Welcome to Disney Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole Geryak, and I’ll be your captain on today’s journey around the (Walt Disney) World.
Before jumping over to Florida, it’s impossible to skip the biggest news at hand: the end of the Diamond Anniversary Celebration at the Disneyland Resort. Like most celebrations and promotions at the Disney Parks, this event lasted over a year but I didn’t hear anyone complaining, likely because of all of the amazing experiences that the event provided.
But the end of celebration means changes throughout the resort as it resumes its “normal” operating activities. The biggest changes to Disneyland will definitely occur in the nighttime entertainment department with Paint the Night taking an extended break and the Disneyland Forever fireworks fading away to extinction (or so they say). But guests aren’t being left empty-handed because the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks are returning to Disneyland after their brief appearance leading up to the Diamond Celebration.
The end of the celebration can’t help but make me reflect back on the history of Disneyland. Thinking about the park, my mind often tends to drift towards the beginning years of Disneyland when Walt still walked the park. So many of my favorite attractions were created during those first eleven years, but the one that always sticks out to me is the Enchanted Tiki Room. Nowadays, the musical extravaganza is synonymous with Dole Whip, the delicious pineapple dessert and the attraction’s sponsor, but it wasn’t always that way.
The original sponsor of the Polynesian show was United Airlines, then the official airline of Disneyland. It was an interesting choice to sponsor an attraction based in Polynesia with an airline, but it makes sense because most people would have to travel in order to visit the tropical area. In the mid-1960s, Disney also had to take a flight — a trip across the country to form Walt Disney World. Because of the different demographic, Disney began a search for a different official airline for the new resort, bringing us to our featured attraction of the day.
If You Had Wings, presented by Eastern Air Lines, opened on June 5th, 1972 in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. It was the first new attraction to open in the park that wasn’t intended for opening day — a pretty awesome distinction to have. At first glance, one thing that I couldn’t help but notice was that, although the attraction was completely unique on the East Coast, it shared a lot of similarities with another extinct attraction from over on the West Coast.
Adventure Thru Inner Space (my favorite extinct attraction) opened in 1967, paving the way for a Disney Park staple, the Omnimover. One of the most efficient ways to increase an attraction’s theoretical hourly ride capacity, this ride system was also utilized on If You Had Wings, most likely because Disney Legend Claude Coats was heavily involved with both. The attractions were also free attractions — a rare occurrence in those days because nearly every other attraction cost guests a ticket of some kind (until the 1980s). But my favorite comparison between the two has to be with how guests officially entered the dark ride portion of the attractions.
As you can see from the above pictures, both attractions had innovative ways of plunging you into the attraction’s environment, whether it be a Mighty Microscope or a Ginormous Globe. (Ok, I may have made the second one up, but I think it works.) I wish that those types of entryways still existed in some attractions today because they fully immersed guests into the world they were about to enter. Speaking of the world, If You Had Wings literally gave guests the chance to experience the world because the entire point of the attraction was to send guests on a journey around the Earth, sponsored by the one and only Eastern.
I love the story for this attraction because it was unlike anything I had seen in a Disney Park before. Sure, it was mainly sponsor driven, but it really worked in this case because guests had a chance to “fly” around the world, perhaps inspiring a future vacation. I wanted to go everywhere I saw along my “trip,” so I’m sure that this attraction truly accomplished its goal of inspiring tourism, maybe even on an Eastern flight!
But I don’t want to leave you in the dark, wondering what the attraction was like, so here’s your chance to check out the attraction for yourself. Be forewarned, the exteriors are very hard to see because the video screens are a bit bright, but it is still a fun experience.
The video screens were actually one of my favorite parts of the attraction because I hadn’t really seen use of them in that vintage of an attraction before. Thinking about it, they aren’t even close to being as impressive as audio-animatronics, but since I’m so used to them, the video screens had a bigger impression on me than animatronics would have. The exteriors really helped put the video screens in context, so I’m disappointed you can’t see them that well in the ride-through. One bonus of the ride-through though is that the sound was extremely clear, so you could hear the classic theme song.
The song “If You Had Wings,” written by Buddy Baker, is one of the reasons that this attraction is remembered in a such a fond way. It really is one of the catchiest songs in the Disney Parks pantheon and I found myself humming it the rest of the day after watching the clip. But even more impressive audio-wise is that Orson Welles actually performed the voiceover at the end of the attraction to add even more credence to this attraction’s storied history. I was unaware that he had a history with Disney, so it was so cool to hear his dulcet tones as the attraction came to an end.
But the biggest contribution that If You Had Wings had, in my opinion, was the introduction of the Superspeed Tunnel that graced the Disneyland PeopleMover for years. Entitled the Speed Room in If You Had Wings, it simulated moving at high speeds down a hill to transform a seemingly simple attraction into a “thrill” ride. The Speed Room was one of Disney’s first attempts at simulation and it paved the way for many more attractions down the road.
Luckily, the room remained when If You Had Wings finally touched ground to enter the Disney extinct attraction hangar.
Eastern Air Lines underwent some monetary issues during the middle of the 1980s, so they decided not to renew their sponsorship of the attraction when the time came around. Thus, If You Had Wings quietly closed on June 1, 1987, only to reopen five days later as If You Could Fly.
In what will become a recurring theme, not much changed to differentiate the attraction from its predecessor. The only major changes were that the song was removed, as were all traces of Eastern Air Lines. However, the problem with removing the song was that it was most people’s favorite part of the attraction, so a ride with no wait truly became barren.
In the meantime, Walt Disney World had continued its quest to find a new official airline for the resort and their dreams finally came true when Delta agreed to captain a new partnership. Therefore, If You Could Fly closed on January 4, 1989 to be replaced by Delta Dreamflight on June 23.
One thing that immediately struck me with Delta Dreamflight is how much it differed from its predecessors but in a very good way. If You Could Fly certainly felt dated, so it is more credit to the Imagineers that they could completely restructure the entire attraction within a predetermined space and track. Not only that but Delta Dreamflight also followed the same broad topic of If You Had Wings, while completely changing the story, necessitating a complete overhaul of the attraction to fit the new ideas being presented.
The above picture is actually one of my favorite pictures from any Disney theme park attraction because it just feels so Disneyesque to me. It perfectly shows the transition that Delta Dreamflight made to modernize its experience while also retaining the history of its prior pilots. Speaking of history, that was actually the theme of the attraction, with the Dreamflight taking guests through the entire history of flight — from the Wright Brothers to our potential future in space travel.
Delta Dreamflight truly felt like a classic Disney dark ride which is something that I truly appreciate in an attraction. Tomorrowland is not generally known for its dark rides, so I admire the intelligence of the Imagineers to include it there rather than somewhere in Epcot.
The attraction combined fun dioramas with complex audio-animatronics, and I think that it worked perfectly. It could be a little cheesy in some places, but overall, it felt like a true Disney experience. It even had the Speed Room, maintaining that unique piece of If You Had Wings’ history.
But that’s enough of my gushing about the attraction (which I never even had the chance to experience in person). Now, you get the chance to see it for yourself, so just click below to relive the experience that was Delta Dreamflight.
Ironically enough, Delta went through financial problems (like Eastern), requiring them to drop their sponsorship of the attraction. Delta Dreamflight officially closed on June 4, 1996 to reopen the next day as Take Flight. The entire process that If You Had Wings had to endure repeated itself with all traces of Delta being removed and a rerecorded song added to the experience.
Unfortunately, Take Flight never truly took off and it closed on January 5, 1998 to make way for an innovative new attraction that stands to this day. But before I tell you about it, I need to point out the crazy coincidence of the dates involved with the opening and closing of these attractions. The replacements to the sponsored attractions (If You Could Fly and Take Flight) opened on June 5 and 6 and closed on January 4 and 5, respectively. I’m not sure if that was on purpose or not, but I just had to point it out because it completely bewildered me.
But I digress. Toy Story was released during November 1995 and it immediately became a hit for Pixar and its distributor, Disney. Naturally, Disney was searching for somewhere to place an attraction based off of the hit film in the parks, with Tomorrowland being a perfect fit for a Buzz Lightyear-themed adventure. Real estate is short in Tomorrowland, so, as often happens, an older attraction needed to make way for the young guns to come in (quite literally in this case). That meant Take Flight’s time in the resort was at an early end, with Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin being the first non-plane themed attraction in that spot of the park.
So with that, our flight through Tomorrowland has come to an end. But no need to fear because next week, we’ll have a brand-new attraction to talk about, with the clues below for your enjoyment.
1. This attraction is celebrating its 30th anniversary next week.
2. This attraction could be found in four different parks during its prime.
3. This attraction had three Oscar winners involved.
I feel like a lot of you guys will be able to figure this one out this week, so good luck! I hope you really enjoyed this week’s post and thank you for reading. As always, I love to hear your thoughts on the attractions or the posts in generals, so feel free to comment below or contact me at any of the places on my bio! (My Twitter page needs some followers.)
And with that brilliant meme collage, have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.