Three Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Inner Space

by Todd James Pierce
Up on the blog today is a new video about the long-gone attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space.  If you’re young, Inner Space used to occupy the show space presently taken up with Star Tours.  If you’re over 60, Inner Space took over where the Hall of Chemistry once stood.  Inner Space is a fascinating attraction because it connects the naïve acceptance that characterized America in the 1950s with the corporate and scientific skepticism that dominated the 1980s.  But all that’s explained in the video.
Science Land / Adventures in Science – Powercade (1950s)

In its 1967 incarnation, Inner Space was fully sponsored by the Monsanto Chemical Company.  Back in the days of ticket books, Inner Space was one of the few free attractions at the park.  Monsanto had been a Disneyland sponsor since opening day in 1955, and company president, Charles Allen Thomas enjoyed a close relationship with Walt Disney.  The company had backed the Hall of Chemistry, also the House of the Future, but by the mid-1960s, public sentiment was moving against Monsanto—especially for their manufacture of insecticides (such as DDT) and their warfare defoliating agents (such as Agent Orange).  In the post-show area, Monsanto tried to refocus its public image as a company that created man-made fabrics, crop fertilizers, and materials that contributed to various consumer goods, which accounts for one of the oddest juxtapositions in any Disneyland attraction.  Under the direction of WED designers, the ride itself embraced the technological skepticism of coming decades: the ride explored the fascinating dangers of scientific manipulation, with the original traveler shrinking toward his own doom as he explored the molecular components of water.  In contrast, the post-show radiated the good-will futurism of the previous decade, with its displays of synthetics and useful chemicals.

Science Land / Adventures in Science – Outer Space Attraction (1958)

Now I don’t want to involve myself too deeply with a discussion of the politics of Monsanto and its image management issues.  For me, it would be easy to make a left turn down this avenue.  I’d rather focus on the involvement of the WED designers who did an amazing job with this attraction.  So here are Three Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Inner Space.
(1)  Shortly after the park opened, Walt Disney saw the need to expand Disneyland with new themed lands.  In 1957, sales reps from Disneyland Inc. approached large American companies to secure sponsorships for attractions in three proposed expansion “lands.”  In all likelihood, you’ve heard of the first two: Liberty Street (forerunner to the Hall of Presidents and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln) and Edison Square (forerunner to the Carousel of Progress).  You can bop around the Internet all day and find descriptions and artwork for these two proposed areas.  The third expansion area, however, has mostly been lost to history.  At the back of Tomorrowland—roughly where Space Mountain now stands—Walt proposed to build “Science Land.”  (And yes, that’s the actual name used in the first expansion pitch book.)  During that same year, this expansion area was also known as Adventures in Science.  Science Land (AKA Adventures in Science) would have at least three—maybe even four—attractions: (1)  The “Powercade,” an entrance display of motors and gears, all sponsored by GM.  (2) A “time travel” attraction that would involve a journey back to the age of the dinosaurs.  In all likelihood, this idea evolved into the Ford Magic Skyway and later Primeval World, which still exists at Disneyland.  (3) A new outer-space attraction—beyond the current Rocket to the Moon attraction.  Here, guests would explore the near-future possibilities of space exploration and colonization.  (4)  Lastly, “Micro-World” in which guests would journey into a drop of water.  Around WED, this attraction also had the unfortunate nickname “the Protozoa Ride,” as the ride vehicles were originally shaped like protozoa.  The first piece of Micro World concept art released (dated 1957) looks very close to the Inner Space pre-show area that was built a decade later—minus the protozoa car, minus the liquid form of water that guests initially encountered. 
Science Land / Adventures in Science – Micro-World (1957)

(2)  The ride itself was developed by WED designers with input from Monsanto.  One of the most significant disagreements in the design phase concerned the molecule guests would explore.  The original plan—back in the “Micro World” days—called for guests to explore a single drop of water.  As Monsanto was a chemical company, executives there felt that the ride might center on another type of molecule—specifically one of the man-made polymers produced by Monsanto.  The WED designers ultimately held their ground, arguing that water was the single most important liquid for human existence and therefore related universally to the human condition.  In doing so, the WED designers also preserved in large part the overall integrity of the attraction.  The ride is about the exploration of water, both in a frozen and liquid state.  Only the post-show area explores the manipulation of natural molecules into chemical compounds.

Futurama Ride System
Omnimover Ride System
(3)   Inner Space was the first use of the “Omnimover” ride system.  While at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, WED designer, Bob Gurr studied the type of vehicle systems used by non-Disney dark rides, including the one in GM’s Futurama attraction.  Futurama employed a system of chain-linked, over-sized chairs that moved along a track.  The Futurama system allowed for continuous loading and unloading—therefore giving the ride high guest throughput.  But there was one drawback to the Futurama system: guests could see the entire show stage, including areas not intended for viewing.  Gurr’s adaptation of this system is brilliant.  His new ride system adds “directionality” and “timing” to the dark ride experience.  In Inner Space, the Omnimovers pivot to control the angle at which guests view the attraction.  This allows vehicles to turn so that guests are surprised by show elements.  This also allows ride designers to control the way guests visually experience a show stage.  In short, the Omnimover, with its wraparound hood, allows ride designers access to the same type of image control enjoyed by film directors.  A compelling addition to the dark ride experience—and a significantly more elegant vehicle design than the floppy “protozoa cars” proposed back in ’57.
OK, post up some comments below.  Check out the video.  And if you’re new to this site, you might enjoy some of these park-related posts.
That’s all I got for today.  If anyone is sitting on four extra passes to the Carsland press preview, make sure to drop me a note. 🙂 Otherwise, I’ll be back in a couple weeks with a new post.  See you then.

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