Disney Parks Featured Attraction – The PeopleMover at Disneyland Resort
Welcome back to another Disney park featured attraction. This time we are going to talk about a classic attraction. The WEDWAY PeopleMover from the late 1960s. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the history of the PeopleMover at Disneyland Resort.
As the Walt Disney Company was preparing for the 1964 Worlds Fair they hands in many different projects. The Imagineers were working on Its a small world, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and the Ford Magic Skyway. The Ford Motor Company wanted an innovative way to show off its new line of Ford vehicles. When Walt was discussing the ride with Henry Ford he told him that they would develop a way to have people sit to ride in cars with no drivers. Mr. Ford asked how can this be done? Walt said its easy, We will use the booster brake system that we use in our Matterhorn attraction. Walt had put Disney legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr in charge of developing the system in which he had promised to Ford. Gurr had designed a track that was run by tires underneath the cars to move them under the track flawlessly.
Gurr stated that Ford Motor was very skeptical of the system that was being developed by Disney. They did not understand why Disney was developing a conveyer when Ford had been making conveyors for years. Once the attraction was built and tested, Ford changed their minds very quickly and was ecstatic that the system worked and it was going to be a great way to show lots and lots of people their new vehicles. Walt Disney himself provided the narration for the ride.
After the worlds fair, efforts turned towards the updating of Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Walt had always had the idea of having a people mover system to use in his future EPCOT project in Florida. What better place to try it out then at the Disneyland park in California? His idea was to have the people mover take people on a short trip through the Tomorrowland and show all the new things to come to the land. He reached out to Bob Gurr again for the help. The best idea was to use the same kind of system as the Magic Skyway and was very easy for Gurr to transfer the idea over. They had decided to put it in the air and make it the focal point of the Tomorrowland. Since the system was running completely on tires, Goodyear was a no brainer to sign on as the sponsor.
On July 2, 1967, the WEDWAY PeopleMover opened at Disneyland. It took you on a grand circle tour of the new Tomorrowland and was an instant success. It gave guests a place to take a break for 16 minutes and take a look at the land from above. And with such a high capacity ( about 4800 people an hour ) there was hardly ever a wait. The new system was so popular that a few cities actually adopted the idea for their towns a form of transportation. Walt always had bigger plans for the people mover. It was to be the main form of transportation for his EPCOT project. Unfortunately, Walt never saw his plan come to life as he passed away many years before EPCOT was built.
The Walt Disney World PeopleMover opened on July 1st, 1975, based on the PeopleMover attraction at Disneyland in California. Because it did not utilize the propulsion system of rotating Goodyear tires used in the original, instead of using Linear Synchronous Motors, Goodyear opted not to sponsor the east coast version. The Linear system was more expensive but way quieter than the Disneyland version and it used magnets instead of the electric motors to move the system.
The PeopleMover in Disneyland closed in August 1995 because Imagineers thought the ride was past its time and no longer a prototype, but rather a place to rest one’s feet and also as part of Michael Eisner’s program to save money by shutting down expensive and classic attractions. Tomorrowland was to be completely redone again to bring it more into the future. Star Tours and Space Mountain were to remain open as everything else was to be retooled and this included the beloved PeopleMover. The Rocket Rods were designed to be a fast-paced fun replacement and were to take guests on a quick fun journey high above the new Tomorrowland.
On May 22nd The Rocket Rods launched into the new Tomorrowland overhaul and I wish I could say it was a huge success. The truth is that the Rocket Rods did nothing but destroy the track where the people mover used to ride. As a matter of fact, it was closed most of the first summer it was opened. In August of 2000, The Rocket Rods Closed. At first, walls were put up to saying that it would reopen soon. On April 28th, 2001 it was reported that the Rocket Rods will never reopen. And this brought the end of the people mover track at Disneyland as well.
The people mover was a true innovation for its time when it opened in the late ’60s and served Disneyland guests for over 30 years. When people are asked what ride would they like to see back at Disneyland The People Mover is always at the top of the list? How do you feel about it? and would you like to see the People Mover back at Disneyland?