Tomorrowland – Part Six

Jack Spence Masthead

Over the last five weeks, I’ve provided you with a history of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland up until 1994.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 – Tomorrowland An Overview – Flight to the Moon – Mission to Mars
Part 2 – Circle-Vision movies – If You Had Wings – Dream Flight
Part 3 – Skyway – Star Jets – WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 – Carousel of Progress.
Part 5 – Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway

Today I’m going to take a look at this futuristic land from that date forward. But before I do this, let’s take a look back at Disneyland in its infancy.

The original Tomorrowland at Disneyland was supposed to represent the date 1986, the year Halley’s Comet would return. Long before 1986 arrived, this land received a major makeover and reopened in 1967 with an all-new vision of the future.

Shortly before Disneyland’s remodeled Tomorrowland debuted, planning had begun on the Magic Kingdom’s version of this land. In many ways, the ideas, concepts, and architecture mirrored its West Coast cousin. Yet both Tomorrowlands would soon be experiencing the same problem. They would become “Todayland” and soon “Yesterdayland.” Technology was greatly outpacing Disney’s ability to keep up with the times, not to mention their budget.

When planning began for Disneyland Paris, the Imagineers knew they needed to address this problem. Although Michael Eisner was originally against their plans, they eventually convinced him to create Discoveryland rather than another Tomorrowland. This new concept would feature many of the same attractions found at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but with a new theme. Instead of a futuristic look at tomorrow, they would look back in time and create worlds envisioned by HG Wells and Jules Verne. In other words, they would create timeless architecture that didn’t need to be remodeled or replaced every ten years.





By the late 1980’s, the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland had become Yesterdayland. Peoplemovers could be found in airports, rendering the one found here commonplace. Space travel had become routine making Mission to Mars a ho-hum attraction. Jet travel was an everyday happening rendering Dreamflight a bore. And the CircleVision 360 movie did not excite the younger generation. Not to mention, the architecture was in many ways similar to Future World over at Epcot. Something needed to be done.

The Imagineers’ first thoughts were to create another Discoveryland. However, Euro Disney was hemorrhaging the company’s pocketbooks at that time and a less expensive alternative needed to be found. To that end, they came up with an idea for a futuristic city. One that might have existed in the novels, movies, and comic books of the 1920’s and 30’s. And the name for this futuristic city would be “Tomorrowland.” Tomorrowland would be the interplanetary hub for space travelers and the home of the League of Planets.

(Have you ever wondered why only half of Tomorrowland received an extensive makeover? You can blame Disneyland Paris.)

One of the first things to be removed from the old Tomorrowland were the tall spires that flanked the entrance. These would be replaced with an elaborate sign announcing the arrival to this space port.

Old Tomorrowland Entrance

Old Tomorrowland Entrance

Old Tomorrowland Entrance

Old Tomorrowland Entrance

The next change to the entrance would be the addition of rock formations that look somewhat otherworldly. Nestled into this landscape are a couple of nondescript structures. We’re not quite sure if they are spacecraft, futuristic dwellings, or some type of machinery.

Tomorrowland Rocks

Tomorrowland Rocks

Space Stuff

Space Stuff

Embedded in the pavement are images of gears and sprockets. These help tell the story of a futuristic city as seen by visionaries of the past. This was a time when great thinkers could not imagine transistors, circuit boards, or wifi. They couldn’t bring their minds out of the machine age.

Tomorrowland Pavement.jpg

Tomorrowland Pavement

Tomorrowland Pavement

As with all good cities, Tomorrowland has a signpost announcing the many service organizations found in their community. At the top of the signpost are the following words, “The future that never was, is finally here.”

Some of the service signs read:






Tomorrowland Sign Post

Also near the entrance to this fine city are several posters advertising the convention facilities and some of the special events currently taking place in nearby venues. This first poster advertises the Tomorrowland Towers Hover-Hotel. The fine print tells us that they offer gravity and antigravity suites, helpful robot valets, easy access landing pads, and more.

Tomorrowland Towers Hover-Hotel

This next poster is promoting the Space Home & Garden Show. Attending this event will educate you in the areas of interplanetary timeshare options, instant flower and vegetable gardens, and undersea townhouse communities.

Space Home & Garden Show

Currently appearing in town is Leonard Burnedstar. He is conducting the Martian Pops Orchestra. Tonight’s performance includes “The Opus Outer Space Concerto in Ursa Minor.” Special guest stars include Sirius, Centauri, and Procyon.

Leonard Burnedstar

Over at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café we see that Sonny Eclipse is headlining. We also learn that the Starlight Café is the first Earth restaurant franchise from outer space.

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café

There are a few other posters in this area. Be sure to check them out and read the small print. They really help tell the backstory of Tomorrowland.

The most significant changes to Tomorrowland can be seen along the entrance corridor. The first picture below is an artist rendering of Tomorrowland’s main thoroughfare. The second is a picture I took recently. I’d say the architects and construction engineers did a pretty good job of capturing the Imagineers’ ideas.

Tomorrowland Concept Drawing

Tomorrowland Today

Here are a few more pictures of this area. Keep in mind when viewing them, this area is supposed to represent a futuristic city as seen through the eyes of visionaries of the 1920’s and 30’s. Also try to remember how symmetrical the old Tomorrowland was. The buildings along this corridor were almost mirror images of each other. Today, they are anything but.

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, the Mission to Mars attraction was showing its age by the late 1980’s and sophisticated audiences were abandoning it for more high tech fare over at EPCOT Center’s Future World. Mr. Johnson welcomed his last passengers at the Magic Kingdom on October 4, 1993.

When Michael Eisner joined Disney as CEO in 1984, the company was creating bland movies and bland theme park attractions. The younger generation was keenly aware of this and was abandoning Disney for more edgy fare. Michael recalls a story where he overheard a teenage boy lament that he couldn’t wait until he was an adult so he could come to the Disney parks with his kids. In other words, Disney wasn’t cool unless it was being enjoyed by small children and their parents. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter would be one of the ways Eisner would try and combat this problem.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

As I mentioned earlier, Tomorrowland was being transformed into a hub for interplanetary space travelers and the home to the League of Planets. The space left vacant by Mission to Mars would become the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center and play host to various exhibits and shows. Mention of this venue and an upcoming event can be seen on a nearby sign advertising a Space Collectibles Convention.

Space Collectibles Convention

When guests arrived in the refurbished Tomorrowland, they found that an off-planet consumer company, X-S Tech (Excess Tech), was currently using the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center and giving demonstrations.

X-S Tech

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, or simply Alien Encounter, first opened on December 16, 1994. Soon after, Guest Relations received many complaints about the attraction. People felt that the lighthearted preshow did not adequately prepare the audience for the frightening nature of the main presentation. In addition, the storyline was difficult to follow because unrelenting screams drowned out the show. This prompted Eisner to close Alien Encounter for a reworking. After minor and major changes, it reopened on June 20, 1995.

The experience began in a holding area outside the Convention Center. Two metal doors would soon grant us access to the center’s lobby. Above the doors was a plaque with the following words:


The galaxy’s #1 authority in technological innovation invites you to experience its latest achievement


This exhibition is made possible by the TOMORROWLAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Alien Encounter Entrance

Alien Encounter Entrance

In the lobby, several futuristic television monitors were mounted overhead. While waiting to be welcomed by our host, these displayed other events taking place at the Convention Center. Some of these included:




Soon these advertisements were replaced with the face of an alien woman (played by Tyra Banks). She welcomed us to today’s demonstration and gave us a brief history of X-S Tech.

“We began many galactic years ago on a world quite distant from your own. From one small manufacturing plant, we’ve grown into the largest consumer-oriented research and development company in the universe. X-S Tech is number one in Electro Robotics, Cryo Cybernetics, Techno Surveillance, Planetary Restructuring, Genetic Engineering, and Hyperspatial Transport.”

X-S Tech

We were then introduced to L.C. Clench (played by Jeffrey Jones), the current chairman of X-S Tech. He told us that his market research had discovered earth and its many eager customers. He went on to assure us that his company only wanted to help less fortunate planets and profits were a byproduct that they have had to learn to live with. He ended his speech with these chilling words: “If something can’t be done with X-S then it shouldn’t be done at all.”

As the light levels rose, another set of automatic doors opened and guests proceeded to the first observation area. Here we met Skippy, a cuddly six-legged creature with a protruding nose. We also met S.I.R. which we soon learned stood for Simulated Intelligence Robotics.

S.I.R. and Skippy

With an arrogantly evil tone, S.I.R. (voiced by Tim Curry) explained to us how he would painlessly transport Skippy from a chamber on the left side of the room to another on the right. S.I.R. then began pushing buttons and Skippy vanished into a cloud of smoke while in the background we heard his painful screams. When Skippy rematerialized in the second chamber, we saw that his fur was singed, his eyes were rolling, and sparks were arcing from his antenna. S.I.R. then said, “Oh, shut up, scruffy! You’re not burned; you’ve just got a healthy glow.”

S.I.R. next told us that the process could be reversed and pressed another button. Skippy again disappeared, but this time did not reappear in the first chamber. S.I.R. informed us that Skippy could be suspended”¦ indefinitely.

With the demonstration complete, we moved to the main convention area for a larger example of the teleportation process. This time, L.C. Clench would be teleported from his home planet to Earth where he would be able to meet with all of us in person. Of course, things went horribly wrong and instead of transporting Clench, a carnivorous monster was thrust upon us. For the next several minutes our sense of sight was greatly reduced or non-existent as the creature flew around the room, walked on the backs of our chairs, breathed on our necks, and actually touched us with his tongue. We heard blood-curdling screams and bones crunching. We were even splattered with monster guts during the terrifying finale. The experience was truly frightening.

Alien Encounter

Alien Encounter

Each theatre held 162 guests and the entire presentation from the outer lobby to the finale was 18 minutes in length.

Many of these effects could be generated by the use of a new chair. Once seated, an “analysis module” lowered and surrounded our upper body. Within this analysis module was a state-of-the-art sound system that created crystal clear sound effects. Sub-woofers were positioned within the seat base. And more speakers were located around the room. Also found in the analysis module were the effects that allowed us to feel the creature’s breath and suffer the touch of his tongue.

Alien Encounter Chair

Most teenagers and adults enjoyed Alien Encounter. It even had a cult following among some guests. They felt it was a refreshing change from the lighter fare offered in the rest of the Magic Kingdom. However, many parents had a different take on the attraction.

Disney posted numerous warning signs outside Alien Encounter telling parents that this attraction was not suitable for children under the age of twelve. Eventually, they forbid children under the age of seven or shorter than 48 inches tall from the show entirely. Cast members also did their best to dissuade those with little ones from entering. Yet parents continually ignored the warnings and took their kids where they had no business being. Numerous parents could not believe the Disney would create an attraction that wasn’t suitable for the entire family. Many a child left Alien Encounter in tears and too terrified to ride any other attraction. Vacations were ruined.

After eight years of complaints, Disney had had enough and closed Alien Encounter on October 12, 2003. I, for one, was sad to see it go.

When Disney spends a truckload of money on an attraction, they hope to get more than eight years use out of it. So when the Imagineers started brainstorming for a replacement idea, they wanted to come up with something that could reuse as much of the existing structure and hardware as possible. They were also looking for an attraction that would appeal to younger children. Thus, “Stitch’s Great Escape” was born and opened on November 16, 2004.

Stitch's Great Escape

Stitch's Great Escape

To accommodate this attraction, the backstory of Tomorrowland had to be altered somewhat. This building is no longer the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center but rather the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center. This can be seen on a plaque above the main entrance doors of this attraction.

Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center

Once inside the building, guests see the same bank of television monitors that were used in Alien Encounter (tweaked minimally). When they are activated, we are informed by the Grand Councilwoman and Captain Gantu that we have been recruited to be guards in the Galactic Federation.

The characters here are animated in the “flat” 2D style as was the movie “Lilo & Stitch.” I understand the logic of this. It creates continuity. But in today’s environment where characters are given a fuller, three-dimensional look (and are actually projected in 3D), these individuals look cartoonish.

Overhead TV Monitors

Grand Councilwoman and Captain Ganto

When the initial orientation ends, we move to another briefing room where Sergeant C4703BK2704-90210 (“Sarge” voiced by Richard Kind) furthers our galactic prisoner education. Skippy is also present in chamber one.

Somehow Sarge looks suspiciously like S.I.R., only with a new mouth, chin and eyes hidden behind large glasses. He is also dressed in some sort of galactic law enforcement uniform to hide his former body.


Where S.I.R. was sinister, Sarge is an imbecile. The Imagineers created this character to lighten the mood and promote a comical situation. And Richard Kind’s voice is a perfect match for Sarge’s personality.

During this second briefing, a Level 1 criminal is captured. Referred to as “The Donut Guy,” he was apprehended for sucking all of the jelly out of jelly donuts. He is then beamed into the empty chamber onstage. Sarge scolds him and tells him he will be sent to his cell, this time with no milk. Once again, the similarity between the singed Skippy from Alien Encounter and The Donut Guy is remarkable.

Captain Gantu interrupts this encounter to tell us that a Level 3 prisoner has been captured and we must move to the High Security Level 3 Teleportation Chamber. Upon hearing this, Sarge “oils” himself.

As with the previous two rooms, the Level 3 Teleportation Chamber reused the Alien Encounter sets. The only noticeable differences are the addition of two laser canons and galactic lettering.

Level 3 Teleportation Chamber

After everyone is seated and the DNA Scanners lowered around our bodies, the teleportation process begins and Stitch is beamed into a chamber located in the middle of the room. Of course, he escapes soon after and havoc ensues. As with Alien Encounter, much of the action takes place in the dark. Stitch bounces on our shoulders, touches us, and inflicts his chilidog breath on us. When the lights are on, the two laser cannons frantically try to hit and subdue Stitch as he spits on the audience. In the end, he escapes from the Teleportation Chamber and travels to Walt Disney World. Cameras capture him climbing Cinderella Castle before licking the camera lens. Having lost the Level 3 prisoner, Captain Gantu releases us and we exit into either Mickey’s Star Traders or Merchant of Venus.

The reaction to Stitch’s Great Escape is mixed. Those who like or love the character Stitch are generally pleased with this attraction. Those that are ambivalent or don’t “get” Stitch, generally don’t like this replacement for Alien Encounter. I fall into this second camp.

I believe Disney has “dumbed” down Stitch’s Great Escape to an unacceptable level. I understand that the mature nature of Alien Encounter was causing management headaches, but Stitch’s Great Escape is too juvenile. And unfortunately, it did not really accomplish its goal of becoming a kid-friendly attraction. Many children are still terrified when thrust into extended darkness accompanied by loud noises. While experiencing this attraction the other day, I could hear several small children crying and some screaming in terror.

It was also after the opening of Stitch’s Great Escape that some people began grumbling about Tomorrowland becoming “Fantasyland 2.” Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin had opened nearby six years earlier and now this second attraction based on animated characters was invading what once had been a mecca for science fact and science fiction. Little did they know that in three more years, more cartoon characters would be taking up residence here.

Mickey’s Star Traders can be seen from the People Mover as it passes by this shop on its way to Space Mountain. Be sure to look at the art deco graphics that line the walls in this gift shop.

Mickey's Star Traders

Mickey's Star Traders

Mickey's Star Traders

Merchant of Venus has continued the Stitch theme with several murals displaying animated aliens roaming about Tomorrowland. Stitch can also be seen sticking his head out of the ceiling. Both shops sell typical Disney souvenirs.

Merchant of Venus

Merchant of Venus

Merchant of Venus

Well, that’s it for Part Six. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing The Timekeeper, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

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17 Replies to “Tomorrowland – Part Six”

  1. I went on Alien Encounter right after it opened before the first changes back in 1994 (I was 21) and from what I remember it was much, much more intense than after the changes in 1995. I can’t remember exactly what was different but I was scared and couldn’t believe that they put this attraction in. The second version wasn’t nearly as scary, and not just because I knew what was coming. Does anyone remember or know what changed between 94/95? An Stitch is my favorite character out of all Disney so I still like that attraction only because the animatronic is so cool

  2. Hi Jack,
    Love the series about Tomorrowland.
    How ironic that you write about the design of DLP’s Discoveryland that it shouldn’t need a refresh every 10 years, however that is exactly what happened to DLP’s Space mountain when it was dumbed down to the “mission 2”, just for marketing purposes.
    Also the replacement of Le Visionarium (the French Timekeeper) with a totally non-fitting Buzz breaks the timelessness of Discoveryland big time.
    Thanks for writing your great blogs. It’s much appreciated.

    Jack’s Comment:

    You are correct, the attractions have been changed over the years, but the exterior of Discoveryland, has for the most part, remained intact.

    Following your train of thought, I never thought Star Tours or Honey, I Shrunk the Audience fit with the exterior theming of Discoveryland.

  3. Alien Encounters scared the bejeesus out of me and my brother, but that was all part of the fun! Stitch…mmeh not so much

    Again, thanks for a great series!

    On a non related note:

    So now that you have lived there a while,
    how is the new house working out?

  4. Jack,

    Great blog again. I am in total agreement with you. Adding Stitch was dumb, I really loved Alien Encounter. I skip Stitch.

    On a related topic, I think Disney should incorporate more “Tron” into Tomorrowland. Thats futuristic. You could change the Stitch ride into “Flynn’s Arcade” and have you teleported into the World of Tron. EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Anyways, thanks for the rant.

  5. Hi LOVED the Alien Encounter! I had heard the rumour that it was interactive, the more you screamed, the more thrills you would get. So my I would scream my heads off! lots of fun!!!

  6. Thanks for another great article, Jack. I’m afraid that I am one of those who thought that Alien Encounter was not an appropriate attraction for WDW, especially in the Magic Kingdom. I was 20 years old when it opened, and, even then, I felt that the Magic Kingdom should be a light-hearted place separated from the crassness(?) of mainstream culture.
    That being said, I think Stitch’s Great Escape is terrible. I skip the whole thing now. I’m looking forward to some new ideas from the Imagineers!

  7. Hi Jack –

    I’ve been on all of the attractions in this building. When I first saw Alien in September 1995, an interesting thing happened. Shortly after the lights went off the 1st time, a woman began hysterically screaming. The lights came on, the show stopped and Cast Members calmed the lady down. The show resumed and the lights went off. The terrified screams were everywhere. However, when the lights came on at the end of the show the the hysterical lady was gone. I always wondered if the lady was a “plant” meant to freak out the audience further. I rode Alien a number of times and always felt that Alien would have been a better fit at The Studios.

    As for Stitch, I’ve seen it a few times, too. First time, in 2006, I had that cockamamie chili-dog smell stuck in my nose for hours. We now use it to kill time waiting for dining ADRs and Fast Passes and to get out of the rain or heat for a bit. The best part is Richard Kind, who fits his character to a tee!

    Happy July 4th!!!

    – Jeff

  8. My parents were in the group that did not heed the warnings, although they knew they had no one to blame but themselves and wouldn’t have gone to management over something so silly.
    I was seven when I first rode this and my dad did a good job of selling me on the alien bit, telling me it was the only one in captivity in the world. Naturally, I was terrified at the time and I walked out in tears, but now I chuckle to think of it and the dirty looks my mom gave my dad for letting me ride in the first place.

  9. Ok one of the people responding to your blog kinda likes Stitch but that is the first positive thing I have ever seen anyone say about it. We avoid it when we go but it never ceases to amaze me how many people are queuing to get onto the Stitch attraction. I suppose lots of people must like it or Disney would have done something about it by now. In my opinion it’s the worst attraction at WDW. But I suppose it wouldn’t do if we all were the same and all liked the same things.

  10. Great information here Jack! Love to learn all the facts behind all the changes and so forth. I am curious and wanted to know if you plan to cover the Tomorrowland Terrace and the defunct noodle station that is almost never open in this series?

    Jack’s Answer:

    The name Tomorrowland Terrace has been used for two locations. Originally, what is now Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, was called Tomorrowland Terrace. I will be covering this location. I will not be discussing the location between Tomorrowland and Main Street.

  11. Hi Jack!

    Still thoroughly enjoying this series. I remember going on Alien Encounters when I was on a high school band trip just a year or two after it opened. Definitely scary fun, and it’s a shame that some of those parents didn’t have enough common sense to heed the warnings about the experience, or weren’t able to accept that there was something in the park that might be inappropriate for young kids. It was certainly the most talked-about attraction amongst the students on our trip, and in a good way. My husband and I are going to Disney later this year- Stitch’s Great Escape will not be on our list of things to do.

  12. I was elated with the remodel of Tomorrowland in 1994. Then again, I love Art Deco, and the “new” Tomorrowland definitely has an Art Deco theme. Although I “get” Stitch,” I agree with you about how poor a replacement it is for Alien Encounter. I really loved Alien Encounter, and I feel it’s just another loss due to irresponsible parents not listening to warnings. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.

    The first time I experienced Alien Encounter, I was with my best friend. We were in our early 40s, and it scared the heck out of him. He really didn’t like the feeling of being trapped by the “analysis module.” It didn’t bother me, and I thought the show was fantastic.

    While the building exteriors are fantastic, (IMO), I feel that Tomorrowland really needs something more. I’m not exactly sure what that would be, but it’s really lacking that “educational” quality of the earlier Tomorrowlands, but we DO have Innoventions at Epcot now. What can I say, I still miss “Adventure thru Inner Space” at Disneyland.

  13. Jack- love your articles! Can hardly wait for Mondays ! Lol. My family also misses the original Alien Encounter and once was enough for Stitch!

  14. Another nice blog. I think some people may still complain about it, but I like the metallic sort-of-future look of the new Tomorrowland. I wish they would actually embrace the idea of a sci-fi city even more than they already do. That’s why I liked the TTA narration that included traffic reports, etc.

    I kind of liked Alien Encounter, too. I do think it’s a shame Disney basically can’t have a more adult attraction just because parents don’t pay attention to any warnings. That’s something that’s always annoyed me, since there are other attractions with warnings posted that are ignored. Very little kids shouldn’t be in something like It’s Tough to Be a Bug, but many people still go in and leave with a scared child.

    Eisner is someone really villified by a lot of WDW fans, but I can see his reasoning on trying to aim something at older kids. Walt Disney created DL to have a place for adults and kids. Why not try to get the in-between young people in there, too? I do however, kind of like Stitch, because it’s a character that doesn’t necessarily fit into the squeaky clean reputation of Disney characters. I don’t want to get a new, “edgy” version of Mickey Mouse or anything, but why not just one character like that?

  15. Nice work, Jack. I didn’t realize how much I liked Alien Encounter until I saw the mess with the same technology with Stitch. I have a similar feeling about The Timekeeper (though the tech is different), which I like even more. While I love the DLP Discoveryland, I’ve been frustrated by WDW’s Tomorrowland. It was easily my favorite land as a kid, but that isn’t true anymore.

  16. Hey Jack
    Another great blog. As I’ve said before, I love learning about the history behind the parks and it was interesting to learn about the other tomorrowland’s. As for Stitch, it is one of those one and done attractions for me. Can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  17. Hi Jack! Actually, I should say Good Morning!

    I truly miss Alien Encounter. I thought it was creepy fun.

    I never understood the replacement with Stitch’s Great Escape. The part when he burps up chili dog always makes me gag. Honestly, the only reason I even visit this attraction, is because it is air conditioned, and I can close my eyes and relax for a few minutes (despite the obnoxiousness of the attraction’s namesake). 🙂