November 22, 2010

Disneyland's Time Machine

Every fan of Disney parks knows the two cardinal rules of good theme park design:
Rule Number One- It's all about a Good Story, and
Rule Number Two- Keep it in Theme.

Tomorrowland 1998 was a mess- there are few disputes on this fact. God bless them, but Imagineer Tony Baxter and team did the very best they could under much pressure, shrinking budgets, and generally horrendous circumstances.

Without going into the details, let me highlight something they did very right: The Disneyland Time Machine. Where is it? Well, it is hidden in the guise of the Disneyland Railroad! Right at the station is this little flourish. A sign that could have been easily overlooked, ignored, or budgeted out of the remake of the land. Instead, its existence highlights the desire to do things well.

As guests walk to the Tomorrowland Train Station, an ever changing billboard announces the multiple destinations available for your journey to the past. Be it 200 million years BC to the realm of the dinosaurs, America in the year 1860, or the year 1900, this time machine on rails is ready to take you there.

Sure, it is just a small piece of advertising for an attraction in a theme park. Yes, it is not a big draw like Pirates of the Caribbean or Splash Mountain, but it is just another one of those things for which Disney Imagineering is famous. Layers upon layers of detail which build a great and consistent story.

No jokes here about taking this time machine back to the 1990's when California Adventure was conceived. But I'd gladly jump in for a ride to 2012 when the changes to the park are complete!
(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)


SamLand said...

Great article. For me, the real time machine is the Tomorrowland Depot itself. Even though it is supposed to be a modern station, it was in fact built in 1958 and one of the oldest things in the park to not be changed significantly. Space age architecture before there was a space age.


Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I agree with Samland - I touch that 1958 googie-steel structure on every visit, you just know Walt was under that roof a few times!