor of Alien Encounter without the scares would push Tomorrowland back into first place.

Tomorrowland, with its swooping lines, is also great for the fisheye. While I love my Rokinon 8mm fisheye (check out my review of it), I plan on using it a lot less on our upcoming trips. I have found myself processing fewer and fewer fisheye photos, plus, I have the new Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, which will be getting a serious workout!

Technical details: Nikon D7000 and Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens. See our Disney Photography Guide for more photography equipment recommendations.

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Tomorrowland Palm Trees – Walt Disney World Photo

Tomorrowland Palm Trees - Walt Disney World

Those fans of alternative energy out there should love these palm trees in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, as it turns out Walt Disney Imagineering has found a way to harvest metal coconuts and convert them to energy! Why the government hasn’t invested billions of dollars in these palms, I don’t know.

The relatively-unknown backstory that these are “Power Palms,” which were planted in an effort by the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. Arcade to capture energy. Even without this backstory, these palms are ridiculously cool to look at and photograph. They’re definitely one of my favorite Disney Details, and one of the details that really sets Disney apart from the competition, in my opinion. Most guests probably give them little more than a passing glance, yet they’re one of the details that really give Tomorrowland great energy (in more than one way, apparently!). Look for the one palm that differs from the rest and see if you can figure out why it differs!

Technical details: Nikon D7000 and Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens. See our Disney Photography Guide for more photography equipment recommendations.

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Tomorrowland Classics Sunrise Photo

As I mentioned in my recent review of the book Gardens of Walt Disney World Resort, I love the greenery and details at Walt Disney World. From topiaries to trees that are unordinary and different from what you’d see in the real world, I enjoy it all. It should be no surprise that I really like these trees in Tomorrowland, which have been a favorite photo subject of mine for years. It was a real treat photographing them this particular morning as the sun had just begun to peak up over the horizon near Space Mountain, casting long shadows of the trees onto the nearby Mickey’s Star Trader’s building as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover zoomed past!

Technical details: shot with a tripod-mounted Nikon D7000 with a Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens. See our guide for more photography equipment recommendations.

Want to see more Disney photos? Check out the other photos in our “Disney Photo of the Day” series!

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