Podcast Episode 1 – Planning for Tomorrow

Listen to the Episode:

Find Us Here:

Welcome to the First Episode of the Retro Disney World Podcast.  We have had lots of great feedback thus far, we hope you enjoy the first official episode!.  


The regular crew is all here, Todd, Brian, How & JT are all present and accounted for.

Comments & Corrections

Apologize for the sound quality of the last podcast, they are trying a new system to improve the audio.

Roy’s Cabin – WDW has confirmed there was a fishing cabin on the property and there is aerial footage that will be put on the website. 

Last episode they discussed how expensive a 3 minute film cost to Kodak film pricing, in 1981 it cost $10-12 Silent was $16-17 adjusted for inflation, with sound was $25

Thre is not a lot of information available about the Lifetime pass.  Apparently, it was offered if you were selected.  It cost $500-$1000 at the time.  They will look for more information. 

Main Topic

This first episode takes us to the early days of Tomorrowland, or the small area with two attractions that was referred to as Tomorrowland in ’71. How goes into many great details about what happened and how it all began. The Grand Prix Raceway, If You Had Wings, and Mission to Mars and others are discussed in crystal clear retro detail and of course we make our way around the rest of the land as well. And here are links to some videos of MtM:

Brian’s quintessential Tomorrowland attraction is Carousel of Progress.  JT’s is Space Mountain, and Todd’s is People Mover.  None of those were running on Opening Day.  On Opening Day in Tomorrowland there were 2 attractions running, they were The Grand Prix Raceway and The Skyway from Fantasyland.  Disneyland’s Tomorrowland redo was opened in 1967, so why wasn’t that copied to WDW so more was open.  If you look back at blueprints between 1968 and 1971 things are shifting where there was Holidayland, which was the corporate picnic area with playgrounds.  There was a concept of Space Mountain that looked like a circus tent with rockets.  There was Autotopia where the track split, had cloverleafs and there were waterfalls.   How has a theory that a lot of the sponsors of the Tomorrowland attractions came in and out.  Flight to the Moon was not supposed to be where it ended up, in the early plans an RCA attraction called Alice in Computerland that John Hench kept pushing, and there was also Computerama on the plans at one point in those theaters.  RCA instead wanted to sponsor Space Mountain, but in the original plans Space Mountain was 200 feet tall.  Space Mountain started out as something in Disneyland and in order to get the capacity they wanted it was originally an 8 track plan, which got budgeted down to a 4 track plan.  They were going to contract the Arrow Company that did the Matterhorn and other Disneyland rides.  There is a model of that and then Disney was going to figure out how to cap it with the circus tent stuff.  Budget cuts changed the design to a 2 track design.  There was also a single car design, and that design is where the cars came outside.  Claude Coats had elaborate plans for a rotating hub inside so it looked like the astronauts were rotating around, but it was too expensive.  They did keep his audio anamatronics in the post show. 

The reason for the switch from Autotopia to the Grand Prix was because Goodyear sponsored the PeopleMover in California which used rubber tires to push it along.  Autotopia was sponsored by Richmond Oil which did not exist on the East Coast, so they would not have been a good sponsor.  Gulf Oil could have been the sponsor, but they chose to sponsor the Hospitality House instead, because they were setting up service stations which were safe and comfortable to stop.  Disney needed attractions in Tomorrowland, so they started to make compromises.  Goodyear switched to sponsoring Autotopia, but the story of driving in California doesn’t make sense on the East Coast, but Grand Prix racing was big for Goodyear.  The different turns in the track were modeled after different race tracks to give you the racetrack feel.  Out of the starting gate the left going up the embankment is representative of Indianapolis.  The other tracks represented were Monaco, Watkins Glen, and Monza.  On the back wall there were huge paintings of the other tracks.  The only changes is that the track has been changed.  It was lengthened in 1973, but then shortened, once when Mickey’s Birthdayland was built and again when the new Dumbo was built.  The cars are small versions of 1970’s Corvettes.  Bob Gurr styled the cars, he was friends with the guy who styled the Corvette but he claimed they both developed the idea independently.  The Skyway turn was at the GrandPrix, and there was a guy there watching the turns.  Strangely after the turn you went back up really high for a couple hundred feet.  The Skyway design left room for a Matterhorn   that was initially in the plans. 

Flight to the Moon was a popular attraction when it opened in the December 1971 (Stitch is in the space now).  The Space Race was still going on to a point, and the Nasa rockets with the logo was very prominent.  It initially opened unsponsored and was a copy of the ride that existed at Disneyland.  You walked into the waiting area and watch the countdown clock which was a flip type counter like a 1970’s clock radio.  The roofline at the top of the waiting room was wavy & it was painted with 70’s colors.  There were also bigger windows so you could watch people outside.  The ride was set in the future where people would routinely take a trip to the Moon.  Three doors would open and you’d go into the preshow room where you’d look through the glass at a control room.  The back there was a row of computers with tiny monitors, staffed by audio anamatronic characters. Dr. Johnson stood in the middle.  The next row there were stations staffed by audio anamatronics named liked they would be at NASA.  On the back wall was a giant screen where Dr. Johnson in his silver suit and he showed you a rocket launch and a reentry and explained basic facts about Moon Flight.  There was alive hostess who would interact with Dr. Johnson.  When it was updated to Mission to Mars in 1975, it was sponsored by MacDonell-Douglas one of the scientists was changed to be female. They used some footage from Skylab and the Mariner probe to make it as futuristic as possible.  When they were talking about the flight you were about to take, there was footage of a squat rocket that was very realistic, but it was actually fake. That was used for both versions of the ride, only some of the dialogue was changed except for the gaga about the albatross that flew into the sensors.  The hostess would take you into one of 2 rooms for the ride and there were screens on the floor and ceiling.  There was tiered seating and no seatbelts.  There was a little side footage as well. The show lasted for 17 minutes and was mostly audio.    They started with a liftoff.  During Flight to the Moon they would bring up on the wall screen, 3 astronauts who were on a lunar base who would talk to you about moon facts.  You can see parts of this film in a Walt Disney presents show called, “From Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow”.  In Mission to Mars there was an in cabin narrator named Third Officer Collins who was voiced by Pete Renaday who voiced many attractions. The technology had advanced far enough that you would go into hyperspace and fly to Mars.  He explained how precise thee landing needed to be and some of the aspects of Mars.  Then they sent out 2 rockeet probs to show you what was out there.  A very elaborate model was built of the caldera on Mars to film the footage.  It was very impressive except for during the freak meteor storm which looks like someone is holding up a black and white picture of the caldera and shaking it back and forth.  The edge of the photograph is actually visible.   The attraction has hydraulic seats which would push down during takeoff and pop up again when you hit orbit.  The attractions ran for 17 years. The attraction ran on film.  The movie projectors had a catch so that the film could be caught and run on a continuous loop.  There were many spare films in case of breakage. 

America The Beautiful was another Tomorrowland attraction that was running at Opening.  It was a Circle Vision movie which was a travel log of America that stopped in Annapolis, Williamsburg, across the US eventually making your way to Hawaii.  It ran until 1973-1974.  That was replaced by Magic Carpet Around the World which ran for a year until it was pulled for the BiCentennial and a new America the Beautiful movie was run. 

In 1971, Tomorrowland was not an exciting place for a kid.  In 1972, the opened up If You Had Wings, finally a rides.  Eastern Airlines was the Official airline of WDW at the time.  The ride was manufactured by Arrow.  It was rear projection that was shown in front of an omnimover ride.  This ride was the grandfather of El Rio de Tiempo.  They had a limited budget, so they figured out what they could do well.  They also did not use a lot of space for this attraction.  The space was set up for Adventures through Living Space which was done by the same designer, Claude Coats.  The lines going back and forth like under a mighty microscope.  There was a globe with a hole with a jet plane attached to the side.  The attraction did not have any structure, only plywood buildings and cruise ships.  The most structure was in the Mexico section you went under a stone head.  Each of the stops from Eastern’s Carribean and South American routes had one room dedicated to it. The final room was the speed tunnel.  In the late 1980’s when Eastern pulled out, it became If you Can Fly.  That was before Delta’s Dreamflight.  When you exited the ride, to the right was a forgotten area that was the Tomorrowland Stage.

The Star Jets were mimicking the Apollo Missions and the launch vehicles.  The cars were all themed after the lifting body experiments that NASA was doing at the time.  It was very effective for a kid since it was really nothing more than Dumbo on the third floor.  It always seemed faster and tighter than Dumbo.  It also had great views of Tomorrowland. 

Around the base of the Star Jets was the PeopleMover, which really hasn’t changed since it opened, only the rides around it have changed.  It gave the first sneak peak into Space Mountain, when the lights were actually on and you could see the track more.  You could look down through If You Had Wings, If You Could Fly, or Dreamflight.  There was never much of a line and there was the speed ramp.  It is a brilliant system.  It uses a linear induction motor.  The basic concept is that there are a bunch of electromagnets on the track.  There is a big metal plate on the bottom of the vehicle.  As your vehicle is approaching the electromagnet has positive polarity and pulls you toward it, as you pass over, it reverses the polarity and pushes you off of it.  It’s efficient and reliable as when it’s not being used.  Also, the only moving parts are the wheels, so very little wear.   The system was in development when Walt was nearing the end of his life.  There’s a great picture of a segment of the track in a parking lot and some guys riding it.  Disney tried in the 1970’s to have a separate business to market this for commercial applications.  They sold one to the Houston airport. 

Viewer Mail

From Mark, we discuss the question “Do you recall the smell that exists in the dinosaur section of Universe of Energy?”

Mark asked about the smell as you entered the dinosaur area of Universe of Energy.   It was some sort of swampy, mustiness to simulate the era of peat and decomposing.  It was thanks to the Smell-i-tiser technology that they introduced in EPCOT.   There was also a scent machine used in the Polynesian Lobby for a time, which may have been related to the fountain.  There was mention of  the lava flow and the machine they used for that was originally for pet food canning.  Todd discusses the distinct smell under Spaceship Earth, they think from the burning Rome smell coming down, maybe the odor of the ride. 

– Send your questions to podcast@retrowdw.com

Audio Puzzler

Congratulations to Jared for winning the Preview Episode Audio Puzzler, the answer was “Legacy” which played in the EPCOT Center entrance area. If you think you know the answer to the audio puzzler, email us! podcast@retrowdw.com  We will enter all correct answers into a drawing for retro prizes! 

Film Restoration

In this episode, we watch and discuss two films that have been restored with Pixcel and Imageworks.  Follow along with us as we add color commentary to these two classics from ’71 & ’72.  Two films that have been restored with Pixcel and Imageworks.  These are the 2 most popular films on the site.  Both films feature the frogs of the Jungle Cruise. 

In the 1971 video, the Christmas decorations are out.  The color on the film is great.  The pan that starts at the ice cream shop and takes you all around the hub is great and shows off the 6 week old park.  It looks like the Plaza Pavillion is under construction as you look toward Tomorrowland.  There’s also a picture of the original swan boat dock, which was eventually moved more towards Tomorrowland from in front of the Plaza restaurant.  The trees are still small, so there is a better view.  You can see that Tomorrowland was sponsored by Coke & last episode it was discussed that Frontierland was Pepsi.  The water of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was crystal clear.  No mermaids or pirates were introduced to WDW because there was Crystal Springs that had a famous mermaid attraction, and Florida had a history of real pirates.  The Jungle Cruise footage is very sparce because the vegetation hasn’t grown in yet.  The gags that are part of the attractions are more easily seen without all the overgrowth. There are great shots of the remainder of the park and the original 2 stacj steamboat. 

In the 1972 film, the restoration came out very well.  It starts out on Main Street and there is a great pan into Fantasyland Plaza.  You can see Dumbo, the castle, and 2 skyway buckets crossing right behind the castle.  There are not huge crowds pictured.  There are open spaces, no strollers.  There are great shots of the Bertha Mae and Tom Sawyer’s Island with the cabin burning.  There is a band that is seen in many videos.  They are playing on the edge of Frontierland, by Tom Sawyer’s Island in this film, wearing red jackets.  They are holding Pepsi cups in Frontierland.  There are totem poles shown near the Frontierland train station which get relocated to the banks of the Rivers of America, near the boat launch after the Splash Mountain attraction gets built.  The original Frontierland train station design started out in the WDW film, So Dear to My Heart.  Ward Kimball was doing his full size back yard railway and was given the one from the movie which he put in his Grizzly Flats railway station.  When Disneyland was built, they copied it and this one is another close copy.  This railroad station also appears in the American Adventure in EPCOT during the 2 brother’s sequence, which was filmed in Disneyland.

The film has great shots of the Main Street vehicles and great segment riding the Skyway.  It takes you over Twenty Thousand Leagues and the teacups without the canopy on it.  There are shots of the Tomorrowland construction, you can see the Tomorrowland stage in use.  Behind the stage are just trailers, and much of Tomorrowland is walled off.  There is also a shot of a Crocodile crying in the Jungle Cruise, another gag that can no longer been seen.    

Listener Memories

Keep the calls coming, sharing your memories and giving us feedback. If you would like to call and leave us a message, please dial 978-71-RETRO.

Tweet at us, send us a Facebook post or message, tag us on Instagram or send us your thoughts.

We hope you have enjoyed this episode! If you have any questions, suggestions or find errors please email us podcast@retrowdw.com.

Next Month

Be sure to check back with us very soon for Episode #2 focusing on the Contemporary Resort. 

Until next time, “Kindly move all the way to the end of the aisle, filling in all available spaces…”

Enhanced Show Notes by Donna (June 2021)

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Marty Alchin
Marty Alchin
December 13, 2014 12:12 am

Do you have any references for the Speedway expansion in 1973? I’ve seen it mentioned on a few sites, including Wikipedia, but nobody cites sources, and the aerial photography from FDOT shows that it was actually shortened somewhere between 1973-02-05 and 1974-11-22, partly to accommodate the entrance to Space Mountain. The railroad was rerouted slightly at the same time. FDOT doesn’t have images of MK from 1971, but http://www.imagineeringdisney.com/storage/Imagineering-Disney_WDW-pre-1971_aerial_2.jpg seems to match the layout in early 1973.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x