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The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is one of those divisive Walt Disney World attractions. You have one group, let’s arbitrarily call them “Group Cool, Attractive, Sophisticated and Well-Mannered Geniuses” who loves the PeopleMover, and another group, let’s arbitrarily call them “Group Brown Storm-Cloud” who finds the PeopleMover dull or boring. As was the case in the previous installments of this series on Country Bear Jamboree and Carousel of Progress, I will be “unbiased” in my review of the PeopleMover to facilitate comments and feedback from both groups.
TouringPlans.com’s attraction page describes the PeopleMover as “A once-unique prototype of a linear-induction-powered mass-transit system, the PeopleMover’s tramlike cars carry riders on a leisurely tour of Tomorrowland, including a peek inside Space Mountain. In ancient times, the attraction was called the WEDway PeopleMover (“WED” being the initials of one Walter Elias Disney).” This overview isn’t necessarily unfair, but it fails to capture the spirit of the amazing attraction that is the PeopleMover.
To understand the spirit of the PeopleMover, you must know its history. The history of the PeopleMover is something that has long intrigued me. I don’t have the space or expertise to properly detail the fascinating history of this under-appreciated attraction, but you should certainly check out this page at Yesterland detailing Disneyland’s PeopleMover (look at those gorgeous photos!), this page at Daveland describing more history (and photos!), this page at Walt Dated World that shares information about Walt Disney World’s WEDway PeopleMover, and this page at AllEars with more history and photos. If reading those pages doesn’t give you a new-found appreciation for the PeopleMover, I don’t know what will.
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t appreciate the historical significance of attractions (and I can appreciate this; after all, a wise man once quipped that Disneyland shouldn’t be a museum…I assume that also applies to Walt Disney World), there are some other reasons why you should appreciate the PeopleMover. The primary reason is the delightful and relaxing tour of Tomorrowland that it offers. Not only do you get to see some incredible views of Tomorrowland, but you get to see little vignettes, a model of Progress City, and you are offered a glimpse inside attractions and shops along the way. Disney has supplemented what would otherwise be a simple and relaxing trip through Tomorrowland on a futuristic transportation network with some entertaining visuals and an enjoyable narration.
The secondary reason, as touched upon above, is because the PeopleMover is the ultimate attraction for relaxation. It typically is a walk-on attraction that lasts nearly 15 minutes, and you can’t go wrong with that wait to attraction duration ratio! Once you’re aboard, you can kick up your feet and simply enjoy the park as you pass it by. You’re off your feet, away from the crowds, and you get an opportunity to really appreciate the beauty of the park. The PeopleMover offers quite possibly the most beautiful view of Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World, and watching the sunset over the Castle as you pass the entrance to Tomorrowland on the PeopleMover is truly magical. Similarly, at night when the neon glows in Tomorrowland, the PeopleMover takes on a totally different feel. To not enjoy the PeopleMover at night is distinctly unpatriotic.
If, despite my compelling and irrefutable argument above, you think that you’re still in “Group Brown Storm-Cloud,” you actually do like the PeopleMover. Trust me. This is because the PeopleMover adds a kinetic energy to Tomorrowland, and in so doing, enhances the experience of every guest, whether they know it or not. Kinetic energy in the parks is a sort of incalculable x-factor that enhances the guest experience through little details that give life to the park. Things as simple as water features, fixtures, theming, and (the obvious) outwardly visible motion-based attractions can all give kinetic energy to the park. A good example of kinetic energy is the Rivers of America at Disneyland. There, you have two boats, plus Davy Crockett canoes all on the same waters. Even if guests experience none of these attractions, they bring life and a certain atmosphere to the water area there. The same can be said for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, where the criss-crossing transportation attractions of Casey Jr., the Storybook Land Canal Boats, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Autopia, and the Disneyland Monorail (and at one time, the PeopleMover) all operate in close proximity to one another.
Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom has its own special kinetic energy, thanks to the lighting, music, details like the Tomorrowland Palms, Astro Orbitor, and the PeopleMover. Guests may not be able to put their fingers on what gives this area of the park a special energy, but it’s omnipresent in Tomorrowland and enhances the guest experience. So if you’ve ever been happy as you’ve walked through Tomorrowland, you have the PeopleMover to thank. Turns out some of you might have been unknowingly enjoying it after all, right?!
As is probably apparent by this point, I really enjoy the PeopleMover. It’s one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World, and admittedly, a lot of this is based upon my nostalgia for Tomorrowland ’94. (I am one of those rare PeopleMover fans who actually prefers the Tomorrowland Transit Authority name!) Now, this is not to say that I think the PeopleMover is perfect. I’m not a fan of the current narration, which I find bland and sedate as compared to the previous version that was more rich and gave additional flavor to the attraction. I also think that there are a lot of areas of dead space that Disney could enhance with vignettes or special effects for minimal amounts of money (even if only with some of those cool posters you see throughout Tomorrowland–from design to installation the costs of adding things like that would be de minimis). Enhancements to the narration and some of the vignettes would make this a perfect attraction in my eyes.
I can understand why some people overlook or don’t pay much attention to the PeopleMover. It’s not thrilling, it’s not incredibly themed, and it’s not cutting edge. People with limited time on Touring Plans bursting at the seams with headliner attractions simply might feel they don’t have the time to “throw away” on a mundane trip around Tomorrowland. However, if you do have the time but have yet to give the PeopleMover a chance, I’d encourage you to slow down, hop aboard the PeopleMover, and really absorb the sights and sounds of the Magic Kingdom as you glide by. You might exit with a new appreciation for the details and architecture of the park!
So what do you think? Are you a PeopleMover Person, or do you think I’m seriously over-hyping a lackluster attraction that slowly circles Tomorrowland? Share your thoughts in the comments!