Hello, my name is Joe (more commonly known as Bleaker), and I am an executive producer here at Defunctland, and today, I am here to present to you, The PeopleMover’s Higher Purpose.
The PeopleMover was originally conceived for the Ford Motor Company for their pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. At this particular World’s Fair, the Disney company produced It’s a Small World, Progressland, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the Ford Magic Skyway. The attraction transported fair guests on a journey through time, all narrated by Walt Disney himself.
The original concept for the attraction was to give guests the opportunity to drive in new Ford cars. Walt thought it would be better to make the attraction a ride to avoid the need for drivers. The original system had Ford cars on a track with wheels spaced every three feet. The wheels would make contact with metal plates that were welded to the undercarriages of the cars. This is what propelled the vehicles forward though the different scenes. There was a scene of dinosaurs grazing, and a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus clashing with a Tyrannosaurus Rex. There was a fast forward in time and there was some scenes of the age of man. These scenes depicted the men inventing the wheel, hunting mammoths, and discovering fire. The final scene took guests to the future, seeing the advancement of society before returning back to the loading station.
After the World’s Fair, Disney wanted to implement the technology into a ride at Disneyland. Disney asked Ford if they would like to continue the sponsorship of the ride, but they declined, supposedly because they didn’t want to support a technology that could eventually be used to replace automobiles. Fortunately for Disney, Goodyear agreed to sponsor the attraction.
The PeopleMover was implemented in Tomorrowland as part of the New Tomorrowland expansion in 1967. The PeopleMover was considered a high-capacity attraction. It could handle 4,885 guests an hour. More interesting is the fact that the PeopleMover never stopped moving. At its slowest, when guests were loading into the vehicles, it was moving at one mile per hour. At its fastest, the ride vehicles were going seven miles per hour. The ride time was 15 minutes, giving guests a full overview of the Tomorrowland attractions.
This highway in the sky went through a variety of changes after its implementation. In 1968, safety rails were wrapped part-way around the vehicles to deter guest from trying to climb out. This was due to an incident the year prior, in which a 17-year-old jumping between cars was crushed to death. In 1977. the SuperSpeed Tunnel was added to the Carousel of Progress. This was simply a tunnel that had projections on the wall, giving guests the illusion of speed. In 1982, the SuperSpeed Tunnel received a Tron overlay. In 1985, the aforementioned safety bars were wrapped fully around the vehicle, likely due to a similar guest death a few years prior. The PeopleMover received a new paint job in 1987, with all of the cars being painted white with strips.
The PeopleMover was well received by guests and remained fairly popular up until it got Eisner’d (Trademark Pending) in 1995 and was replaced by the Rocket Rides in 1998.
Now to the part you have all been waiting for (without even knowing it)
When Walt was coming up with the idea of Tomorrowland and New Tomorrowland in particular, it was designed as a testing ground for an even larger concept: the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt originally envisioned a sprawling utopian city with a population of about 20,000 people. Walt wanted a city that would never be complete, a city that was always updating and evolving, a city that would always be cutting edge, and a city without traffic.
The original plan was to have delivery trucks and cars travel underground on separate levels. The main level would be exclusively for pedestrian foot travel. Above ground transportation would be provided by PeopleMovers and Monorails. In other words, New Tomorrowland was a dress rehearsal for the PeopleMover, and Epcot was supposed to be the main act.
As we know, Walt passed away before he could realize this dream. He died not seeing New Tomorrowland completed, and the PeopleMover never got its shot at being a transportation method for the future. The original idea for Epcot died with Walt as well. Without Walt at the helm, Imagineers didn’t feel comfortable with being in the business of running a city.
Fast forward to 1991. Disney, led at this time by Michael Eisner, wanted to make Disneyland a multi-day and multi-park resort. Thus the idea of WestCOT was born. Picture Epcot but west!
The original plan included two new parking garages to be built. These were going to be located on parcels of land that were not connected to the main park property of Disneyland. Disney came up with the solution in the form of a shuttle system to ferry guests from the garage to the entrance hub of WestCOT. That shuttle system was going to be a PeopleMover System, similar to the one that currently resides in Disney World. Unfortunately, WestCOT fell through. Its logistical problems and price tag eventually became too much for Disney to handle.
The PeopleMover never came to fruition as a serious mode of transportation, and the Disneyland tracks still lay abandoned to this day. If it’s any consolation prize, in 2010 at D23, it was announced that there may be plans to bring back the ride to California. At least we still have Disney World’s version of the PeopleMover, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. That attraction is also quite the technological marvel, but that is another article for another day.
From all of us at the Defuctland team, thank you for reading and thank you for visiting Defunctland!