What Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland needs is an enema.
In the early 1990s it was decided that Tomorrowland should be rebranded as “The Future That Never Was”. While I might agree that an overall retro-futuristic concept is a decent way to avoid this particular section of your theme park from looking dated too quickly… how exactly does Stitch’s Great Escape, Monters Inc Laugh Floor or Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blaster fit into that theme?
It’s almost as if two groups were working on ideas and concepts for Tomorrowland in secret of each other – or maybe Team Disney Orlando didn’t reveal to each group that the other existed.
Scattered here-and-there you’ve got odd quasi-futuristic (but completely useless) additions like the metal palm trees and lifeless robot news stations. But, how exactly do those lend themselves to the obvious Pixar overlay everywhere else? The closest anyone can come to a single unifying theme is that Tomorrowland currently represents a Sci-Fi extension of Fantasyland.
Every square inch loaded with characters from, and references to, Disney’s feature cartoons? Check.
Rides and attractions that stimulate thoughts of “the challenge and promise of the future”? No Check.
Really, hasn’t Tomorrowland just become that one area in Fantasyland for boys?
It’s become increasingly more obvious that Disney’s main goal is to eek out as much profit as possible from each and every one of their intellectual properties – even at the cost of cohesive theming and storytelling. Gone is the type of suspended disbelief and escapism Disney used to be well know for; replaced instead with garish reminders that you should be making memories, now! And the best place to buy those memories is right here!
While I would love to dive headfirst into a discussion on how Disney has embraced and encouraged materialism and instant gratification (“purchase expensive add-ons to improve your vacation as well as your social status here in the most magical place on earth!“) I choose instead to begin a multi-part blog detailing how I would completely overhaul Tomorrowland – starting with the main entry point.
Admit it: the transition from Main Street USA to Tomorrowland is, at best, harsh and disjointed. The two don’t mesh at all. The segue from Main Street to Adventureland is truly remarkable, with the Crystal Palace standing as the midpoint in the subtle metamorphosis. You see, the palace is designed as an homage to the original New York Crystal Palace; itself being inspired by the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. Both of which were built to house international expos in 1851 and 1853. International. As is a world wide, multi-national, global bazaar. Again, this is a brilliant choice for making a muted changeover from Marceline to Mozambique.
So, what if Disney was to replace that horrible “Tomorrowland” sign, bridge, and defunct waterfalls with something subtle and brilliant? What if that something were an entire building – a turn of the century, quasi–steampunk inspired, observatory (which also happens to be a retail store)?
Imagine entering from Main Street USA into an inspired passage that fits the turn of the century era and exit out the other side into a newly designed and updated Tomorrowland. Maybe we’ll call it the Hale Observatory (so named for George Ellery Hale, 1868 – 1938).
Submitted for your approval: the Sydney Observatory, built in 1874.
I feel this is a unique choice because it features a sort of Italianate or Gothic style of architecture – both of which were hugely popular in United States during the mid-19th century – and also turn of the century items and instruments that would have been considered “futuristic” at the dawn of the 20th Century. Personally, I think this fits quite nicely in that distinct juxtaposition that is Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, and Cinderella Castle. Additionally, the domed copper roofs would mirror nicely the iron and glass dome atop the Crystal Palace.
If not this style, I feel confident the Imagineers could do wonders with reference material such as this.