Enter Disneyland in Anaheim, California, cross through Main Street, USA, make a right, and enter the land of the future. Tomorrowland is one of the original areas of the Disneyland Park, and a fan favorite. Since the beginning, the focus of the futuristic area has been on innovation and possibility.
When Disneyland opened in 1955, Tomorrowland was a mostly empty area. Due to severe budget cuts, park founder Walt Disney had to cut down his grand plans for this section and was forced to accept corporate funding in order to build many of the early rides. Over the early years, Monsanto Chemicals, American Oil, and Dutch Boy Paint all sponsored different rides throughout this area of Disneyland.
The earliest rides in Tomorrowland included Autopia, a miniature car ride through a peaceful road system. When the ride opened with the park, Autopia was meant to give guests a view of the currently-developing highway system across America. Eventually, Disneyland would add other separate versions of the ride before a major remodel in 1999 combined two tracks into the ride in use as of 2008.
Another early attraction was the TWA Moonliner and its companion attraction, Rocket to the Moon. For many years, the huge replica Moonliner rocket ship was the largest structure in the park, until the massive Disneyland mountains were constructed. Although the original structure is gone, a small model of the Moonliner still lives at Disneyland, outside of Red Rockett’s Pizza Port. Rocket to the Moon featured a simulated mission to circle around the moon, using movie screens above, below and surrounding the audience. The popular ride went through a variety of different adaptations before being permanently closed in 1998.
Over the first few decades of operation, Disneyland tried many new attractions and shows in the Tomorrowland area. A long-lost fan favorite is the largely plastic House of the Future, built and furnished with the latest technology of the late 1950s. The Astro Jets, a tall spinning rocket ride, opened in 1956 and has since been replaced with the striking Astro Orbiter. In the 1970s, an indoor roller coaster called Space Mountain opened, sending visitors on a wild ride through star fields. Disney also partnered with George Lucas in 1987, to create Star Tours, one of the first virtual reality rides to be built.
In 1998, Disneyland underwent a tremendous style change billed as the New Tomorrowland. Changes included the addition of the Rocket Rods ride, a short-lived attraction known for its incredibly long waiting time. Much of the area was painted in a color scheme of bronze and blue, meant supposedly to invoke a 19th century feel for science and technology. Reactions to the updates were decidedly mixed.
Fearing fan criticism that Tomorrowland was quickly becoming Yesterdayland, Disney officials ordered a second update of the park in 2005 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the park. Other than the alchemic-appearing Astro Orbiter, the color schemes were changed to a futuristic blue and white, and huge murals were installed depicting space scenes. After a long rehabilitation, Space Mountain was reopened with a new track, new effects and new music. Another innovation was the opening of Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, an interactive ride where guests use laser guns to shoot aliens and receive points.
Tomorrowland remains one of the most popular sections of the park, but the constant need for updates concerns many longtime fans. Even with recent additions, the area centers around the mid 20th century space race and relies on technology sometimes decades old. However, many Disneyland fans view the area as sweetly nostalgic, reminding visitors of a time when touching the stars became possible, and riding rockets to work could be only a few years away.