Mission to Mars
March 1975 - November 1992
The first space-flight attraction at Disneyland, Rocket to the Moon, opened in July of 1955. It was a simple attraction, in which guests were loaded into a small cabin that was, after a 10-second count down, flung from one side of a large showroom to the other by a gigantic catapult.
Rocket to the Moon was updated with new technology, renamed Flight to the Moon, and reopened in August of 1967. The updated attraction was, at that time, considered to be the most realistic simulation of a trip to the moon ever constructed. During the exciting journey, the guests' ship (actually just a specially decorated theater) was fired from a gigantic cannon, sped through clouds on the way to Earth's satellite, landed softly on the moon's dusty surface, and were invited outside into its thin atmosphere to interact with friendly "moon men." Unfortunately, this happy occasion was interrupted by an attack of mole people and Morlocks, who have to be fought on the way back to the ship. During the return flight, the ship fends off Ming the Merciless and his evil hoards before landing safely at Disneyland.
After the real (and, in comparison, pretty boring) moon landing in 1969, Imagineers, feared that Tomorowland itself would begin to look dated. Moving quickly, they replaced Flight to the Moon with Mission to Mars six years later.
The best scientific minds from the fields of rocketry, astronomy, exobiology, and astrology were called together to produce an attraction that was realistic to the finest detail. From the detailed graphics, to the robotic mission-control staff, to the acceleration-simulating inflatable seats, Mission to Mars was a triumph of realism. And that was its greatest fault.
Mission to Mars officially opened in March of 1975. Its first show was to a packed theater, and guests watched with wide eyes as their simulated ship was locked, fueled, and launched. Darkness (representing hypersleep) gave way to a view of the approaching red planet -- and this is where the trouble began.
As the planet's surface neared and Martian canals came into view, some guests were startled to see gigantic tripod-like vehicles walking through Martian cities, apparently armed with enormous heat ray devices. Although these elements of the experience had been added by Imagineers in the hope of depicting a plausable alien civilization, they were so realistic and imposing that some guests forgot that they were experiencing a simulation. A riot broke out inside the attraction. Parents wrapped wet handkerchiefs around their children's mouths to protect them from Martian death gas. One visitor from rural Kentucky hauled out his squirrel rifle and began taking pot shots at the images on the movie screen. Women screamed. Men fainted. Babies cried. Embarrassed teenagers pretended they weren't with their parents.
It was a disaster.
The head Imagineer issued a public apology, saying that since Mission to Mars had opened on the first day of Spring, the Martians had just been their way of "springing" a little surprise on guests. It wasn't enough, and in the wake of public outcry the ride was closed for retooling. It reopened some time later without the Martians and centrifuge-created anti-gravity effects, but the new, toned-down attraction was so unthrilling that it was closed after only seventeen years.
It has been replaced with a non-threatening simulation of a pizza restaurant.
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