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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn


Tomorrowland, on the other side of the park from Frontierland and Adventureland, represents the fantastic future where space and time are merged into “space-time” (Marin, 1984).  Newton, we're not in a mechanized universe anymore; although ironically, in Tomorrowland, mechanics, in the form of technology and not quantum mechanics abound.  This is probably due to the nature of subatomic particles, which are notoriously skittish things and have an on-again-off-again attitude to the world.  They are not easily captured, let alone understood, by the vast majority of people, which could be one of the reasons for… 

Tomorrowland’s Troubles

Tomorrowland was the last land to be constructed, and was largely unfinished when Disneyland opened in 1955.  Tomorrowland has been described as the “poor relation in the happy family of lands” (Marling, 1997, p. 143) and "the least impressive piece of Disneyland cake" (Finch, 1983, p. 431).  Tomorrowland, as its name suggests is based on the future but the future is problematic, in that the future is always arriving and then becoming the past.  Tomorrowland is where technology is showcased and Disney very much believed in technology and the so-called “myth of progress.” Indeed, Tomorrowland revolves around technological progress, and many of the attractions involve transportation technology.  Disneyland was the home of the first monorail in the Western Hemisphere, which debuted in 1959 with the first new Tomorrowland, while the "Peoplemover" and Monsanto's "Adventure into Inner Space" "wondrously" made their debuts with the second new Tomorrowland in 1967, archetypally reflecting the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of that time, showcasing the empowerment of technology.

Tomorrowland is an expression of Disneyland’s open-minded future orientation, reflecting the fact that the park will never be finished (King, 1981a).  Tomorrowland was the most utopian part of the park:

If Disneyland as a whole—its spatial reassurances and human scale, its concern for providing visual pleasure, its walkability and fanatical cleanliness was a critique of Los Angeles and the modern city, then Tomorrowland was supposed to be a place where solutions to urban problems were dramatized.  A place where Walt could try to articulate a future so compelling that his guests and their children would want to go home and make it all come true, down to the moving sidewalks and the dancing fountains.” (Marling, 1997, p. 143)

Currently, Tomorrowland has the retro look of an imagined future, because the pace of technological change is so fast now, any Tomorrowland would be outmoded by the time it was built.  Bukatman (1991) says that the very name Tomorrowland “carries a casual colloquialism.  Tomorrow is after all, not so far away, while land suggests the whimsicality of the fairy tale (it is an all-important suffix in conveying a childlike innocence or nostalgia)” (p. 57).  [The "Looking-Back Looking-Forward" excursion looks at the relationship between paradise, nostalgia and utopia and is located here for precisely this reason.]

Tomorrowland, Terminal Space, and the Transcendent 

For Bukatman (1991) Tomorrowland is a “retro-future.”  He points out that “the Disney futures are simultaneously reactionary and progressive, nostalgic and challenging.  They are also richly imbricated with the shifting experiences and metaphors of postmodern urbanism, electronic culture and pervasive redefinitions of space and subjectivity” (pp. 58-59).

Bukatman sees the Disney theme parks as “projections of terminal space . . . . a gigantic piece of installation art "(p. 73).  This has a very Tomorrowland feel, and it should, since Bukatman's article is entitled “There’s always Tomorrowland.”  Walt would have marveled at this view.  In addition to seeing Disneyland as topographically similar to the brain, Bukatman fascinatingly sees the Disneyland experience as being inside of a virtual reality system, which evokes memories of Tron (Lisberger, 1982).  Bukatman says that Disney’s narrative strategies comprise a kind of “virtual reality system that move guests through a technologically informed yet fundamentally conservative and historically bound vision of the ‘future’” (p. 73).  If we imagine Disneyland as a gigantic computer, where the different structures of the system are spatialized, Bukatman wondrously explicates: 

Each of the rides and attractions—files—are gathered into the subdivisions of different lands—folders.  Utilities punctuate the array in the form of food and service kiosks.  The pervasive transportation systems… that shuttle the “guests”/users from function to function form an extremely efficient operating system.  All the technology remains hidden behind the tropical plants and architectural facades of the attractions, just as the ubiquitous beige shell of the personal computer disguises the micro-circuitry within.  Finally, the blips being processed and circulated within this cybernetic paraspace—are us.  The computer becomes a site of bodily habitation and experience in the theme parks—a technological interface so effective that most users are unaware of the interface at all. (p. 73)

To think that we are physically having a virtual reality experience, inside a gigantic liminal space is really quite mind-blowing.  Again, we see the Neptunian-Uranian mixture of technology and illusion.  Seeing Disneyland in this light, gives us a whole new view of the world.  Other maps that we have seen have given us different views of the world as well.  William Irwin Thompson (1972) in The Edge of History wrote about the “nonordinary” nature of Disneyland:


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