Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. Closed for Construction
In all likelihood, Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. is now extinct. The gift shop at the exit to Space Mountain has closed for construction on TRON Lightcycle Run, as Walt Disney World prepares for that roller coaster’s opening sometime in the roaring 20s. This post will take a look at work, the re-routed ride exit, and what’s changing.
If you’ve been following our TRON Lightcycle Run Construction Tracker, you already know that this is an ongoing project. The side exits to the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. closed this spring, as did the path on the side of the building. That was done to remove ornamentation from the side of the building.
In particular, protrusions that jutted out into the walkway were eliminated, making the building flush on the side. This was done for a couple of reasons, with the larger being that the path between Space Mountain and TRON Lightcycle Run is already really narrow. Walt Disney World likely wants every little bit of space there, as it’s clearly going to be a chokepoint for crowds.
Additionally, Imagineering has been removing pretty much every vestige of Tomorrowland ’94 over the course of the last few years. Much of this has involved the removal of ornamentation and embellishments that typified the 90s aesthetic of the land–gears, whirligigs, and other industrial elements.
In so doing, Tomorrowland has gone from a land brimming with details to a cleaner and more streamlined style. Whether you’re a fan of the changes or a critic largely depends on your view of Tomorrowland ’94. Personally, I loved it. That incarnation of the land and its now-defunct attractions were a highlight of my childhood, and I loved everything about that version of Tomorrowland at the time.
Consequently, I was more averse to the changes when they initially began. Trading more detail for less is something that has happened all around Walt Disney World in the last several years, so I think that skepticism was well placed.
However, looking back at photos from a few years ago before this project began makes clearer to me that Tomorrowland ’94 had not aged well. There are aspects that have the hallmarks of 1990s hyper-themed design, and not in a good way. Other aspects had abandoned mall vibes. Tomorrowland needed modernization.
The result thus far has been a mixed bag. Tomorrowland once again has Space Age style, with swooping lines and eye-catching visuals that are imbued with a sense of retro-futuristic optimism. However, there’s still a lot of Tomorrowland ’94 in place. Some of this was simply painted over or concealed, likely deemed too costly or involved to restore the retro-futuristic style.
Personally, I’ll view this placemaking project as a “success” if Walt Disney World goes all-in on it, and actually does a proper job of conveying the Space Age style, and it isn’t just a mid-century aesthetic where convenient plus lingering-but-toned-down pieces of Tomorrowland ’94.
Anyway, the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. building is now closed to give construction crews full access to modify the building’s interior without a steady stream of guests exiting Space Mountain.
Speaking of which, let’s start with some photos showing how Space Mountain’s exit has been re-routed temporarily:
In case you’re unfamiliar with Space Mountain, everything is the same from unload through the post-show. The only change is a u-turn where you’d normally enter the gift shop. Instead, you now leave through a door to the immediate left of the Lightning Lane and standby line.
This actually isn’t the first time in the last few years that Space Mountain utilized a temporary exit. Although it feels like the distant past, not too long ago Space Mountain removed the Speed Ramp in the post show. That took the entire lengthy walkway out of commission, re-routing guests to a narrow backstage corridor. This isn’t as impactful to guests…unless you wanted to purchase something from the Space Mountain souvenir shop.
Speaking of which, Disney has moved some of the merchandise from Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. over to Big Top Souvenirs in Storybook Circus. This gift shop has been underutilized in the last year-plus, as Disney relocated merchandise from here to other shops during the worst of the supply chain shortages. In its place, seating was added here.
Relocated merchandise at Big Top Souvenirs includes the D-Tech on Demand custom phone maker, Star Wars stuff, and Space Mountain souvenirs. It’s worth making the trek over here if you’re interested in ride-specific merchandise, as Space Mountain has a strong product lineup.
Turning to the reimagining of the building formerly known as Tomorrowland Light & Power Co., thematic changes have already started to occur. Most notably, giant gears have been removed from the facade that were above the clock.
It’ll be interesting to see whether more of this changes. While I love the energetic Art Deco stylization (it reminds me of the Rocketeer and Griffith Observatory), it doesn’t fit the future vision of Tomorrowland. However, this also isn’t as noticeable as the gears…so removing the gears but retaining the rest could be yet another half-measure.
There’s a lot of construction activity on the side of the building, continuing to streamline the side next to the walkway back to TRON Lightcycle Run.
There were previously protrusions jutting out from each of the now-removed columns along the building. It’s hard to see where these were, but basically between each set of doors exiting the side of the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co.
In early concept art, it looked like the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. building would be converted into a breezeway through which guests could pass to reach TRON Lightcycle Run.
It’s unclear whether that’s still the plan, but we hope so. The existing path is really narrow, even with the towers removed.
Above is that concept art, for reference.
A lot of this long ago changed. In particular, TRON Lightcycle Run has an approach with flyover ramps instead of stairs (a big improvement), among other things. Of relevance to this post, the Tomorrowland Light and Power Co. building still has its columns in the concept art. Those have since been removed.
We were slightly surprised that Walt Disney World didn’t shorten the Tomorrowland Speedway track around this turn back when that attraction went down for refurbishment and other modifications a few years ago.
That would’ve given TRON Lightcycle Run and Space Mountain a bit more breathing room, making the new addition feel less wedged into a back corner of Tomorrowland. Oh well, I guess.
Still, turning the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. building into a breezeway that flows from Space Mountain courtyard to TRON Lightcycle Run would make the new coaster feel like it’s an actual part of Tomorrowland.
So it’s not too late to make the roller coaster feel like it isn’t a shoehorned addition.
It appears that might be the plan, at least on half of the backside.
More modifications are being prepped in this back corner, including what appears to be an entrance point into the building. It’ll be interesting to see whether this is the only one, or if more of the backside is opened for flow.
It’ll also be interesting to see whether the current construction wall is expanded to encompass the entirety of the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. building. That would allow crews to blow out the front, consistent with that early concept art.
While I’m still hopeful that’ll be the case as it would improve crowd flow, I’m skeptical. It seems like that would have happened alongside the closure of the building.
Regardless of the scope and scale of the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. building modifications, that process will likely last through the fall. That’s in addition to everything else that needs to occur on the ground around TRON Lightcycle Run itself.
It’s still looking like the upcoming holiday season is the earliest likely opening timeframe for the attraction, with Spring 2023 being another realistic possibility.
Speaking of TRON Lightcycle Run, work is now primarily is on the ground, focusing on the flyover and approach walkways. Installation of the ETFE cushion canopy has been finished for a few months. The biomimicry-inspired roof membrane looks awesome when illuminated with show lighting at night.
This canopy also serves a practical purpose: covering guests as they approach and enter the attraction, and allowing the ride to run in the rain. Thankfully, Walt Disney World has learned its lesson on weather-related downtime for indoor/outdoor rides from Test Track.
That’s a wrap on this construction update for the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. Should the wall above grow to cover, we’ll update this with new photos.
Otherwise, stay tuned for more monthly updates on TRON Lightcycle Run. Here’s hoping we only have ~4 more photo reports before that opens and becomes the newest roller coaster at Magic Kingdom!
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What do you think of the changes to Tomorrowland Light & Power Co? Hoping more of the building is opened up for better crowd flow between Space Mountain and TRON Lightcycle Run? Are you excited for the new Magic Kingdom roller coaster, or does it not interest you? Thoughts on the new aesthetic of Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
With the closure of this shop does this mean we can no long purchase the commemorative tiles they made there or has this been moved to another location?
Our last trip in April we used this shop as refuge from some serious rain storms and also discovered we could charge our phones all the way in the rear of store . Charging is hard to find lol
I actually wish they would have removed the gift shop completely or made the profile of the building shorter. There is a lot they could have done to make TRON fit better in TL. In a dream world they would have created a better version of Tomorrowland Speedway which could have opened up the approach of TRON by changing the super boring course that it is currently.
I don’t like gift shops, as a general rule, but have a soft spot for this one.
During our first trip my son rallied in the evening on our last night in the Magic Kingdom. Everyone else in our party left and he and I raced around the park while the crowds thinned. We did Space Mtn., and he suckered me into getting him a “Space Mickey” plush from the gift shop. We finished out looping the Peoplemover a couple times, with his newly found favorite toy in tow. He still takes Space Mickey everywhere. That evening was one of the experiences that really hooked me on the parks (as an adult).
Eagerly awaiting your post on MNSSHP. 🙂 I was so excited when I clicked on the email notification for this, thinking it was about Friday night.
Thanks for the update, though!
That’s going to be a few more days–but I will have an update to the MNSSHP guide sooner!
Although they may not seem like it, the MNSSHP recap/review takes about 10-12 hours to put together, from sorting/editing photos to writing it up. That is significantly longer than the average post.
There’s a lot going on at Walt Disney World this weekend, and we’ve “needed” to be in the parks daily since Thursday (and until Tuesday), so I won’t have enough time to work on that until Wednesday. Sorry!