Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's Been Ten Years!

Yes, you're in the right place! Read on...

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the New Tomorrowland. I was there, of course, just as I had been over a hundred other days during its construction. I estimate I probably have about a thousand photographs of New Tomorrowland construction and another 10-20 hours of Hi-8 video. This was the first big construction project after I started visiting the Park frequently. Sure, Big Thunder Ranch became the Festival Arena, and the Fantasyland Theatre became the Fantasyland Theatre under a tent, but the New Tomorrowland always attracted my interest and was certainly much larger than any project at the time (until they closed the Parking Lot, of course).

It was kind of fun to watch the demolition take place. There was always uncertainty about what area would now be fenced off (or unfenced) on a visit to the Park. I remember I was home the Monday of that opening week, studying for my AP US History test. (New Tomorrowland previewed to WDI on Tuesday, had a media day on Thursday, and a public opening on Friday). That morning, I read on alt.disney.disneyland that the construction walls had come down, so I made a trip. I ran into an Imagineer I knew and ended up having lunch with him and Jason Hulst, Rocket Rods designer! I seem to recall them carrying a mirror to the Rocket Rods queue, to make it look like the two PeopleMover cars were actually four PeopleMover cars.

After school on Thursday I headed down to Disneyland, as usual. All of Tomorrowland was roped off, with the Plaza Inn serving as media headquarters. I don't remember the exact sequence of events. I know I saw a few online friends who had somehow gotten media credentials. They were telling me all about the Disneyland Forever kiosks and specifically how a bunch of Space Mountain Concourse tracks available in the morning were unavailable by the afternoon. Shoot, I needed to get in there myself to burn some CDs before more material disappeared! I hung around forlornly by the Plaza Inn, hoping to see somebody I knew. And hey, there was Bruce Gordon! I had met him by being around the construction site so much. I think he gave me a hard time for a few minutes (as any of you who knew Bruce could easily imagine), but he then very graciously motioned me under the rope and took me over to get a guest credential.

This is a nice companion piece to Jed's 1967 Tomorrowland press pass. Thirty-one years later and they're still putting rockets on them! This cartoon style was used in several advertisements. I recall seeing it on Coca-Cola products and in Disneyland Today guide maps. This pass did not entitle me to the freebies that the real media got. One of the giveaways was a forest green New Tomorrowland hat, a design I absolutely loved. Several years later, thanks to the kindness of a fellow Cast Member, Dave Marquez, I ended up with one!

I did burn a CD that first day and still have it in California. More likely than not, I purchased some Tomorrowland sounds, like the Monorail Song and the Space Mountain Concourse tracks still available. I went on the Rocket Rods seven or eight times--there was absolutely no line and most of those times I had the vehicle all to myself. (This was quite a change from the 180 minute line some family members waited in the following day.) I think I waved to Tony Baxter down below before one take-off. I don't remember much else from that evening. I undoubtedly walked around to experience the entirety of the changes. So many parts of it had been fenced off for so long that it was difficult to get an overall sense of the place.

From my destruction series, you may recall that I had a fondness for sticking the camera lens through holes in the construction fences. Sometimes, I'd see familiar people through the fence, as when I saw Bruce when the Moonliner arrived. As definitive proof that I spent too much time documenting the New Tomorrowland transformation (and frequently peeked through the fences), I hereby present the Vanity Fair article that features me and Tony Baxter. Well, maybe it doesn't feature me--I'm just the capstone to the article. Go ahead and read through the article (at least the last page, beginning with "Oh well"); below I explain what happened!

You can download a PDF of the cover and article or look through the page images below:

One day in April, 1998, I spied Tony and another Imagineer I recognized through the construction fence. "Tony!" I yelled. I waited a minute. Nothing. "Hmm," I thought. Perhaps it's not the best idea to shout out to Imagineers while they might be trying to actually manage a construction project? I was about to run away with my tail between my legs when Tony and his party came out the door with somebody I didn't recognize. He was introduced to me as Bruce Handy (a reporter from TIME magazine), doing a story on the New Tomorrowland. He wanted to ask me a few questions, which worked out fine because I wanted to have Tony sign my New Tomorrowland press kit (from 1996 or 1997). So I answer some questions and get my press kit signed and we go our separate ways.

I kept my eye on the TIME magazines flowing into our house. The May 25, 1998 edition featured a story called "All Our Yesterdays," which described how difficult it was to keep Tomorrowland relevant. But there was no mention of me anywhere! That didn't greatly surprise me, because I didn't think I had said anything too important. I figured that was the end of it. That is, until the Fabulous Disney Babe IM'd me in February 2000 something to the effect of "YOU MADE VANITY FAIR." Given how much time had elapsed since I talked to this reporter, I had no idea what she was talking about. I did manage to get some more details from her and then rushed off to get the magazine. I don't know if the author had intended to write this long piece for Newsweek or not, but I certainly was surprised to find myself in the article. (There was a small thread on alt.disney.disneyland about this when it came out.)

At the time my dad asked me if the author had quoted me correctly, and I said that he had. (OK, I don't know why I would have said that there was twice as much stuff going on in New Tomorrowland 1998! Maybe the old Tomorrowland had been dead for too long...?) The author had asked me if I thought much about the future, and I had replied "no." That wasn't true, though. By that time, I had already decided to become an archivist and did have a sort of career path laid out. When he asked me, "Do you think much about the future?" I interpreted it as "Will you be taking a Rocket Rod to work, or will you stick with a jet pack?" I wonder how his story would have ended if I replied that I did think about the future!

This is surely not the last time you'll hear about the 1998 New Tomorrowland on this site (remember all those photos and video?). I think we're all strongly influenced by the Disneyland in which we grew up. Since the renovated land came into being at the same time I grew interested in the Park's history, I'll always have a special affinity for it--even if its staying power has been considerably less than other major land renovations.


Stub Winged Bilge Rat said...

Wow, that's a cool story! It is amazing how long an article can hang out there before it finds a place to land in print.

David Marquez said...

WOW! BOTH NAMES AND I'M NOT IN TROUBLE! But seriously, that day was kinda crazy. There was a lot of media (both Disney and mainstream) at the park that day. I remember a local LA TV Station (I was to say KCAL 'Disney owned' at the time OR KCOP 13) produced both a pre-produced and LIVE specials. As for myself, I was there on behalf of both Disney and the outside stringing for several outlets in the Midwest. I remember the day to be very hot and chaotic! I have lots of video somewhere with tons of great comments (and lots of 'off camera' comments), maybe one day I'll get those up! So...Jay...I WANT MY HAT BACK! Also, when we talk about Disneyland's 40 Years of lots of great tape of that too! Seriously, I WANT MY HAT BACK!

walterworld said...

A beautiful story and fun read---

I remember wanting to be totally rocked by the New Tomorrowland, but always found myself disappointed once I made the comparison to the old in my mind; the 'old' being the Tomorrowland of my youth, circa 1977.

Thanks for posting!

David Marquez said...

I was joking about getting the hat back ;)

Jason Schultz said...

Good--because you weren't getting it! UPN did produce a very well-done 2-hour show that night that was a pretty comprehensive look at Tomorrowland through the years. They had some good visuals and talked to the right people! I think I have copies of your interviews with Tony and Marty around here someplace...

Anonymous said...

My worst Disney fan mistake EVER:

Visiting DL shortly after Tomorrowland's unveiling, right after returning from Orlando to see WDW's newest park, Animal Kingdom.

Experiencing New TL98 and DAK in the same weekend was much too painful. I didn't have to specifically hunt out examples of cheapness in the revamped Tomorrowland. Everywhere I turned, there they were. I couldn't avoid them! Compared to the rich immersive theming of Animal Kingdom, New TL98 was torture. Sheer TORTURE!

Timur Galen should have been fired ten years ago today for that mess. Who knows what DCA might have become without him. I'm guessing more successful.