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Magic Kingdom Skyway

After I published my blog about the demolition of the Tomorrowland Skyway Station, one of my readers wrote and asked me to write a blog about this defunct attraction. I don’t usually take requests for articles, but I felt that this was timely subject matter and decided to go for it.

The first Disney Skyway opened at Disneyland on June 23, 1956. Walt was so taken by this mode of transportation that he signed an agreement to purchase this attraction from the Von Roll, Ltd. Company without giving any consideration as to where this ride would be located in his park. But Walt thought of the Skyway as more than just a ride. He thought of it as another mode of transportation that could be used to carry people across large parking lots and shopping centers. He wanted to use Disneyland to showcase this idea.

There is a legend that says that part of Walt’s inspiration for Disney World came to him while riding the Disneyland Skyway. From the lofty height of sixty feet, he could see outside the park and onto the rush-hour traffic of the Santa Ana Freeway that skirted his property. He knew then that he needed more land so he could shield any future project from the outside world.

There were three Disney Skyways in total, the second opening at the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 (opening day) and the third at Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1983 (also on opening day). All three offered one-way rides between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The Magic Kingdom’s version had the distinction of being the only one that made a turn in the middle of the journey.

It is often reported, incorrectly, that the Magic Kingdom closed the Skyway due to the death of a custodial cast member working on the attraction. Although it is true that Raymond Barlow was accidentally killed while cleaning a narrow Skyway platform, this had nothing to do with the decision to shutter the ride. Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland had both closed their versions of this attraction before this death occurred. The decision to close all of the Skyways was strictly economical. These attractions were old and expensive to run and maintain. Also, they had low capacities. This made it harder and harder to justify on a “dollar spent per guest ride” basis. Combine this with the constant problem of teenagers spitting and throwing things on the guests below and it’s not hard to understand why Disney said “Enough.” The Magic Kingdom Skyway closed on November 9, 1999.

The Skyway was a perennial favorite of many people. Even though the line was often long, it was worth the wait once we were airborne and looking down on the many sights below. As you passed other gondolas, you would smile and wave to its passengers. And when you could see the terminus station come into view, you grew sad because you new your flight was almost over.

I have dug through my photo collection and pulled out my Skyway pictures. Please note, some of these pictures are old and of dubious quality. I have also included a video I took in October, 1986. It was shot using one of those old, large, “carry-on-your-shoulder” video cameras of the early 1980’s. For many years, this film sat deteriorating on VHS tape until I finally copied it to a DVD. When I electronically extracted it from the DVD so I could share it with you, I lost additional quality. So please forgive this video.


The Fantasyland Station had a Swiss chalet design and yodeling could often be heard in the queue. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway Station


Leaving the station. (1972)


Fantasyland Skyway

Fantasyland Skyway


Here we see the Columbia Harbour House. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


The Mad Tea Party is the the lower left of the picture. (1972)


Fantasyland Skyway


Cinderella's Golden Carousel is dead ahead. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway

Fantasyland Skyway


Looking back at the Peter Pan attraction. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


Down below is Pinocchio Village Haus. (1975)


Fantasyland Skyway


Here is a very old Dumbo attraction -- before a major refurbishment. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway


An newer Dumbo and the 20,000 Leagues Lagoon. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea loading area. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


The Nautilus. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway


Tomorrowland Terrace. (1972)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Tomorrowland Terrace and Cinderella Castle. (1972)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Grand Prix Raceway. (1975)


Tomorrowland Skyway

Tomorrowland Skyway


WEDway People Mover and Contemporary Hotel. (1983)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) and the Skyway. (1994-95)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Space Mountain and the Contemporary Hotel. (1975)


Tomorrowland Skyway


TTA and Astro Orbiter. (1994-95)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Tomorrowland Skyway Station. (1989)


Tomorrowland Skyway Station


Here's my video of the Skyway shot in October, 1986.

The previous post in this blog was Kouzzina by Cat Cora - Disney's Boardwalk.

The next post in this blog is Test Track - Epcot.

Comments (24)

Janine:

Thanks Jack for that video. That brought back a lot of good memories. That was one of my favorite rides at WDW. Another great blog, keep them coming.

Baines Family:

Thanks for all these photos and the video. It brings back lots of memories...except one. On the end of the Skyway by the Contemporary, I can't seem to picture the station in my mind. Was it by the Carousel of Progress? Did they demolish the "Alps" station side of the Skyway, or just the side near the Contemporary?

Jack's Answer:

The Tomorrowland Skyway station was located about halfway between the Carousel of Progress and Space Mountain. And the Fantasyland Skyway (Alps) station is still standing to the left of Small World.

Aubrey Cooper:

Do you know if they plan on demolishing the Fantasyland Skyway Station remnants? I must admist that I hardly notice the structure anymore, except at MNSSHP. I just LOVE they way they light it up and had smoke machines around it. It reminds me of the infamous covered bridge on which Ichabod Crane meets his demise. :)

Jack's Answer:

I have not heard of any plans to remove the Fantasyland Skyway station. Since it's not in the way of anything, it would not make economic sense to remove it at this time.

I believe Disney decided to raze the Tomorrowland Skyway station at this time because they were conducting a major rehab on neighboring Space Mountain and they could incorporate the projects.

Chi Tran:

Thanks for a wondeful blog again. The video is great. I did not know anything about the Skyway and 20,000 leagues under the sea until I read your blog. I remembered to see the station at Fantasyland and wondered about it.However we usually try to get on the rides and forget about it. When we went to Disneyland this year, I saw a Nemo Submarine attraction there. The line was so long so we skipped it. Is it almost the same as the 20,000 leagues under the sea? I wish they were still there.
Thanks

Chi

Ron Stalsberg:

Thanks Jack for another great Blog. The pictures and video were great. I can remember riding the skyway many times while living in S. California years ago at Disneyland. I was also lucky enough to ride it at WDW many times before it closed. Your blogs really bring back a lot of wonderful memories. Thanks Ron.

Connie La Tempa:

This ride brings back memories. I have pictures from the 1st time I visited Disney World July 1972. Of course, & unfortunately did not stay on property (now nothing but). Anyway, that was a very nice ride. Should bring back.

jeannine:

hi jack! another great blog..i have a question that i figured you may be able to answer. while i was in disney in march i noticed the swiss chalet and never remembered it from my childhood visits and didnt bother to investigate it. it was only now that i remembered what it was once used for thanks to your blog but what i am wondering is, is it used for anything today? thanks again!

Jack's Answer:

The old Fantasyland Skyway station stands empty. The area in the front of the chalet has been converted into stroller parking for those going to Peter Pan and Small World.

Lynn Johnson:

Jack - I remember taking video (with a similar VHS, behemoth-size camera) from the Skyway at WDW. I loved the classical version of "You Can Fly"! Where did that come from?

Jack's Answer:

See the next comment.

Jeremy Hardy:

Jack,

Very enjoyable blog, as usual. I love the fact that you chose "You Can Fly!" to accompany your video. I really enjoyed this arrangement of the song, and would like to hear more. Could you share your source?

Thanks,

Jeremy Hardy

Jack's Answer:

The song "You Can Fly" was performed by the Blue Bayou Strings. This was a group of violinist (and a keyboard player) that strolled through the Blue Bayou Restaurant (at Disneyland) during its early years of operation. At some point during their gig, Disney recorded ten to twelve of their selections -- all Disney music, of course.

Years later, Disney sold "create your own" Disney CD's. At various kiosks at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, you could select from a wide range of Disney songs and attraction tracts. Since I used to work at the Blue Bayou, I made a disk with this music. Unfortunately, these kiosks were discontinued years ago and this music is no longer available.

Julia:

Jack,

Thank you for writing about this wonderful attraction. It was certainly one of my favorites in all of WDW. I really enjoyed the photos and video. And you certainly cleared up some of the myths and misconceptions about the Skyway.

It's a shame that ill-mannered teenagers and rising costs led to the close of this much-loved attraction. Even so, I like how WDW is different and fresh every time I go, even at the cost of losing some of my personal favorites. The new changes give me something to look forward to with every trip.

Kevin:

Jack, when I read your description of the video quality, I thought, "That's Jack, overdoing it on the deprecation." I was so happy to be right! The video looks great, as do the photos. As someone still recently converted to Disney love, I never rode the Skyway, so it's things like this that really make me appreciate WDWs lore and history. Terrific!

Nanette:

Dear Jack,

Thank you for another wonderful and most relevant blog. Your archive is amazing!

I wanted to comment on this because it does have special meaning to me. I've been visiting WDW regular since 1996. I'd always wanted to ride on the skyway but the lines were always way too long and slow. So I always had the 'we'll get it next time' attitude. However on the day I was leaving for the airport in April '99, I finally took that ride. It was wonderful, I particularly loved the view of the castle. But I still took it for granted at the time because we have a tendancy to think that things will last forever! The next time I came back (a year later) It was shut, and after a while it was apparent that it would be indefinitly.

Anyway, each time I walk under the Columbia harbour house and view what was there, I always reflect on how lucky I was to have eventually got my shot on the Skyway :)

Reagan:

Jack,
I loved your pictures and video! They brought back great memories!
Incidentally, my first Skyway ride was on my 3-year-old birthday. I don't know if I remember that one specifically, but my parents tell me the story of my mother (who is afraid of heights and was expecting my sister at the time) thinking I going to fall over the side when I stood up next to my father. It about sent my mother into preterm labor. When I think of the Skyway ride, I think of that story that I heard multiple times growing up.

Karen Robertson:

WOW, Jack, I cannot thank-you enough for that. Having not been to Disney world til 2000 Pictures and video like that are a treasure to see. Since then, I have been once or twice a year. Will be there for the second time this year to go to the first night of MVMCP. My friends and I are hoping to run into you and get an autograph. Here's hoping!:)

Kelly:

I loved the video! I remember riding the Skyway in the early '80s and loved it!

Rob:

Jack,
Another awesome blog! Sadly I never got to experience this classic attraction however I do recall on a trip back in 2001 that the Fantasyland Station was being used as a butterfly exhibit. Do you have any recollection of this? Thanks!

Rob

Liz:

Thanks for the great article and video! We are "regulars" to WDW, but had the chance to travel to California to visit Disneyland last week... seeing the video of 20,000 Leagues at WDW made me think that removing the ride was one of the dumbest things Disney has done. Why didn't they turn it into Finding Nemo Sub Voyage, like at Disneyland? That attraction was FANTASTIC and our favorite at DL!

dusty:

a line drive into deep center field by gosh by golly jack has hit another one out of the park

Walter Sobchak:

Two of the Tomorrowland pics are dated incorrectly: "TTA and Skyway" and "TTA and Astro Orbiter," both dated as 1989. These must be from that short period where the Skyway operated as part of the New Tomorrowland of 1994-95, as the mechanical trees in the former picture and the Astro Orbiter itself in the latter were not in the park until 1994.

Jack's Answer:

In the early years, I sorted all of my pictures by date. As time when on, I just started lumping all of my pictures together by category (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland) rather than by date. My brain was not engaged when I posted this blog. Thanks for keeping me honest.

Chris Klusmeyer:

Greetings Jack:

First time blogging!

Enjoyed your article on the skyway. I only rode this once in 1992. Although I was at Disney World in April of 1997 for our honeymoon, I dont remember the skyway in operation then.

Thanks,
Chris

Laurie Carson:

Wow! What a treat. Thanks so much for all this info. It is tremendous fun to see how things change even if we miss some of the ole goodies. I had forgotten all about this ride til I stumbled across the blog. Puts a smile on my face just thinking about all our fun at Disney. Thanks again to All you Ears :)

Tom Linder :

Thanks, my family always enjoyed the quiet slow ride to Fantasyland. Overlooking all the rides along the way was also a treat. I do recall the Fantasyland station being extremely hot and crowded most of the time. The exiting of the gondola from the loading area to the cable was also a thrill to experiance not to miss. Thanks again for the visit of the past.

Leasa:

What a great post! I can remember riding this on our several trips to Disney World when I was a kid, loved this ride. Your pictures and video are wonderful. I'm so thankful you and others took pictures and video like this many years ago and share it with all of us.

One thing that really stuck out to me in the video - the lack of people in the walkways! Oh, if only I could visit with it like that!

Kevin Wideman:

I want to thank you for your information on the skyway. I also enjoyed the pictures. We had a very memorable ride in 1998 when my daughter of 7, my wife and I were riding the Majic Kingdom Skyway from Tomorrowland and it stopped half way because the fireworks were starting. We had the best birds eye view anyone could have of the fireworks. A night we will never forget.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 19, 2009 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Kouzzina by Cat Cora - Disney's Boardwalk.

The next post in this blog is Test Track - Epcot.

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