Monday, May 18, 2015

Searching the World for Tomorrowland

Hong Kong Disneyland
My girl has the weight of the world's future on her.
Tommorowland, Hong Kong Disneyland

"There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of everyday
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow's just a dream away"
- Song from the Carousel of Progress Ride

Disney's new movie Tomorrowland opens this week to much anticipation. I. Cannot. Wait.

Disney is more than just a cartoon mouse and theme parks. It's a place where nothing is impossible. There's a part of it, courtesy of the vision of founder Walt Disney, that beckons people to become dreamers and explorers. To embrace global unity because "it's a small world after all" and to aim for a tomorrow that's bright, shiny and new. It challenges the imagination and immerses guests into alternate realities of the past and future. It celebrates those who have inspired us to think big and change the path of what might be.

My family has traveled around the globe, and woven in among our world travels are visits to Disney parks in 5 cities spread across three continents. We've sailed with them on the high seas, too. Even with all the sights a foreign land has to offer, we're drawn to Disney. Not because it's familiar, but because of that feeling of optimism and hope that seems to well up inside whenever we're surrounded by the fantasy Disney has created. It just plain makes us happy.

Disneyland California
It's a Small World, so let's all just be friends
Disneyland, California

A Secret Society is Born

Sometimes, Walt couldn't let the public know what he was up to. In 1964, various corporations began buying swampland in Florida. Unbeknownst to the different real estate agents involved, they were part of a secret society working together on a project shrouded from the public eye. People began suspecting something was going on but couldn't figure out what. These dummy companies were actually parts of the Disney corporation and would eventually join all their adjacent land tracts together to create one of the world's most famous theme parks, Walt Disney World. When Walt finally confirmed the project, he highlighted his idea of creating an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, otherwise known as EPCOT. Add in the Magic Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom to get a little bubble of fantasy where families can escape everyday life for as long as their wallets will allow.

EPCOT, geodesic dome, bucky ball
The ginormous Bucky Ball that's the symbol of EPCOT, Florida

A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

The theme of a great big, beautiful tomorrow runs throughout many of Disney's attractions. It's so gosh darn optimistic that I can't help but love it. My daughter is fascinated with technology, and it's no wonder she is enthralled by Innoventions over in EPCOT's Future World. One day, I'm going to finally take the Behind the Seeds tour of the ultramodern greenhouses at Living with the Land to get an up-close look at the hydroponic gardens. I remember being so awed by them when I was a kid. The Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom takes guests through a retrospective look at the introduction of inventions in the home. Afterwards, my family takes their time exiting through the concept home of tomorrow displays, curious at what improvements the future will bring. 

Spaceship Earth takes you through the history of communication from the creation of papyrus —much more portable than chiseled stone tablets — to the advent of computers, then it snaps a photo of each guest to show them what tomorrow might hold in store. Apparently for me, I'll spend my future lounging around an indoor fireplace in  fitted clothing — and curvy girls will give way to angular ones.

How I'll be spending my leisure days in the future according to Spaceship Earth

A Place Where You Can Change the World

Disney celebrates heroes, both the legendary icons and those whose skills are still undeveloped. In Florida's Disney Hollywood Studios, I found a guy I like to call Robo-Abe who was Walt Disney's boyhood hero. He's actually the original Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln from the 1964 New York World's Fair, sans clothing. I can just imagine him battling his way through divisiveness and promoting a world of unity and peace.

Disney Hollywood Studios
Audio-Animatronic Abe Lincoln, Disney Hollywood Studios, Florida

The highlight of my son's visit to Walt Disney World was finally facing Darth Vader with a light saber in hand. A few times each day, kids go through the Jedi Training Academy, then are given the chance to battle one-on-one with the Dark Lord and join together to use the Force against him. For this moment, they are making a difference in fighting evil. These kids get to be heroes.

My young Padawan versus Darth Vader, Disney Hollywood Studios, Florida

Building What Someone Was Crazy Enough to Imagine

Disney celebrates genius, ahead-of-their-time inventors who dream big. On the rooftop of Tokyo DisneySea's Fortress Exploration, you'll find a replica of one of Leonardo Da Vinci's Flying Machines built according to his drawings.What a flight of fancy it must have seemed to Da Vinci's contemporaries. Fly like a bird? Impossible. Remember Icarus? Centuries later, the impossible has become reality. Humans take flight, jetting their way across the world to Disney parks everywhere.

Tokyo DisneySea
Leonardo Da Vinci's Flying Machine, Tokyo DisneySea

You Wanna Go?

A Disney visit is best known for letting people immerse themselves in the land of make believe. You wanna go? To Fantasyland? To Adventureland? To Tomorrowland? You can.

Walking through Sleeping Beauty's Castle or sailing past Captain Jack Sparrow on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride transports you to the past, but the parks also celebrate the future and people's vision of it. One visionary that pops up is Jules Verne, and Disney delivers a way to enter his steampunk, retro-futuristic world of what might be.

Tokyo DisneySea, Mount Prometheus, Nautilus
Enter Jules Verne's Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

One of my favorite Disney rides in the world is when I make my way from the surface of Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea downwards to Journey to the Center of the Earth. It's as if I'm actually deep in the bowels of the Earth, further than anyone has ever been.

And is there anything more futuristic than Space Mountain? It's the closest that I'll ever come to hurtling through space among the stars. Is it any wonder that it's a beloved ride that appears in Disney parks all over the world?

Colorful exterior of Space Mountain, Disneyland Paris

Take Me to Tomorrowland

For some people, a Disney park is about princesses and castles. For me, it's about the future. It almost seems that if I just look hard enough, I can find that place — that great big, beautiful tomorrow that's just a dream away. Disney has been leaving us clues, through the decades and around the world. Perhaps, one day, I'll find the key.

Is there a place that inspires you to dream of a better tomorrow?

This post is part of the following link ups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. As a fellow Disney lover, I love this post, Michele. It really is amazing how innovative Walt was for his time and I'm so glad the Imagineers have stayed true to his visions. We are also looking forward to seeing the Tomorrowland movie. It was also great to see one of my favorite rides, Journey to the Center of the Earth, make an appearance here.

    1. Researching DisneySea was how I first found your blog which was my entry into the whole world of travel blogging. So Disney really did help me find a better tomorrow in that sense.

  2. Hi Michelle, it's a great way to look at Disney - being about tomorrow and beyond the princesses and castle. It has been more than a decade since the last time I was inside Magic Kingdom and Epcot (although I'm always in the area for work) and I still remember the magic feeling that its fantasy and it genius generates. I certainly love the amazing creativity. My recent connection with Disney was acquiring properties for my company in Celebration, Florida - a master-planned community created by Disney. I think it's the most residential area I've seen in Orlando area. The company have divested most of its control of the town but its vision is still very much evident. It seems like whatever Disney touched is magic.

    1. I was wondering if Disney Corp still had an interest in Celebration. I remember wanting to move there when I first heard about a community master-planned by Disney. I have my eye on Golden Oaks, their new resort community, but I would need to win the lottery to actually buy a house there.

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, what a fun way to explore this park after seeing the movie or really anytime.

  4. Visiting a Disneyland has always been a fantasy of mine since I was little - this post reminds me of my childhood fantasies. I'm now grown, but a girl can still dream - so one day I might make it to one of the Disneyland around the globe.

  5. Not sure it's my thing but certainly looks like you had loads of fun!!

  6. Funny, I never knew that EPCOT stands for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow." Disneyworld certainly is a very interesting place. I was very impressed with people on staff at the park. We probably wouldn't mind seeing the Disneyland either. What I really would love to do, though, is Disney Adventures!

    1. I would LOVE to do a Disney Adventures tour. If only I had the money...

  7. I think a lot of parents have trouble embracing Disney because at the end of the day it's a for-profit company seemingly built on selling to kids. But the reason it's soooo profitable is that it does what it does very well. I don't think profitability and genuine creativity have to be mutually exclusive. And I really enjoy Disney animation as well as the creativity that goes into the theme parks and hotels. Hope you enjoy the movie!

    1. Good point. Other than our love of the theme parks, we've been able to dodge most of the merchandise. There was about a year of fascination with Cars, but my kids never got into Princesses, Toy Story, or even Star Wars enough for us to have a lot of those toys. We didn't have cable when they were little, so we never got into the Disney Channel either. That's why I think it's kind of strange we love the parks so much.

  8. Who knew that Disney would be so thought provoking - I never really thought about Disney like this - I never watched much TV or visited adventure parks as a child, and so perhaps that is why. Now I let my little go nuts with the TV and soon to be Disney land :)

  9. It looks like tremendous fun. One of the great memories of our first trip to the US was taking the kids to 'Tomorrowland' at the original Disneyland. It was built in about the 60s I think and it was fascinating to see what the designers thought the future would hold and compare it to the present day. They weren't too far off the mark so you better get used to the idea of angular, tight fitting clothes - lol.

  10. Despite being a bit of a theme-park grinch, I was totally won over by the Disney vision and creativity. What I don't like so much is the relentless merchandising - but hey, those profits are what fund the ongoing creativity, so I accept that too.

  11. Michele, We,too, have been all over the world visiting Disney Parks. We never did the cruise, though. My girls are huge fans! Have you ever been to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco? It tells the story of Walt Disney. It's great! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

  12. Thanks for this great intro. Every time I visit a place that has a Disney Park I think I should go, but I never do. I guess it's because I'm usually traveling solo, and these parks seem to lend themselves more to groups (or at least one other person). However, next time I will! Thanks for linking up last week, and sorry I have been so slow in getting around. The end of the semester is always frantic! #TPThursday


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