Tomorrowland of Yesterday, Part 3: To the Moon, Mars and Beyond

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

In Part 1 of Tomorrowland of Yesterday, ITM explored Tomorrowland’s presentation of the future in 1971.  In Part 2 we examined one the earliest additions to the land of the future, If You Had Wings.

Paging Mr. Morrow Paging Mister Tom Morrow. . . In part three of the Tomorrowland of Yesterday, we’re going to outer space.  On our journey, we’ll stop at the moon, mars and face a dark alien terror from beyond.

Just two months after The Magic Kingdom opened in Florida, new additions to the Tomorrowland area of the park began emerge.  One of these holiday gifts to guest was Disney’s version of a lunar launch: Flight to the Moon.

The preshow to this inventive and immersive adventure consisted of a “tour” of the mission control room.  Explained by one of the flight directors, a Mr. Tom Morrow, this was the hub to monitor missions to space.  An optimistic outlook of the future of space travel was conveyed in that the control center monitored landings/launches every three minutes during peak times.

After the brief overview of Mission Control, the announcement that Flight 92 was ready for boarding was the cue for guests to their way into the rocket that would take them to the moon.  This rather large, for a rocket, theater shaped vehicle featured four rows of seats around a two center screens.  The forward screen, located above the theater represented a view from the rocket’s cone; while the screen on the floor provided a view from the bottom of the spacecraft.

Once guests were seated the trip would commence.  During lift off the entire theater shook as the seats sunk to simulate the pull of gravity.  Once away from Earth the seats again simulated an introduction into weightlessness.  A view of the park and Earth could be seen receding on the lower screen (including a hidden Mickey shaped spaceport).

After passing an orbiting space station, side screens were activated for a broadcast from astronauts the moon’s surface.  The transmission is interrupted and the theater is thrown into chaos, illuminated only by flashing lights.  The spacecraft just managed to survive passing through a meteor shower and begins an emergency return to earth.  Upon landing, guests are permitted to disembark and return to the park.

By the time this clone of the Disneyland attraction had reached Walt Disney World, Apollo 11 had already transported the first humans to walk on the moon.  The already dated attraction closed in 1975.
Mission to Mars
In 1975, Flight to the Moon was replaced with Mission to Mars.  Following a similar storyline, the destination and, films and a in-flight details were updated, but the ride was essentially the same experience.  Heavy bass rumble simulated rocket engines and inflating/deflating seats provided the change from a gravitational pull when leaving Earth and the entry into zero gravity.

Mission to Mars took guests to the second planet in our solar system until the attraction closed in October of 1993 to make way for an update to the entire Tomorrowland area of the park.

ExtraTERRORestoral Alien Encounter

“If something cannot be done with XS, then it shouldn’t be done at all.”  There is a bit of irony in that motto.  Initially the attraction was supposed to be based on the science fiction horror film “Alien.”

With a retooling of the pre-show and upgrades to the main theater, this exciting new attraction opened briefly in December 1994.  Deemed not intense enough the attraction was tweaked and opened as part of the new (retro) Tomorrowland in June of the next year.

Two Preshow experiences – upon entering the lobby of the Tomorrowland Convention Center, for an exciting XS Technologies demonstration, gusts were kept “informed” of the conventions activities via monitors in the lobby.

Upon leaving the lobby to enter the attraction, guest are met by S.I.R. (Simulated Intelligence Robotics) and Skippy for a demonstration of teleportation technology that would bring guests and XS President Clench face to face.  After this mostly-harmless demonstration, including the chilling voice performance by Tim Curry as SIR, visitors would proceed to the main theater.

The same general layout from the Lunar/Martian incarnations of the attraction remained.  However the center screens were replaced by a floor to ceiling teleportation tube and seats were now fitted with a special overhead harness.

In an impatient attempt to come to Earth, Clench inadvertently managed to teleport a menacing space alien into the tube.  As the creature escapes the theater would go dark and the real terror would begin.  Via sound air and water effects housed in the harnesses, guests would “feel” the monster breathe down their neck, experience the drool from the creature and blood from an unfortunate technician eaten by the monster.  The immersion was enhanced by powerful subwoofers under the seats to simulate stomping sound from the creature as it passed by.  Mixed with the almost total darkness and added sound effects of startled guests, heartbeats and other noises, an encounter with this ExtraTERRORestrial Alien felt very realistic.

The ride was applauded and disliked for the very same reason – it was the first truly terrifying experience in the Magic Kingdom, earning it a not suitable for children under 12 warning.  Unfortunately the attraction was closed in October of 2003.  Today guests can experience a watered down version of the adventure, this time featuring a teleported Stitch, complete with the scent of a belched chili-dog.

Do you have memories of experiencing a Launch to the Moon or Mission to Mars?  Perhaps you had the good fortune to experience a bit of XS and survive an alien encounter?  Please share your memories in the comments below.

Source: Wikipedia: Alien EncounterExtinct Disney  Images: YouTube

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