Disneyland's New Tomorrowland Sucks

a rant by

Al Wong



[One Day Passport]
My day passport into Disneyland

July 5, 1998

In my lifetime, I can safely say I have been to Disneyland between 50 to 100 times. Probably closer to 100 times. During almost all of my visits to the Happiest Place on Earth, I felt it was well worth the time and money. I remember when it cost only 99 cents just to enter the park and the tickets for the rides were extra. You could go into Disneyland for under a buck! I was really annoyed when they raised the admission fee to include the rides. I remember the A-E ticket coupon books. The E tickets were usually used up first because the E ticket rides were the best attractions. Like most people, I have lots of happy memories there.

Except for the last two times I visited.

The last two times I visited Disneyland was in early November 1997 and, just yesterday, July 4, 1998. The descriptions of my visits are below. The experiences of those two visits were sufficiently bad to engage my thoughts into Public Service Mode and therefore, I'm writing this review of Disneyland. How does this relate to the New Tomorrowland you ask? Patience, gentle reader, and you will see how it all eventually fits together.

Early November 1997

My second to the last visit to Disneyland was with a friend who we will call Mary because that's not her name. Mary is from outside the USA and had never been to Disneyland before. She had been looking forward to going.

Those who had been to Disneyland at that time of year would remember almost all of Tomorrowland being closed for construction. People Mover, Circle Vision, Captain EO, Star Tours, America Sings, the rocket rides, etc. were all closed! There was fencing and scaffolding all over the place. The rides that were opened were packed more than usual. Also, It's a Small World was closed too. Needless to say, I was disappointed for Mary as I considered this was not a good first time exposure to Disneyland. Incidentally, she didn't seem to mind. But then, she didn't know what she was missing.

I seriously considered to ask for my money back but I didn't. For one thing, I didn't want to spoil the first time visit to Disneyland for Mary.

We spent most of our time in Adventureland, Frontierland and Fantasyland. After we got on most of the rides, the day was still young. No Tomorrowland for us TODAY. :(

July 4, 1998

The next year rolls around, Mary is back in the USA and wants to see Disneyland again. This time, she wants to see the stuff she didn't see before, namely the New Tomorrowland which took about 20 months to build. I was wondering what had changed too. It seems there were more changes to Disneyland in general than just at Tomorrowland.

On arrival, my first clue was parking my car. Usually, you drive into Disneyland on a several lane driveway, pay the $7 parking fee (no preferred parking anymore!), park your car and walk to Disneyland's main entrance. Today, after we paid the $7 parking fee, we are led in a roundabout way *out* of the Disneyland parking lot and across the street to the Disneyland Hotel's parking lot! Huh? Where is Disneyland?

One of the neat things about Disneyland *was* you could park within sight of the park and walk over there. You could see the Matterhorn and several Tomorrowland structures. It lent a certain amount anticipation which heighten your excitement and expectations. You could *see* the Emerald City! This psychology certainly affected me as a kid. Now you *don't see* Disneyland when you arrive. You have to take a tram over there. I never liked depending on the vagaries of a tram schedule just to get to my car. I have experienced several occasions where the tram doesn't show up for one reason or another and you are left waiting, waiting, waiting. And no one has a clue what is happening. This is a good way to piss off your customers.

My second clue was, after walking through the Disneyland main entrance, I realized the gate people didn't give me a souvenir brochure describing the new attractions, shows, parades, etc. Getting this brochure is key when visiting Disneyland so you know what is going on. So I go back to the entrance gate to ask where to get one. It turns out they now distribute the brochures from their few information centers, one of which was just outside their main entrance which didn't help me at all since I was already inside. The other one was at their Main Street City Hall. Now I ask you, why would Disney, on one of their busiest days, funnel thousands of people from several entrance gates to ONE information center to get a brochure? Needless to say, the information center at the Main Street City Hall was packed by people trying to get a brochure. Is this really good customer service?

The real funny thing is the ticket people at the entrance gates were passing out American Flag pins to entering customers to help celebrate the 4th of July! While this is a fine gesture, I would prefer they pass out the Disneyland brochures instead.

The New "Tomorrow" Land?

A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements...
a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come.
Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals: the atomic age...
the challenge of space... and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.
-- Tomorrowland's dedication plaque

So we don't lose sight of what Tomorrowland is all about, I give an excerpt of the dedication plaque in the above box. But what about the New Tomorrowland?

The Short Version
It WAS NOT worth the wait.

The Long Version
The whole point of Tomorrowland is to show what can happen in the future in terms of service, products and applications. To help inspire one's imagination about the future. It appears the people at Disney have lost sight of this. From what I have seen and heard, there are four basic new rides and none of them qualified for this. Below are my experiences and opinions on those rides:

  1. Innoventions
    A merging of the words, innovation and invention, this new ride replaced the older America Sings which itself replaced an even older ride called Carousel of Progress. (The one with the original There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow song). Anyway, this new Innoventions ride is a poorly contrived collection of exhibits which is supposed to show future products and applications. I have been to better exhibits in outside conventions and museums.

    The ride is basically composed of an outer ring and an inner ring which rotate against each other. They took out the seats in the theaters of the outer ring and made them into separate demonstration areas. The outer ring had live shows explaining different aspects of future products for home, education, health and fitness, transportation, etc. These shows were ho-hum. I have seen better demonstrations at the LA County Fair. Also, with the inner ring rotating behind you and revealing other stuff, there was too much distraction and noise to really pay attention to the live demonstrators.

    The inner ring is composed of several rooms with desktop computers demonstrating various things. However, half the computers were down when I was there and there was really no point with the other half of the computers that were working! For example, I played with one computer showing the Little Mermaid and it seemed to be a puzzle of some sort. But there was too much background noise to hear what the characters say on the computer and therefore impossible to solve the puzzle. Another example, Mary found a computer that allows you to pick and choose different dresses for a Barbie Doll on the screen. What's the point of the Little Mermaid and Barbie? Is this our future? Where is the innovention?

    There was some sort of auto virtual reality ride upstairs but, the line was long and didn't look like it was going to move fast, so I didn't try it. Considering the time we wasted here, I didn't want to spend another minute in line. Mary, who is seeing this for the first time, didn't like this ride either.

  2. Astro Orbitor
    A rocketship carousel, this ride is similar to the older ride, Rocket Jets, that was on top of the old People Mover ride way up high. They just brought the ride to the ground level and added a few strange orbital objects rotating in the middle of it. As far as I'm concerned, this is not a new ride. It now looks like the Dumbo ride except you are on a rocketship.

    They replaced the Rocket Jets ride with what seems to be some sort of radar antenna carousel!? Periodically, the whole thing rotates and the antennas go up and down in time with the music. What's the story with that? It's not even technically accurate. I thought this was Tomorrowland, not Fantasyland!

  3. Rocket Rods
    I was not able to get on the ride due to the extremely long lines. There were typically 1.5 to 2 hour waiting times. The wait times were probably much longer as I know, from long experience, Disney employees have really no clue about the waiting times and like to underestimate it. I last tried around 1:30am (the park closes at 2am) and there was still a 90 minute wait! Needless to say, I have better things to do at 1:30am than wait in line for 90 minutes.

    This is a very irritating ride. For one thing, it replaced the People Mover ride which I liked. Secondly, the ride shoots out these speeding cars that travel all around Tomorrowland and these cars are spaced EVERY 10 SECONDS. I emphasize this because there is this ANNOYING HIGH PITCH SCREECHING as each car goes by EVERY 10 SECONDS. You can't get away from it anywhere in Tomorrowland. The screeching is there when you wait in line for other rides. It's there when you go eat. It's there when you go shopping. It's there when you go to the restroom. Can you say noise pollution???

    Perhaps this screeching noise that occurs every 10 seconds is supposed to get you excited to try the ride. For the first minute, it worked. After that, the noise was just very irritating. Remember, you have to wait a long time in line for other rides. Also, if it was annoying for me during my brief one day visit, I can't imagine what it's like for the people working in Tomorrowland.

    I think most people tend to tune out in a light trance as a way to relax while waiting in line. It doesn't take much mental activity to wait in line. I know I tend to do this. Having a screeching sound come by every 10 seconds does not help this type of relaxation.

    To reiterate, the whole point of Tomorrowland is to show what can happen in the future in terms of service, products and applications. People Mover was cool because it demonstrated what public transportation could be like in the future. People Mover to Tomorrowland was like Disney's Railroad to Disneyland. The Railroad ride goes all around Disneyland and gives you an overview of everything. Likewise, People Mover provided a comfortable overview of Tomorrowland so you can get your bearings and check things out.

    With Rocket Rods, you lose this information. Zipping from one place to another at high speed may be fun on this roller coaster wannabe but, future public transportation it is not. In fact, I don't see how it relates to the future at all. People Mover is still more of a future possibility than Rocket Rods by the simple fact that it is quieter! It is also my understanding that the old Disney Monorail ride is faster and quieter too. Again, where is the future in Rocket Rods other than another noise nuisance?

  4. Honey, I Shrunk the Audience
    This ride replaces Michael Jackson's Captain EO. The ride is still basically a 3D movie with a few extras. This ride is pretty good but so was Captain EO. The moving seat idea is old as it appeared in the older Mission to Mars and Rocket to the Moon rides that were also in Tomorrowland. Was this ride worth the wait with the few extra special effects? No, not really. It is a good ride though.

I had higher expectations. It appears Disney's Imagineers didn't use their imagination very much for this project. Most of the rides were rehashed or had nothing to do with Tomorrow. For this they spent $100 million? There was only one ride which I liked (Honey, I Shrunk the Audience) but even this ride was similar to the previous one it replaced (Captain EO). What else did I like? The American Space Experience exhibit was excellent but I'm biased for space technology. I did notice the exhibit wasn't listed as an attraction in the souvenir brochure map. Bad oversight. I found the American Space Experience exhibit by chance actually. And the exhibit looks better at night.

Eat Me

Since I am writing about Disneyland, I thought I'd add other annoyances and ripoffs while I was there:
  1. The Tomorrowland Terrace
    The main food place near the Rocket Rods. I don't know if this is a fast food place or not. They serve what is traditionally fast food, hamburgers, french fries, sodas, etc. If this is a fast food place, why is the food SO SLOW in coming? I was in line with only 4 people ahead of me and it took OVER 30 MINUTES before I was able to place an order! Note this is not when I got my food, but to order it! One would think part of that $100 million could be spent to speed up the food service here.

  2. Camera Film Ripoff
    Mary ran out of film for her 35mm camera. We decided to buy ONE ROLL of AS400 film with 36 exposures. Cost: Over $10.00!

    In other places not so happy, a roll of film should cost around $3. While I can understand a roll of film costing between $5 to $6 in tourist spots, I think charging over $10 is a major ripoff!

  3. The Shrimp Creole Ripoff at the Blue Bayou Restaurant
    For those of you who don't know, the Blue Bayou restaurant is probably the best restaurant open to the general public at Disneyland. (The exclusive Club 33 restaurant is not open to the general public.) I try to eat at the Blue Bayou because they serve good Jambalaya but they serve it at lunch only and I was there for dinner. At any rate, I ordered the Shrimp Creole which, according to one restaurant employee, is closest to the Jambalaya. What a ripoff! The Shrimp Creole dish had only 6 shrimp, some rice and vegetables. That was it. No other seafood. Cost: Over $22.00!

    I don't mind spending over $20 for a plate of food if good value is received but this Shrimp Creole dish was NOT EVEN FAIR VALUE!

The California Adventure in Finding Parking

Did I mention why we were led to park across the street at the Disneyland Hotel? There is a new Disney construction project that ate up about 55 acres of parking space next to Disneyland. Called the California Adventure, it will add 3 new theme lands, take up 55 acres and will open in 2001. Meanwhile, customers going to Disneyland will have to deal with less parking, detours, construction, potholes and generally more traffic congestion for about 3 years. After this project is complete, there will still be less parking, detours and generally more traffic congestion.

Something's Missing: Humanity

Ever since Disneyland put up ToonTown, I felt there was something missing in the new attractions but I really couldn't put my finger on it. Now with the New Tomorrowland, I think I know what it is. Many of the new rides/attractions don't have humanity in them anymore.

What do I mean by humanity? Take, for example, Frontierland. People can relate to the Old West, Daniel Boone, Huck Finn, etc. Who hasn't wanted to be a cowboy or camp like an indian as a kid? It's cool to build a fort or a teepee or drift down a river. It opened your imagination. The same can be said with the other older theme lands like Main Street USA, Adventureland, Fantasyland, New Orleans Square, etc. They were made for humans and can be referenced from the past.

On the other hand, Toontown is more of an artist's nightmare and was not made for humans. Toontown is more like something out of a Pee Wee Herman movie. People are not slapstick cartoons. There is no nostalgic past as a reference. There is no human relationship here. There is no humanity. Toontown is a vast funhouse where the gimmicks are only funny once. Afterwards, there is nothing left to your imagination.

For Tomorrowland, I have already mentioned the high pitched screeching sound that emanates every 10 seconds from the Rocket Rods ride. This irritating screeching sound does not improve the quality of human life for the future and is therefore low in humanity.

Another Tomorrowland example is Tom Morrow, the robot who introduces the Innoventions ride. This puppet looks like a reject from the Terminator movies. On the humanity scale, Tom Morrow is step backwards from the original Carousel of Progress where the animatronic mannequins showed a more human face and dealt with technology in a more human way. The future, hopefully, is for the benefit of humans, not robots.

The Positive Stuff

I should mention here that all Tomorrowland employees I talked to at the various rides and stores were very friendly and tried to help answer your questions if they can. This is a good thing. It's funny that in some things Disneyland does wonderfully like the employee service in their rides and stores. In other things Disneyland falls flat on it's face like passing out the park brochures, bad tram scheduling and informing their departing customers about local traffic conditions. This is also customer service.

What else was positive? The July 4th fireworks were great!


In case the people at the Disney Company are reading this, here is a list of suggestions for Disneyland. The first two suggestions are Mary's. The rest are mine.
  1. Take that $7 parking fee you charge us and build parking structures right next to Disneyland so one can easily walk to the park. It will provide more parking for the same land area. Structures will also relieve some of us from parking our cars in the hot sun all day long.

    I am aware a parking structure is being built next to the Disneyland Hotel but you will probably still need to take the tram to Disneyland itself. My point is it is more desirable be able to walk to Disneyland from your parked car and not depend on the tram at all.

  2. Rather than eat up the guest parking area, which will make parking matters worse, consider closing out unpopular attractions first for extra real estate. Critter Country comes to mind. This theme land is the most deserted place I've seen every time I come to Disneyland. No one goes to the shows. No one eats at the food places. I would certainly think you are losing money here.

  3. Pass out your brochure maps at the entrance gates rather than force your customers to file through your information center. Most of your customers know getting this brochure is essential for maximum enjoyment at Disneyland. Funneling people to an information center doesn't make sense. A related suggestion, please make your brochure maps as complete as possible. I noticed not all attractions are listed in the current brochures. This is just laziness.

  4. Rethink the quality of food served at the Blue Bayou. This restaurant is usually packed during dinner time. I was quite surprised they seated us with less than a minute wait. On their busiest day (July 4th), there were empty tables in Disneyland's best restaurant! However, seeing the lack of fair value in the Shrimp Creole dish, I can now understand. People recognize poor value and will stay away from it. Believe me, word will get around as in this review!

  5. Rethink your price structure for common items like a roll of camera film. What? You're not making enough profit on the admission fee and on your specialty items that you need to rip us off on the camera film?

  6. Bring back the preferred parking area. I, for one, would like to park close to Disneyland and walk. I do not like to depend on unreliable trams to get me to my car. You could charge more to park in the shade if you build parking structures.

  7. Have a conductor at each of your train depots The Disney Railroad is one of the few rides where there is no Disney employee visible, especially at night. I can't tell you how many times I've observed rudeness with people cutting in line, pushing, shoving, etc.

  8. Lastly, put up a silent radio/marquee describing road conditions around the vicinity. Preferably set up something near the main entrance for people who are leaving the park. It is really annoying to find out at 2:45am that the Northbound onramp of the Interstate 5 freeway at Katella Ave is blocked for roadwork. This information could have been given before we left the parking lot. It seems Disney doesn't care once the customer has left their premises. Not everyone is familiar with the streets in Anaheim, CA.

    I have seen little restaurants treat their customers better. They tell you where not to park (to avoid parking tickets), where the construction is, when the street sweepers go by (again to avoid tickets), and how to get back on the nearest freeways. They want their customers to get to them and to leave as easily and as painlessly as possible. That little service makes all the difference.

These suggestions identify annoyances that waste your time and drain your physical and emotional energy. Taken by themselves, they may not mean much. But taken together, it's enough for me to say, "I'm NOT going to Disneyland! Let's go somewhere else!"

Other Reviews

July 7, 1998 - I looked around the web today to see if there were other recent reviews (post May 22nd) about the New Tomorrowland. I found one review by Sylvia Oliande.

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Last updated : May 2, 2005
Copyright 1998 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA