Tom’s Top 7: Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom
Tomorrowland is my favorite land in Magic Kingdom. It’s the place we spend the most time during our Walt Disney World vacations (largely thanks to two attractions), and I have a lot of nostalgia and genuine enthusiasm for it. I know this is uncommon sentiment for what is regularly derided as Magic Kingdom’s “worst” land, but I love Tomorrowland. (Note: I most definitely do not have these same feelings about Disneyland’s version.)
Think of this post as a cut rate version of the Top 7 Must Sees, but with me instead of Stacey, and the random things I like instead of useful suggestions. I’ll share some of the reasons why I feel so strongly about Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World. These are not the greatest things about Tomorrowland (well, except the ones that are). Rather, these are the details over which I obsess. They’re the aspects of Tomorrowland that help give it character, and what has made me become enamored with this admittedly flawed land.
Even though this is not a helpful post, I thought it’d be worth sharing these details on a “just for fun” basis. First, for the sake of commiserating. I’m certainly not the only obsessive Walt Disney World fan, so if I’ve grown attached to particular details, chances are many others have, as well. With Tomorrowland likely transforming over the next few years as TRON Lightcycle Power Run is added, there’s a good chance we’ll lose some of these details in the process and I think it’d be nice to document some of this as a “tribute” of sorts.
Second, perhaps you haven’t noticed one of these details, and the list will give you something to look for on your next trip. I guess to that end, this post is potentially helpful. On the other hand, falling deeper down the rabbit hole of ‘obsessing about Disney details’ is not something I’d necessarily recommend if you’re interested in being “cool.” (On the other other hand, we think few things are as truly cool as random knowledge about Disney details.)
Moving along, maybe you’ll find this list fascinating and fun, maybe you’ll can’t believe you wasted your time reading about random minutiae that matters to me. After the positive response to the “All About Epcot’s Norway” post (thanks for the feedback on that, by the way), I thought I’d test out another idea I’ve had for a while. Let us know if you’d like to see this as a series…
7. Space Mountain Star Tunnel Music – To the shock and confusion of many people, my favorite Space Mountain is Walt Disney World’s. I think the whole experience–from the moment you enter the queue until you exit back into Tomorrowland–is the best in Florida. Since the ride is, essentially, a glorified wild mouse coaster in the dark in every park, all of that “other stuff” matters in making this a Disney attraction rather than an amusement park ride.
You already know I’m a complete dork, so I don’t feel too embarrassed to share this: when entering Space Mountain, I have some odd “rules.” I try to only do the attraction late at night, attempting to time our FastPass arrival after any large groups and with adequate room behind us. My goal is to walk through the queue in solitude, briefly closing my eyes to absorb the Star Tunnel music, feeling like I’m at an actual StarPort. I’m no expert on the art of zen, but I’m absolutely positive the true key to finding inner peace is listening to this 4-hour Star Tunnel loop.
6. Palms of Tomorrow – While Elon Musk dumps billions of his personal fortune into follies like Tesla, SpaceX, and the Boring Company, the answer to all of humanity’s energy and transportation woes is hiding in plain sight: the Palms of Tomorrow. Now, I don’t know exactly how these are the answer, but I’m pretty certain they are it.
Beyond just looking cool, these palm trees have an interesting albeit arcane backstory. These “Power Palms” are yet another effort by the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. (Arcade) to find alternative energy supplies, which they accomplish by harvesting the coconut-like globes around the trunk. When the globes fill with energy, they illuminate to indicate that they’re ready harvesting. (Keen eyes might notice that one of the palms has been harvested, and its leaves look different than the others.)
5. Carousel of Progress 21st Century House – I’ve told Sarah time and time again that my only requirement for our next home purchase is that its kitchen and living room be identical to the home in the last scene of Carousel of Progress. I mean, this should go without saying, but I think it’s a fairly minor and totally reasonable request.
I love everything about this home. The interesting character to the overhead beams. The skylight over the kitchen sink that would make even washing dishes enjoyable. The floor to ceiling windows in the dining room with a view into the city of (in my mind) Los Angeles. This home was an open concept before open concept was a thing (so futuristic!).
Since I’ve been advised that this is an “unreasonable demand” and “you need to be serious about what you actually want in a house” I’ve agreed to settle for a large re-creation of the abstract Sorcerer Mickey art. Sarah had better learn how to paint.
4. Background Music – This is one of the top 5 background music loops in all of Walt Disney World. In fact, it might be #1 overall. (The Innoventions BGM gives it a strong run for its money, as would the Reflections of Earth pre/post-show loop, if we count that.) It’s really strong, and fits the land perfectly.
A big part of its strength comes from the fact that its self-referential, but in a way that’s on-theme. This background music contains music from Carousel of Progress, Adventures through Inner Space, Alien Encounter, and other attractions. Rather than presenting these as a generic medley like is done at the park entrance, these versions have a billowy sound evoking a sci fi vibe. The only thing that would make Tomorrowland’s BGM better? If we got a Christmas version of the music and accompanying light show on Space Mountain, a la Tokyo Disneyland.
3. Sonny Eclipse – Our very first Walt Disney World obsession as a couple was Sonny Eclipse. During our annual summer visits, we spent many a late night in the booths at Cosmic Ray’s watching Sonny perform his full sets, and at home we’d “relive” those moments by playing an mp3 of his full show. There may have been a time in college when I was in charge of our playlist curation for a party, and I slipped “Bright Little Star” into the mix. (Which didn’t raise nearly as many eyebrows as when we had an around the world party and I “themed” my room to Iceland…by playing SÃ³lstafir, a black metal band, at full blast.)
Despite Cosmic Ray’s being busier than ever, our love for Sonny Eclipse endures. His backstory is cleverly told via his songs and his set has a hybrid comedy/musical quality reminiscent of Country Bear Jamboree. Thanks to his mix of humor, personality, catchy songs, and look, Sonny Eclipse ranked #4 on our list of Top 10 (Original) Disney Parks Characters.
2. Factory Pomo Design – I had never even heard this term until a Twitter thread about the design of Tomorrowland was retweeted into my timeline. Take a minute to read through that. I don’t agree with everything in that thread (particularly the judgment that Tomorrowland’s original style aged poorly), but its discussion of the stylization and details of Tomorrowland ’94 is particularly fascinating.
One thing I’ve always loved about the current incarnation of Tomorrowland is the font choices, the science fiction/futurism flourishes, and the ornamentation that established Tomorrowland as a specific place. This incarnation of Tomorrowland will always hold a special place in my heart since it gave us Alien Encounter and Timekeeper (two brilliant attractions), and it’s been slightly painful to watch Tomorrowland transform for the worse, have its details stripped away, and have band-aid replacements added that don’t congeal with the theme.
With that said, I do think that the original vision for Tomorrowland ’94 has faded. Even if it had not, the style has definitely not aged well, and has a distinct mid-1990s look. I’m ready to see a new vision for Tomorrowland realized, but I really hope it’s a wholesale rethink of the aesthetics, and not just continuing the current patchwork trajectory, with TRON cloned directly from Shanghai without it and its surroundings having a cohesive theme.
For such an overhaul, I think it’d be interesting to see Imagineering iterate on Shanghai’s organic style, softening up its vaguely dystopian vibe a bit and integrating that with a melange of Googie/Modern/Streamline design (a lot of which is still underneath the Tomorrowland ’94 artifice).
1. TTA PeopleMover at Night – Imagine a long day in Magic Kingdom spent racing from attraction to attraction, all in the sweltering Florida heat and humidity. You’ve already logged over 15,000 steps for the day and you’re at your breaking point. Yet it’s only 7:30 p.m., and Magic Kingdom is open for another 3.5 hours. Without knowing what kind of newfangled transportation it is, you line up for the PeopleMover.
You board the attraction, getting off your feet. You pass by a picture-perfect aerial view of Cinderella Castle with the setting sun behind it, glide through a beautiful model of Walt Disney’s Progress City, and emerge out the other end to the crisp evening air. You gaze down at the neon lights of Tomorrowland awash with neon that seems particularly vibrant against the blue hour sky. The wonderful background music fills your ears. Your senses feel heightened, and you are reinvigorated.
You realize Ponce de Leon was simply ahead of his time, as you’ve found the fountain of youth in Florida, and it’s in the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. If this isn’t one of the greatest experiences in Tomorrowland, nay, in all of Walt Disney World, I don’t know what is.
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Any thoughts on my sentimental favorites in Tomorrowland? Do you agree or disagree with any of these? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Wholeheartedly agree with 1, 4, 5 and 7!!!!!
I’ve always known it as the “WEDWAY” PeopleMover. It has always been an oasis to me. I have ridden it countless times to quiet the kids and get the little ones to nap. Hope they never take it out. Tommorow Land has been one of my favorites during the the last 45 years of Disney trips.
Because the PeopleMover is my one of my favorite rides in all of DisneyWorld–day and night each worth the ride and I also enjoy the Astro Orbiter, Tomorrowland is also the best land in my mind! Of course I’ll also add I enjoy the interactive Buzz Lightyear ride (though Toy Story surpasses it now for that kind of ride) and I love the Carousel of Progress–though I really would love to see them add another section or update for some diversity. Outside of rides, I do love the palm trees.
The last time I was in line for Space Mountain I distinctly remember thinking that it’s the best cue of any ride I’ve ever been on. When you stop and think of that basic theming having endured since 1975, it’s truly got to be one of Imagineering’s greatest achievements.
I also agree that not only is Space Mountain better at night, Tomorrowland as a whole is a better experience at night. The rough edges smooth out, and the theming gaps just seem to fill in. To me, it doesn’t even feel like the same place.
I would ride the People Mover all day. I would love a FP++++ for it that reserved my own special pod for the day that I could ride anytime I felt like! Also, Carousel of Progress is amazing! It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow…
We love the Tomorrowland background loop. It’s quite likely the one that we listen to most often.
Loved this post, and would love to see a series like this! You always point out the little things that might get missed if you’re not looking for them, and it gives me something to look for on a future trip. So it’s definitely helpful. 🙂
I’m just happy about the SÃ³lstafir reference! 🙂
I love this! This is the type of post you can’t find on other blogs/websites and I would definitely love to see it as a series! I feel like I am going to have a whole new appreciation for Space Mountain on my next trip as I stop and take the time to soak it in. Thanks Tom!
Excellent post. For some reason, our family always referred to the Peoplemover as “the Blue Line.” Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorite attractions and still so unique after all these years.
After following your blog for 5+ years, these are the types of posts that keep me coming back.
I love the people mover! What is hilarious is I have to drag my kids on there every time, and then by the time we are finished they once again say, “yeah that’s pretty cool”!
And I am completely embarrassed to admit, I have never paid attention to the palms but will definitely make that a priority on our upcoming visit in April!
I agree with the placement of the Peoplemover it is my favorite thing to do at the end of everyday. I would love to see more post like this one.
Great post! My children love the People Mover! It is a must do each trip. I would love to see this as a series.
Am I the only one who still refers to it as the Wedway Peoplemover?
It has always been my favorite!
Of course not, but doing so does suggest something about your (our) age.
Great article as always! The PeopleMover is our traditional last ride every trip, a nice little way to say see ya real soon to Magic Kingdom.
Great article. #1 is like salt on a wound…speaking of course about the brilliance of the WDW PeopleMover, and the contrasting nearly 20-year old empty tracks at Disneyland in California.
How on earth – with overcrowding issues and Star Wars looming – does Disney NOT see the value in bringing this attraction back to Anaheim?
I enjoyed this post and somehow knew the palm trees would make an appearance!
Tomorrowland definitely would have been my favorite as a kid. It isn’t now, but I not sure exactly which land would be. Probably fantasyland, with 7DMT and the B&TB area it is beautiful. Plus, between the Tangled, Gaston’s, and even Pinnochio-haus areas, it has far better bathrooms. Which we all know is the deciding factor in rankings. 🙂
I’m a bit different in that I prefer the peoplemover int he day/afternoon, when it’s hot and getting off my feet with a breeze feels great. Once the sun goes down and the temperature lowers we get our second wind and like to run around. I’d replace that with a late-night ride on the Astro Orbiter. It’s about the only ties lines are short enough to ride it and circling 60 feet in the air, seeing Tomorrowland (and the castle in the distance) and all lit up is pretty neat.
Loved this post! Please make this a series of love this! Make one for each lanc please!! Love your blog and thank you!
Love this post and the idea behind it, absolutely would want to read more. A post of top background music is one that I would love to see.