Monday, May 14, 2012

TPE: Flying Saucers in Tomorrowland

Finally getting back to my TPE (anyone remember what that stands for?) series, today's Tomorrowland attraction that I'd love to go back in time to enjoy is the Flying Saucers. It was the last attraction to open in the “original” Tomorrowland. From August 6, 1961–August 5, 1966 The Flying Saucers floated in a 16,000 sq. ft. arena, and were designed to hold one large guest or two small ones, with 16 saucers flying at once while the other 16 were being loaded.

As the ride began, air valves pushed the saucer upward so that it was floating just inches above the ground. Guests shifted their body weight to fly across the arena and tilt their saucer (imagine a giant air-hockey table). Just like bumper cars, guests could crash into each other with their saucers.

The Flying Saucers were very popular and even made the cover of National Geographic. However, they suffered numerous mechanical problems which often were in direct proportion to the weight of the guest; if too heavy, the saucer just sat in the same place; if too light, it was hard to tip the saucer, and would continue to bounce in place.

The collision of the saucers also made the ride a natural for back injuries (Oops—somebody forgot to check with the legal team first!). In addition, they sometimes wedged into each other causing the saucers to flip.

David DeFore, son of Silver Banjo BBQ Restaurant owner Don DeFore, was one of the original testers of the ride, back when the saucers were made of plywood and there was very little regulation over their speed. David said that the attraction was much more fun at this stage! David was so light that they had to put a keg of nails on his saucer to get it balance and work properly.

The Saucers were replaced by the Tomorrowland Stage in 1967 and Space Mountain in 1977.

Today, the idea of the Flying Saucers has been given a "Cars" theme overlay and redubbed "Luigi's Flying Tires." This is probably one of the most anticipated parts of the new Cars Land area at Disney California Adventure.

Over in the Blue Sky Cellar of DCA, guests can see the miniature models of the attraction vehicles.

Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter. See more vintage Disneyland Flying Saucer photos on my Flying Saucer web page.


Major Pepperidge said...

The more I read about the potential problems with Luigi's Flying Tires, the more I think it's going to be a loooong time before I get to actually ride it. Sounds like the wait times are going to be considerable!

Daveland said...

Long wait times are one thing, but I am also hearing the attraction itself is of a very short duration - that's a bad formula!

K. Martinez said...

I think I'll pass on the Flying Tires. Being bumped around and spinning doesn't work for me anymore. Especially after waiting in line for a long time. Not fun!

I'll watch them in action from the sidelines though. It's nice to see they're adding a variety of attractions that don't have to be 'e' ticket caliber. Nice balance.

olddisneylandfan said...

Looking at the photos, you can see that most people are really working to "drive" the saucer. That's what I recall about riding them -- you really had to lean. You usually just scudded along the surface, but sometimes you'd get lucky and get skimming at a surprisingly quick speed. This wasn't a passive ride, but a skill ride; you got better with practice.