Walt Disney World is going to be an exciting place during the second half of 2019. From new resort hotels and transportation methods to a new themed land that transports guests to another galaxy, now more than ever people are planning their vacations to the Most Magical Place on Earth!
The Disney Skyliner will officially open to guests on September 29, 2019, transporting riders between two parks and three resorts along its five-station track. Although this type of transportation for park to park travel hasn’t been used before at the Walt Disney World resort, this isn’t the first time that a gondola skyway system has been used inside of a Disney theme park. Today we’re throwing it back the original Disney gondola system, The Skyway!
The Start of the Skyway
In June 1956 the Skyway opened to the public at Disneyland. The Skyway transported guests from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland or vice versa with a bird’s eye view of the theme park below. Guests could board the attraction in Fantasyland at the Skyway to Tomorrowland station or in Tomorrowland at the Skyway to Fantasyland station. A ride one way would cost guests one D ticket. In 1959 the Matterhorn opened in Disneyland which offered Skyway riders a whole new experience -- the chance to travel through the mountain! The Skyway in Disneyland operated for 38 years, transporting an estimated 150 million guests.
The Florida Project
Walt Disney World resort opened with Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 with quite a few opening day attractions, including The Skyway. Similar to the Disneyland Skyway, it was set up as an attraction in Fantasyland and an attraction in Tomorrowland offering transportation both ways for guests. While the Disneyland Skyway was a straight shot, the Magic Kingdom Skyway featured a small turn right around Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Some of the most memorable views from the Skyway were of the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Submarine Voyage, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and Fantasyland below!
The Third Skyway
After seeing the success of the Skyway in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Disney decided to offer this attraction at their third theme park location, Tokyo Disneyland as well. The Tokyo Disneyland Skyway opened with the park on April 15, 1983! This system was the most updated of the three, but the track was actually the shortest. The attraction traveled from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and back again as two separate rides, just like the two versions before it. While the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Skyway buckets were open and windowless, Tokyo Disneyland’s Skyway featured buckets with windows. This version of the Skyway’s gondolas is most similar to those of the upcoming Disney Skyliner!
Disney Parks are meant to grow and evolve in time, and by the 1990’s change meant the closure of the Skyway. On November 9, 1994 the Disneyland Skyway made its final journey above Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Almost four years later in 1998 the Tokyo Disneyland Skyway closed too after only 15 years of operation. The last of the Skyways to close was the Walt Disney World Skyway in Magic Kingdom on November 10, 1999.
As the countdown to the Disney Skyliner continues, it’s fun to look back on the Disney attractions that serve as inspiration for this new mode of transportation on property. From the turn of the track in Magic Kingdom’s version to the windows on the buckets of Tokyo Disneyland’s version, there’s no doubt that these original changes helped to create the system we will soon be enjoying at Walt Disney World. Since Magic Kingdom’s Skyway closed in 1999, it seems fitting that exactly two decades later Walt Disney World will be opening a gondola system once again but this time on a larger scale!
The Disney Skyliner takes flight on September 29, 2019, featuring gondolas traveling to Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and eventually Disney’s Riviera Resort upon opening in December. So, if you have the opportunity to travel at a bird’s eye view across property on your next Disney trip, don’t forget the history behind this exciting new transportation system!