Disney's Tomorrowland Past And Present: A Celebration - InformationWeek
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Disney's Tomorrowland Past And Present: A Celebration

Disneyland begins the celebration of its 60th anniversary today and the new movie Tomorrowland also debuts. We celebrate 60 years of the future.
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(Image: Disney)

(Image: Disney)

The day this story goes to press, Disney will release the movie Tomorrowland starring George Clooney. Disneyland will also stay open 24 hours to celebrate its 60th anniversary (which is officially in July). Long-time readers of the Geekend know that I am obsessed fan of all things Disney, particularly Walt Disney's views of a better future through technology.

Tomorrowland the movie is, in part, a tribute to that same spirit of Walt Disney. I won't give away much, but the plot is about a jaded former inventor and a young girl brimming with scientific curiosity who discover a place called Tomorrowland which is a beautiful world of the future trapped in a pocket of "time and space."

Basically, it is Walt's dream of the future, unchanged and beautiful.

Tomorrowland, in case your parents were too mean to take you to Disneyland, has always been one of the themed sections of all the Disney parks, starting with Disneyland in 1955. It was Walt's dream that Disneyland and especially Tomorrowland always be a showcase for the future. From the very beginning technology companies have paid to present their visions of the future in Tomorrowland alongside Walt's visions and attractions.

The original Disneyland Tomorrowland in 1955 tried to imagine what the future would be like in 1986. The prominent landmark was the "moonliner" a rocket that would supposedly take people to the moon as easily as they travelled by train. I say train because, honestly, jet travel had just started. You have to remember that the first jetliner didn't enter service until 1952. Also remember that this was seven years before JFK would deliver his famous speech committing America to going to the moon. So Tomorrowland has a legacy of showing us the future.

Sometimes it's a vision so far in the future that it hasn't happened, but futurists like Richard Branson are still trying to make it a reality.

But before we get too caught up in Uncle Walt's success. Let's also remember some of these less-than-memorable attractions, including: The Aluminum Hall of Fame, The World Below Us: A Showcase of Geology, and the Monsanto Hall of Chemistry.

That's sort of the fun of predicting the future. That's why I like to do it every Friday with the Geekend, and why every time I open IT Life Radio I say it is for IT Pros, technologists, futurists, and makers.

Disney has had to change Tomorrowland over the years. 1986 came and went. Some dreams came true and others didn’t. The first refurbishment was done in the late 60s, with the theme "The World on the Move." It featured, among other things, Walt's vision of a public transport, the Peoplemover.

The company refurbished again in the 1990s and continues to make over the park. At heart, no matter how the creators change the theme, is the idea of showcasing the future. Microsoft and HP, among others, still show their visions of the home of the future in Tomorrowland, just as the first "House of the Future" in Disneyland introduced America to the microwave in 1957.

There are now five Tomorrowlands in the world -- with another opening this year -- on three continents with different ideas of the future. But all are there for the same reason: To inspire another generation of dreamers, futurists, scientists, and engineers, just as Walt envisioned in 1955 when he dreamed of a place where children and adults could learn and play together.

I thought in honor of Tomorrowland the movie and the 60th anniversary of Walt Disney's dream of Tomorrowland, I'd showcase some of the successes and failures of 60 years of Tomorrowland.

Let's just look at some fun pictures of how our vision of tomorrow, through the eyes of Disney and its corporate partners, has changed. We'll take a romp through past tomorrows. And if my romp isn't enough, I suggest you head over to Yesterland.com for even more on the history of Disneyland. It is by far the best resource for Disney history on the Internet, and the team was kind enough to help me with some pictures and point me to others.

[Did you miss any of the InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas last month? Don't worry: We have you covered. Check out what our speakers had to say and see tweets from the show. Let's keep the conversation going.]

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/28/2015 | 5:37:23 PM
Re: Disney's Tomorrowland Past And Present: A Celebration
@zerox203- I'm a sucker for the "old, burned out genius has his spark rekindled by young genius who needs his the old dude's help to learn how to harness their genius." So for me it doesn't look like a stinker. For babysitting reasons I haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, but I I feel like I've never seena  George Clooney movie that was boring. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/28/2015 | 5:33:26 PM
Re: Showcase of possibility
@kstaron- the fantastic thing about youtube is that you can now pretty much pick a year and find someone's home movies of tomorrowland. If I were  abetter video editor, I bet i could use youtube to make some sort of time lapse video of tomorrowland changing year to year.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2015 | 5:07:50 PM
Showcase of possibility
It's amazing how much futurists of the 50's got right (and how much they got wrong). One of the things I like about Disney is they aim for that kind of vision, of seeing what the future could hold. I wish I could have spent more time in tomorrowland on my first and only trip to Disney. While some of the ideas are severely dated, it still functions as a showcase of possibility.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2015 | 1:31:49 PM
Re: Disney's Tomorrowland Past And Present: A Celebration
I've been to Disney World, just once, when I was barely old enough to understand or remember anything. I don't know if I went to Tomorrowland (I assume I did); some of what's here looks familiar. I do remember being surprised at the huge variety of shows, attractions, and landscapes. Documentaries about nature and society, museum-like experiences, all kinds of wacky fun, and yes, visions of the future. I had thought it was all going to be based on Disney movies! Just sitting around and eating or waiting in line was an experience. those metal trees, for example, apparently open and close with the rising and setting of the sun! It's definitely the most magical place on earth because it captures the imaginations of people of all types and ages, and educates and inspires as much as it is fun.

The world clock is definitely up there for illustrating how times have changed since now, obviously, we can all find out the time around the world by looking in our pockets. The carousel of progress is iconic... but I was surprised to learn they haven't done a modern 'future' section. It is funny that TomorrowLand Tokyo looks so sterile, while parts of downtown Tokyo actually look not unlike DiscoveryLand Paris. Any idea what kinds of attractions are there? Maybe it's supposed to be a more realistic and less fantastical take on the future - I suppose that, too, has a place in all this variety. As for Tomorrowland the movie? Honestly, it looks like a stinker with a couple of good moments thrown in, unlikely to spark a franchise like Pirates of the Carribean did.... but, all this nostalgia is kind of making me want to go see it :).
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/23/2015 | 10:06:14 AM
From a Disney Geek to another
David,

I share your passion for Disney and the visionary that Walt had. One of the aspects that I love about Disney is how they use and incorporate technology as part of there business model (which you've covered in detail in past articles).

That futuristic view is one of the aspects that I love Epcot.

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/23/2015 | 12:41:50 AM
Re: The future was a lot more interesting in the 50s it seems...
@Strustician- Disney might be selling them real cheap right now. They tried to revive the ride recently and it didn't go well. It was still fairly unreliable and not that much fun. You might be able to pick one up from them.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2015 | 3:33:41 PM
The future was a lot more interesting in the 50s it seems...
First off, where are the giant robots and neon lights in Tokyo Tomorrowland?  Perhaps they figured everything would just be white and grey, oh wait, just about every new thing now seems to be that way when it comes to buildings and technology!

But seriously, where can I get one of those hover bumpercars?
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