Sunday, June 14, 2009

Matterhorn, Monorail, Submarines and Motor Boat Cruise Reach 50 Today

Today is a very important date in Disneyland's history, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of the 1959 additions to Tomorrowland. Realizing that Tomorrowland did not have enough attractions and wanting to add more toys to his park, Walt Disney visited and sent out many folks to visit amusement parks, industrial displays and Worlds Fairs (most notably the Brussel's Worlds Fair in 1958.) Their goal was to bring back ideas to update and renovate Tomorrowland. What was constructed was some of the most loved rides, the Matterhorn, the Monorail, The Motor Boat Cruise and The Submarine Voyage. In addition, the Autopia was refreshed and renewed. All of the rides added kinetic energy and excitement to a part of the park where the only movement previously had been the Autopia, a Viewliner train that was stuck in today and Phantom Boats that barely moved. Now with the added attractions, there was a transportation method of the future, a classic mountain backdrop to Sleeping Beauty Castle, two more versions where kids could glimpse into their own future when they would be able to drive cars or boats and the cutting edge scientific exploration offered by nuclear powered submarines. On this date, 50 years ago, this new Tomorrowland was dedicated with a celebrity filled TV show and parade with the Vice President of the United States Richard Nixon cutting the ribbon for the Monorail.
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.

15 comments:

Major Pepperidge said...

WOW, amazing post! Matterhorn1959 pulls out all the stops. Nice writeup, and thank you for letting us know that today is the anniversary of such a big day in Disneyland history.

What the heck, it is SO weird that the folks at Disneyland are ignoring this occasion!! Arg....

Hrundi V. Bakshi said...

Thanks Mattie! In honor of this golden anniversary, I'm going to shower, hop in the car and make the drive down to Anaheim and ride all surviving attractions today.

And here I thought I was going to lay around and do nothing. What a perfect way to spend a gray, June gloom SoCal Sunday.

Hrundi V. Bakshi said...

I just peaked outside and it's not so gray today. Even better.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

WOW, brilliant post, THANK YOU!!! Hmm, I was thinking of water-skiing today since we got some sun finally, but Hrundi has a great idea, maybe I'll head to the park to quietly celebrate this super golden anniversary. Did I mention, Awesome post!!! Thanks again!

Davelandweb said...

I feel pretty stupid for not acknowledging the 50th on my blog, but just as well, as your post is way better than what I could have put together! Excellent tribute, Patrick!

Jordan said...

Fantastic post. I love when you get a few (or a lot) more photos than usual into the blogs! The detail is fantastic.

jedblau said...

Great post...great photos.

210Frwy said...

Wow 50 years! Thanks for the reminder Matterhorn1959 and for the super pics - especially the mermaids!

You know it was a great idea to get the subs in the show building by having them enter and exit through waterfalls. So visually stunning and also since the subs were wet (as one of your shots show) when they exited, it looked like they may have actually submerged. Neat idea.

Chiana said...

Great post! You've done these great attractions proud. Disney can't do it, they're so financially unstable and poor, you know. It's up to us. Now it feels like an occasion. :)

Matterhorn might be my all time fav attraction. "Gentlemen, slide to rear of seat, ladies..." my so awkward tee hee.

Monorail? It's so futuristic it's been 50 years and we still get eye strain trying to see it in the future. Plus what a magnificent way to shuttle in & out of the park. That's a neat "2 Railways" bit.

The Autopia's a fond memory, in fact it's still cute and fun to putter about on (and say that's one good lookin' cast member working the autopia hehe).

That construction pic of the Sub and Monorail is superb. It reminds one how amazing these constructions are, and the leaps of creativity that inspired it. Dreams coming true there.

Michelle said...

Great photos! I wish the boat ride was still around and that I could ride the Matterhorn in just one car/sled intstead of two!!!

George Taylor said...

Great photos!!!

Anonymous said...

Love seeing these all the time - especially this one. So full of great shots and comments. Great way to honor these attractions and some great history.
Thanx

Vaughn said...

For me the Matterhorn is the Disneyland icon. When we visit each year I still get a thrill from seeing it from I-5. I used to tell my children that to get to Disneyland we'll go two miles to I-5, turn right and drive 1,152 miles south and when you see the Matterhorn, we are there!

narvolicious said...

My family and I have been milking our annual pass for all its worth, so we've gone about 7-9 times since October 2009. It's really given us a chance to both entertain our kid (3 1/2 yrs. old) and allow my wife and I to constantly reminisce on our own childhoods.

I totally remember the boat rides and wondered where they went. Now it's just some weird extension for people to sit in.

Although the "Finding Nemo" conversion of the subs is interesting, it's still not as cool as the original concept, at least IMHO.

The matterhorn still remains probably my favorite ride…for the longest time I was terrified of it as a kid, and never rode it until well into my teen years. I missed out!

I still trip out that Disneyland held onto its "scientific/futuristic vision" marketing for so long...I'm glad that it survived for as long as it did and that I was able to experience it before the major overhaul. Thanks for sharing! =)

heresrob said...

Thank you for showing the images. I loved the Disney era.