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Never Mind About "The Future That Never was." What about the Tomorrowland that Tokyo Disneyland almost got: Sci-Fi City.

Never Mind About "The Future That Never was." What about the Tomorrowland that Tokyo Disneyland almost got: Sci-Fi City.

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Let me share a piece of e-mail that I got earlier this weekend:

Jim --

Have you seen the 2005 Birnbaum WDW guide yet? I picked up my copy today at Barnes & Noble and was shocked to find absolutely no listing for WDW's Carousel Of Progress and The Timekeeper show.

Was this just a printer's error on Hyperion's part? Or are the rumors true? Will both of these Magic Kingdom favorites be closing for good in 2005?

Trudy C.

Dear Trudy --

I wish I had some better news for you here. But -- according to my sources within WDI -- both the "Carousel of Progress" and "The Timekeeper" will be closing for good once "Stitch's Great Escape" opens in November.

Which (I'm sure) will be sad news to all you "Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" fans out there and/or you people who like Robin Williams. But it's time to face facts, folks. It's been years since either of these Tomorrowland attractions has even come close to drawing a crowd, In fact, in the ten years that "From Time to Time" has been open, this Circlevision 360 show has never once met its THRC (I.E. THRC = theoretical hourly ride capacity). In spite of repeatedly changing the signage out front in front of this show building, adding promotional banners to "The Timekeeper" 's marquee, etc., "From Time to Time" has never really caught on with WDW visitors.

"So what will we see as replacements for these WDW shows?," you ask. Well ... For nearly 15 years now, the Imagineers have been toying with the idea of bringing a Disneyland favorite -- the Flying Saucers -- to Florida. Only -- in this incarnation -- this rather troubled Tomorrowland attraction would be built indoors. Which would hopefully prevent this actually-pretty-popular-in-its-day ride from becoming the maintenance nightmare that the Anaheim original once was.

"So which Tomorrowland attraction would be gutted for the Flying Saucers?," you continue. Well, there are two schools of thought when it comes to which show building would best be suited for the Magic Kingdom version of this old Disneyland favorite. Some Imagineers are pulling for the "Carousel of Progress" because ... Well ... The show building's already round. So -- with a little work on the COP's exterior -- this Tomorrowland icon could easily be turned into a full-sized replica of a flying saucer. With the idea being that WDW guests would then queue up outside of the full-sized saucer so that they could eventually go inside and test drive a smaller version of the same vehicle.

Of course, the only problem with this proposed retro fit is that most of the "Carousel of Progress" 's queue area is exposed to the elements. So when it rains, even the guests who are standing under the attraction's outside overhang still sometimes get wet.

This is why some Imagineers are pushing for "From Time to Time" to become the home of the Magic Kingdom's proposed "Flying Saucer" ride. You see, the Circlevision 360 show building has a huge internal queue area. Which would (in theory) eliminate all of WDI's concerns about Central Florida's changeable weather having any sort of a negative impact on WDW guests being able to enjoy this alleged Tomorrowland addition.

There's no official word yet as to which show building this proposed new Disney World attraction will eventually end up in. To date, all that my sources within WDI will say is that they hope to have the Magic Kingdom's "Flying Saucers" ride up and running by October 2006. Just in time for WDWs' 35th anniversary celebration.

I know that the above news will disappoint a lot of you "Carousel of Progress" and "Timekeeper" fans out there. But -- me personally -- I'm more concerned about what the Tomorrowland purists will say. You know, those folks who are becoming increasingly upset because more cartoon-inspired attractions like "Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin" and "Stitch's Great Escape" are being built on this side of the theme park.

Well, if you're not happy about Buzz & Stitch being in Tomorrowland, you're certainly not going to be excited about the possible themes being considered for Disney World's proposed "Flying Saucers" ride. One version would have the attraction being hosted by the Little Green Men featured in "Toy Story" & "Toy Story II." While another version of this alleged Tomorrowland addition would feature the aliens from an alternate dimension who play the villains in Disney's Summer 2005 release, "Chicken Little."

That's right. Aliens from an alternate dimension are the villains in "Chicken Little." Why else do you think that that film's teaser trailer ends with the catch-phrase: "This time, the sky really is falling"?

Anyway ... I know a lot of your Tomorrowland purists out there are troubled by the idea that the Walt Disney Company seems to be turning its back on Walt's original concept for this side of the theme park. Which was to have been a place where the hopes & dreams of tomorrow would be celebrated. Where hard fact as well as scientific speculation -- rather than figures from the studio's fantasy films -- would serve as the inspiration for Tomorrowland's attractions.

Well, those days are gone, folks. Over the past 50 years, the Imagineers have grown tired of trying to predict what tomorrow will be like. Of spending tens of millions of dollars on these hopeful, optimistic, futuristically-themed rides & shows ... Only to have the future not follow the predicted path. Which means that -- every 10-15 years or so -- the guys from WDI are forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with yet another concept for Tomorrowland.

This explained why -- back in 1994 in Orlando and in 1998 in Anaheim -- the "Future That Never Was" theme was embraced by both of the stateside Tomorrowland. Rather than waste time & money on trying to predict how the future was going to turn out, the Imagineers began to indulge in this strange mix of sci-fi and nostalgia. Which is why Tomorrowland soon became a place where Buck Rogers would feel at home.

Speaking of Buck Rogers: Had executives from the Oriental Land Company actually okayed the Imagineers' plans for the redo of Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland, the original space ranger would have felt very much at home on this side of that theme park.

Never mind about the "Future That Never Was." How would you like a peek at the "Tomorrowland that Never Happened," Sci-Fi City?

Sci-Fi City would have been the most ambitious redo of any of the Tomorrowlands around the globe. These plans called for a top-to-bottom reimaging of this entire side of Tokyo Disneyland.

Mind you, some of TDL's classic Tomorrowland attractions would have remained in place. According to the version of the plans that I've seen (circa 1998), both "Star Wars" as well as "Microadventure" (AKA TDL's "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" attraction) would have stayed right where they were. Though the exteriors of both of these Tomorrowland shows would have recieved a significant redesign.

But everything else in Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland (And -- yes -- I'm including Space Mountain) would have received a significant upgrade. Soooo ... You wanna take a peek at what might have been?

Guests entering Sci-Fi City would have come in from TDL's Hub via Cosmic Way. Cosmic Way was to have been ...

... the "Main Street" of Science Fiction ... Bright, colorful and elegant, Cosmic Way is full of futuristic technology and labor-saving devices, gadgets and gizmos. Inspired by "The Jetsons," "Buck Rogers" and "The Rocketeer," guests can board Rockit Bikes and onto the Sci-Fi City freeway for fun and adventure.

Yeah, you read that right. Rockit Bikes. Just like Disneyland's Rocket Rods, this ...

... high speed new E-Ticket adventure guarantees to appeal to the teenage audience. Guests will be "rocket launched" to traverse Sci-Fi City on intergalatic motorcycles, maneuvering through craters, crashed spaceships, HyperSpace Mountain and Cosmic Way at fast speed and around sharply banked turns. THRC: 1800.

Okay. I know. One of the names in the above attraction description leaped right out at you: HyperSpace Mountain. That proposed Sci-Fi City attraction was to have been ...

... an enhanced version of the existing TDL Space Mountain which includes on-board audio, new show elements in the pre-show and along the ride, a new facade as well as a new entrance queue. THRC: 2160.

Of course, that "Hyper Space Mountain" facade would have been just one of the amazing signs that you'd have been able to see as you strolled around Galactic Circle ...

... the kinetic "Times Square" of Sci-Fi City, with video walls, kinetic sculptures and animated electronic billboards. Flashing against the backdrop of "Hyper Space Mountain." Inspired by "Metropolis," "Blade Runner" and "Judge Dredd."

One of the nicest new touches for this section of Sci-Fi City would have been the redo of Tokyo Disneyland's Rocket Jets. Borrowing a page from Disneyland's past (as well as Disney World's future), this attraction's rocket-like vehicle would have been replaced by saucer-shaped cars. So that you could ...

... pilot your own spaceship in an updated version of Rocket Jets. New facades will allow the guest to load below the crater's surface and emerge into the skylight for the flight above Crater Town.

" 'Crater's surface?!' 'Crater Town' ?! What's that?," you ask. Well, Crater Town was to have been ...

... This rambling gathering of temporary structures and cannibalized spaceships is literally a "Boom Town," the product of on-going meteor showers. These meteors have provided Crater Town's temporary residents the opportunity to set up a mining operation -- uncovering rich mineral contents within the meteors. Guests can tour the craters via Lunar Rovers, or visit genetically engineered alien lifeforms in the Sci-Fi Zoo, or walk-through the craters. The thrill-seekers can search out the Space Pirates hideout ... Inspired by "Mad Max," "Waterworld" and "Outland."

Okay. I know. I can hear you Disney theme park info junkies out there gibbering already. "Lunar Rovers?!" "Sci-Fi Zoo?!" Hang on. Here's the breakdown on the Lunar Rovers. Which were supposed to have been ...

... a modified version of the existing Grand Prix ride system, with upgraded vehicle bodies and tires, new electric motors and on-board effects, anti-collision software and a new track layout which will allow guests to traverse crater landscape and mining operations, exploring terrain that has been bombarded by meteor showers throughout the centuries. Ideal attraction for smaller children and their parents. THRC: 2160

As for the "Sci-Fi Zoo" ... Well, this was to have been Sci-Fi City's big new show ...

... a new E-Ticket attraction that features an interactive alien zoo walk-through with amazing state-of-the-art audio-animatronic figures, climaxing in a huge theater show with large-scale animation and fantastic bottomless pit "fog effect."

As for the "Space Pirate Hideout" ... I'm told that this section of Crater Town was to have been inspired by the then-still-in-production animated feature, "Treasure Planet." This was the area where Tokyo Disneyland guests could have queued up to meet Jim Hawkins, B.E.N. and Long John Silver.

Anywho ... The above all sounds very snazzy, doesn't it? So why didn't Oriental Land Company executives opt to go forward with this radical redo of Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Well, for starters, OLC was already pouring nearly $3 billion into an expansion of the TDL resort. With most of that money going into the construction & creation of the Tokyo DisneySea theme park as well as the Miracosta Resort Hotel.

Then there was the problem with Disneyland's Rocket Rods attraction. Given that the Imagineers couldn't ever seem to get the Anaheim version of this attraction working properly, Oriental Land Company execs were understandably reluctant to okay an expensive redo of Tokyo Disneyland's own Tomorrowland section that would be built around yet another version of the troubled Rocket Rods ride.

So OLC executives tabled all of WDI's plans for an ambitious redo of TDL's Tomorrowland. Opting instead to take a more piecemeal approach. I.E. Adding one new attraction at a time. Like this year's opening of Tokyo Disneyland's popular "Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters" ride.

Still -- with the announcement earlier this month that the Oriental Land Company is planning to do $1.28 billion worth of expansion at both Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo DisneySea -- some Imagineers are holding out hope that their ambitious plans for Sci-Fi City may yet rise from the ashes. Which would leave Tokyo Disneyland with the greatest Tomorrowland of them all.

But -- as for all us stateside Disney theme park fans ... Well, I guess (as of this moment) that the best that we can hope for is that -- once the Imagineers decide which location Disney World's proposed "Flying Saucers" attraction is going to get built in -- that WDI will then get started knocking around ideas for what they can build inside of that other empty Tomorrowland show building.

Me personally? I think that a WDW version of TDL's proposed "Sci-Fi Zoo" attraction would be pretty snazzy.

But what are your thoughts?

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