Science & Technology

The Search for Tomorrow


In late May, Disneyland will open its third revamped Tomorrowland. Gone is the hard edge of 1950s modernism. The new Tomorrowland draws on the visions of Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci; its buildings are decorated in lush jewel tones; its gardens are filled with fruit trees. (Tomorrowland does still have spaceships; the new Rocket Rods ride is the fastest in the park.)

Social critics have been quick to see Tomorrowland's most recent changes as proof that progress is a fantasy and technology suspect. The cultural critic Tim Appelo declares that Disney's "Imagineers know we're scared of the future….[T]he old Disney dream of erecting a futuristic techno-paradise is dead."

Giving up "techno-paradise" doesn't mean giving up technology or optimism, however. It means letting the future evolve to suit what people want. Contrary to 1950s planners, the real people who buy Disneyland tickets don't want to live in generic high-rise apartments and walk their dogs on treadmills. And Tomorrowland has always emulated the evolving future: constantly under revision, to incorporate new information and please changing tastes. The great thing about the park, said Walt Disney, was that it "will never be finished….It's alive."