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Disney Dish with Jim Hill Ep 468:  Who just got offered free dining at Walt Disney World

This episode is sponsored by Betterhelp ,  Beis Travel ,and Touring Plans .


Normal Open: Welcome back to another edition of the Disney Dish podcast with Jim Hill. It’s me, Len Testa, and this is our show for the week of Shmursday, February 26, 2024.  Happy birthday to my dear friend Larissa, who’s awesome and everyone should know that.


On the show today: News, including the return of the bendy Eiffel Tower. Plus surveys and listener questions! Then in our main segment, Jim tells us how Tomorrowland got added to Disneyland’s opening-day lineup about this time back in 1955.


Let’s get started by bringing in the man who says you can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.  It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?


iTunes:  Thanks to everyone who subscribes to the show over at including Greg C, Daphne Fullerton, Duane Sollie, Nicholas Austin, Kevin Flynn, and Carol Cantwell.  Jim, these lawyers at Hondo Tanaka & Associates, Esquire, want you to know that if you or someone you love was employed by the First Order and encountered unsafe working conditions such as coaxium exposure, or insufficient seats inside your escape pod, you may be entitled to galactic credit compensation. True story.


The news is sponsored by TouringPlans helps you save time and money at theme parks like Walt Disney World.  Check us out at



  • Disney’s filed a construction permit that includes demolition at the old NBA Experience
  • I know it’s not going to be Meow Wolf, but a man can dream Jim.
  • Soarin’ Around the World returns to EPCOT Feb 28, 2024
  • Ran around Center of EPCOT on Tuesday and it was lovely.  


Paul sent in a Disney+ survey that asked what ‘perk’ you selected as part of the recent Disney+ promotion:

And this led to an email discussion about the number of families who’ve got Disney+ but never been to the parks, and for whom this ‘free dining’ offer is a ‘gateway drug’ to park visits.

Jim, any idea if this promo was successful for Disney?

An unnamed listener got a Universal Orlando survey that asked about the specific reason they came to the park

Jim, I note that there’s no Harry Potter mentioned in that question. What’s going on?

Listener Questions

From Sue:

I notice that Universal Orlando continues to offer their 'get-15-months-for-the-price-of-12' annual pass deal. Which makes me think that anyone buying a pass today will most likely still be a pass holder when Epic Universe opens next year. Do you think Universal will make any special offers for pass holders surrounding the opening?

Of course the current passes don’t include the Epic park, but surely there will be an option to add it to existing passes? Do you think pass holders will get access to park previews or any other advance events?

Len says: I expect to hear more details about Epic Universe tickets this summer.  My understanding is that Universal is circulating now to its third-party ticket vendors, details on how the ticket system will change for Epic Universe.  So let’s assume those changes will get implemented in the first half of this year.  So sometime after June I’d expect UOR to do some sort of acceptance testing of those systems.  Once that’s done, we’re likely to hear something about what kind of tickets will be available, and how it’ll all work.

Everything I’m hearing is that there’ll be some sort of reservation system or lottery for Epic Universe admission once the park opens. And it’ll be tiered according to how much you’re spending with Universal:

  • On-site, multi-day stay at deluxe resorts
  • On-site, multi-day stay at other resorts
  • On-site one-day stays
  • Off-site multi-day stays
  • Off-site one-day tickets

From Milton:

I just got back from a stay at Walt Disney World, and I wanted to mention something that might save other Disney Dish listeners some money.  We got two “bounce-back” offers when checking out of our Disney hotel:

The first one was a discount of up to 35%:

And the second was an email but only up to 30% off:

Len says: I checked the dates, and they’re all the same.  Also, I note that the only summer days this doesn’t cover are:

  • May 24-26 (Memorial Day Weekend)
  • August 30 - Sep 1
  • Oct 1-26 (technically not summer)

And we think that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is opening in June, July, or August, then those discounts cover those dates.

And from Jeff:

Do you have any data on how often Radiator Springs Racers is down at park opening? When does it on average open up if it is down?

This ride seems to be closed more often than not at rope drop and curious what the data says.

I mention this because I’ve got a team of students at Wake Forest working on this exact question, for Hollywood Studios.  

Research/Patents (use query "disney enterprises".as AND "theme park".ab)


We’re going to take a quick commercial break.  When we come back, Jim tells us what happened when Walt decided that Tomorrowland should be a part of Disneyland’s opening day lineup.  We’ll be right back.

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

Tomorrowland Construction
Part One of Two
Feature Story

Just to be clear here, Disneyland was always supposed to have a World of Tomorrow. (FYI: That was what this corner of Walt’s family fun park was originally supposed to be called. The World of Tomorrow, NOT Tomorrowland).

The Disneyland Prospectus (This was a document that was drawn up in 1953 to explain to prospective investors what a Disneyland was. How the place was going to be laid out. What the park’s attractions might be) describes the World of Tomorrow as being on your right once you walked up Main Street and reached the Hub.

Just in case you’re wondering: For this very-early-on version of Disneyland, the entrance of Fantasyland – if you were standing in the center of the Hub – would have been straight ahead (in the 12 Noon position. If you want to use a clock face to help keep you orientated. The entrance to Frontier Country – NOT Frontierland – was at the 9 o’clock position. And as for True-Life Adventureland – NOT Adventureland – this was when this land was supposed to be built between Main Street and the World of Tomorrowland. So its entrance was located at the 5 o’clock position).

Okay. Back to the World of Tomorrow now … If you wanted to explore this part of the Park (which – as described in the Disneyland prospectus – was supposed to be a “ … a factual and scientific exposition of Things to Come), you’d have to take a right off of the Hub and then step onto a moving sidewalk. Which (I’m quoting directly from the Prospectus now) would have carried “ … you effortlessly into the World of Tomorrow where … fascinating exhibits of the miracles of science and industry are displayed.”

You could pass many of these displays as that moving sidewalk took you deep into the heart of the World of Tomorrow. As you stepped off of this moving walkway, to your right there would have been (again quoting from the Disneyland Prospectus), there would have been the gigantic Rocket Space Ship to the Moon …

Quick aside: “Rocket Space Ship on the Moon” is kind of “Department of Redundancy Department,” isn’t it? “Rocket to the Moon” is fine. “Space Ship to the Moon” is also fine. “Rocket Space Ship” – to me, anyway – seems like a belt-and-suspenders situation.

Back to the marquee attraction in this part of the Park …

Just so we’re clear here: The Rocket Ship was supposed to be the World of Tomorrow’s weenie. That thing you saw looming in the distance that then compelled you to go check out that part of the Park. The Castle was supposed to serve as Fantasyland’s weenie, and the Mark Twain riverboat was supposed to lure Guests into Frontier Country.

Sleeping Beauty Castle was 77 feet-tall. The Moonliner was 76 feet-tall. The Mark Twain was only 28 feet-tall. But it was also 105 feet-long and came equipped with a steam whistle & a big brass bell. So it could definitely make its presence known.

Back to Disneyland’s “Flight to the Moon” ride now … The prospectus goes on to say that “ … once Guests are safety-belted into their seats, their trip through space will be scientifically accurate.”

If we could pause here for a sec … What’s kind of ironic about Guests needing to be safety-belted into their seats over at the “Flight to the Moon” ride …

Hang on: I’m dating myself here … When Disneyland first opened in July of 1955, this attraction was officially known as “Rocket to the Moon.” When Anaheim’s New Tomorrowland debuted in the Summer of 1967, the title of this attraction received a teeny tiny tweak. It was then known as “Flight to the Moon.” Apologies for throwing all of these different names at you guys.

Anyway … To the left of Disneyland’s “Rocket to the Moon” was Tomorrowland’s other signature attraction, the Autopia. Which – again quoting from the Disneyland Prospectus from 1953 – was supposed to be “ … the little parkway system where children drive scale model motor cars over a modern freeway.”

Now what was genuinely interesting about this was … Well, in the 1950s, freeways were still a relatively new thing. Hell, the first freeway in the Western United States – the Pasadena Freeway (i.e. the 110) – only came online in the 1940s. And President Eisenhower wouldn’t sign the Federal Aid Highway Act (which is what finally set in motion construction of a nationwide interstate highway system) until 1956, the year after Disneyland first opened.

So picture this: You’re a little kid back in the 1950s. And part of the thrill of the whole Disneyland experience was that you & your family actually got to travel on the newly completed interstate highway (Now known as the 5) as you made your way to the Park. Dad hammered down on the accelerator and got the Desoto all the way up to 50 miles per hour. Woo-hoo!

But then you get to Disneyland … And oh my God! There’s a highway here too. Just like the one that Dad just drove on. And it’s got kid-sized cars. I have to experience this! And I don’t care how long the wait in line is.

Getting back to that irony thing again: If you went on Disneyland’s “Rocket to the Moon,” you had to be safety-belted into your seat before your fake-but-still-scientifically-accurate excursion into deep space. On the other hand, just a hundred yards away, there was Disneyland’s Autopia ride. Where kids could get behind the wheel of a real miniature car and toodle around a track at 11 MPH. And no one over there was saying “Hey, kid. You’d better put on your seatbelt.”

You wanna hear something scary, Len: Seat belt use in the United States was entirely voluntary until December of 1984 (just 40 years ago). The State of New York was the first to require vehicle occupants to wear seat belts. Whereas the state that I live in – New Hampshire – still doesn’t require people in cars to wear seat belts. Which – I guess – explains our state motto: “Live Free or Die.”

Okay. Back to Disneyland’s Autopia now: Need to emphasize how hugely popular that Tomorrowland attraction was with young kids visiting the Park. So much so that – in July of 1956 – Disneyland opened a second version of this attraction, the Junior Autopia. Which then ran around the back of Fantasyland.

Then – just nine months after that (April 1957) – the Park opened Disneyland’s Midget Autopia. Which then put the Park’s littlest drivers behind the wheel. Also not wearing a seat belt.

Just so you know: Starting with the Junior Autopia (Which – in January of 1959 – got renamed the Fantasyland Autopia), a guide rail was put in place for this attraction. Likewise bumpers to the front & back.

Believe it or not, when the Autopia first opened at Disneyland in July of 1955, these miniature cars didn’t have any guide rails or bumpers. Combine that with the no-seat-belt thing. And there were many kids who went home from their day at Disneyland with either bruises on their chest or with one or more of their teeth knocked from where they hit the steering wheel after a collision on this attraction.

It was a different time, Len.

But again, because freeways were new back then, there was huge demand for “Autopias” at Disneyland Park. So – for a time – Walt’s family fun park had three of them.

Quick aside here (This story comes by way of veteran Imagineer Jim Shull, our partner on the “Disney Unpacked” project over on Patreon): Just because an attraction is popular in the United States doesn’t then automatically mean that it will also be popular overseas.

Case in point: The Autopia that opened at Hong Kong Disneyland back in July of 2006. This Tomorrowland attraction (which actually opened at that theme park some 10 months after Hong Kong Disneyland first opened in September of 2005) was state-of-the-art. It featured eco-friendly, all-electric vehicles with on-board audio (These cars actually had a sound chip that replicated the sound of a gas-powered motor. Because all-electric cars are basically silent).

Anyway … The Imagineers put together this fun layout for Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of “Autopia.” It took Guests through a lush jungle and then rolled you through an alien landscape. And Honda agreed to be the sponsor of this Tomorrowland attraction. So they build the thing, and then throw open the doors of Hong Kong Disneyland’s Autopia in July of 2006. And no one comes.

Key difference between kids who live in Southern California in 1955 and kids who live in Hong Kong in 2006: Hong Kong is a densely populated city with 7.4 million residents (as of 2021), few of whom own a car. So – since most of the folks who came to Hong Kong Disneyland took public transportation to get there -- the thrill of getting behind the wheel is foreign to those folks.

So this under-utilized attraction – which occupies a big chunk of valuable real estate within the boundaries of Hong Kong Disneyland – chugs along ‘til June of 2016. Whereupon it’s then shut down. The original plan was that this version of Autopia would eventually be transformed into an Avengers Campus (Similar to the ones found at California Adventure & Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris). Given the current troubles with the Marvel movie franchise, I’m not sure if that’s still going to happen.

Back now to Disneyland’s World of Tomorrow as described in this project’s prospectus from 1953. Just to review. We have:

·           Our giant “Rocket to the Moon” ride

·           The Autopia

·           A moving sidewalk that take Guests into that land

·           Plus various scientific displays along the way

But just to be clear here: The Disneyland prospectus from 1953 features all sorts of things that never got built at the Park. Things like:

·           Lilliputian Land – where you could have ridden on a miniature steam train like the one Walt used to run in the backyard of his Holmby Hills home. Not to mention eat miniature ice cream cones & the world’s smallest hotdogs

·           Disneyland was also supposed to have been the world headquarters of the Mickey Mouse Club. The physical location of this Club was to have been an elaborate treehouse that was then supposed to have been out on Treasure Island (Based on Disney’s 1950 film based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel)

·           Not to mention the television production facility which was supposed to have been built inside of the Main Street Opera House. Which meant that – if you visited Disneyland on the right day – you could then sit in on the production of the next episode of ABC’s weekly “Disneyland” TV show. Or some live broadcast from the park.

Another quick aside here: One of the other intriguing aspects of the 1953 version of Disneyland (as described in that prospectus) is that the Park’s World of Tomorrow was supposed to be home to “ … the exciting ‘World of Tomorrow’ TV show.” Which was supposed to be a separate program from the “Disneyland” TV show.

Okay. So turning an orange grove out in Anaheim into a family fun park is an expensive proposition. Which is why – as the costs of building Disneyland began to mount (First $5 million, then $7 million, then $9 million, then $11 million) – the thinking was … Some of this stuff can wait ‘til Phase Two of the Project.

And that’s what happened with Lilliputian Land & the world headquarters of the Mickey Mouse Club & that television production facility in the Main Street Opera House. And Disneyland’s World of Tomorrow.

The original plan was – when you’d visit the Park in the Summer of 1955, walked up to the Hub and then looked to your right – you’d have seen this length of construction fence. On which would have been written “The site of future sights. Tomorrowland! Coming in 1956!

That was the plan until January 15, 1955 (Which – I’ll remind you – is just six months & two days away from when Disneyland was supposed to be unveiled on live television). Which is when Walt announced to his designers & construction team that the World of Tomorrow couldn’t wait ‘til 1956. Some version of this part of the Park had to be ready for that live broadcast on ABC that was already scheduled for July of 1955.

Why Walt changed his mind – more importantly, how the Imagineers met that impossible deadline – we’ll get to next week as part of the second & final installment of this series.


That’s going to do it for the show today.  You can help support our show by subscribing over at, where we’re posting exclusive shows every week.   On Friday we posted a show called ‘Picture This’, with design and construction photos from Toontown from Jim Shull’s personal collection.  Check it out at

Patreon: That’s going to do it for the show today.  Thanks for subscribing and supporting the Disney Dish.

ON NEXT WEEK’S SHOW:  Jim continues the story of how “Surprise! It’s Tomorrowland” got built.


You can find more of Jim at, and more of me, len at


iTunes Show:  We’re produced spectacularly by Eric Hersey, who’ll be sharing kupunawahine Hersey’s recipe for huli huli chicken and garlic shrimp at the Island Crafters Market on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at the Ala Moana Center, starting at 10 a.m., in beautiful, downtown Honolulu, Hawaii.


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For Jim, this is Len, we’ll see you on the next show.