The design elements were a giant leap forward for amusement and theme parks. The Matterhorn was the first roller coaster made with tubular steel track and a sophisticated dispatch system. It did harken back to the scenic railways of Walt's childhood being set in a themed environment, but a roller coaster had not been placed in a thematic environment in many years. All of the large, fast steel tubular track roller coasters owe their heritage to the Matterhorn.
The Monorail of course was an engineering marvel. Running silently on a small beam, it was definitely a transportation method of the future. The concept was so intriguing, most Worlds Fairs featured some sort of Monorail for many years after. Other theme parks also built their own monorails.
Both the Motor Boat cruise and the Autopia showed kids their own personal future. At the same time, during the 1950s, a large freeway system was not very common. Most guests had never driven on such a road. In fact, there are many postcards showing a classic Los Angeles cloverleaf with the caption "Dig those crazy LA freeways!" Plus who could resist the styling of the cars, it was like being able to drive the dream car one read about in the newspaper from the GM Motorama or Detroit Car Show.
The Submarine Voyage was the tangible future at the time. The USS Nautilus had just traveled submerged under the North Pole making world wide news in the process. Nuclear powered vessels were seen as the vehicles of the future, the thought was that the future would see nuclear powered autos, trucks, planes and rockets. Submarines were one of the first practical uses for nuclear power. At this time, Disney published a book Our Friend the Atom showing how nuclear energy was the key to the future. Tie into this the military industrial complex at the time and the tensions of the cold war with the Soviet Bloc, and the attraction was seen as the future of America. Plus, it was one of the first rides to submerge the guests in a total environment.
You would expect Disney to celebrate this acheivement and honor these attractions. But there is no such thing, no special event, no cocktail reception, no special rides on Nemo with the lights on, no special merchandise, nothing, nada, zip! However, I hope by showcasing these images from my old post and expounding upon my thoughts, that today you appreciate and wish (or sing) these attractions a happy fiftieth birthday.