Yesterland
Skyway to Tomorrowland “D” Ticket
Skyway to Tomorrowland at Disneyland
Depart from a Swiss chalet surrounded by tiny pine trees.

Skyway to Tomorrowland at Disneyland
Gaze over at Cinderella’s Castle right after you leave the station.


 

After taking off from a small chalet in the Alps of Fantasyland, you’re on your way to Tomorrowland. The view from up here is wonderful! And there’s always a breeze on a hot summer day.

Skyway to Tomorrowland at Disneyland
The buckets soar high over Fantasyland, providing great views.

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

Soon you’ll enter the mighty Matterhorn mountain. Hey! The imposing Alpine peak is hollow inside! Screams from terrified Bobsled passengers echo within the great hollow chamber.

Pirate Shup at Disneyland, 1956
There’s a mountain in your path—but you’ll pass right through it.

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

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


The Skyway 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.”

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 Matterhorn. The Matterhorn also served to hide the support tower for the cables between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

In 1965, rectangular buckets replaced the original round buckets. The rectangular buckets were a familiar sight in the skies of Disneyland for almost 30 years.

Skyway to Tomorrowland at Disneyland
Disneyland’s Skyway to Tomorrowland in 1987

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. Workers removed towers and cables soon after.

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 other explanation is the real reason: Disney 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.


Skyway to Tomorrowland at Disneyland
A rare photo (circa 1956) of the Skyway before the Matterhorn was built

The Fantasyland station of the Skyway is still there. The tiny trees that once surrounded it have grown into a mighty forest, hiding the station from guests who don’t make a point of trying to see it. Surprisingly, the building has never been put to an “adaptive reuse” as something else—such as a place to relax with some Swiss hot chocolate on a cold day, or Swiss chocolate ice cream on a hot day. One problem might be making such a facility accessible to guests who cannot use stairs. Even if a ramp or lift could be added, the somewhat hidden location might limit business.


Skyway to Tomorrowland at Disneyland
The abandoned Skyway station in Disneyland’s Fantasyland, 2005

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World had a similar Skyway between its Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. With no Matterhorn in Florida, the Skyway did not pass through a mountain. But the Florida version had its own unique feature: a dip close to ground level and a sharp turn near the halfway point.

On November 9, 1999, exactly five years after the grounding of the Skyway at Disneyland, the Skyway at the Florida’s Magic Kingdom carried its last guest. It had been a popular attraction since the park opened in 1971.

Now, please take another look at Glacier Grotto inside the Old Matterhorn.


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© 1995-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated April 15, 2012.

Photo of mountain chalet-style Skyway station: 1956 courtesy of Ron Yungul.
Photo of Skyway with Cinderella’s Castle in Storybook Land: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.
Photo of Skyway with Matterhorn: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.
Photo looking from Skyway station to Matterhorn: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.
Photo of Skyway (rectangular buckets): 1987 by Robert Demoss.
Photo of Skyway before Matterhorn: circa 1956 by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of abandoned Skyway station: 2005 by Allen Huffman.