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Tomorrowland and Adventure Thru Inner Space

Grandpa Bob in Tomorrowland; my sister and I share a drink in the background, 1982

The last time I was able to go to Disneyland with my Grandpa Bob, we must’ve to Tomorrowland to ride Adventure thru Inner Space a half dozen times. That year, Grandpa Bob was dying, and his trip with us was a last hurrah. He was one of the people in my life to teach me chess and to fill the father-sized void. We toured him around Disneyland in a wheelchair, and we got on all the rides without waiting. Grandpa could still walk some, so he would get out of the chair and walk down the ramp with me to the Atomobile.

We’d get in and get shrunk down small enough to see the nucleus of an atom. My favorite parts of the ride included the giant eye watching you emerge from the shrinking process and the not-so-hidden Mickey water molecule. However, the real magic was at the beginning of the ride. You could see the people who got on the ride shrinking. I never figured out how they did it, but I swear the small people in the microscope were also the ones getting on the attraction. It’s still one of my favorite Disneyland attractions because it’s attached to my fading memories of my grandpa.

Tomorrowland’s Vision Changes

The Disney History Institute put together a short and informative video of Adventure Thru Inner Space that raised some interesting points about how we view the future as seen through the eyes of Disneyland and its sister parks. In the 1950s, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was about advancing technology and promised a better life through science. It was an optimistic thrilling place where man would visit the moon, and people could see the House of Tomorrow. Adventure Thru Inner Space added a different element to the Tomorrowland narrative – fear.

The Tomorrowland of today has a lot more fear in it than ever. The dark side of the Force continuously threatens to take over. Zurg is stealing batteries, and Little Nemo is lost again. These stories are not set in the future, but they do give us a sense that the future is a scary thing to think about. No longer do we hear about the Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow shining at the end of every day. Instead we’re given a vague, and vaguely positive, “May the Force be with you.” Yes, we defeat Zurg, but he always returns to steal batteries.

For More About Disney

Check out these links to Disneyland visits of the past. Get my books: “Penguinate! The Disney Company,” “Disneyland Is Creativity,” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” You might also check out “Cleaning the Kingdom” by the hosts of the Sweep Spot.

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