To fully understand where the Goodyear PeopleMover began, we have to go back to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Walt and his team of Imagineers were deep in development of four major attractions for the fair: The State of Illinois’ Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, The UNICEF pavilion’s It’s a Small World, sponsored by Pepsi, General Electric’s Progressland and the Ford Magic Skyway.
On the Magic Skyway, fair visitors would ride in the latest and greatest 1964 convertible Ford vehicles through time, back to the prehistoric wilds of the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that can still be seen today on the Disneyland Railroad’s Grand Circle Tour between the Tomorowland and Main Street train stations. Guests traveled through history past cavemen, the invention of the wheel and into the future of travel.
What was unique and groundbreaking for WED and the Magic Skyway, was the propulsion system that they created. Since the attraction utilized real Ford vehicles, using the engines in the cars would have not only been noisy but hazardous to one’s health with running combustion engines constantly inside the show building. What WED created was a series of motors about every three to nine feet in the guided track that turned a wheel. Two, three or four wheels at a time made contact with a solid plate that ran the length of the now engineless vehicle, essentially pushing and pulling the car along the track. The motors could be set to certain speeds to either speed up or slow down the vehicles during the ride.
The Ford Magic Skyway wound up taking third place in attendance numbers out of all of the exhibits and attractions the first year of the fair. It came in third only to The State of Illinois’ Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and GE’s Progressland…both attractions designed and built by WED.
The genius thing about Walt Disney was that by approaching companies with the idea of letting WED design attractions for them at the World’s Fair, the Disney company was actually paid to design systems and technology they would have otherwise had to spend their own money on. These fours attractions alone led to the development of technologies that propelled some of the most fan favorite Disneyland rides to what we know and love today. It’s a Small World’s system of propelling boats through the attraction using currents changed Pirates of the Caribbean from a walk through attraction to a leisurely boat ride. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln also changed the pirates from wax figures into talking, singing and moving audio animatronic characters. And the vehicle propulsion system in Ford’s Magic Skyway led to the Disneyland’s PeopleMover.
When Walt decided to bring the technology of the Magic Skyway to Disneyland, the Imagineers came up with a transportation system that used the same system of motor-less trains propelled by tires in the guide track. The only problem was that they needed a sponsor. At the World’s Fair, Ford was willing to sponsor the attraction with the caveat that the vehicles be Fords. Never would they sponsor an attraction at Disneyland that promoted the end of the automobile era. So Walt decided to approach Goodyear. After all, the ride utilized a tire every 9 feet (517 in all) along it’s 3/4 mile track to propel the trains forward along with the wheels on the trains.
The Goodyear PeopleMover opened on July 2nd, 1967 as part of the New Tomorrowland project and featured 62 continuously moving, four car trains, capable of carrying four passengers in each car. The trains were one of four colors: red, blue, yellow and green with a white roof. The loading area was an elevated circular platform on the second floor beneath the Rocket Jets that continuously rotated like a record player, allowing the trains to never stop during unloading and boarding. At peak performance, the Goodyear PeopleMover carried 4,885 guests per hour and 40,000 guests per day.
Once aboard, you travelled at speeds between two and seven miles an hour on a 16 minute loop through some of the buildings in Tomorrowland, including Adventures Thru Inner Space and the Carousel of Progress building where you saw the model of Progress City. You also traveled over the submarine lagoon and Autopia and through the Circle Vision 360 Theater, previously known as the Circarama Theater until 1967. The Carousel of Progress closed in 1973 and American Sings took over the building in 1974 but the Progress City model was still on display.
In 1976, the Goodyear PeopleMover closed for a renovation that would see it open back up on May 27th, 1977, now passing through the brand new thrill ride: Space Mountain. This track change also led to the removal of the Progress City model and replaced with the SuperSpeed Tunnel. This section of the ride included projections of race cars on the walls of the tunnel and gave the impression of traveling at high speeds. On July 2nd, 1982, the tunnel name was changed to the Game Grid of Tron to promote the new film, Tron. The projections were changed to scenes from the movie and the attraction was promoted as the PeopleMover Thru the World of Tron. In 1987, all the cars were painted white with a single stripe down the side in one of the original four colors.
During the life of the PeopleMover, it had two safety upgrades following deaths due to young guests attempting to move from one car to another. In 1968 all the cars on the 62 trains were partially wrapped with safety rails to try to prevent car hoping. Then again in 1985, the rails were modified to wrap completely around the cars.
Goodyear sponsored the attraction from it’s opening in 1967 until the last day of 1981. Goodyear’s long time instrumental jingle however, could be heard on the ride until 1990.
In August of 1995, the PeopleMover made it’s last loop through Tomorrowland and closed at Disneyland permanently. Partly due to Disney Imagineers feeling that the ride was past its prime but also to it’s lack of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance. The track was retrofitted and in 1998, and was used for the new attraction Rocket Rods, which was plagued with break downs from the beginning. But that’s a story for another entry in the Attractions of Yesterday.
The complete track has been left intact throughout Tomorrowland and even appears to be lovingly cared for. The track has been repainted and the groundskeepers keep tree branches cut back off the track. In 2010, then Disneyland President George Kalogridis said at a D23 convention, “But don’t worry. Everyone understands the passion everyone has for it [the PeopleMover]. Hang in there.”. I personally hope that’s the case. I was lucky enough to go on the PeopleMover in 1987, during my fist visit as a child. I loved it. Unfortunately, no one else seemed to as I was usually the only one in my entire train. I often look up at the tracks on the way into Tomorrowland, wondering if they’ve been left there with the hopes of reopening the ride one day or just to provide shade to the people on the benches below. We can only hope…