Skyway to

“D” Ticket
Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Ron Yungul, 1956

Welcome to the Fantasyland attraction that has Tomorrowland as part of its name.

Walk up the stairs to a traditional chalet in the Alps of Fantasyland. After waiting in line and handing over a “D” coupon, a Cast Member opens the door of a round metal bucket for you. There are two chairs in it. Have a seat. It’s a bit awkward because the center post goes right down the middle of the bucket.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1956, courtesy of Chris Taylor.

Swiss chalet surrounded by tiny pine trees

There’s a support cable in each direction. It moves at a constant speed to pull the buckets through the sky using a proven, reliable mechanism made by the Von Roll Company in Switzerland.

When you’re seated, your bucket is engaged onto the cable. Up, up, and away!

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Fred M. Nelson, Sr., 1959

Cinderella’s Castle, right after you leave the chalet

Enjoy a great view of Storybook Land from the Skyway. You’re on your way to a very different station at the other end. There’s plenty to see. The view from up here is wonderful! Each time you ride, you’ll discover new details about the park. And there’s always a breeze on a hot summer day.

Look down onto Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship. Perhaps it will make you hungry for a hot tuna pie.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Fred M. Nelson, Sr., 1959

View of the first half of the journey

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photos by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1956, courtesy of Chris Taylor.


The Skyway is simultaneously a mild sightseeing ride and a bit of a thrill ride. Some guests find it scary to be dangling from a slender cable high in the sky. The bucket sways back and forth whenever the cable goes over a support tower, causing occasional gasps from guests.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Fred M. Nelson, Sr., 1959

Mountain in your path!

Soon you’ll enter the mighty Matterhorn mountain.

Hey! The imposing Alpine peak is hollow inside! The park map calls the interior Glacier Grotto, but you might just call it an unfinished hollow chamber. The exposed framework has been dressed up minimally. The manmade mountain is more impressive from the outside. Still, it’s fun to share the space briefly with the screaming riders of the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

To return from Tomorrowland, you may want to take the Skyway to Fantasyland, but it will cost you another “D” Ticket.

The aerial tramway ride opened in Disneyland in June 1956 as two attractions: the Skyway to Tomorrowland and the Skyway to Fantasyland. According to Disney A to Z by Dave Smith, “In the early days of Disneyland, guests could purchase either a one-way or round-trip ticket. Later it was one-way only.”

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1956, courtesy of Chris Taylor.

Rare photo of the Skyway before Matterhorn mountain was built

When the Matterhorn opened in 1959—directly in the path of the Skyway—the Skyway passed through two large openings on each side of the mountain. The Matterhorn also served as the center support tower for the cables.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Map © 1964 Walt Disney Productions

Detail from 1964 Disneyland souvenir map, showing round buckets

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Map © 1968 Walt Disney Productions

Detail from 1968 Disneyland souvenir map, showing rectangular buckets

In 1965, rectangular buckets replaced the original round buckets.

Disney Legend Bob Gurr had been asked to design new buckets with four seats instead of two, doubling the capacity. But he could only add a few pounds to the total weight. Gurr’s innovative design used lightweight ABS plastic with a steel frame, eliminated the center post, had important safety features—and looked great.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1974

Skyway over Pirate Ship

The rectangular buckets were a familiar sight in the skies of Disneyland for almost 30 years.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Robert Demoss, 1987

Rectangular buckets overhead

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Robert Demoss, 1987

Skyway with Matterhorn mountain

On November 5, 1994, Orange County Register writer Jerry Hirsch reported, “After ferrying 150 million passengers between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland over the past 38 years, Disneyland’s Skyway will make its last trip Wednesday.”

Fans of the Skyway rushed to Disneyland for one last ride. On November 7, 1994, Los Angeles Times writer Ken Ellingwood wrote about the reason for the closure:

A former Disney employee visiting the park Sunday to take pictures from the Skyway speculated that the park was closing the ride to prevent accidents such as one in April, when a man was injured after falling from a Skyway gondola onto a tree 20 feet below.

But Disney officials said the Skyway’s safety has never been a problem, and its closure was simply a matter of popularity and work force needs.

Demand for the ride has fallen off and the 10 workers who staff it will be needed to tend an “Indiana Jones” ride scheduled to open in February. The closing of the Skyway mirrors the closing of “Mission to Mars” and the “Motorboat Cruise” last year following the opening of “Mickey’s Toontown,” said Scott Swan, a park spokesman.

“It’s an evolving change. You look at one attraction and say, ‘Its time has come,’” Swan said. “As people have grown up and have memories of the Skyway, there will be a new generation that will grow up and have memories of Indiana Jones.”

On November 9, 1994, the ride closed permanently.

It’s hard to believe that “demand for the ride” had really fallen off, considering that the Skyway consistently had a line at both stations, even on Disneyland’s lightest days. Perhaps the total guest count was down, but only because of reduced staffing at the stations.

The more likely explanation was cost containment. In the 1990s, Disney executive management kept operating costs under control by closing older attractions whenever new attractions opened. It wasn’t a matter of needing the specific cast members from the Skyway to operate Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. It was a matter of keeping overall attraction labor costs from growing, even if it meant eliminating popular attractions and limiting guest capacity. And rumors suggested the Skyway needed some costly structural repairs.

Later in the same Los Angeles Times article, Ellingwood had this promising paragraph:

Disney designers plan to turn the Fantasyland terminus into a dining area attached to the nearby Village Haus restaurant. No plans have been announced yet for the station at Tomorrowland, Swan said.

Cool! Although the Skyway was dead, that news indicated there would be a second life ahead for the charming Alpine chalet.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

Abandoned Skyway chalet

Workers quickly removed the cables and support towers. They pulled the mechanism out of the chalet, but the hillside structure itself remained in place. A chain was usually across the bottom of the stairs, making the chalet off-limits to park guests.

When would it welcome guests again?

Even before the Skyway closed, the tiny evergreens around the chalet had grown into a mighty forest. Years passed. There was no longer a need to keep the path of aerial gondolas clear, so the forest enveloped the chalet. Guests who knew where to look could still see it through the trees.

More than 20 years passed. The chalet stubbornly remained in place. By now, nobody expected the chalet to get a new life. Apparently, it was simply cheaper for Disneyland management to ignore it than to reuse it or remove it.

Considering the shortage of space at Disneyland, it’s surprising that the chalet never went through “adaptive reuse”—perhaps emerging as a place to relax with some Swiss hot chocolate on a cold day, or Swiss chocolate ice cream on a hot day. A large balcony could have extended from where aerial gondolas had once soared into the sky. Sure, it would have required a passenger lift of some sort being built into the hillside to make the chalet accessible to all, but that wouldn’t have been too hard.

On August 15, 2015, Robert Iger, chairman of The Walt Disney Company, announced that a 14-acre Star Wars-themed land would be coming to Disneyland.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2016

Site preparation for Star Wars-themed land

Serious work began in early 2016.

Photos taken from the Mickey & Friends parking structure showed the chalet defiantly clinging to life at the edge of a huge construction site. The former main backstage area of Disneyland had been obliterated.

In the center of the photo above, there’s a little hill with a chalet on it. The next photo provides a closer look.

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2016

Ready for demolition

On May 11, 2016, the city of Anaheim issued a permit for “Demolition of 5,132 sq.ft for Skyway Building.” According to an Orange County Register article by Joseph Pimentel and Mark Eades on May 16, 2016, paperwork filed at City Hall estimated the cost of the demolition to be $67,000.

That shows how the value of the U.S. Dollar has changed. Originally, the Skyway cost $300,000 to build—including both stations, all support towers, the cables, mechanical system, and the whole fleet of round “buckets.” Now just the removal of its last remnant is $67,000.

Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in Florda had a similar Skyway between its Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. On November 9, 1999, exactly five years after the grounding of Disneyland’s Skyway, the Florida version carried its last guest. It had been a popular attraction since the park opened in 1971.

Fantasyland in Florida had its own Alpine-style station, which was demolished in 2011 to make way for the Tangled (Rapunzel) restrooms.

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Storybook from Skyway
Alice in Wonderland

© 1995-2016 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated May 20, 2016.