Disneyland's retooled Tomorrowland - an attempt to add pizzazz to the playground's sci-fi province - makes its debut on May 22, the Friday kicking off Memorial Day Weekend.
"The new Tomorrowland is very much a future `fantasy,' " said John McClintock, a Disneyland publicity spokesman. Disney's Imagineers decided Tomorrowland, one of the park's eight themed areas, had begun to seem sterile, dominated by lights and plastic, even "outdated." But they didn't want to replace the familiar attractions with a dark techno-mechanical theme, a la many of today's science-fiction movies.Their goal, he said, was more fantastic, a la the futurist visions of the past - of, say, Leonardo DaVinci and Jules Verne . . . and George Lucas. "The whole redo has given Tomorrowland more earth tones and a metallic look."
The overhauled Tomorrowland, following the theme "Imagination and Beyond," retains some of the old, reconfigures several attractions and replaces others with flashy new ones.
Favorites like Space Mountain and Star Tours remain intact, with some fine tuning and new decor, as do Autopia, the Monorail and Submarine Voyage. The food areas have been updated, too, highlighted by the addition of Redd Rockett's Pizza Port, a futuristic restaurant that bridges yesterday, today and tomorrow.
A new attraction, the sculpturelike Astro Orbitor, with bright rockets and a complex sequence of circling brass orbs, greets visitors as they enter Tomorrowland. Above, the stream-lined, high-speed cars of the new Rocket Rods ride whine overhead, replacing the old PeopleMover. The elevated vehicles, said Tony Baxter, Tomorrowland's executive director and senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, give visitors a chance "to take a test ride on a stylized vehicle of the future that has been designed for speed and fun."
Michael Jackson's minimusical "Captain Eo" is gone, succeeded by the theatrical 3-D experience "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience," a version of which is already showing at Walt Disney World's EPCOT. The audience is attending the fictional "Inventor of the Year" ceremonies at the Imagination Institute, which is honoring Wayne Szalinski (of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and "Honey, I Blew Up the Baby") when things go awry, with lots of visual surprises and sensory effects.
"For those familiar with the typical 3-D movie experience, we've taken it one step further and heightened the elements that have audiences literally jumping out of their seats," Baxter said.
The Carousel Theatre, formerly home to the "Carousel of Progress" and "America Sings," now houses "Innoventions," a multilevel interactive exhibit of cutting-edge technology - for home, work, school and life in general - in a building on a rotating base.
"The purpose of Innoventions is not to predict the future but to look at emerging technologies and show people how they can result in a better life," said Bruce Gordon, the show's producer.
Also new is a synchronized fountain - and a watery maze though which people can make their way. At its center, says McClintock, floats a huge granite ball, which can nevertheless be rotated by the touch of a hand.