The Skyway to Fantasyland (or the reverse Skyway to Tomorrowland) opened on June 23rd, 1956 as part of a $2 million expansion project less than one year after the park opened. The attraction was a “D” ticket leisurely suspended gondola ride lasting a mere three and a half minutes traveling back and forth between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
The Skyway was a 1947 Vonroll sidechair model, Type 101 and built by the Swiss based company, Von Roll, LTD. It was the first aerial ropeway in the US and although a slow ride across the park, some guests considered it somewhat of a thrill ride with the height and gondolas that swung in the wind and over the support towers.
In 1959, several attractions opened in Tommorowland and Fantasyland, including the Submarine Voyage, the Disneyland Monorail, the Motor Boat Cruise and the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The problem between the Skyway and the Matterhorn was that the Matterhorn was slated to be built right in the path of the Skyway. Imagineers quickly got to work on the problem and came up with a solution. The bobsled portion of the Matterhorn would only take up the bottom half of the mountain. So they quickly designed an opening through the top half of the mountain for the Skyway to travel through. During the construction of the Matterhorn, the Skyway never closed, not even for one day.
In 1982-’83, Fantasyland went through a major remodel that gave the buildings in Fantasyland a facelift as well as moved some of the rides such as the King Arthur’s Carousel, the Teacups and Dumbo. During that time, the Skyway only made round trips from the Tomorrowland station.
On November 9th, 1994, the Skyway made its last trip after 38 years of service. The ride closed for several reasons: It was not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, The staff was needed at the soon to be open Indiana Jones and more importantly, stress fractures were found in the rides main support column…which was surrounded by the Matterhorn. I’ve heard that Imagineers came to the conclusion after inspecting the support tower and the Matterhorn, that the only way to fix the tower, was to somewhat demolish the Matterhorn…which was just not an option. Some people speculated that safety was also a reason the ride closed but I can only find one reference to one incident involving the ride. In April of 1994 a man jumped from a gondola and landed in a tree outside of Alice in Wonderland. He suffered only a broken leg and minor abrasions. He initially claimed to have just “fallen out” and sued the Disney Corporation but prior to trial, admitted that he had actually jumped out of the gondola.
The cable and the towers were completely removed within two weeks of the ride closure. The Tomorrowland station, which sat above the souvenir stand between Innoventions and Autopia, was demolished. The Fantasyland station still exists today but is hidden by an overgrowth of trees. Keen observers can see it while on the Casey Jr. Circus Train. It has been rumored that the Fantasyland station is slated for demolition due to a pest infestation and a weakening structure. The western holes in the Matterhorn were completely closed up but the eastern holes were only partially closed. From the right spot in Tomorrowland, the hole is a giant hidden mickey.
This was another of my favorite attractions that I actually got to go on as a kid. The Skyway was one of the keys to my ability to get around the park so quickly. Although there is absolutely no chance that this ride will ever come back, it’s still nice to dream.