Monday, April 9, 2012

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

 Muchacho’s Attraction Reviews is a recurring series for Beefy Disney where I discuss and break down the individual attractions at Walt Disney World. Usually an unfocused, rambling collection of impressions and memories.

Originally it was just called “The PeopleMover”. Then the name was changed to The Tomorrowland Transit Authority in 1994 during the “New Tomorrowland” expansion. . The current name, made official in 2010, combines both to make it “The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover”.

This is one of only a couple examples where Disney bowed finally to the pressure of the people, who basically just ignored the new name, and kept calling it The PeopleMover.

I’m one of those “people”, though in my case it wasn’t because of some protest. PeopleMover is just what my Step-Mom called it every time we ever visited, and since it’s her favorite ride in the whole place, I guess it just stuck with me.

The thing about The PeopleMover…

I guess the first thing to mention is that it’s not exciting. I’ll probably mention this more than once, actually. There are no restraints. No inclines or declines. No loops. It tops out at maybe fifteen miles per hour. It just simply propels itself along a track, and sort of tunnels through some of the other Tomorrowland attractions. So, you know… if you’re looking for a thrill, Space Mountain is that way…

I should say, though, that the lack of thrill is at the center of the charm of The PeopleMover. Walt Disney World isn’t a place that shoots for the one-time thrill. Disney strives toward creating an ambient, immersive experience.

The concept behind Disney World is that there are themed “lands”, and The PeopleMover is housed dead-smack in the middle of Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is a “vision of the future”, and The PeopleMover is Tomorrowland’s vision of future transportation. It’s all very pleasant and light and breezy, in fact. Passengers don’t really wait in any sort of queue line, because like a couple of other attractions at Disney World (Peter Pan’s Flight, Spaceship Earth), PeopleMover is perpetually moving, and it’s sort of up to the riders to catch up to the cars. Fortunately, it’s not going very quickly.

So anyway, passengers line up only to the extent that you have to wait to board. There’s no 30 minute queue line, or broad theming or whatever. The theming of The PeopleMover’s line is essentially comprised of all of Tomorrowland itself. And that’s sort of the point, right? It’s like… in Tomorrowland’s reality, you’re basically lining up for the bus or subway. It’s not really even there for entertainment. When you’re in Tomorrowland, you’re a citizen of Tomorrowland… I kind of love that aspect of The PeopleMover. Maybe that’s why, more than anything, I wanted to discuss the PeopleMover first, among of all attractions for this ongoing series.

The PeopleMover is a symbol of the blurred reality that Walt Disney World loves most. On the one hand, it’s treated as a real mode of transportation in that place, where there aren’t glossy waiting lines, and there’s a sterility to the cars and the track and all of that. On the other hand, all of that sterility is intentional, and has just that slight twist of awareness that allows you to step into the reality of Tomorrowland, and also observe it as an outsider. It’s a ride full of puns, and views, and of course… as opposed to a real subway train… you de-board at the same place as you boarded, and you’ve gone everywhere and nowhere at once.

But I digress…
You line up and enter the ride via a graded moving sidewalk leading up to the loading platform. You board a train car with your party… Don’t worry… no need to sit with strangers. The demand is low enough that you aren’t going to be squeezed in.

Then you… you know… sit.
You’ll notice that the breeze is pretty nice. You’ll notice that the ride offers some pretty cool views of Cinderella’s Castle, and Spaceship Earth, and the Tomorrowland Speedway, and you know… the gift shop (if that’s your thing).

It’s arguably got the highest “Ride time to Wait time” ratio of anything at Disney World. I’ve rarely waited for more than 2 minutes, and the ride is a solid 10. My Step-Mom and I would ride it two or three times consecutively while we waited for my Dad and Sister to ride Space Mountain. Nobody minded that we didn’t even get off the ride. We just told them we’d like to ride around again, and they just shrugged and let us keep going.
I’ve ridden PeopleMover as a way to avoid the rain. I’ve ridden it to remind myself of the lay of the land. I’ve ridden to kill time. I’ve ridden for nostalgia.

All of those are totally valid reasons to ride The PeopleMover, but I’ll tell you… My favorite reason to ride is the excellent opportunity to take photos. There’s hardly a better shot to be had of The Astro Orbiter. You can get some great photos of much of Tomorrowland, and of Cinderella’s Castle, and of Space Mountain.

There’s something uniquely interactive about The PeopleMover. There are rarely rides where you’re encouraged to take pictures, and also where the photo opportunities are so varied. The only one I can think of at the moment is Kilimanjaro Safari, and you know… as much as I hate when people call Animal Kingdom “a zoo”, I have a hard time avoiding the reality of that particular ride being pretty darned zoo-like. The PeopleMover provides an experience and environment that is unique only to itself.

It’s not a traditionally exciting ride, by any means, but I still highly recommend The PeopleMover for simply being, by way of it being so unique, quintessential Disney. To me, if you want to see why Disney is magical, go ride The PeopleMover. It’s a simple ride. Maybe even boring, on its face, but the charm that Disney manages to squeeze out of such a concept is one of the truly great representations of the Disney Experience.

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